Monthly Archives: April 2008

Four great diet blogs and sites to enjoy

If you’ve tried out The Office Diet’s recipes, dug deep into the archives and perused all the longer articles, you might be getting short of reading material. Here’s a few of my favourite sites to while away a few minutes…


This is a tricky blog to pidgeon-hole, so all I can say is – take a look! MizFit has a unique, chatty, informal and funny writing style, and a great way with words. In particular, check out her answers to Viewer Mail and Guest Chef Time

In a recent post, MizFit tells us:

Im intrigued by what takes off and becomes the next —to date myself— Pet Rock & what goes the way of the 8 Track or, more currently put, those mini-DVDs which never quite struck the American public’s fancy.

She writes on fitness, health, weight-loss and dieting issues and makes a great coffee-break read if you want a giggle or something to distract you from work…

The Guardian’s Health and Wellbeing section

Another great one to browse through, the Guardian has a wealth of excellent content online. I almost never buy the print version of the paper any more, but regularly read news and features on their site.

Particularly good current reads are:

Cranky Fitness

I’ve mentioned the wonderful Crabby McSlacker, and her pal Merry, before — if you’ve never come across Cranky Fitness, I recommend it very highly for a unique and refreshing blend of humour, intelligence, fun and practical advice.

In particular, check out:

  • Out of the basement and into the streets where Crabby writes:

    Please raise your hands: are there any of you out there who think riding a bicycle is an excellent idea, a healthy, practical, good-for-the-environment activity, but it’s just too much of a pain to do in real life?

This is Not a Diet

I only came across this a couple of days ago, but it grabbed my attention:

We are going back to the basic essentials of human health. This means we aim to exercise more, eat healthier foods and when possible, eat organic. In our quest, we also want to examine how to take care of the whole body by the use of products that are made from natural ingredients.

Running from April 1st 2008 to April 1st 2009, This is Not a Diet is a blog by a group of people in Southern California who are trying to lose weight in a sustainable, healthy way. It’s a really nicely designed site with a great premise and input from lots of people. Definitely one to follow if you’re looking for inspiration.


Refreshing Uses of Tea: Going Beyond Your Daily Cuppa

This post is by Lorna Cowie, an artist and self-described “extreme foodaholic”. If you enjoy these tips about tea, you’ll also love her post from last week.

I think most people would say they enjoy a good cup of tea. Not only is it relaxing, if yours contains caffeine it might help you wake up or keep going through the day. [Ali – An important consideration for us office workers – nodding off over the keyboard rarely helps win promotions!] But did you also know that you can use tea and tea bags as part of your healthy body ritual?

Steaming away: use tea to refresh your skin

If you are a herbal addict then just pop two bags of your favourite tea into a bowl of hot water (about three cups of boiled water), throw a tea towel over your head and let the steam soothe and refresh your skin for ten minutes. Steaming helps open pores and nourishes the skin, plus at the end of it you have a still-warm cup of tea to drink!

A good choice of tea bags for a steam facial are camomile, peppermint (great if you have a cold), rose, rosehip and lemon.

Other uses of tea: in your bath, over your eyes…

One step further? Why not! Add three of your favourite tea bags into your bath as you run it (remove those pesky paper tags first though) and you will have a lovely fragrant bath to relax in. One of my favourite ways of using a tea bag is to put it in a foot soak to soothe tired feet. Peppermint will help with those aches and pains and rose will leave your feet smelling sweet.

Want to drink your tea? Perfect, drink your tea and save the tea bags. Wrap them in food wrap and leave in the fridge until cold. When you are ready simply place them over your eyes (closed of course) and relax. Tea bags help to reduce dark circles from under the eyes, but remember to use tea bags that contain caffeine, as they also contain something called tannin which has an anti-inflammatory effect.

The other sort of “green tea”

When your tea bags have been used through drinking the tea, being thrown in a bath or placed on your eyes, you can also recycle them with ease. You can use them to plant seeds in, dig them into your flower beds and they act as little water containers for your plants but DO NOT throw them on your compost heap unless you know the bag is made of paper. Some tea bags are not made of paper, thus will not recycle down into anything useful. If you are unsure about your tea bags then simply split them open and empty the inside into your compost heap and either throw away the tea bag itself or dry it and burn it (safely please).

Not all tea comes in bags

Do you make or mix your own tea? Loose tea is becoming more and more popular and the variety is growing. I am lucky and have a “Herb Lady” who sells lose tea ingredients at my local market. If you have any favourite loose tea recipes them let me know! [Ali – drop me an email to and I’ll pass it on to Lorna. If we get enough great tips, we’ll put them on The Office Diet!]

Mmm, I think it is time to put the kettle on…

(Image above by T.MoE)


Six healthy ways to cope with tiredness – that work!

Yesterday (Sunday), I was woken up at five-thirty am by our neighbours (again) having a row. After being disturbed by the same neighbours at two am the previous night, and after a busy week of late nights, I was rather tired and moody for most of the day….

Short of moving house, what can you do about a lack of sleep? I’m not thinking about insomnia here, though that can be a huge health issue for many people, but temporary lack of sleep caused by overwork, stress, or disturbances in the night. This is especially difficult when you have to drag yourself into the office…

These all help to deal with that zombified, groggy feeling:

  • Eat a good breakfast for sustained energy. I must confess I didn’t manage this on Sunday – I did start with a bowl of fruit salad, but followed that with a large Danish pastry, then a mini-muffin for elevenses…
  • Get some (gentle) exercise. By the time we’d walked to Church, I was feeling rather more alive. If it’s a weekday, try getting off the bus or tube a couple of stops early, and walking briskly for a few minutes – it’ll give you the kickstart you need to begin the working day.
  • Have a short nap. I was sleepy when we got home, and though I wanted to plough with my “to do” list, I knew I’d be in a much happier mood after a nap. I snoozed for half an hour before lunch, and felt much better for it. Many people find napping for more than 20-30 minutes leaves them even groggier, so you might want to set an alarm. Unless you have a very understanding boss, however, this may be a tricky one to manage on a weekday – try sloping off somewhere quiet in your lunch-hour.
  • Prepare something light and healthy for lunch. I was very tempted to make nachos, but knew that a large helping of tortilla chips, cheese and sour cream wasn’t going to help me stay awake in the afternoon. One good options is a big fresh salad, and wholegrain bread or crispbreads with ham.
  • Take things slowly. It’s much easier to make mistakes when you’re tired, or to feel overwhelmed. Don’t try to rush yourself, and stop for a break if you can’t concentrate.
  • Go easy on the caffeine. After a cup of tea with breakfast, then two more at Church (more tea than I usually drink in a whole day), I’d perked up considerably. Half an hour later, I felt tired and drained again – the caffeine crash. It’s much better to drink plenty of water, and to space out cups of tea or coffee.

Try to keep your thoughts positive, as well (though I know this is far easier said than done.) Spending the day telling yourself “I’ll never get anything done,” or complaining to your colleagues about how few hours’ sleep you had, will only put you in a worse mood. Use tiredness as a good excuse to let yourself relax and do something fun; watch an old film, read a “trashy” novel, or buy yourself a magazine.

Then make sure you unwind in the evening, and get a well deserved early night!

(Image above by jakobtischler)


Review of Weight Loss Resources – 8/10

I’ve mentioned the site Weight Loss Resources before; it’s a great service for anyone who wants to lose weight or who is struggling to maintain their weight loss.

Price £7 – £9 per month
Software type Online system
Main features Food/exercise diary, food/exercise database, charts and reports of nutritional intake and weight loss achieved, articles, contests, forums.
Aimed at Anyone, male or female, with regular internet access. The community includes a lot of office workers.

Weight Loss Resources is centred around its food diary. Each day, you log everything you’ve eaten, and how much exercise you’ve done – the site automatically calculates how many calories you should eat and how many of those you’ve consumed.

Best features of Weight Loss Resources

I rarely stick to filling in a food diary, and Weight Loss Resources (often abbreviated to WLR) is the only long-term method that’s worked for me. It does all the adding-up automatically, and is a great time-saver. The site allows you to create recipes which you can reuse. For example, I made one for “Stir Fry, Prawn, Veg and Noodes” rather than separately entering every food on my plate every time I ate that meal:

Screenshot of Weight Loss Resources' Food Diary

Being able to see charts and reports is also a big boost to motivation – and lets you know if you’re veering off the rails. I particularly like the daily pie charts of how many calories were consumed at each meal, and what percentage of calories came from carbohydrate, protein, fat or alcohol.

Screenshot of Weight Loss Resources' Nutrition Profile

The site has a very active user community, as shown in the forums; discussions tend to be chatty, friendly and very supportive. My one gripe is that the Advice & Support and Off Topic boards tend to be so “noisy” that posts from the morning have often slipped onto the second page by the time I get home in the evening.

Screenshot of Weight Loss Resources' Forums

The databases of food (there are UK and US versions) cover a huge range of supermarket and restaurant brand items, as well as generic products. If you try to find a product which isn’t in the database, you can add it yourself – you just need the nutritional information for 100g, 100ml, or per serving (usually on the package) and the serving size.

WLR has an wonderful, friendly, Help Team who are on hand 8am to 10pm to answer queries about health, exercise and nutrition, and also to assist with any technical problems. They’re very good at sourcing nutritional information for products which don’t have this on the packaging, and they’ll also “clean up” any duplicate or old entries in the database if you drop them an email or post on the Help Team forum.

Factors which might put you off Weight Loss Resources

The site does charge a subscription fee – ranging from £7-£9/month (depending on how long you sign up for). If you just want to track calories, or just want to join other dieters on web forums, there are plenty of free sites where you can do this.

My impression of the software is that it’s a bit “clunky”. There have been some great upgrades over the past few years, since when I began using it, but the site doesn’t have the smooth, modern look and feel of others such as the Times Health Club.

Screenshot of the Times Health Club page

The WLR site sometimes crashes and is occasionally offline for several hours. This can be very frustrating if you’re busy and have little time to spend on the site.

Should you join Weight Loss Resources?

If you’re looking for motivation, an easy way to track calories, advice, support and friendship, and a safe programme for successful weight loss – go for it! I’ve lost about two stone during my on-and-off membership of WLR. And seeing figures such as fibre, fruit and veg, and exercise completed on the screen was a real encouragement towards healthy habits.

Screenshot of Weight Loss Resources' Exercise Diary

Lots of articles (such as product reviews, tips, and general advice) are available pre-login. You can also get a 24 hour free trial – and you don’t have to enter any card details for this.

I’ve always found Weight Loss Resources great value for money. I’ve unsubscribed now – having finally achieved my goal weight! – but still strongly recommend it. You’ll almost certainly make some new friends, too: Anna, our diarist, is a lovely woman who I “met” on the site.

(Disclaimer: I’ve not been paid, bribed or encouraged in any way to write this post – I don’t get anything from Weight Loss Resources if you do sign up, I’m just reviewing and recommending it because it’s been a hugely helpful and enjoyable resource for me! All screenshots are taken from the Weight Loss Resources/Times Health club sites)

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Quick Tips to Feeling Good with Honey – Inside and Out!

This post is by Lorna Cowie, an artist and self-described “extreme foodaholic”. If you missed her post examining some of the health myths about dark chocolate last week, give it a read!

Honey is a subject I love. Not only is it good to eat but it is also good to wear as well. A sweeter alternative to sugar, it has become popular with the thought that it is more natural than your regular tea sweetener you use every day. Using honey in your daily diet can have quite a few health benefits:

  • It contains trace amounts of several vitamins and minerals
  • It is fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free

…though watch out for its calorie content and don’t go drinking a jar of the stuff!

Unusual uses of honey … for your skin

All right, despite being natural and a lovely way to sweeten tea, what else can you do with honey? Well, wear it, of course! Using honey as a face mask moisturises skin and tighten pores. Here is a quick recipe, so give it a go and see if this delicious goo can help you!

Mix one mug of water (reasonable size) with enough honey until the mixture becomes gooey, then simply slather onto your face and relax for twenty minutes. Wash off with warm water and feel your soft and scented skin.

Feeling fruity? Then crush four strawberries, mix with two tablespoons of cream and one tablespoon of honey. Mix and apply to your face (avoiding the eyes) and let yourself relax for twenty minutes before washing the mixture off.

Add four tablespoons of honey to your bath to make the water smell sweet and feel softer.

Look for a natural honey soap to use when you wash your hands. Not only will your skin feel soft but your bathroom will have a sweet smell.

Or if you prefer your honey in rather than out…

Honey is a natural boost of energy and makes a wonderful pick-me-up should you feel yourself flagging. Grab a natural plain yoghurt and add a tablespoon of honey before swirling into a delicious pop of yumminess. It makes a nice treat, and also if you don’t eat it all, apply to your face and leave for fifteen minutes, a perfect soothing face mask.

The glucose in honey will give your body that immediate pick me up whilst the fructose is release more slowly into your system, allowing for a sustained energy drive.

Things you probably didn’t know about honey

  • Honey is the only food that includes all the substances that you need to sustain life, including water.
  • Honey attracts and absorbs water, so makes it wonderfully soothing for minor burns and even is said to prevent scarring.
  • Use lip balm and skin creams? Check the label, it will most likely include honey or beeswax as an ingredient.
  • Next time you are out and about and spot a bee, wish it well – bees need to visit over two million flowers to make one pound of honey.

(Photo above by NinaMyers)

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17 ingredients, 6 sandwiches, 10 days of fantastic, healthy, lunches

Are you getting bored of sandwiches? Taking the same thing into work every day can get boring, fast … but buying lunch out every day soon becomes expensive. I keep falling back on the default option of “pitta bread with ham, lettuce and pickle” which, whilst nice, can get a bit boring by Friday.

So last weekend, I sat down to figure out a shopping list and menu plan that is:

  • Good value
  • Healthy
  • Requires minimum preparation time
  • Allows a reasonable amount of variety

The prices and calorie values are from Sainsbury’s (a mid-range supermarket in the UK); they’ll vary a bit for our US readers, but this should give some idea of the relative cost of taking a packed lunch verses eating out.

Your packed lunch shopping list

You will need:

(For sandwiches)

  1. Six pitta breads (52p)
  2. Six harvest grain baps (49p)
  3. 200g wafer-thin ham (£1.29)
  4. 360g jar Branston Small Chunk pickle (89p)
  5. 312g jar Baxter’s Albert’s Victorian chutney (77p)
  6. 250g tub cottage cheese (58p)
  7. 200g light philadelphia (£1.34)
  8. Iceburg lettuce (85p)
  9. Cucumber portion (40p)
  10. 250g Cherry tomatoes (68p)
  11. One red onion (18p)
  12. One red pepper (78p)
  13. Small tin of pineapple rings (23p)


  1. 500g loose carrots (31p)
  2. Bag of Basics apples (99p)
  3. Bag of Basics pears (99p)
  4. Two boxes of multigrain cereal bars (£2 for 2)

Total cost: £13.29

Freeze the pitta breads and rolls as soon as you get home; they’ll defrost easily. Keep the vegetables and apples in the fridge. With lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, you may need to buy more the following weekend as they usually won’t keep past six or seven days.

Six different sandwich ideas from thirteen items

Mix and match your lunch items however you choose – here’s some of the sandwich ideas I came up with, followed by how to put it all together for a healthy lunch…

(Note: I recommend using one and a half bread rolls if you’re having a roll rather than a pitta, as they’re a bit on the small side otherwise!)

Pitta with ham, cream cheese, lettuce and pickle

Defrost one pitta bread (I zap for 30 seconds on full in the microwave), then split down the long edge. Spread with cream cheese, then fill with about five slices of wafer-thin ham. Add a teaspoon of pickle, and a handful of shredded lettuce leaves. Slice in half and wrap tightly in clingfilm or a sandwich bag (these tend to disintegrate otherwise!)

Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
217 12.7g 33.3g 3.5g 3.7g

Bread roll with ham and chutney

Defrost a bread roll. Slice in half, spread each side with cream cheese then add two-three slices of ham to each half. Dollop a generous teaspoon of Victorian chutney in the middle. NOTE: I like my rolls open topped, and this way of putting the sandwich together means it can easily be “split” again at lunchtime (the chutney can get a bit messy though…)

Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
207 16.5g 25.8g 4.5g 1.3g

Pitta with cottage cheese and salad

Defrost a pitta bread. Split and fill with cottage cheese, lettuce, sliced cucumber, a couple halved cherry tomatoes and a few rings of red onion (if liked.) Add a sprinkling of black pepper or mixed herbs from the store-cupboard, to taste.

This is a great way to sneak one of your five-a-day into your sandwich.

Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
208 12.7g 31.9g 3.2g 3.9g

Bread roll with cottage cheese and pineapple

Defrost a bread roll. Chop or crush one pineapple ring and mix with a tablespoon of cottage cheese. Split the roll and fill with the cottage cheese and pineapple mix.

Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
190 9.7g 29.6g 3.7g 1.4g

Pitta with cream cheese and roasted vegetables

Grill or roast 1/3rd red pepper and 1/3rd red onion. (A George Foreman grill is ideal for this.) Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, defrost your pitta bread, split, spread the inside (top and bottom) with cream cheese, and stuff with the roasted vegetables. Wrap tightly in clingfilm – the roasted vegetables have a habit of sliding out otherwise!

Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
206 8.8g 33.8g 4.0g 4.4g

Bread roll with cream cheese and cucumber

Defrost and slice a bread roll, spread with cream cheese, add thinly sliced cucumber and pickle if liked. What could be simpler? If you prefer an open sandwich, spread both halves with cream cheese and put the sliced cucumber in the middle – you can de-assemble it at lunch time.

Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
179 7.3g 25.1g 5.5g 1.4g

Creating a delicious, healthy, lunch … in under five minutes

Take one sandwich idea from above, and add:

Veggies: Your choice of carrot sticks (20 cals) (wash, top and tail, and slice a carrot; no need to peel), a handful of cherry tomatoes (15 cals), or a small box of mixed salad (lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, red pepper) (30 cals).

Fruit: An apple and/or pear (50 cals each)

Cereal bar: (75 – 120 cals depending on brand)

Simple! A nutritious, healthy, easy lunch for a fraction of the price it would cost to buy in the supermarket… just £1.33/day if you use the above shopping list. Compare this to…

(From your local sandwich shop)
Ham salad sandwich ( £2+)
One apple (50p)
One pear (50p)
Cereal bar (45p)

At least £3.45 total.

And of course, if you regularly go to a local restaurant – even if it’s just a fast food place – the price, and the calorie count, will be even higher. Try shopping ahead this weekend and taking packed lunches for just a couple of weeks: it’s one of the easiest, and best, changes you can make to ensure you have a healthy diet while at work.

(Terrified sandwich photo by Sakurako Kitasa)

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