Courgette and Egg Bake

I’ve realised that we are well into courgette season and whilst this great, Laing staple, was posted on our Fit School newsletter, it didn’t make it into my blog. I’ve been making and eating this a lot during my early months of pregnancy when I needed tasty, easy to digest recipes. So here it is:

Every year, in August, courgette production in the Fit School family allotment (actually it’s my mum and dad’s but they’re part of the picture) goes bumper! So we have a wealth of courgette recipes to handle the glut. From courgette pasta (it makes a fab pregnancy friendly carbonara), to courgette muffins great for kids and our all time favourite, Courgette and Egg Bake, taken from the Primal Blueprint cookbook.

1kg courgettes, grated
3 large free range eggs
200g ground sausage meat, bacon, sausages or beef mince
1 onion, chopped or grated
Parmesan or pecorino cheese to taste


  • Pre-heat oven to 180/GM4.
  • Cook the chopped onion in a pan with some olive oil for 5 minutes or until soft and tranlucent.
  • Add the grated courgette to the pan and cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Drain the courgette and onion mix in a large colander.
  • Meanwhile brown the sausage/bacon in the pan (chopped).
  • Add the drained courgettes and onions to the pan and pour into a greased, oven proof dish (around 20cm square).
  • Beat the eggs and mix into the courgette and sausage mix.
  • Grate the cheese over the top and pop in the oven for around 35-40 minutes.

Good food vs. Bad food. Do you demonise your diet?

I had a great day out with my mum yesterday. We were at the 3 Foot Festival in Chelmsford with my son and niece. We’d taken packed lunches, suitable for a full day out, filled with activities. On the way home mum commented on how well she’d been doing with her food but that today had been a bad day. She said it a few times, how since she’d been back from holiday she’d been good and lost a few pounds but today was a bad day. Why? From what I could make out it was because we’d had cheese rolls for lunch.

Now I’m not going to sit here and extoll the virtues of the humble cheese roll. Bread and cheese are both hugely acid forming to the body and the combination is body fat’s best friend. However, the occasional cheese roll, when you’re out and about and hungry, is not going to sabotage your long term health goals.

My mature cheddar was sandwiched with my mum’s, new season, home made apricot and tamarind chutney, inside a freshly home baked granary roll. I was hungry. It was nice. I was able to thoroughly enjoy it without a spot of guilt. Why? Because I know I eat well 80% of the time and a cheese roll is still kinder to my body than a take away burger or pizza. Today my food options will be replaced by eggs, salmon and plenty of nutritious vegetables. Hey, who knows, I may even whop out the juicer and concoct a green delight with some of my abundant home grown mint.

The point is this. If you demonise food it no longer becomes a pleasure AND you are likely to crave more of it, especially if you’re a type who likes to be subversive. Instead, recognise how some foods are kind to your body, whilst others are for treats and occasional enjoyment only. But do just that: enjoy them! Here’s to cheese rolls and fun days out.


Super easy slow cooker ham

THIS is a speedy one. I’ve had more requests for easy, nutritious recipes. And I know a few of you (like me) love dinners you can just leave to do their thing in the slow cooker.

I made this on a Thursday, significant because we have an often stressful turnaround from getting Isaac back from my mum’s, dinner on the table and eaten, and me out of the house by 6.30 to go and teach Pilates. This meal was stress free and Isaac’s first ever ham eating experience (he’s never touched it before).


Get a piece of gammon (I used free-range smoked from the butcher but unsmoked is probably less salty). A £5 piece is enough for a good dinner and plenty for sandwiches and snacks the next day too.

Turn on the slow cooker and pop in an onion, quartered (no need to peel the sticky layers off), a cup of water, a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme (optional) and your gammon. Pop a couple of teaspoons of honey on the ham. Put the lid on and leave it for at least  5 hours or until it’s very soft when you press the meat.

Take out the meat and leave it to rest on a plate under some foil until you’re ready to eat.

I served it with sweet potato wedges (scrubbed, cut into wedges, drizzled with olive oil and cooked at 200/GM6 for 45 minutes), french beans and nanny’s apricot and tamarind chutney.

The great thing about the slow cooked ham is that it shreds rather than slices, which makes it easy for toddlers to eat.

(Sorry no pictures but we ate it all)!

Everyday chemicals that could be putting your health and your unborn baby’s health at risk.

LAST week the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the ‘gold standard’ of ante natal advice, published a scientific paper advising pregnant women to choose safety first when it comes to the use of toiletries, cleaning products and even pre-packed fresh foods. The report came under fire for being alarmist and misleading but scientists have known for a long time about the health risks of so called ‘everyday chemicals’. Anti-persperant deodorants, plastic bottles, packaged meat, cling-film, even baby bath often contain chemicals which have been shown to be toxic to the human body.

It’s not just unborn babies who are at risk, it’s humans in general but the developing baby is obviously much more vulnerable to toxicity.

So what’s underneath the study, what are the chemicals to look out for.


Parabens are a preservative found in many cosmetic products. Research has found that parabens are absorbed through the skin and their chemical structure is unchanged by the human metabolic system. A 2004 UK study detected traces of five parabens in the breast cancer tumors of 19 out of 20 women studied, there is no direct link but the results were significant because of the fact that the parabens had not been metabolised and remained intact in human tissue. Parabens are also known to disrupt hormone balance. They mimic the female hormone oestrogen. High levels of oestrogen have been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer.

How to avoid: Look for organic or ‘pure’ products. Many high street chains do own brand cosmetics and skin care which are paraben free. For more information check out this article:



Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulphate is a foaming agent commonly found in soaps, shampoos and washing detergents. Research has found that SLS can react with other chemicals in household products to product potentially carcinogenic compounds (cancer causing). Aside from this, SLS has been shown to cause common skin complaints such as itching, redness and inflammation and younger individuals tend to react stronger to these chemicals, so definitely one to watch if you or your little ones suffer with any skin complaints like eczema or itchy skin.

How to avoid: As with parabens, check out the labels on products. Compounds such as ammonium lauryl and laureth sulphates have larger molecules which can’t be absorbed by the skin and so are considered safer options. For more information check out this article:



BPA and phthalates are the chemicals which have headed up the plastic food storage controversy in recent years. It’s well known that the body absorbs small amounts of plastics when we consume food which has been in contact with plastic (worse in salty or fatty foods or foods which have been heated in plastic containers – microwave anyone?). Many studies have shown the main culprit for BPA is plastic lined cans.

BPA gets into our bloodstream. Regular monitoring by the CDC shows that more than 90% of us have detectable levels of BPA in our bodies. BPA disrupts hormones, again it’s oestrogen which comes out on top and one large, well-conducted study in humans showed that people who had high levels of BPA in the urine had a higher rate of diabetes, heart disease, and liver toxicity.

Phthalates are plasticisers used in everything from pipes to perfume. They have been banned in the EU since 2005 however we are still exposed to phthalates, pesticides (crop spraying) and plastic packaging are thought to be the main culprits. Phthalates disrupt hormones but mainly the male hormone testosterone and some studies have shown minor genital birth defects in baby  boys due to exposure to phthalates.

How to avoid: 

  • Eat less canned foods.
  • Use cookware made of cast-iron rather than teflon coated pans.
  • Reduce your consumption of fast foods and microwave meals.
  • Don’t use plastic bottles with a number 3 or 7 on them. Number 1 on plastic is single use only.
  • Avoid heating food in plastic containers or with cling-film.
  • Opt for pyrex or glass food containers.
  • Hand wash plastics to avoid wear and tear.
  • Discard damaged containers.
  • Do not heat plastic bottles.

To find out more read this thorough article at Web MD:

You can view the original RCOG report here:

10 golden rules for a flat, holiday ready, tummy

It’s holiday time and the sun is out, suddenly thoughts turn to belly rolls and how to get rid of them before you hit the beach.

I am no advocate of extreme dieting or starvation BUT there are a few tweaks you can make in the last few weeks before your holidays to really see and feel the difference. So if you have four, two or even one week to go, it’s not too late to feel a little more comfortable in your skin (not to mention have glowing skin to boot).

Great digestion, hydration and avoiding foods that tend to bloat or trigger fat storage around the tummy are the golden rules of tummy taming. Here are my 10 golden rules:

1. Drink at least two litres of water a day. Grab some two litre bottles of Evian to make it easy to count. Hydration prevents water retention and promotes good digestion.

2. Cut out all refined sugars, alcohol, fizzy drinks, fruit juice and dried fruit. Consuming these creates an insulin response in your body which will encourage fat stores around your tummy.

3. Leave at least four hours between meals and 12 overnight. Time your meals to ensure your body gets a break from digesting, this will also prevent you picking between meals. Time out between meals gives your hormones time to re-set so you’ll avoid the ups and downs associated with snacking. If you’re desperate for flavour have a herb tea.

4. Consume plenty of oily fish and oil rich foods like avocados. Do have nuts but with your meal. You might also consider a supplement. Oils are great for keeping your digestive system healthy and for making your skin, hair and nails glow.

5. Stick to lean meats and protein sources. Fatty meats can be harder to digest and in a short time frame, the excess calories from fats aren’t your friend.

6. Avoid known bloating foods. Fizzy drinks, beans, cabbage, leeks and pulses are fairly common ones but if you know others that affect you, then find alternatives.

7. Cut out wheat completely, especially bread. Pasta, crackers, weetabix etc are all big belly culprits.

8. Cut down on grains like rice and oats. Stick to a two dessert spoon serving (uncooked quantity) and find alternatives to conventional cereals.

9. Keep coffee and caffeine to the morning to ensure you avoid excess bloating and sleep well at night.

10. Fill up on colourful vegetables and fruits. Sweet potatoes, broccoli, swede, yams, strawberries, avocados and raspberries are all packed with nutrients and will give you a sweet hit when you need it.

And finally … remember no matter what shape or size you are, you are beautiful. Stand tall and wear your body with pride.

Green lentil and root vegetable soup

This is a super speedy, family friendly soup, suitable for even the most novice of domestic goddesses. The only appliance you’ll need (in addition to a hob) is some kind of blender. I use a stick blender for soups to save on washing up but a standard blender or food processor would work fine too.

I’ll be honest, this is a complete leftovers soup based on bits and bobs I had left in my fridge and inspired by the half a tin of green lentils I had leftover from the quinoa salad I’d made on Wednesday!


  • Half a tin of pre-cooked green lentils (no doubt it would work fine with a whole tin or cooked dried lentils too)
  • Half a swede, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 small parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 small cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • Stick of celery (optional – I used this since I only had one small onion left in the bowl)
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 litre water
  • 4 tsp vegetable bouillon or other stock (chicken would be nice too)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper


Start by roasting the parsnips and garlic, this is an optional step but takes little effort and adds a flavour punch. Just pop the chopped parsnips (I chopped mine into 1/2 cm rounds to make them cook quicker) in a roasting tin with some olive oil. Then crush the garlic cloves, skin on, with the back of a knife or wooden spoon and add to the parsnips. Pop them in the oven at 200C/GM6 whilst you do the rest.

Now pop some oil in a large saucepan and add the chopped onion and celery, let them cook over a medium heat until they soften and the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).


Then add the rest of the ingredients. The swede, carrots, lentils, water, stock and cumin (if you don’t have pre-cooked lentils I’d suggest you cook them with the onions, celery and water for ten minutes before adding the remaining ingredients). Bring them all to the boil and let them simmer for around 15 minutes or until the swede and carrots are soft enough to blend.

Finally add the roasted parsnip pieces and remove the skins from the garlic before popping them in to the mixture too. Give it a final taste and season then blend it and serve.

I served mine with a swirl of chilli oil, salt and pepper but left Isaac’s plain. This soup got a big yes vote from Isaac too because of all the sweet vegetable ingredients, he lapped the soup up without stopping for the toast and butter soldiers!

Here he is giving it the vote of approval: “Mmmmmm … nice!”



Can coconut water make you more beautiful and cure your hangover?

Elixir of youth. Hangover cure. Labour and birthing aid. Sports drink. Drink of choice for the Hollywood starlet. Coconut water is fast gaining reputation as the ‘super drink’ of choice, with its many benefits now being backed up by scientific studies.

As a coconut water fan, I jumped at the chance to go to an event hosted by Vita Coco on Wednesday to learn more about the science behind it. I also got to sup on various delicious flavours of coconut water (although I have to confess my favourite is still straight up, natural).

1. Yes it could be considered something of a beauty elixir – amongst other Hollywood A-listers Madge, Gwinny, Ri-Ri and Sienna are huge fans. Coconut water is naturally rich in antioxidants, recently backed up by laboratory studies. It contains plant chemicals cytokinins, which have shown anti-aging and anti-carcinogenic effects, vitamins B and C and the minerals potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosporous and sodium.

2. Coconut water is naturally isotonic. To be considered isotonic, a drink needs to contain 5-6% sugars. Coconut water is 5% naturally occurring sugars. An isotonic drink is quickly absorbed by the body making it both thirst quenching and more importantly rehydrating. So at times of need, such as after sports or illness, during labour or in the post natal period (or a big night out), an isotonic drink can be more effective than plain water. A recent study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in December 2012, found coconut water to be as effective in rehydrating athletes as conventional sports drinks.

According to, coconut water is a universal donor and is identical to human blood plasma.  It has the same level of electrolytic balance that we have in our blood and apparently, during the Pacific War of 1941-45, coconut water was used to give emergency plasma transfusions to wounded soldiers. Coconut water was also reportedly used as an IV drip in WWII.

3. Coconut water is chemical and sugar free. Unlike conventional sports drinks which contain a cocktail of sugars, sweeteners, artificial flavourings and basically chemicals which can be very acid forming in the body, coconut water contains no nasties. Recent studies have shown runners who suffered with gastric issues from conventional sports drinks reacted much better to coconut water as a rehydration drink with fewer tummy complaints.

4. Coconut water is rich in potassium. Recent WHO guidelines state we should all consume 3500mg potassium, daily. It’s a vital mineral for controlling blood pressure and heart disease. One 350ml of pure coconut water contains 50% more potassium than a banana!

5. One 35oml portion of Vita Coco also contains your entire RDA of vitamin C!

6. Anecdotal mum research fact (on my test subject of one) – coconut water is much easier to get down a poorly baby/toddler than conventional rehydration salts!

You can buy Vita Coco (my favourite brand, since it’s ethically produced and not from concentrate) in Waitrose, larger supermarkets, Holland and Barrett and online via Amazon at

Sports Nutrition expert Anita Bean

Sports Nutrition expert Anita Bean

Toasted Coconut Shortbread Hearts

It’s never too late for a Valentine themed biscuit and given we had friends over for dinner on Friday, in the middle of my sugar fast, I had to come up with something quick!

I first created these biscuits a few months ago, when I discovered raw coconut sugar. Raw coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut blossom. It is processed at very low temperatures (hence it’s a raw ingredient) which means it retains all of its nutrients including magnesium, potassium, zinc, B vitamins and amino acids. It also has a low glycaemic index of 35 (similar to skimmed milk), so won’t create the sugar spikes in your body that traditionally processed sugars will. I love it because unlike processed sugar replacements, you can use it in baking and it tastes really sweet so you don’t need so much.

cracked coconut with splash

The obvious (when you come to buy it) downside to coconut sugar is the price tag. But I roughly totted up the cost of my scrummy shortbreads and 24 biscuits, the equivalent of two packets of high street biscuits, cost under £2, similar to a packet of high end supermarket brand, luxury nibbles.

I’ve also packed these biscuits full of almonds to help combat the refined flour that I’ve added. You could try an alternative but for this recipe, the biscuits are so crumbly and short that you need a little gluten to hold them together.

INGREDIENTS (I’ve used cups mainly since I made it up and of course, baked them with Isaac):

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut
  • 1/2 cup raw coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4oz unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (to taste)

Pre-heat oven to 150/GM3

Start by toasting the coconut. Tip the coconut into a flat, baking or roasting dish (metallic) and spread evenly. Toast in the oven for around 5 minutes. You’ll need to keep checking since it will suddenly turn. You’re looking for a light golden colour rather than brow.

In a large bowl mix the remaining dry ingredients together and give them a good stir. Add the toasted and cooled coconut and finally the butter, diced.

Work the butter into the dry ingredients as if you were making scones or pastry. Go lightly, rubbing the fat in until it’s incorporated, then you’ll be able to create soft balls of dough. The dough will seem really soft and unworkable but if you stick with small cutters you’ll be fine!

Watch out at this point if you’re cooking with children. They will want to eat the lot!

Roll out each ball of dough to about half a cm and cut out biscuits. Re-rolling is more a question of squidging the stray bits together!

Bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on thickness) until golden underneath and leave to cool.

Best eaten on the same day but will store in an airtight container (they just go a bit soft).

These would be brilliant served with thick, greek yoghurt and griddled pineapple for a no sugar dessert.


Carrot and raisin muffins (sugar free)

I’m going sugar free for 40 days of Lent (this is just day two). The trouble is, I love baking and don’t want to miss out on baking with my boy. We love creating sugar free recipes together and I was happy to test out a couple from my all time favourite mum recipe book, The Top 100 Finger Foods for Babies and Toddlers by nutritionist Christine Bailey.

These muffins contain lots of raisins, so they were sure to get the Isaac vote. The recipe also uses pineapple as a sweetener rather than banana, so if you’re not a banana fan then it’s a great alternative. They are also higher in protein than the average muffin and contain no dairy since they’re made with oil, not butter.

Isaac loved mixing the wet ingredients with his floury, carroty mixture. We all got very sticky but had lots of fun in the process.

Verdict? They taste better for a day in a lock tight tub – it brings out the flavours. They work really well for breakfast with a couple of boiled eggs, or with a coffee. They aren’t crumbly like most DIY baby finger foods so make great on the go snacks. We shared them with a few of Isaac’s buddies and they all liked them too!

So here’s the recipe:



  • 100ml light olive oil
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 115g wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 115g self-raising flour
  • a pinch of cinnamon (I used more)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 4 tbsp raisins (allow more for little fingers)
  • 2 tbsp dessicated coconut
  • 115g tinned, crushed pineapple, drained

Mix together oil and eggs.

In a separate bowl mix all the dry ingredients.

Combine the wet with dry and then add carrots and pineapple. Mix until just combined (muffins can’t take too much mixing).

Spoon mixture into a muffin tin (or loaf tin for speed) and cook for 20 minutes at 180 or GM4.

I also added vanilla extract and think they’d work quite well with walnuts too.

I’d love to know how you get on, do share your pictures and opinions.



Why can’t I stop eating sugar?

I know. It’s hard. Without decisive action I can quickly slip into a sweet and sugary space. Going cold turkey seems like the hardest thing to do. We are programmed with a sweet tooth (mother’s milk is slightly sweet) it gives us energy. In fact studies consistently show that sugar is a harder addiction to crack than cocaine. So why is it that we get so obsessed by the white stuff?


Years of low fat diets have a lot to answer for. We used to think reducing fat in our food would reduce the fat on our thighs and consequently make us healthy. Research is consistently proving that this is absolutely not the case and far from making us healthy, removing the naturally occurring fats from food has led to a rise in the amount of rubbish taking its place. Including sugar. Take a Starbucks Skinny Stem Ginger Muffin. It has twice as much sugar as a standard Blueberry Muffin. A low fat or skinny label does not mean healthy – it’s a clever marketing tool to make you want to buy it.


Nice! Candida is a naturally occurring yeast which lives in our guts. Too much is toxic but really hard to diagnose. One of the key signs is the need for sugar. Candida thrives on sugar and needs it to grow. The more it grows, the more sugar it needs. Frequent bouts of thrush, digestive complaints (including lady pumps), headaches and rashes or itching are also common signs.

How to stop it? The best course of action is to go cold turkey. Cut out the hard stuff and see how your energy shifts.


The past ten years have seen massive developments in the study of hunger hormone, ghrelin and full hormone, leptin. Scientists used to believe that one of the hormonal causes of obesity was a lack of the ‘I’m full’ hormone leptin but new research is suggesting that it could instead be a resistance to leptin. So your body produces it but the brain somehow bypasses the signals and instead sends out ‘I’m starving – feed me’ signals making you crave sugary, high energy food. Professor Robert Lustig (University of California) has recently found it could be sugar which is causing leptin resistance. Professor Lustig and his team have shown repeated sugar spikes cause insulin resistance (the body no longer responds to sugar in the same way) and in turn, leptin resistance, which means your brain simply doesn’t recognise the fact that you are actually full. The findings were published in his book Fat Chance.


While we’re on the subject of ghrelin and leptin, your body resets itself over night. Too little sleep and your hunger hormones get out of whack, meaning you don’t get that full up feeling and just crave sugary, energy dense foods all day. This is one of the reasons why sleep deprived, new mums hit the biscuit barrel!


Pregnant women are necessarily less sensitive to insulin. It’s the body’s clever way of ensuring enough energy gets to little bubba’. Also, pregnant ladies are growing a whole new person, which takes a lot of energy. When you don’t eat enough good stuff to fulfil your pregnant energy requirements, you crave sugar.


A bit like pregnancy, when you’ve got your period, you’ll be more sensitive to blood sugar highs and lows so it’s even more important to eat well and eat regularly. Some women swear by raw chocolate when it’s their time of the month to get them through. I love Om Bar coconut chocolate, it’s the least weird tasting raw chocolate I’ve ever eaten and there’s no sugar or dairy in it either.


Craving sugar could be an underlying sign of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes happens when cells fail to use insulin properly or become insulin resistant. Some nutritionists, like obesity researcher Zoe Harcombe (author of The Harcombe Diet) believe type 2 diabetes is the result of your body no longer being able to process the levels of sugar you are pumping in. It just, gives up.


So you don’t have sugar in coffee, you rarely eat biscuits but you still seem to want some of the white stuff. It could be those hidden sugars that are fuelling your sweet fire. When did you last check cereal packets? You’ll be hard pressed to find a commercial breakfast cereal which does not contain sugar or invert sugar syrup (don’t start me on that stuff – it screws your body’s system up on a whole new level to sugar) and yes, we like to feed this to our little babies too?!? Processed foods like soup, baked beans, or ready meals (yes the branded diet variety especially) all contain sugar too. And then there’s alcohol – which is sugar, refined to make you drunk. It’s everywhere!

What to do? Great piece of advice I recently heard, don’t eat anything that has a TV advert.


Ooh, now I’m not going to go deep on this one. There’s just too much science involved for a little blog (which is already pretty long). So aside from the whole heap of chemicals doing weird things to your body (like make you store fat) when you consume artificial sweeteners, eating sweet stuff that isn’t sugar confuses your body’s sugar response. It gets so used to expecting sugar when you guzzle diet drinks and then not getting it that it ultimately doesn’t respond as well to sugar when it finally comes. It gives up hope! So then you need more of the sweet stuff to get the hit etc etc… Just don’t do it. Aspartame is one of the worst culprits and oh, most artificial sweeteners will give you bad guts too.

What to do? The best replacement we’ve found is a product called Z-Sweet. If you really need the hit!


I learned this the hard way before I was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. When you are hungry, you crave sugar. If you eat refined foods when you are hungry, you’ll get a high, shortly followed by a dip, then want more refined foods.

What to do? Eat good food and don’t skip meals (yawn). But if you are stuck and starving, go for a piece of fruit with some sort of protein. Nut butter, cheese (a little piece) or nuts are a good option.

For more information on food to make you feel good take a lot at my other posts: