Nutrition, well-being and habits at 82 days
Nutrition, well-being and habits at 82 days

Nutrition, well-being and habits at 82 days

82 days into my nutrition adventures three threads have surfaced. More about that surfacing here.

  • Nutrition – The interrelated factors that influence our metabolic response to food
  • Wellness -The broader impact of nutrition on our wellness
  • Habits – Habits before motivation

Largely focused on the commentary of Dr Micheal Mosley and Dr Tim Spector, with Dr van Tulleken (adding a broader moral-economic component to the cautionary advice on ultra processed foods and Micheal Pollan’s – Cooked). Interestingly, from my perspective, Dr Mosley’s updated 5:2 diet and move to The Fast 800, accommodates and weaves the three threads above, importantly, Dr Spector’s commentary, if largely aligned, espouses the nonsense that calories and calorie counting is – inaccurate and unreliable.

Here is a disciplined summary of where I find myself at day 83. This is not advice. Just a status quo.

  1. A more Mediterranean, a more consciously diverse, more colourful (polyphenols) and flexi 50+ “whole-food plant” nutrition (plants: vegetables, legumes (beans, pulses, and peas), grains, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices or VLGNSHS), with added legumes, a few more tins and frozen, (legumes and fish, veg and fruits). There may be little to gain in more than 30 plants, according to The British & American Gut Project however it is proving to be a lot of fun. I need to learn more about grains and lentils and how to cook them.
  2. A fermented breakfast quite often with oats in or with, colourful frozen berries, homemade oat granola (toasted or chewy) and homemade trail-mixes (x10 VLGNSHS), more experimental choices. BWFO have been good value and good service for nuts and dried fruit orders.
  3. Less, a lot less high-processed foods. Very little beige. Little rice, pasta, potato and a lot less ‘resistant’ sourdough bread from the freezer (cooking and cooling, freezing turns starch into resistant starch, meaning your body gets far fewer calories from the bread) and very little tropic fruit. Nothing is excluded. Wine, beer, blue or artisan cheeses and 85% dark chocolate when I fancy. Even the occasional gummy sweets.
  4. Rapid weight loss has been motivating – for me personally.
    • Periodic fasting (a 5:2 diet), reduced quantities, required discipline and benefited from forethought and food preparation.
    • NOW knowing about the unreliability and “impossibility” of counting calories accurately, I would say that 5 days of reduced food / nutrition intake across three meals (very approximately 1800 calories) and 2 days of fasting, across two meals (around 600-800 calories) is a more realistic if approximate aim. Nevertheless, 5:2 had noticeable impact on my weight loss – hence the name “Fast Diet.”
    • 14:10 Time restricted eating (TRE) is now the routine – clinical trials are starting to report positive benefits for health and dsicussed here. TRE came along after a month or so. I aim for 14:10 pattern, breaking the fast with a prepared breakfast meal at first break at 10:30am and I try to stop scoffing after my evening meal. Dr Satchin Panda is pretty clear on why an extended fast, longer than 12:12 is worth the little extra effort. However, he notes the 14:10 habit is harder to establish. I started with 12:12 and extended to 14:10. I completely agree with Dr Panda and Dr Spector – counting hours is far easier than counting calories.
    • Day 83, I am very content with my more Mediterranean, diverse and flexi “whole-food plant” nutrition. I have just polished off brunch: fresh coffee, sardines in brine on a sourdough toast, a small avocado, lemon juice and habanero chilli flakes and cherry tomatoes – give or take 800-1000 calories. A handful of roasted whole almonds, 150-200 calories, most of which is passing through.
  5. Well-being – stickability to the nutrition plan benefited from an early investment in my well-being. Each day started initially with a 20 minute HIIT work out until I found I had a hernia that needs fixing – not related to the HIIT. Now – each morning starts with 100 press-ups from my knees and a morning walk. I park the car and walk in to work (of in the summer), I walk the long route whenever I can, use the stairs, and I try and squeeze in a walk at lunch.
  1. Breakfast is where I have the most control and where I have added my fermented foods (I have not got onto all four of the 4Ks of  kefir, kombucha, kimchi and kraut (sauerkraut – My eldest and I did try and enjoy kimchi).
    • Fermented foods – Greek yogurt not ‘Greek style’, with various oats options (porridge, overnight, lightly toasted, as homemade granola, oat cakes and soft chewy oat bars), fruits (as I said, the brighter the better, less tropical fruits, most often frozen berries, as they keep the yogurt cold), some times lightly toast oats with seeds, or nuts, or seeds in a little pouch. Recently, overnight oats and chia pudding layers and fresh fruit – amazing.
      • On yogurt and fruit – I love stewed plums with orange zest and cinnamon too. Creamy yogurt and tart fruit is a win. So is cold yogurt and warm fruits. Honey or maple syrup to taste – both new to the cupboard.
    • I am considering learning how to bake my own sourdough and possibly kraut.
    • Yes to blue or artisan cheeses. 
    • I love stewed plums with orange zest and cinnamon too. Creamy yogurt and tart fruit is a win. So is cold yogurt and warm fruits. Honey or maple syrup to taste – both new to the cupboard.
  2. Fresh black coffee – I have been a coffee snob for a while now.
  3. Breakfast II. Combining protein and vegetables for breakfast. As with the above brunch, I do like avocado, lime, red chilli pepper and poached eggs or spinach and garlic, with a squeeze of lemon juice and chestnut mushrooms and fresh tomatoes.
  4. Chilled water is always in the fridge, with lemon, or lime, or ginger or frozen berries. Certainly when on the fast diet I new I had to drink a lot!
  5. Snacks, treats and scatters: Oat cakes are so easy to bake and I love them. Made with blueberries, forest fruits, cin-raisin, fake oat carrot-cake and with a spoon of yogurt. Great deserts or travel food. Aldi 85% 5x25g dark chocolate bars are perfect film treat. A handful of homemade x10 trail mix or roast almonds or cashews is a win. As for scatters, I add seeds or dry roast chickpeas to salads or any vegetable mix – why not?
  6. It is not just what you eat. It’s about how you eat too. Eating and experimenting together with our eldest (14) has been so much fun (for me!). I have also been chatting with my mum – who is a great cook and that has been fun too.
    • On food order – enjoyment takes priority for me personally. Otherwise PPFSS. Plants, then proteins and fat, and lastly starches and sugars, including fruits. Biochemist Jessie Inchauspe reports that eating the constituents of a meal in a specific order can reduce the glucose spike of the meal by 75%. When the vegetables and protein were eaten before the carbohydrates, glucose levels were 29%, 37% and 17% lower at the 30, 60 and 120-minute checks, compared with when carbohydrates were consumed first.

And I am still learning and experimenting. Today I am trying chia pudding with coconut milk, adding some colourful fruit after, strawberries, orange maybe and desiccated coconut. Recently I tried kimchi, retried honey (I know) dates, prunes and salted lemon rind – all delicious. I have cacao nibs on my try list too. The x10 mixes is my small contribution lowering the bar for Dr Spector’s 30+ plants a week target. Of course, it will change seasonally too.

With x10 mix ideas 50+ is the new 30+

You may have thought 30+ plants was high? 50+ plants may seem a lot but it really is not.

Why go to the bother? Because you can make them to your own taste and preferences.

x10 homemade trail mix: Lightly toasted oats, sunflower, pumpkins and sesame seeds (you can buy toasted seed mixes in most stores) as a cheap base, then choose from roasted almonds, cashews, red skin / pale skin peanuts, hazelnuts, and I recommend raw walnuts, pistachios and Brazils (not all nuts improve with roasting) and then your dried fruit mix, apricots, dates, raisins, sultanas, apple, currants, cranberries, blueberries and sour cherries.

x10 Asian vegetable mix: Red / green / yellow pepper, mushrooms, bean sprouts, baby corn, mange tout, water chestnuts, onion, carrot, spring onion, ginger, garlic, lime juice.

x10 pear and blackberry with healthy crumble – 2 fruits and chia seeds, topped with a healthy crumble mix of 100g oats, 50g toasted buckwheat, 100g chopped pecans / walnuts, 30g pumpkin / sunflower seeds (bound together with 2 tbsp of maple syrup, 1 tbsp melted coconut oil.)

x10 soft chewy granola bars – are simply are amazing and hardly baking. We love to add orange zest! Other zests were less successful. Cinnamon adds a warmth – if you like cinnamon (and we do). Warning – these are a dangerous snacking option to have sitting in the fridge or freezer. Working from the dry base mix – experiment. This is your perfect x10 soft chewy granola bars. Experiment and add your combinations. Too many flavours ends up being a “fruity-nutty” chewy granola bar.

Dry base mix (whilst rehydrating the dried fruit)

In a large bowl, to 100g rolled oats, 30g seed (roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds are our favourites)

  • 10g of chia for binding
    • Add linseed, flax, sesame, poppy seeds if you want something crunchier
    • Cinnamon (optional)

Wet mix

100g of cheap dried dates, re-hydrated, squished with the back of a spoon to make a paste, a natural sweetener. If you are not sure about dates, I promise you, if I hadn’t told you about the dates, you would not know.

  • Then add your choices from:
  • 30g raisins or sultanas or currants – re-hydrated if you want more chewy-gooey goodness
  • 50g extra dried fruit – cranberries, blueberries, apricots, or sour cherries or mix – I have not tried dried figs, prunes, mango, papaya, pineapple or other curious mentions such as goji berries.
  • 30g nuts – almonds, pistachios, walnuts hazelnuts, pecans or cashews – do break them up or the granola breaks too easily
  • 30g honey or maple syrup to taste
    • 1 tbsp finely grated orange zest (a really lovely zing!)
  • 2 tbsps melted coconut oil – remember you will refrigerate the bars and this adds hold along with the chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp of another natural sweetener (in addition to the pureed dates) eg honey or maple syrup

Mix well – allow the oats to combine and soak up the wet mixture (give the mixture some time while you clear away)

The mixture should hold together well. What if the mixture is too crumbly?

  • Use smaller dried fruit or nut pieces (add them to a bag and hit them with the back of a spoon).
  • Beat and add an egg white.
  • Stir in 15g of almond butter (or more if required)
  • Add a few more chia seeds

This is hardly baking. Line the base of a 15x15cm baking tin with baking paper. Spread your mix evenly and press down firmly. It needs to be compacted so that oats do not burn on the edges. This should make 9 (3×3) square bars, of a very approximately 200 calories per bar.

Bake in a preheat oven to 160 ̊C/325 ̊F for 20-22 minutes or until golden. Longer seems better.

Now leave them alone to cool for 20-30 minutes. Mark the 3×3 grid. Chill over night in the fridge.

The wait is worth it. Store in an airtight container for three-four days if they lasts that long. I recommend you put the squares in the freezer (2-3 weeks). Crazily these can be eaten almost instantly from the freezer too.

You may find yourself creating different mixes based on your preferences and favourite combinations. Last night I went with one tried and tested and an experiment.

Bar 1: dry mix plus: raisins or sultanas or currants, apricot, orange zest, cinnamon and almond

Bar 2: dry mix plus – more fruity: raisins or sultanas or currants, cranberries, apricot, sour cherries, pistachios and cashews. (The pistachios were lost in those bigger flavours).


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