Start the day the right way – another healthy breakfast option

breakfast_bars_20_09760_16x9On ‘let’s talk!’ we have previously offered ideas for healthy meals and snacks.  Becky’s overnight oats went down really well, as did Jane’s Tabbouleh salad and when we shared a ‘healthy’ chocolate cake (well it is relatively healthy, as long as you don’t eat the lot in one go…..) we were greeted with disbelief. But we like to show you can eat delicious things, and still be certain you are packing your body full of good things that give you the energy to make the most of your day and can boost your mood.

We are pleased to see that more and more ‘celebrity’ or mainstream chefs and cooks are focusing on lighter options, and ingredients that just a few years ago would be only be available in a local wholefood shop – Goji berries and flaxseed, coconut oil and buckwheat for example – which are now readily available in supermarkets.

Today we wanted to share a recipe we love that was developed by TV cook Nigella Lawson, who, let’s be honest’ is best known for her voluptuous desserts and carbohydrate rich pasta dishes. Here she is offering an option for those of us who find it hard to take in a good breakfast as we rush around organising our mornings.For those of us concerned about our intake, the sugar in them comes only from the dates and the recipe makes enough to last the working week.

Nigella’s Breakfast Bars (version 2 – she has apparently made them even better than the original version)

Ingredients
250g/9oz medjool dates
2 tsp ground cinnamon
75g/2½oz goji berries
75g/2½oz pumpkin seeds
150g/5½oz brown flaxseeds
50g/1¾oz cocoa nibs
25g/1oz chia seeds
25g/1oz cornflakes (gluten-free if required)
100g/3½oz organic porridge oats (not instant)

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4, and line the bottom and sides of a 20cm/8in square tin with baking parchment.
Pit the dates and tear them with your fingers into a small saucepan, add the cinnamon, cover with 325ml/11fl oz cold water, bring to the boil and let bubble for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, and beat with a fork until you have a rough purée.
Put all the remaining ingredients into a large bowl, add the date mixture and mix until everything is combined. I wear a pair of disposable vinyl gloves for this.
Squodge into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until firm and set, and golden on top and darker around the edges. Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into pieces.

How brilliant is the word ‘squodge’?! just what one has to do to make sure the mixture filled every nook and cranny of the tin. Nigella makes suggestions for alternative ingredients if you find any hard to get hold of, or a bit too expensive – we have used ordinary dates and just simmered them for longer before mashing, and sunflower seeds instead of the flax. They came out really well, and are full of all those things that can give you a boost without causing your blood sugars to rocket.

You can watch Nigella make the bars in the video on the BBC Website.

So give them a try, and let us know what you think. or you could share your own favourite recipes with us. We would love to include more on this site.

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5 Recipes for well-being – Healthy eating on our Pinterest board…

Have you tried Pinterest? It is like a digital scrapbook come corkboard, particularly useful for saving your favourite images or links in any number of categories. It can be incredibly addictive, as you have access to thousands (millions!) of pictures and links saved by other users and there is the inevitable temptation to spend hours browsing and ‘repinning’ their links onto your boards for future reference.

Many businesses are now using Pinterest for marketing purposes, so here at The Terrace we thought we would give it a go. However, rather than just being another way to chat to people about our work, it has proved a fabulous way to save some favourite recipes. It is well-known that Pinterest is perfect for finding irresistable photos of fabulous food, and of course most people will never have time to produce a tenth of the recipes they save. So we thought we would pick our favourite five from our board to share on here.

salad1. Warm Winter Salads by Sophia Breene at Greatist. Delicious recipes full of rices, pulses and squash as well as fruit and a huge variety of leaves. Really highlights the value of salad in the colder months – you don’t have to hit the comfort food just because the central heating has come on….

2.The Best Creamy Roasted Tomato Soup by Ceara’s Kitchen. Having just mentioned comfort food, what could actually be better on a cold evening than a wonderful bowl of soup. This is a fabulous recipe, packed with good things and gluten free.

3. Another one from Ceara’s Kitchen – Oatmeal Banana Bread. This is a great option for people who alsways feel too rushed to eat a proper breakfast. Sweet, delicious and still good for you!

4. 30 minute Chicken Chow Mein by Healthy Nibbles & Bits. Take-aways can become redundant when you learn to cook this simple and healthy dish

5. Our very own Overnight Oats! – Prompted by Becky, who works with us here at The Terrace, we have tried this brilliant breakfast option. Give it a try and boost your energy at the start of the day.

So why not give our boards a look, and if you have your own Pinterest page, follow us for new ideas, thoughts about therapy and inspiration for health and well being – both physical and emotional. We even have cake…… (Flourless Chocolate Cake courtesy of The Vibrant Family).

Courtesy of The Vibrant Family

Courtesy of The Vibrant Family

Overnight Oats – a healthy breakfast for porridge haters!

strawberry-almond-oatsWe have all heard about the benefits of porridge. The oats are high in fibre, which fills you up, and the complex carbohydrates they contain are digested slowly, releasing energy in a way that keeps your blood sugar levels steady (unlike the simple carbs in sugary cereals for example, which give you a quick energy boost that dissipates swiftly, making you more hungry). They can help you lose weight as part of a healthy diet and there is really nothing about them not to like. Or is there?

Porridge is, frankly, not to everyone’s taste. It doesn’t matter how good they are for us, or how it is served up – with honey, fresh fruit, water instead of hot milk for example – some of us will always find a bowl of porridge unpalatable first thing in the morning. Hot milk can remind us of childhood breakfasts that are supposed to send us off to school ‘glowing’, or milky puddings, and we certainly aren’t recommending the proprietary brands of oat breakfasts which are often packed with sugar.

Here at The Terrace our own lovely Becky has experimented with a new way to enjoy the benefits of a bowl of oats in the morning. Recipes for ‘Overnight Oats’ are now all over the internet, accompanied by fabulous pictures and serving suggestions. Presented in jam jars, surrounded by flowers and fruit, they are miles away from what some see as a stodgy breakfast. For example, the ‘Eat this!’ site offers 14 recipes, including chocolate peanut butter oats, carrot cake oats and strawberry chia, that look almost too good to dip a spoon into. All it takes is a few minutes the night before you want to eat them to mix together the oats, the toppings and the liquid you want to use and pop them in the fridge. You don’t even need to cook them the next morning as all the flavours have soaked into the oats, although you can add more liquid, or natural yoghurt for example.

oatsBecky has her own favourites. She suggests you soak porridge oats overnight in the fridge in something like milk, water, coconut milk or yoghurt.  In the morning she mixes in full fat Greek yoghurt (which she finds works better than low fat options), blueberries, raspberries and a linseed mix with chia seeds and goji berries. She has taken her own photos for us – not prettied up but looking delicious nonetheless!

So give them a try, especially if you are not a fan of porridge recipes, and if you have any ideas of your own you would like to share we would love to hear from you!

Guest post: Words are tools of healing by Vivienne Tuffnell

41Z6WYh-WXL._UY250_Our thanks today to our guest blogger, writer and poet Vivienne Tuffnell, author of a number of wonderful novels, including Strangers and Pilgrims, The Bet and one of our favourites, Away With the Fairies, all dealing with the human condition in a mystical and spiritual way. Her short story collections are full of mystery, with supernatural elements and a deep questioning of what it means to be human. She has written and spoken of her own struggles with depression and has just published a fabulous selection of her prose pieces from her popular blog Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking. These essays challenge, question and nourish the spirit, offering support to others in mental and emotional distress. Depression and the Art of Tightrope Walking is available from Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

Just words

No one listens to me.
But then I have nothing to say
I have not said a thousand times before.
I’m dying for someone to hear
My silent screams
And offer help.
I’m searching for the words:
The right words
The magic words.
They’re just words;
They hold no power
To save or damn me.
Just words: no more.

I wrote this poem about ten years ago and I would say now: I was wrong. I wrote that poem before I discovered quite how powerful a tool the written word can be for self-healing. The process of reading and the process of writing have effects that I believe are much greater than we’re prepared to imagine.

I began writing almost before I could read; I used to sneak in to use my father’s typewriter, trying to write down my stories, believing that somehow the hitting of the keys would magically reveal the words. And words were magic of the finest kind, because they could transport you from a dull bedroom on a rainy November day when it’s too cold and wet to go out and play, to, well, anywhere in the entire universe. From being read to as a tiny tot, to trips to the local library twice daily during the long summer holidays, I devoured books. I started trying to create them too, from a very early age; I wrote my first novel when I was ten. I read English and Latin at university, which was so sobering I didn’t read much at all in the first year after graduating and it was another two years after that before I tried writing fiction again.

The other constant in all those years was depression. I experienced my first brush with it when I was about six. You might extrapolate that so much reading and so much writing were the cause of the depression, but it was more that they were the result of it. I read and I wrote to escape the yawning, gaping maw of the void that is depression. The times I experienced the most severe bouts of depression were ones where I could not (for whatever reason) read or write.

Recent advances in science have allowed us a sneaky peek into the human brain without slicing off the top of the skull; this means it’s now possible to have some clue about how our brains react to certain experiences. Most curious are fairly recent studies that involved MRI machines, volunteers, and sequences of words and pictures or sometimes other factors. These include  The emotion potential of words and passages in reading Harry Potter – An fMRI study and
Love, Pain, Money, Cocaine Light Up Same Area of Brain.

What is clear is that there are things going on in the brain that are beyond what we had previously thought. It gives great scope for pain relief and other beneficial results.

In the original version of the film Total Recall, memories are planted in a person’s brain to give them the illusion they have had a wonderful holiday. It’s a matter of an hour or two to create weeks’ worth of memories and the associated benefits on a person’s well-being that a great holiday would bring but without the need to travel or take time off. That’s what a good book can do, too.

As a reader, I crave books that can bring me relief from the inner darkness, but not by providing me with unremitting sweetness and light. There is something obviously false and unsatisfying about books that contain no conflict, no peril, no risk, because life isn’t like that. Some demand to be able to buy books with a Happy Every After guarantee (generally romance) but I doubt that this is a wise choice. Knowing beforehand a book will have a happy ending robs the reader of the experience of literary catharsis, of suffering with the main characters without being certain of relief. It’s the experience that brings the changes in the emotional state, not the outcome.

As a writer, I use my writing to explore how I feel and think, and the expression of my inner life in stories is one way I cope with my own sometimes fragile mental and emotional state. Yet there is both catharsis and a kind of creative synthesis that goes on, largely unconsciously, in the creation of a novel. When I write, quite often I don’t know how the book will end until it comes to me during the process of actually writing it. I often don’t know what the main themes of a book are until it is complete, and sometimes not even then. The feedback from readers sometimes brings me insights into what the book is about that I had no conscious clue about. One of the things I have found most rewarding as an author is that readers have found the books have affected them in profound and positive ways. It could be said that the books have been agents of healing and of comfort. It’s something that makes the process so worthwhile, doubly so, for the writing of a book is a process of catharsis and of inner healing for me; to know that it has this effect on readers enhances my own experience

613N30NIieL._UX250_Thanks once again to Vivienne. Do check out the links to her work and let us know how you feel about the ability of words to comfort and heal…

Vivienne’s Amazon page

Zen and the Art of Tightrope walking

How autumn can be seriously good for your health…

Early_autumn_morning,_Somerset_levels_(2931445670)

Somerset Levels in autumn

We came a little late to this research, but as meteorological  autumn begins, and the nights start drawing in, we thought it was a good time to cast off any gloom at the imminent end of the British summer and highlight how wonderful autumn is, and how good it can be for your health.

In 2014 The National Trust undertook some research that showed how a walk in the colours of autumn can lift the mood, even as the health giving properties of the light fade.

The National Trust found that more than eight out of 10 (84%) people felt that bright autumn walks made them feel happier, healthier and calmer. About 70% of those surveyed felt a lowering of their mood as the days shorten but almost 50% admitted that they did not get out in the fresh air often enough

It is not just a matter of filling your lungs, however. Colour psychologist Angela Wright is quoted as saying:

“Natural colour schemes can inspire us and lift our spirits. Autumn, combined with the rich light at this time of year, is a flamboyant blaze of intense colours with each affecting us in a different way……Fresh air, exercise and the sense of getting away from it all play a positive role in improving our well-being. However it’s the colours that we experience which are the most powerful tonic to affecting our mood.”

Autumn is a time for reflection and taking stock and for many seems melancholy, heralding endings. Children dread the end of summer holidays and head back to a new school year and parents have to get used to packing young adults off to University. But it is also a time of great bounty as many enjoy a harvest festival and the hedgerows fill with nuts and berries, stored by wildlife to see them over the coming winter.

GreatWoodTopTen

Great Wood

The Trust drew  up  a list of some of the best places to experience the full range of autumn colours- those delicious reds and oranges through to exotic purples and deep evergreens. None of the suggestions, from Snowdonia to Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire are close to Somerset, so we were curious to know whether there is a favourite local walk you like to take as the leaves turn. We are, after all, in a county with a wide variety of landscapes. One of our favourites is the Red Walk Trail in the Great Wood at Ramscombe in the Quantock Hills, where ancient oak jostle with spruce and fir and you can, if you are lucky, spot the occasional deer….

So on those beautiful, misty mornings over the Somerset Levels or on a cool, sunny Sunday afternoon, where do you head to kick over the traces and breathe in that distinctive musty autumn smell?

Prescribing nature? ‘Ecotherapy’ in the news again….

download (2)We are always keen to promote mindfulness here on this blog, especially mindfulness outside in nature. You don’t need to live in the middle of the countryside, simply taking a walk in the park can still the mind and offer relief from the stresses of the day.

If you need scientific evidence to convince you of the value of nature to our emotional well-being, then the BBC reported last week on work done by a team at Stanford University  which found that being close to the natural world can help us avoid the feeling when negative thoughts seem to be ‘stuck on repeat’.

Experiments compared the brain’s responses to walking beside a busy road with those experienced when amongst oaks, birds and squirrels, and showed decreased activity in an area of the brain linked to risk of mental illness when walking away from the stresses of urban life. Gregory Batman, a researcher on the study, said:

“There’s an increasing body of evidence showing that natural versus urban areas benefit us at least emotionally with our mood and possibly also our cognitive development too,”

Bearing in mind that more than 50% of the world’s population live in towns and cities, this is a really important finding. Batman again:

“Here’s your prescription, walk in the forest five times a week for an hour.”

Furthermore, at the Hampton Court Flower Show last week the Royal Horticultural Society was encouraging us to bring nature into our gardens by reducing the amount of hard landscaping, such as concrete paving.

The ‘Greening Grey Britain’ campaign showcased ways to make urban environments rich in both vegetation and nature.

Nigel Dunnett is Professor of Planting Design at the University of Sheffield, was behind the garden.

“We evolved with nature and it’s completely unnatural for us to be separated from it”.

We are to benefit from his work  here in the south-west, as plants from the garden are coming to Bristol to green-up areas which include St Mungo’s hostel for the homeless.

This is really nothing terrible new, as the value of ‘ecotherapy’ and the connection between humans and the land has been understood by practitioners for years. But is always good to have the issue highlighted once more.

So do you think ‘green prescriptions’ are a valuable complement to the range of treatments available for emotional distress? Would it be more effective that medication in your view?

We would love to know what you think…

Measuring well-being – why is Britain’s ranking lower than it should be?

benefitshealthcare-370x229What does ‘well-being’ mean to you? How would you measure it? Can we even try? Well, a study, called the ‘2014 Country Well-being Rankings Report’, has been carried out by researchers at Gallup and Healthways, (a US natural foods chain) which brings together more than 146,000 surveys in 145 countries in an attempt to do just that – create an index whereby we can measure a country’s well-being and rank them against each other. Here in Britain we didn’t do nearly as well as might be expected.

One particular category that dragged our overall score down is called ‘social’, which measures how supportive and loving our relationships are, but we were also less positive than many poorer countries, particularly in the Americas. We were also only 67th when it comes to physical well-being. This is a little disturbing, not least because we know that those in supportive relationships are less stressed, feel more respected and are more likely to be willing to help others.

Perhaps it is not surprising that in a country so dependent on financial services we scored best in the ‘financial’ category – how we manage our finances to reduce stress in our life – but even then we only came 20th.

Panama was, for the second consecutive year, top of the well-being league followed by Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Belize, Chile, Denmark, Guatemala, Austria and Mexico.The five countries with the lowest levels of well-being are Tunisia, Togo, Cameroon, Bhutan and Afghanistan.

What do statistics like this indicate about the society we live in? It certainly suggests that it is not financial affluence that makes us happiest. Supportive networks in close communities, extended families living nearby and a willingness to engage and work with others to create an overall sense of well-being override material possessions. Whilst we are encouraged to want more and more; to work harder and harder to buy technology that seems to take us further from physical interaction with those we love, we are losing sight of those things that nurture us mentally and physically.

Statistics can’t always be relied upon to tell us the truth of a given situation, but surely this is one of those occasions when data is sending us a message we would do well to take notice of?