My embarrassing middle-class allergy

Some people are born with unfortunate allergies, others develop them later on in life. Both are very annoying, but arguably the most infuriating variety are the ones you create for yourself (not on purpose, obviously. That’d be insane.). Typically, my embarrassing middle-class allergy falls into this category. Confused? Don’t worry, I’ll explain and hopefully you can avoid this shameful fate for yourself.

Last year, I developed a rather unpleasant allergy to a very popular healthy food. I’d never had any real issues with food before (other than eating too much of it), so it came as a rather nasty surprised when I figured out what was causing the horrible stomach cramps and intense vomiting sessions. The culprit?

QUINOA.

Quinoa. Quinoa. How pathetic and embarrassing is that? Even as I write this, I cringe. When I’ve been forced to admit to it in public, I can see the look of judgement in people’s eyes. I can almost hear them thinking, “Ohh, poor little princess can’t have her quinoa! I wonder if she’s allergic to caviar too?”

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No quinoa for me, thanks.

Regardless of how ridiculous it is (and I know it really is), the fact remains that it can be physically very painful. There are definitely worse allergies out there and I am comparatively very lucky, but it’s still not much fun. This delicious protein-rich “wonder grain” went from being my best dinner time friend to my sworn enemy, and it didn’t happen over night. My intolerance to the little buggers came as a result of eating it a lot (several times a week) and not washing it properly. Who knew that those instructions to thoroughly wash it on the packets and on numerous websites were meant to be taken seriously? It turns out if you don’t rinse it really really well before you cook and eat it, the saponin – the natural oily residual on the grain – can build up in your system and lead to pure agony at any time. Hooray! I only found this out after stumbling across this blog post from Embracing the Absurd, which was a big help as there’s very little information out there about this.

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I even made quinoa bread, ffs.

I’m writing this blog post for two reasons: the first is to encourage all you quinoa fans out there to wash the hell out of those damn grains before consumption, and the second is because as of next month, it’s been a year since I last ate the stuff. Apparently if you wait a year, you should be able to eat the food again. The question is – is it worth it? I’ve read a few articles about how the increased popularity of quinoa has put intense economical pressures on countries that farm it, such as Bolivia, and shockingly, I’ve managed to survive without it in my diet. I really like bulgar wheat and cous cous, which work just as well. No grain, no pain?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please share your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!

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RiverSide delights

Have you ever been to RiverSide Walk in Kingston-upon-Thames? If not, you really should do, especially if you like good food and stunning views.

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How’s that for a view?

I was invited to “Taste the World” with RiverSide a few weeks ago, and I still find myself thinking about the tasty treats on offer there! A word of warning – not all of the food there is strictly healthy, but the quality is well worth the justification of a “cheat” meal.

The first restaurant we visited was Cau, and it was also my favourite of the night. Their contemporary Argentinian cuisine features so many delicious cuts of mouthwatering meat. Their steak and chorizo in particular was mind-blowing, and their chicken was so tender! I’m dribbling a little just thinking about it.

The next restaurant on the menu was Comptoir Libanais. I’ve been to different branches before, but this one is lovely and, as with all of them, adorably decorated with bright coloured prints and authentic Middle Eastern design. Not only is Lebanese food delicious and so full of flavour, it can also be very healthy if you opt for aubergine-rich baba ghanuj, houmous and grilled meat, such as chicken and lamb. As a non-drinker, I was also delighted by their vast array of fresh and fruit juice option – the Roomana (pomegranate and orange blossom) was a definite favourite.

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Last, and certainly not least, we visited Côte Brasserie. At this point, we were absolutely stuffed, but there’s always room for pudding, right? Especially with their Dark Chocolate Mousse and signature Crème Caramel on offer! If you like French food or are keen to try some, Côte is an ideal choice.

Even though I was invited along and treated like a Queen (HUGE thanks to Ushma and the gang), I promise I’m being 100% honest when I say that Riverside is a beautiful place to visit and all of the restaurants there are fantastic! There’s something for everyone, and I can’t think of a better place to visit in the summer sunshine for a delicious meal and stunning scenery. You’ll feel more like you’re abroad on holiday than in a London borough! Get down there.

My 5 Favourite Sweet (and Healthy) Treats

One of the biggest stigmas around healthy eating is that you have to deny yourself. I certainly used to think that. In my mind, being good meant cutting out anything that tasted good, especially if it’s sweet. Thankfully, this is not the case. We’re entering a golden age where there are a wide variety of treats available to buy that are not only delicious, but are also nutritionally beneficial. And that’s not even counting the ones you can make yourself. What a world!

At this point, I feel I should say that although these foods are healthy, they should be considered and consumed as “treats”. Too much of anything isn’t good for you, and natural sugars are still sugars at the end of the day. Enjoy them every now and then as part of a balanced diet, and you’ll be fine and dandy.

As someone with a powerful and all-consuming sweet tooth, I’ve made it my mission to try a number of the options available from fine establishments such as Holland & Barrett, Whole Foods and even the internet. Here are a few of my favourite sweet treats:

1. Pulsin Raspberry & Goji Berry Raw Choc Brownie

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These don’t have the same texture or consistency of a “normal” brownie, but they taste just as decadent. The richness of the raw cacao is perfectly balanced with the gentle zing of the raspberry. They’re vegan, gluten free, dairy free, and contain no added sugar or other nasty stuff. They also go perfectly with a cup of tea!

2. Buff Bake Protein Peanut Butter

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If you work out or need more protein in your diet, Buff Bake is the most delicious way to get it. Their range of protein nut butters is not only vast and incredible, but they’re also full of good stuff! Made with added whey protein, chia and flax seeds, they contain no added sugar and are also gluten free. I’ve tried a few of their flavours now (for research purposes, of course…), and I can safely say that they all taste amazing. They’re a little bit pricey, but totally worth it. I like to add a spoonful to a post work-out shake with a frozen banana – it tastes even better than a chocolate milkshake!

3. The Giving Tree Strawberry Crisps

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I love strawberries, but eating fresh ones on the go can be a little bit messy. Enter The Giving Tree with their lovely and convenient bags of freeze dried ones. There are no added ingredients – just beautiful strawberries that are dried whole. Each bag equals one of your 5-a-day too, so they’re definitely a better option than a bag of regular crisps. Add them to desserts or eat them on their own – the possibilities are endless!

4. The Raw Chocolate Co. Organic Raw Chocolate Raisins

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If chocolate is your weakness, you have to try these bad boys. Raw chocolate is so much more rich and chocolate-y than a bar of Dairy Milk could ever dream of being, and as a result it’s so much more satisfying. They’re also vegan, gluten free and kosher, so they can be enjoyed by all!

5. nakd Bakewell Tart bar

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I don’t know how they’ve done it (witchcraft?), but the clever folks at nakd have managed to make a raw fruit and nut bar taste EXACTLY like a bakewell tart – and it’s one of your 5-a-day! They have a wide variety of different flavoured bars available, but this one is definitely my favourite. All of their bars are made from 100% natural ingredients with no added sugars or syrups, and are also wheat, dairy and gluten free. In your FACE, Mr Kipling.

What are your favourite healthy sweet treats?

4 Items That Can Make You Healthier

Let’s be honest: most of the time, being healthy is not convenient. If you fancy a quick snack at work or need to grab breakfast on the go, you often have to settle for whatever’s on offer at your local shop and usually, it’s crap.

The best way to avoid this situation is simple – BE PREPARED. But how, dammit?

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Fortunately, there are a number of wonderful items available to help make the whole process easier. Here are four things that have helped me to be healthier on a day-to-day basis, and hopefully they can help you too. They’re all affordable too – hooray!

1. Blender Bottle GoStak – starting from £9.00
So simple, and yet so bloody clever. I stock up on bags of nuts, seeds, dried fruit etc., and fill each of the little interlocking jars so that I have my snacks for the day ahead. This way not only do I have tasty treats to hand at all times, but I’m also able to make sure I don’t overindulge. I could quite easily inhale a whole bag of cashews in one sitting but with my handy GoStak, I have just enough to keep me going. BOOM.

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My GoStak in action

2. Water Infuser Bottle – starting from £6.99
If you find drinking or even enjoying water a struggle, why not try infusing it with good stuff? Lemon, strawberry, cucumber – whatever you want! It all tastes amazing in water-y form. Just chop up your chosen fruit or veg, pop it into the little cage, fill the bottle with water and leave it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, drink up and delight in your delicious refreshment.

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Water Bottle Infuser

3. Vacu Vin Banana Guard – £2.49
I love bananas, but I do not like bruised ones. This handy guard allows me to transport my banana in safety, free of any nasty black marks. There are a few varieties of guard available, but I like this as it accommodates any shape banana. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.

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Banana guard

4. A blender with a portable cup – starting from £19.99
When I’m in a rush in the mornings, I love a good smoothie or shake for breakfast as it’s a quick way to get fruit inside my body. Now it’s even easier thanks to blenders that come with portable travel bottles or cups! I started off with this Breville bargain, but my bearded man kindly upgraded me to a NutriNinja last year and it’s brilliant. Here’s me enjoying a shake on my way to work. Look how big my hand looks!

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My NutriNinja bottle and I

So, there we have it! What handy items help make you healthier?