Looking back on 2016: Year Review

Welcome to my 2016 Year Review!

Year Review

Last year I wrote my first year review after setting up my blog four months prior. 2016 was my first full year of running The Clean Coconut and I have thoroughly enjoyed connecting with you all through it. It has been so rewarding to hear from those of you who have reached out over social media. Thank you!

Year Review

2016: Year Review

As 2016 began I was very motivated to continue with my health and fitness journey and to share what I learned along the way with you all. I started the year off with an attempt at dry January but David Bowie’s death forced me to put on my red shoes and dance the blues in his honour ?… I broke dry January twice last year! But 29 out of 31 ain’t bad!

Year Review

I started to share more about the fermented and probiotic foods I make in my first post about kefir. I also shared my typical grocery list which was a highly requested blog! As well as that, I wrote about what I eat for a nourishing breakfast.

Year Review

I got to share lots of new recipes with you in 2016! Click the images below to view the recipes for these tasty dishes!

Raw Vegan Tacos:

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Perfect Protein and Fats:

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Vegan Indian Dal:

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Gluten Free Protein Pancakes:

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Proats:

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Clean Curry:

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Chocolatey Chewy Bites:

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Chocolate Chip Cookies:

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Low Carb Lasagne:

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Protein Bread:

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Year Review

I also wrote about how to go organic on a budget, as I know organic food can be so expensive!

Year Review

This year was my first year at Bloom and I thoroughly enjoyed it – I even got to meet The Happy Pear!

Year Review

Year Review
On the way to Beyoncé in Croke Park 2016!

I was back in Belfast for summer 2016 and got started on a blog post all about the best places to eat clean in the city!  I then began writing My Fitness Diary series where I told you all about how I first became interested in health and fitness and logged my clean eating and training summer 2016.

Year Review
Crumlin Road Gaol Belfast

My most popular and widely shared blog post of 2016 was Ten Things I learned from Counting Macros!

Year Review

By the end of summer 2016 I had to begin a gluten challenge so that I could be tested for Coeliac Disease. This new diet really threw my clean eating and fitness off-kilter and I couldn’t wait till it was over! Thankfully I wasn’t diagnosed with Coeliac Disease! Instead I had to commence a low FODMAP diet to figure out my trigger foods for the symptoms I was experiencing. This is a work in progress and something I will be sharing with you in early 2017.

In 2016 I also got round to setting up a Twitter and Snapchat account for The Clean Coconut – I’d love to connect with more of you so come find me there too!

Year Review

2016 has been a year full of learning for me and I am so excited to see what 2017 brings. I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to contribute more to my blog this year and to see it grow over the year.  I have made lots of great memories and look forward to more in 2017. A sincere and heartfelt thank you  for your support throughout 2016. I wish you all a truly fulfilling, rewarding and happy 2017.

The Clean Coconut x

Year review

 

Ten Things I’ve Learned From Counting Macros

macros

I started tracking macros, or macronutrients a while ago with the goal of cutting some body-fat and getting a bit leaner. This essentially means that I calculated the specific amounts of daily calories from protein, carbohydrates and fats that I should be eating in order to achieve my body-composition goals. A more complicated but also more useful version of standard calorie counting if you will. I used the My Fitness Pal app to track what I was eating.

Counting macros has been such an eye-opener in so many ways! Here are ten things I’ve learned…

1. Calories Matter

There is no doubt, calories count. Notwithstanding certain medical conditions, if you eat an excess of calories that are not being burned off daily, you will put on weight and likewise if you eat calories in a deficit to what you burn daily you will lose weight. Simple. Prior to trying out macro-counting, I was eating ‘intuitively’ and, I suppose, hoping for the best. Yes, I was eating a totally ‘clean’ diet full of whole-foods, and no I was not overweight in the slightest. So, it worked; to a point.

None of the items on my shopping list have changed since I started counting macros, but the amount I’m consuming has changed. Counting macros taught me how to get leaner quicker by taking all the guess-work out of my nutrition and allowing me to get very exact about what I’m eating. Simply eating clean will get you so far, likely very far, but getting down to the nitty gritty of your nutrition by carefully tracking what you’re eating could get you there faster.

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My Protein Bread – this was really useful when trying to hit my macros.

2. Fat has a Lot of Calories

When you’re counting macros, it is important to keep in mind that fat has 9 calories per gram. This is a lot more than carbohydrates or protein, which have 4 calories per gram. Good fats are really important for our health but they still need to be consumed in moderation.

Before I started counting macros I would have happily cooked my morning eggs in lots of coconut oil, taken my fish oil supplements, put an avocado in my salad, drizzled it in olive oil, had a tablespoon or two or nut butter as a snack, put full fat milk in my tea and coffee throughout the day, and maybe had some full fat natural yoghurt and a square of dark chocolate as a snack at night. I know now that this would absolutely not fit my fat macros. I can still eat all of the above – just not all in one sitting day. I have to be a lot stricter on myself when it comes to fats  – even the good ones! Step away from the peanut butter!

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A lower fat, low carb high protein lasagne that I created when counting macros.

3. Carbs are not the Enemy 

I probably didn’t put on a huge amount of weight on from eating so much fat because I didn’t eat very many carbs, and as such, my calories were probably not in an excess. I never did believe that carbs were the enemy; I know that they are essential to my training and there is no way I could complete a decent gym session without a substantial amount of carbohydrates to fuel me. However, until I counted my macros, I didn’t realise how low-carb I was actually eating.

I still struggle to get carbs in because I’m so used to eating a low-carb diet. At first I often found myself getting to the end of the day having met the bulk of my fat and protein macros but with a whole load of carbs left. Sometimes I will have proats in the evening after weight-training to finish off what carbs I have left in my macros. Essentially I’ve learned that I can include a lot more carbohydrates in my diet.

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More carbs means more sweet potatoes – yay!

4. Weighing Your Food Makes a BIG Difference

When it comes to counting macros, estimating does not cut it – literally! For the first few days that I was counting macros I didn’t have an electronic scale, so for a lot of things I was just estimating the amount used. Turned out what I guessed to be about a tablespoon of nut butter was closer to two tablespoons and what I thought was about a teaspoon of coconut oil was more like a tablespoon! I was also really underestimating the amount of milk in my tea and coffee and that made a huge difference to my calories when I calculated it correctly. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to actually use the scales to weigh your food, otherwise you are likely miscalculating, and thus; wasting your time.

macros
I picked up a digital kitchen scales in Argos

5. Timing is Essential

When you only have a set amount of carbohydrates, protein and fats for the day you really need to use them wisely. Timing your nutrition correctly can really optimise your caloric intake. If you have a high-carb breakfast but don’t usually train until evening then you are really going to be selling yourself short when it comes to your pre-workout fuel and your post workout recovery. I try to keep the bulk of my carbs for the hours before and after training so that I have adequate energy for my workout and recovery.

6. Macros Love Black Coffee 

Prior to counting macros I loved heaps of milk and a solid teaspoon of sugar (albeit coconut palm…) in every cup of coffee. However, I soon learned that this was not going to suit my macros and realistically I couldn’t be wasting so many calories on a drink when I could be using them on food. As soon as I started counting macros I cut the sugar from my coffee completely and bit by bit I reduced the amount of milk I was adding. The funny thing is I still love my coffee as much as I did before, if not more! I have recently made it to 100% black coffee…macros must be making me bitter!

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7. Water, Water and More Water

Okay this is something I definitely already knew before I started counting macros but it became really important for sticking to my calories. Often when we think we are hungry we just need to drink a litre of water. Making sure that I’m drinking loads of water means that when I’m hungry I know its actual hunger and not just thirst.

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8. Junk Food and Empty Calories Aren’t Always Worth It 

When you are trying to cut fat and you have a limited number of calories to nourish yourself with, there really isn’t a lot of room for junk food and empty calories. I like eating clean so I’m not really one for eating much processed food anyway but even clean treats like dark chocolate can take up a lot of your calories so you have to be careful with your portions! If I wasn’t trying to cut fat through my calories at the moment I would obviously have more calories to play around with.

 Counting macros has become famous for its flexibility, because you can have treats once they fit your macros. However, if you have to choose between eating a dinner or a donut, you’re obviously much better off making the choice that best meets your nutritional needs and satiates you most, rather than just simply looking at the calories. I prefer eating food that gives me the most nutrition, both macro and micro, for the calories involved, or the most bang for my buck so to speak.

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Whole-food nutrient dense treats like my Proats were the best option

9. You Can Let it Go… Occasionally 

I was at a wedding a while back and of course macros were the last thing on my mind – sometimes its okay to forget about them! Of course, doing so more than occasionally will likely hamper your progress. Ordinarily, when you eat out you have to resort to estimating your macros. Personally, I don’t mind doing this once a week but I think I would find it pretty hard to count my macros properly if I was eating out more than a couple of times a week. The great thing is that there are so many more healthy restaurants popping up all over the place. Many of these restaurants are even providing nutritional information with their meals. This makes counting the macros oh so easy!

I’m currently running a project to discover the best healthy-eating restaurants around Ireland so get in touch via my contact page if you want me to add your favourite healthy-eating spot to the list!

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My Protein Pancakes – another treat that also helped me hit my macros!

10. If  you can Work it, it Works!

For me, correctly counting macros worked. I spent the first week learning what combinations of foods suited my macros before getting my electronic scales to make sure my measurements were accurate. I now know how to hit my daily macros.

I only have one real issue with counting macros; after a while I became too fixated on food. Whilst macro-counting has been hailed as an all-inclusive, flexible way to eat, I found that being in a calorie deficit and monitoring every single thing I was eating made me feel very restricted sometimes. I hear you say; “Well that’s the point of a diet isn’t it? You’ve got to restrict what you’re eating!”. I suppose when I was cutting fat by eating clean and eating intuitively I wasn’t constantly thinking how much I had left to eat, and I certainly wasn’t as hungry, because I wasn’t actively calculating everything. I did begin to wonder if macro-counting was actually making me hungrier because I was so aware of what was allowed and what wasn’t.

The above attitude crept in after about 4-5 weeks of solid and specific macro-counting. I was getting hungrier and hungrier and I didn’t feel like that was good for my metabolism. I wasn’t even in a severe calorie deficit at all. I upped my calories so that I was only in a very slight deficit and then after a while I just decided to take a break from macro counting.

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Filling up on loads of veg is useful for staying within calories and preventing the dreaded hunger pangs.

For now, I foresee myself using macro-counting for short blocks of time, to hit a specific goal. The really great thing about the time I spent counting macros is that I can now transfer everything I learned from it into my day-to-day clean eating and experience greater results.

When utilised, predominantly through healthy, nutrient-dense foods, counting macros can be a balanced and inclusive way to meet your own personal health and fitness objectives. For me, macro-counting won’t be a lifestyle choice, at least not for now. Instead it will be a useful tool to utilise when I have targets and goals to meet over a specific and measured time-frame. For now, I’m much happier simply eating-clean 🙂

The Clean Coconut x

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P.S. There are lots of ways to calculate what macros are right for you, there are various formulae that can be used and there are also some perhaps slightly less accurate but very handy online tools such as this one. If you would like me to do a more detailed post on how to calculate your macros please let me know 🙂

A Sun-Kissed Bloom 2016

Bloom 2016

Bloom 2016

I visited Bloom in Phoenix Park on Saturday for what was an absolutely beautiful day of food, flowers and fun. It was truly wonderful to stroll around and see all the amazing homegrown Irish stalls showcasing their produce as the sun shone down on the bright, warm Dublin festival.

Bloom 2016
The blacksmith at work at Bloom.

Whilst many gardening enthusiasts lined up to see the stunning show gardens, I was particularly excited about the Food Village at Bloom. We made our way there first!

Bloom 2016

Bloom 2016

On arrival we picked up a couple of smoothies from Glenilen Farm and were kindly given some granola samples to try. We then found the Chef’s Quality Kitchen stage where we would catch Neven Maguire‘s cookery demo. Neven was so entertaining which made standing to watch him totally worthwhile (we weren’t early enough to nab a couple of seats for his packed out segment!). Neven’s passion for quality ingredients and his support for local Irish produce was very much evident throughout his demonstration. He made some gorgeous dishes such as a goat’s cheese pizza and a Thai broth with mussels and pok choi. He also finished with a lemon, vanilla and Coole Swan fruit pot and showed us how to make some very impressive sugar baskets to present our dessert with.

Bloom 2016

Of course after watching Neven, I had to seek out the Coole Swan stand. The ladies there kindly gave me a sample of the Irish cream liquor to try and it was absolutely delicious. I purchased a bottle of the all-natural and gluten-free liquor and also received a Coole Swan recipe booklet which I am looking forward to using!Bloom 2016

We had a browse around the stalls and soaked up the atmosphere. I picked up some raw organic artisan cheeses from The Little Milk Co, a chilli chutney from Cracked, some flavoured butter from Improper Butter as well as some plant-based goodies from Natasha’s Raw & Living Food.

Bloom 2016

 

Bloom 2016Bloom 2016

Bloom 2016

We went in search of lunch and it wasn’t long before I spotted The Happy Pear tent and made a beeline for it! I bought their book The Happy Pear just a couple of weeks ago so I was dying to see what they had in store at their tent. I wasn’t disappointed; they had beautiful salads and sourdough bread on offer along with fresh juices and lots of goodies! They were also selling their now famous pesto and hummus which I had to try!

Bloom 2016

The two boys appeared at the tent while we were there. They absolutely ooze joy and enthusiasm and a clear passion for health and wellbeing so it was great to meet them and get a photo!

Bloom 2016

Lunch was a salad bowl and a juice from The Happy Pear and we enjoyed it al fresco on the grass soaking up the sun.

Bloom 2016

We then treated ourselves to some ice creams from Nobo as the sun beat down. I was lucky enough to get my hands on their sell-out Cookie Sandwich. Nobo ice-cream is dairy-free and made from a creamy mix of coconut milk and avocado. It is also made without the use of refined sugar. Most importantly it is absolutely delicious! I wished I could’ve bought some to take home but of course it would have melted in the car!

Bloom 2016

Bloom 2016

Back at the food market I visited the gorgeous Wild About stall and got some foraged preserves including nettle syrup, raspberry and chilli chutney and Rockin’ Rosehip preserve.

Bloom 2016

bloom 2016

I also tried and loved Nutmost activated nuts. These nuts are soaked and dehydrated making their nutritional benefits much more accessible. I picked up a bag of their crunchy maple walnuts. So so good!

Bloom 2016

I also tried out the all-natural and no-added-sugar backcurrant cordial from Mr. Jeffares. I’m looking forward to using both the nettle syrup and the blackberry cordial in my home-made fermented Kombucha drinks among other things!

Bloom 2016

Bloom 2016

Finally, I picked up some of the OHCo Organic Herb Company spices in three different combinations as pictured below! I can’t wait to cooking with these organic spices.

Bloom 2016

We then finished off our day with a relaxed walk around the incredible award-winning show gardens. It was a great day and it was brilliant to see and support so many healthy, natural and quality Irish food companies. I will definitely be back to Bloom again!

The Clean Coconut x

bloom 2016

 

 

Organic Fruit & Veg: Is It Worth It?

 

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There is no doubt, buying organic is costly, at least in the short term. It can be difficult to justify handing over up to twice the amount of money for, arguably, the same product. For this reason, I personally do not always buy organic. There are some things however that I make the effort to find organic versions of.

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Organic Produce: What is Worth Buying?

Every year, The Environmental Working Group tests levels of pesticide residue on a wide variety produce, in the form it would be eaten; i.e. washed (and peeled etc where applicable). They publish their findings in what they call “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean Fifteen”.

The Dirty Dozen is a list of the top twelve most contaminated foods and The Clean Fifteen are the fifteen foods with the least amount of pesticide residue remaining.

“Different pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems, including: brain and nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone disruption, skin, eye and lung irritation”

The Environmental Working Group

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The EWG‘s results are based upon both domestic and imported fruit and veg for sale in American supermarkets. Their list is certainly a good starting point for us as consumers in determining what type of fruit and veg we might want to buy organic.

“EWG recommends buying organic whenever possible. Not only is it smart to reduce your exposure to pesticides, but buying organic sends a message that you support environmentally-friendly farming practices that minimize soil erosion, safeguard workers and protect water quality and wildlife.
However, we know that organics are not accessible or affordable for everyone, so we created the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ to help consumers make the healthiest choices given their circumstances”.

The Environmental Working Group

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The 2016 Dirty Dozen:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Celery
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Spinach
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Sweet Bell Peppers
  11. Cherry Tomatoes
  12. Cucumbers

The 2016 Clean Fifteen:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet Peas (frozen)
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangos
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Honeydew Melon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Cantaloupe
  15. Cauliflower

organic

Because the EWG tests produce that is already thoroughly washed, washing fruit and veg wouldn’t change its ranking on their list. As well as this, some fruit and veg will absorb pesticides systemically, e.g. up through the roots, so washing would have no real effect in those cases anyway. The EWG advises that by not washing conventional fruit and veg before use, you do risk ingesting significantly higher pesticide levels.

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You might also note that The Dirty Dozen is made up of fruit and veg of which the skin is typically consumed, whereas The Clean Fifteen is mostly made up of produce whose skin would not be consumed. It makes sense that less pesticides would be needed on these thicker-skinned, hardy crops. This is something I bear in mind when choosing organic. For example, I would be less likely to spend on organic onions but I would be more inclined to buy organic berries. As I said above though, some pesticides are absorbed systemically and thus wouldn’t necessarily be solely found on the skin of produce.

If I’m going to be using the rind of a fruit such as lemon, lime or orange or am going to be slicing lemon or lime wedges into drinks – especially hot teas, I will try to buy organic versions of the fruit. I also tend to buy organic mushroom, simply because mushroom is quite literally a product of the environment it is grown in and the better the soil, the better the mushroom.

When I do buy organic fruit or veg I try to really make the most of it by using every part of the food. If I bought organic carrots for example, I would keep the peels and ends in a bag in the freezer and use them once a month or so to make a large pot of chicken stock. I do this with all organic scraps rather than dumping them. Likewise, I would grate and freeze organic lemon peel to use as rind in recipes or keep the peel for making lemon tea. In this way, I get more value for what I’m buying.

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A pot of vegetable scraps and vegetable juice pulp to use for making stock

It is particularly interesting to note that lacto-fermented vegetables have been shown to degrade some pesticide residues. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry looking at the function of microorganisms in degrading the organophosphorus insecticide chlorpyrifos during kimchi fermentation found the insecticide degraded rapidly until day 3. By day 9 it had been completely degraded. Four lactic acid bacteria were identified as being responsible for the effect; Leuconostoc mesenteriodes, Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus sake. These same bacteria are often found in other lacto-fermented foods such as kefir.

Another study published in Letters in Applied Microbiology looked at the role Lactobacillus plantarum plays in the break-down of pesticides on wheat crop. Their results showed that L. plantarum was able to reduce the level of pirimiphos-methyl in wheat…

Pesticide residues are an unavoidable part of the environment due to their extensive applications in agriculture. As wheat is a major cultivated cereal, the presence of pesticide residues in wheat is a real concern to human health… Present work investigates the dissipation of pirimiphos-methyl during wheat fermentation by L. plantarum. Results are confirmation that food-processing techniques can significantly reduce the pesticide residues in food, offering a suitable means to tackle the current scenario of unsafe food.

Letters in Applied Microbiology

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Homemade sourdough bread, made by fermenting rye and spelt flour

For years I have opted for the pre-washed bags of salad in the supermarket – assuming this meant that much of the pesticides would have already been washed off. Unfortunately I learned just last night on RTE’s What Are You Eating  that these packaged salads are in fact washed in chlorine. Whilst the chlorine is then rinsed off, residual amounts do remain on the produce. In essence, both pesticides and chlorine are utilised for the same thing; killing microbes or pests. So essentially, I was unwittingly swapping one problem for another.

Of course ingesting chlorine is going to be harmful to our own gut microbes in the same way pesticides are. In fact, chlorine could even kill those same bacteria I mentioned earlier that might actually break down pesticide residues. Oh the irony of modern food processing! I will certainly be avoiding packaged salads from now on and will be sticking to the organic “unwashed” kind.

Ultimately, if one wishes to offset pesticide ingestion, including fermented foods in one’s diet is a great idea. Doing so could help our bodies to process and break down some of those pesticides that we are inevitably exposed to.

organic

In short, I buy organic when it is available and when I feel it is worth it. I wouldn’t exclude a particular vegetable from my diet just because I couldn’t find an organic version of it. It is crucial to remember that vegetables and fruit are important sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre and they certainly should not be avoided just because they are not organic. That said, I believe it is a practical step in the right direction, both for us and the planet, if we could switch to the organic version of the most heavily pesticide-laden fruit and veg. I am so grateful to the EWG for making this resource available over the last few years and giving us another tool to use as conscious consumers.

organic

Grocery List: What’s in my Shopping Trolley?

 

grocery list

I’ve been asked a few times to go through what I buy on a weekly basis so here it is! It won’t be an exhaustive list but it will earmark the essentials!

When planning meals I try to look at my protein, carbohydrate (including fibre) and fat needs as well as my micronutrient needs (vitamins and minerals). These needs will depend on my goals at the time, specifically; do I want to lose fat, maintain my weight or gain muscle? I also try to time my meals in such a way that they fuel my workouts and aid my recovery and, as such, optimise my body composition.

As well as this I endeavour to ‘eat clean’ by choosing whole-food sources of nutrition and keeping any processed foods to a minimum. In general, I don’t tend to buy foods with long lists of unrecogniseable ingredients, artificial flavourings, colours or anything with added sugar etc. A good rule of thumb is to steer clear of any food you will find a T.V. commercial for!

For the purposes of this article I have broken my grocery list down into the three different macronutrients; protein, carbohydrates and fat, and at the end I have included some of my favourite ways to add flavour to my food. Lastly, I’ve listed a few of my favourite treats!

grocery list

Grocery List:

1. Protein:

  • Chicken – always on my weekly grocery list!
  • Turkey/turkey mince – more commonly found in shops now but you can always ask your butcher to mince a turkey breast if you don’t see it on display – that’s what I used to do!
  •  Fish – prawns, smoked salmon, cod etc. I also usually have a couple of tins of tuna steak in the cupboard incase I’m ever stuck for lunch/dinner in a rush. I rarely need it but it is good to have if I’ve nothing else and can’t get to the shop – it stops me reaching for the wrong things! Having prawns in the freezer is also really handy if you need to put together a quick lunch or dinner.
  • Red Meat; steak and steak mince, lamb; I probably only eat red meant one or two times a week.
  • Protein powder – I take this after training and use it in some recipes for example my protein pancakes, my proats and my smoothies. I use either whey or rice protein or a vegan protein blend. I choose brands that are free from artificial colours or flavours.
  • Greek yogurt – Glenisk high protein greek yogurt is my favourite.
  • Eggs – when possible I choose pasture raised, organic eggs.
  • Kefir – a fermented milk drink I make which contains less sugar than yogurt and far more probiotic strains – more on this in another post!

grocery list

2. Carbohydrates:

  • Lots of green vegetables; broccoli, courgette – which I also use in my proats and often spiralise as a pasta/noodle replacement for things like spaghetti Bolognese, celery, spinach, kale, peas, spring onion, asparagus, cabbage (I often use savoy cabbage as a low-carb wrap, for example in my vegan tacos). Green vegetables are definitely a big staple of my weekly grocery list.
  • Other vegetables; Mushrooms, onion, cauliflower (which I often serve as ‘rice’ with dishes like curry or my Indian Dal), carrots – can also be spirallised or eaten as carrot sticks. The only vegetables I wouldn’t eat as much would be the starchier ones like parsnip and potato. They aren’t off limits at all but I just don’t tend to eat them daily. I do like sweet potato but at the moment I’m not eating it daily either, rather I’m reserving it for the weekend! I love butternut squash too and include it in a few recipes such as my soup recipe. I also love fermenting my vegetables to boost their probiotic benefits.
  • Salad – shallots, tomato and others as named above.
  • Oats –  I tend to eat these on weight-training days in the evening in the form of proats with courgette. I sometimes use buckwheat or quinoa flakes in the same way.
  • Fruit – before the gym I will almost always have a banana with a tablespoon of nut butter. The nut butter helps to offset the insulin response to the banana and allows the energy from the banana to be released gradually throughout my workout. If I didn’t have a banana to hand I would probably choose an apple or pear. The only other fruit I tend to eat regularly would be berries as they are reasonably low in carbohydrate. They are also my favourite type of fruit so its win-win! I use lemons and limes in dressings and in smoothies too. I also use goji berries and other dried fruit from time to time and especially in my clean baking!
  • Wholegrain buckwheat flour – I use this in my protein pancakes as it is a lower calorie flour and it is also gluten free so it is great if you have problems digesting gluten!
  • Brown rice and brown rice pasta. I also use buckwheat pasta when I can get my hands on it.
  • Rice Milk is high carb and much higher in calories than almond milk, however I will usually have some rice milk in my post-workout protein shake (at the moment 100ml rice milk, 300ml almond milk but if I was trying to gain muscle I would be eating a higher amount of carbohydrate so the amount of rice milk in my post workout shake would probably be higher). The reason I include these simple-carbs post-workout is to replace glycogen lost from my muscles during my workout and thus aid recovery along with the protein. They also make the shake taste sweeter of course!
  • Quinoa/amaranth/Beans/Lentils – these are not neccesarily daily staples but I would have them in the cupboards for particular recipes.

grocery list

3. Fats

  • Coconut oil – I cook with this all the time; extra virgin, raw, organic.
  • Olive oil – extra virgin, I put this on my salad.
  • Avocado – yum.
  • Nuts – I LOVE almond butter and peanut butter! I use homemade cashew cream in my butternut squash soup too – click to view the recipe. 
  • Seeds – sunflower seeds are really high in protein, plus I love chia seeds and linseed, they are great for boosting your fibre intake too.
  • Eggs – the fat is in the yolk.
  • Omega supplement (Wild alaskan salmon oil) and fermented cod liver oil – I take these daily. I can do a separate post on my daily supplements if that would be useful!
  • Coconut milk – in certain recipes but not a daily staple. Check the ingredients of the brand you are buying!

grocery list

Grocery List – Condiments:

  • Herbs – fresh and dried
  • Spices
  • Fresh garlic/ginger/turmeric/chilli
  • Vinegar – balsamic, apple cider, red/white wine vinegar
  • Liquid Aminos (Braggs)
  • Fish sauce – check the ingredients as I’ve seen a lot of brands with added sugar and other rubbish. I got mine in an Asian supermarket and it has been traditionally fermented for 18 months with only fish and salt as ingredients.
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • Hot sauce – Frank’s Original
  • Stock – I make my own as much as possible and keep it in the freezer to use as needed rather than resorting to processed stock cubes (even the organic ones have flavour enhancers and other crap in them!)
  • Olives, capers, sun-blushed tomatoes.
  • Tomato puree, tinned tomatoes.

grocery list

Foods I Eat More Sparingly/As a Clean Treat:

These foods are not always staples of my diet or grocery list but I love them (in moderation!)!

grocery list

  • Protein bars – I try to choose ones with the ‘cleanest’ ingredients – my favourite are Rawrev, pictured above, as these do not contain any artificial flavours, colours or sweeteners, they’re also GMO free and organic. I try to avoid soy-based protein bars. I’d love to find some more ‘clean’ protein bars that are free of artificial flavours/colours/sweeteners – if you have any good recommendations for me then comment below!
  • Protein nut butters, also pictured above.
  • Hummus
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Popcorn – the odd time but always organic/non-GMO and popped in the pot – never microwave popcorn!
  • Cheese – fresh mozzarella, parmesan and cheddar mostly. I love cheese but I wouldn’t have it everyday.
  • Parma Ham – check the ingredients as a lot of brands have loads of additives and preservatives, the one I buy just has pork and salt. You’ll see it in the picture below. I use this in a few recipes.
  • Red wine (never appears on my grocery list!! 🙂 )

grocery list

Of course if I go out for dinner or am at a special celebration I may likely deviate from this list but for 90% of the time this is how I shop, cook and eat. If I’m cooking a treat meal on the weekend it will be comprised of all the things I’ve listed above. There aren’t really any specific foods that I completely restrict from my diet so if there’s something I haven’t mentioned its probably because I don’t like it or it won’t help me meet my nutritional goals at the moment.

When I’m baking clean treats like my Chocolatey Chewy Superfood Paleo Bites there are other ingredients I will use that I haven’t listed within this post as they are not necessarily weekly staples of my diet. I can do a seperate post or grocery list on the main foods I use for clean baking if that would be helpful too! I also did a post back in January on my favourite non-alcoholic drinks which you might like to check out.

If you want to see how I use all of the food from my grocery list in my daily meals, follow me on InstagramFacebook and Twitter where I regularly post meals! If there’s any great healthy food I’ve left off my grocery list that you think I should know about then comment below!

The Clean Coconut x

grocery list

Dry January: My Alcohol-Free Alternatives

Dry January

I know so many people who have decided to take on a ‘Dry January’ to kick-start their new year. Of course for many it might be easier said than done. There is nothing worse than feeling restricted or deprived when you are attempting to undertake a healthier lifestyle.

Having had a couple of nights out over the festive season, I myself am completing a ‘dry’ January in order to give my body a break from alcohol. No one likes the feeling of being hungover and I for one am quite happy not to experience it for a while!

I have come up with a few alternatives that I would like to share with you which might help you in completing your own dry January (or any other period of time sans alcohol!). Have a look through the list and see what healthier alternatives you could enjoy while your weekend tipple is out of reach!

Dry January

Kombucha

Kombucha is a probiotic effervescent fermented tea. It is essentially like a fizzy drink that is actually good for you! You can get Kombucha in lots of health-food shops in the refrigerated section. You can also make your own Kombucha if you can get your hands on a Kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast). I’ve been making my own Kombucha for about nine months now. Each batch takes about 7-10 days to brew. It has been one of my favourite drinks to serve chilled in a nice wine glass on a Friday or Saturday night.

Dry January
Bottled Green Tea Kombucha

 

Dry January
A glass of chilled Kombucha

Infused Water

I’ve been using my large Kilner drinks dispenser to infuse bottles of Pellegrino with different flavours. Simply pour your sparkling water into a container and add your flavourings, leave for an hour or so to infuse and strain the liquid into a glass. The possibilities are endless but recently I’ve been enjoying these combinations;

Dry January
Cucumber and Mint Infused Water

 

Dry January
Hibiscus and lime infused water – this one turns a gorgeous shade of pink

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 19.49.18

Matcha Lattes

I’ve been making Matcha lattes for quite a while now and I really love them! There are so many health benefits associated with green tea, so apart from being delicious, Matcha is also really good for you. I tend to make my Matcha lattes with almond or rice milk. I like to sweeten it with a little bit of local honey also. In my experience, the best (cheapest!) place to buy Matcha green tea powder is from an Asian Supermarket as they tend to have it far cheaper than health food shops where you will pay a lot for a small amount of premium Matcha.

Dry January

Dry January

Chai Lattes

My other favourite type of latte is a chai latte. I make these using my Pukka Organic Vanilla Chai teabags and milk. The trick is to boil the water up in a pot with the teabags in it for a few minutes to really release the flavour and get a nice dark colour from the tea before adding your steamed milk. You just won’t get the same flavour from making this in a mug by pouring hot water on a teabag! I also sweeten these with some local honey. Chai lattes are so warming and delicious – if you haven’t tried them then definitely give them a go!

Dry January
Vanilla Chai Tea

Herbal Teas

I love herbal teas and green teas and I find making a big pot of herbal tea is great for ensuring you’re drinking lots of fluids. There are so many different flavours and variations to try that you are bound to find one you like!

Dry January
Peppermint Tea

Coconut Water

Coconut water is super refreshing and really hydrating, a perfect dry January alternative. Try to get your coconut water from a brand that uses young coconuts. I really like Dr. Antonio Martin’s organic coconut water. If you don’t like the taste of natural coconut water you could try a flavoured variation or you could infuse it yourself.

Dry January

Juices

Have a go at juicing this January. Make sure your juices contain more vegetables than fruit so that you are not getting too much sugar from them. Again the possibilities are endless when it comes to juicing! Juices are great for detoxing as they provide you with a condensed and easily absorbed dose of nutrients. If you don’t have a juicer at home there are lots of companies now that offer bottled juices such as Sprout & Co. I haven’t tried them myself however as I use my own juicer.

Dry January
Dry January: Black Kale Juice

Smoothies:

Try out some smoothie recipes during your dry January. Try adding in some greens in the form of spinach, kale and cucumber, along with some fruit for sweetness. Add in nuts and seeds or some avocado for some good fats too. Greek yogurt or protein powder will also boost the protein levels in your smoothie helping to keep you full for longer! I have a series of Rock ‘n’ Roll smoothies on this site which includes Purple Haze and Brown Sugar.

Dry January
Dry January: Mixed Berry Smoothie
Dry January
Dry January: Raw Cacao and Coconut Smoothie

Dry January: You Can Do It!

So whilst you swap your sambuca shots for spirulina shots and your hot whiskies for hot water and lemon, rest assured that completing a dry January will give you the opportunity to try lots of new drinks that you may not have had the chance to yet. I hope this post gives you some inspiration and keeps you on track for a clean start to the year 🙂

The Clean Coconut x

Dry January

 

2015: My Year in Review; The Clean Coconut

2015 review

As 2015 comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on what a great year it has been and how much I have learned. I began 2015 with a desire to improve my health and fitness. I underwent food intolerance testing in January 2015 and started a strict elimination diet which I continued throughout February and March. It was at this time that I started my Instagram page @cleancoconut_insta and began to track my experience on social media.

2015 review

I took on new strength training programmes in the gym and achieved new ‘personal bests’ on the weights through consistent training.

2015 review

By April, having completely eliminated dairy, eggs, yeast and gluten from my diet,  I had come to realise that probiotics and good bacteria are an essential part of healthy digestion and held the true answer for me. I devoured books and research articles on the topic of probiotics. In May 2015 I attended a course on fermentation. I have since discovered a whole new world of ancient and powerful foods which I cannot wait to share with you in 2016!

2015 review

I moved to Belfast in the Summer of 2015 and began working on my website www.thecleancoconut.com which I eventually launched in August 2015. I started out by writing about My Vegan Challenge, a seven-day vegan trial based on Marco Borge’s vegan plan, made famous by Beyoncé. I wrote a guide to going gluten-free too.

2015 review

I then decided to share my experience of a detox diet because that was what had originally led me to learn about food intolerance.

2015 review

Finally I went back and blogged about the thing that really made the difference for me in 2015; My Food Intolerance Journey.

2015 review

I also got the chance to begin sharing recipes on my blog this year. I shared my favourite soup recipe, and I started a series of Rock ‘n’ Roll Smoothies to which I have lots more to add! For your New Year detox check out two of my favourite Vegan Smoothies; Purple Haze and Brown Sugar. I also shared my recipe for a healthier pumpkin spice latte!

2015 review

I am so excited for 2016 and am feeling really motivated about continuing this amazing journey of discovery and sharing it with you all. I cannot thank you enough for your support in 2015. I hope I’ve been able to inspire and encourage you on your own journey. Thank you to everyone who has liked my Instagram and Facebook posts, read my articles and shared them with their own friends. Every time you click like or share you help to spread my little baby blog a bit more and I really appreciate it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading in 2015. Looking forward to 2016!

Happy New Year,

The Clean Coconut x

2015 review