Happy Belly Happy Heart

A blog dedicated to nutrition, wellbeing and happiness. I believe the key to a good life begins with what you choose to put into your body. A happy belly = a happy mind = a happy heart.

Make a NEWSTART with the Revive Cafe Cookbook

Revive Cafe CookbookI was recently in New Zealand visiting my sister and one of my Christmas presents from her was the fantastic Revive Cafe Cookbook. She’d actually bought the second book as well but wasn’t quite sure if she was ready to part with both of them so we took one each and decided to swap later on!

At first I assumed it was just another cookbook. Ok it’s a veggie one but all the same, I thought, I’m sure I’ve seen it all before. How wrong I was! I started reading the lengthy introduction and was intrigued to discover the story behind the Revive Cafe in Auckland which was set up by Jeremy Dixon and his wife in late 2004.

Jeremy has a passion for sharing health principles with people and demonstrating how easy it is to make healthy meals. I was inspired by some of these, which centre around using fresh, local produce; minimal use of dairy and gluten; mixing whole grains with beans/legumes to form complete proteins; and using natural flavourings and sweeteners in place of artificial or processed ones.

I was particularly struck by his ‘8 Keys to Healthy Living’ which are very much in line with my 10 Ways to a Happy Belly:

Nutrition: fuel your body with quality food and feel great!

Exercise: feel alive with 30 minutes of exercise per day.

Water: increase your vitality with 8 glasses of water a day.

Sunshine: enjoy the rejuvenating benefits of sunshine.

Temperance: all good things in moderation and set yourself free from harmful things.

Air: breathe deeply to de-stress.

Rest: sleep deeply with 8 hours of rest per night.

Trust: live in peace with a life full of great relationships.

Ok, so getting enough sunshine could be tricky in the bleak English midwinter, but there’s no excuse not to make a NEWSTART with the other elements. I love some of the tips and quotes peppered around this section too, such as “People who cannot find time for exercise will have to make time for illness”, “Sleep with the window open and you will get a better night’s sleep” and “You would not put bad fuel and oil into your car and expect good performance. You only have one body. Feed it well and you will live long and with vitality.”

I love the look and feel of the book and the recipes are pretty awesome too! First up I’ll be trying the Mushroom Goulash and the Spanish Bean Stew. So watch this space to find out how I get on!

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Is Health the New Wealth?


Last week I read a fascinating article in The Times claiming the latest craze amongst the rich and trendy is keeping fit. Designer clothes and accessories are being exchanged for eye-wateringly expensive gym memberships at exclusive clubs, and cocktail-fuelled beach holidays are being replaced by 5-star Indian yoga retreats.


Rather than women obsessing over being a size zero or trying to cut any traces of carbs/gluten/wheat/dairy from their diets, these days, so Farrah Storr suggests, it’s well-toned arms that are the envy of every fashion-conscious female in the country:

“Today, if you want to make a real statement to the world, you get fit. Seriously fit. Health is the new wealth. Women now spend thousands of pounds looking after their bodies (a recent survey by Women’s Health magazine suggested that, given a grand, 78 per cent of its readers would rather drop it on a fitness holiday than a designer bag).”

Cameron Diaz

The great thing about this is it takes effort. It’s easy to go out and buy the latest Jimmy Choos or Louis Vuitton handbag (excuse me if I’m wildly behind the times here): all you need is a credit card. But to have a fit, healthy, toned body takes time, effort and commitment. And doesn’t have to cost the earth.

It can surely only be a good thing that more and more celebrities are getting involved in this craze – apparently Cameron Diaz is releasing a health and wellbeing bible; Minnie Driver attended the opening night of Kensington’s US gym Equinox; and Stella McCartney has produced a range of sportswear for Adidas.

Healthy living is such a good precedent to be setting for our younger generations and if it results in a fitter, healthier, less obese nation with less time being spent in front of TV or computer screens, then I say it rocks!

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10 Ways to a Happy Belly

ImageHello and welcome to my first blog post!

I thought I’d start by sharing why I decided  to set up HappyBellyHappyHeart.

I’ve always struggled to find things I’m passionate about but over the years, and particularly very recently, I’ve realised that one of those things is nutrition. I’m passionate about eating healthily. But there’s more to it than that; I’m passionate about living healthily with minimum impact on the environment.

When I was younger I ate whatever I wanted and didn’t give much concern to its nutritional value. It didn’t seem to matter, though, as I had the kind of teenage body that didn’t seem to put on weight. But as I hurtled through my twenties I realised things were changing and I’d have to pay a bit more attention. I became a vegetarian at the age of 19, as I never really enjoyed or agreed with eating meat and believed being veggie would help me eat more healthily. I was right.

I now realise a fascinating thing: I still eat whatever I want. It’s just the things I want to eat have changed. I never eat anything I don’t want to eat. I never force myself to eat something because it’s ‘good’ for me or deny myself something because it’s ‘bad’ for me. So I pondered further on this and discovered there’s a set of principles I live by, which haven’t been forced upon me; they’ve just evolved organically and are now intrinsic to my daily life.

So I thought I’d share them with you. You never know, you might even be inspired to follow one or two of them yourself…

  1. Love your food! Savour and enjoy every mouthful and feel nourished by its goodness.
  2. Everything in moderation. Binge eating is never helpful. But if you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you won’t need to follow any fads or deprive yourself of any food.
  3. Don’t feel guilty! As long as it’s in moderation you can eat that cake/biscuit/chocolate; the important thing to remember is to enjoy and savour it! Don’t feel guilty or attach negative emotions to it; sweet food can be nourishing too.
  4. Eat little and often. Personally, I’ve found this is the best way to keep my metabolism and blood sugar levels steady, rather than eating 3 larger meals a day.
  5. Never skip breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day and sets your metabolism going at the right speed. A mix of fresh fruit, cereals, nuts/seeds and milk or yoghurt (or dairy-free alternatives) is my staple. Oats are a great source of slow-release energy.
  6. Drink plenty of water. Apart from 40 mins either side of mealtimes, water should be sipped throughout the day (too much liquid whilst eating can flood the digestive system, making the digestive process more difficult and preventing us absorbing all the nutrients from our food.) Avoid fizzy or sugary drinks and too much caffeine or alcohol. One cup of caffeinated tea per day works fine for me.
  7. Avoid processed foods. Wherever possible eat wholegrain, nutrient-rich food in its most natural, unprocessed form.
  8. Avoid diet foods. I believe it’s better to eat natural, full-fat foods in moderation, rather than low-fat, low-sugar or low-calorie foods which nearly always have additional sugar, sugar substitutes, additives or other nasties to compensate for the lack of flavour.
  9. No counting. I don’t believe in counting calories, weight of food, bodyweight or waist size. Instead I try to listen to my body, eat what I need when I need it and stop eating before I’m completely full.
  10. Exercise! Last but by no means least. To me a healthy balanced diet includes exercise. You can’t expect to lose weight or feel happy in your body without it. Regular exercise strengthens muscles, enhances physical fitness, boosts the immune system, helps prevent disease, improves mental health and makes you feel great! And it doesn’t have to mean slogging away at the gym for hours on end or battling the elements whilst jogging. I have a daily Ashtanga yoga practice which keeps me physically fit, improves my strength and flexibility and is also very meditative. But you could try swimming, dancing, hula hooping, hill walking, rock climbing… the list is endless!

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