Health Diary Week 73: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

A New Style

Me 60’s style, NYE (2007)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences.

Job updates

I was unsuccessful for last week’s job interview for admin support in training and education at a local hospice. The feedback was helpful – I was told it was a positive interview and I was very likeable (of course) and highly organised. Where I fell short was needing to give more specific examples of my admin experience – another lesson learnt and stored in my brain for next time. All these job applications and interviews feel a bit like Groundhog Day – I have to keep learning what I did wrong and try to correct it, so that I can move on.

In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to starting my temp admin job when all my checks and mandatory training are completed. I thought I’d completed all my initial training, but then I was emailed with more modules due to training changes for vaccination hub staff.

I felt pretty rough this week (more on this below), so I’d decided to rest up over the weekend. Sadly, this was not to be. One of my friends emailed me a Graduate Management Trainee job on Friday, and said I just had to apply – I agreed. Frustratingly, I realised the closing date was Sunday afternoon (noooo!) – And so there dissolved my planned weekend lazing in bed watching the Six Nations Rugby.

Antihistamine fail and swollen lip

I gave my prescribed antihistamine (Fexofenadine Hydrochloride) another try, despite identifying an ingredient, Allura Red (E129), as incompatible for people with histamine intolerance (Swiss Interest Group[1]). As before, on the third day, I experienced terrible rhinitis, brain fog and fatigue. As a result, I mostly spent Monday and Tuesday in bed feeling rough. I’ll report back to my Doctor and request other options.

I returned to my usual Cetirizine Hydrochloride antihistamine on Tuesday and took a corticosteroid nasal spray (Beclometasone Dipropionate) for a few days to help control my flare up. But then on Wednesday, my bottom lip became sore and swollen for about 24 hours. I don’t know why this swelling happened – it hasn’t happened before. Was it the Fexofenadine? Was it my grapefruit and orange bath gel? I’m unsure, but hopefully it won’t happen again.

Food challenge: Red lentils

My rhinitis was much improved by Thursday. So on Saturday, I decided to try red lentils again, as I was okay last time I ate them (Week 65). Conveniently, I had some dhal and brown rice in the freezer that Mum had previously made. I had a bit of gut discomfort afterwards, but that could just have been because I ate loads of rice – there didn’t appear to be any other adverse reaction – phew:

Red lentil dhal and brown rice – there is rice hidden under the dhal (picture from Week 65, the first time I’d re-introduced lentils)

Food creation: Risotto cakes

I love risotto, but it’s just not the same when reheated from frozen – the result – a stodgier consistency, although still tasty. And then I found a solution – inspired by cookingstefano who shared their risotto omelette creation on Instagram. I figured I could do something similar (without eggs) with my butternut squash risotto leftovers from Week 72. All I did was add some extra flax and chia seeds to my defrosted risotto and formed the risotto into cakes using a ramekin.  I pan fried them in a little rapeseed oil and finished them off baked in the oven – they had a lovely outside crispy crunch. Of course I’m already devising plans on how to improve them next time:

Risotto cakes. Clockwise: cookingstefano risotto omelettes. My risotto cakes from Week 72’s leftover risotto. Stodgy re-heated risotto from freezer (Week 53). My beautiful butternut squash risotto (Week 72)

Freezer food saviours

The freezer has been my saviour since following a low histamine diet. It can be hard cooking from scratch when you’re busy or just plain tired. So, I was relieved to be able to heat up the frozen leftovers from my birthday dinner and enjoy them one night. Another day, I had a half jacket potato filled with courgette, sweetcorn and seeds, which I re-heated and served with some salad – so satisfying. Then there’s batch cooking cornmeal and quinoa flour bites I have with salad lunches – yum. And I’m always grateful for those days I don’t mind chopping loads of veg and then freeze portions to keep it fresh and ready for when I’m cooking up a meal:

Freezer food saviours. Clockwise: Cauliflower ‘cheese’. Jacket potato with salad. Chopped veg. Cornmeal and quinoa flour bites

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

It was a quiet week, but of course there were some smile-provoking occasions…

It was warm enough to get my legs out:

It was a gorgeously sunny morning on Monday and thankfully the full effects of the rhinitis hadn’t quite set in yet. We had cuppas on the driveway, watching the birds come and go. I even went back inside to put on cropped yoga pants to let part of my legs and feet catch some rays. We saw Ratty, a rather cute looking water rat, swim across the pond. We’re hoping Ratty hasn’t got any family and friends close by:

Me sat in the sunshine, sunning my lower legs and feet

Being checked up on:

It was so lovely that a fellow Admin on one of the Facebook groups, contacted me a couple of times during the week to check how I was doing. Dawn gently suggested I should probably try to find some time to rest and recover from my flare up – she was right. This reminded me I should check in on a few people too, as it can make an important difference to someone:

A relaxing scene. Sunset from the Brecon Beacons, Wales (2012)

My Mum:

My Mum is the best, just saying. It was Mothers’ Day this Sunday, so of course I treated her to a couple of treats: jewellery – silver bee earrings, from Oranges and Lemons (Etsy), and Booja Booja fine de Champagne chocolate truffles. I also made Mum scrambled tofu, but on Monday, because we both forgot I was going to make it for her on Sunday – whoops. I’ll try to be a better daughter for next year’s Mothering Sunday:

Mum, Emma and I (I’m the baby that kind of looks like E.T.)

I hope you enjoyed this week’s new style ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next week for another catch up.

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Reference

Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.

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Health Diary Week 72: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Ch-ch-changes

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

I just have a couple of updates this week:

I’m changing my blog:

Recently I’ve been thinking about how I can sustain writing my blog when I have less free time with the imminent return to work (which I’m rather excited about). I want to ensure a healthy balance between work, blogging and leisure to best support my overall health.

So what have I decided? Going forward, I feel it’s time to leave the food diary reporting behind – I still need to log possible histamine reaction foods with slow re-introduction of more diversity into my diet, so I will let you know what I’ve introduced successfully (or not). I intend to continue sharing what’s happening in my life and any new food creations or particularly tasty meals, because I do love food. Once a month I’ll report on my health results (e.g. body fat percentage and weight), although my main focus now is promoting an all-round healthy lifestyle. And I will continue sharing smile-provoking experiences – appreciation of the little things in life to boost our resilience and protect our mental health.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about my plans. What would you like to see?

Another job interview:

I had an interview for admin support in training and education at a local hospice, still part of the NHS, but also a charity. I didn’t expect an interview, because one of the essentials was a driving licence – I never learnt to drive due to coordination difficulties (dyspraxia[1]). Anyway, back to the interview. I had to attend in person – all my other interviews were via Zoom – it was a challenge finding a suitable outfit! I did a Word and Excel test first, then faced a panel of three interviewers (from a distance, we were all masked-up). I think it went well and I enjoyed the interaction. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime I still have my temporary admin role in a vaccination centre to look forward too.

Food and Nutrition

Let’s start with my nutrition updates and move on to my meal highlights…

Histamine issues:

I suffered for my birthday indulgences last week, on Monday and Tuesday. I was a bit lax and suspect one of the culprits was the cocoa birthday cake. I also had two units of vodka, which I’m sure added to the reaction. I guess my “histamine cup” overflowed.

At the end of the week I started re-trying the prescribed, much stronger antihistamine (fexofenadine hydrochloride). Previously, I stopped taking it after three days, as I ended up with terrible rhinitis, brain fog and fatigue. I discovered the ingredients included Allura Red (E129) – listed by Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance as “incompatible, significant symptoms at usual intake” and “liberators of mast cell mediators (= histamine liberators)”[2] – why, oh why would the manufacturers put this in an antihistamine medication? – It’s just a food dye![3,4]. But I feel I have to persevere and try again to report back the Doctor confidently about its effects – I’ll let you know the outcome.

Covid Symptom Study diet scores:

Last year, I completed a diet survey for the ZOE Covid Symptom Study and this week I received back my results… Interestingly, my diet scores improved during the pandemic (August to September 2020) compared to pre-pandemic (February 2020). My traditional diet score was already good at 11 out of 15 but increased to 12. My gut friendly diet score improved from “satisfactory” to “good” – I’m unsure what I did differently here, because I can’t see my survey answers.

Covid Symptom Study diet scores. Left: Traditional diet score. Right: Gut friendly diet score

I’d love to see how my diet scores have changed now that I’ve had to adopt a low histamine diet (October 2020). I barely eat health-promoting legumes (e.g. beans, pulses) containing fibre and good quality protein – I really hope this can change soon. I rely on brown rice, cereal grains, oats, vegetables and fruit to support my fibre intake – my gut seems pretty happy with this. My protein is mainly sourced through nuts, seeds, rice and quinoa (I need to eat more quinoa) and now occasionally Quorn ‘ham and ‘chicken’ slices. I obtain health-promoting omega-3 essential fats via seeds (e.g. chia, flax and hemp). But I consume way more total fat (thankfully mostly unsaturated) because I rely on rapeseed and flax oils to dress my meals, as I can’t eat tomato or vinegar containing sauces. But on the positive side (score wise), I now have to cook meals from scratch, as I can’t eat convenience foods or most fake meats yet.

Salad lunches:

As you know, I love my salad lunches, whether it’s my usual salad with mixed leaves, a filled pitta bread or pasta salad (great for when I’ve run out of salad leaves, details here):

Salad lunches: Fusilli pasta salad, salad with corn bites and salad and Quorn ‘chicken’ filled pitta

Dinner highlights:

Recently, I’ve struggled with finding the energy and motivation to cook properly. But I did make this rather delicious butternut squash and seed risotto, with portions leftover for other days:

Butternut squash risotto

And, I thoroughly enjoyed a slightly odd dinner incorporating leftover red pepper, courgette (zucchini) & seed fusilli pasta from the night before. I had a craving for ‘cheesy’ garlic, onion and herb bread. So, I ended up throwing it all together in the pitta (details here) – very satisfying:

Pasta and cheesy garlic pitta: Carb-ilicious!

Exercise

I went for three walks this week, totalling 149 minutes, of which 102 minutes were brisk – it’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. I’ve been half-heartedly doing my physio exercises – they hurt – but I will get properly on board, because my intention is to increase my fitness levels as my shoulder gradually improves.  I must get back on the exercise bike again!

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

I didn’t report on my results last week, as my focus was birthday smiles (Week 71) – my weight increased by 1.4 lb (0.6 kg) and remained the same this week. Despite this, my body fat actually reduced last week, by 0.5% but increased a little, by 0.2% this week. I’m okay with this after the recent birthday indulgences:

Week 72 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

For me and meteorologically, Spring starts on the 1st March. This past week I’ve noticed loads of indications of Spring: On my walks (more here), in the garden and by the driveway pond, so naturally this was my happy focus this week …

Signs of Spring:

These are some signs of Spring I spotted whilst out for a stroll:

Signs of Spring: Out walking

Roadside daffodils:

Daffodils are so vibrantly yellow – such a joy to see them springing up alongside the roads when I’m out walking:

Roadside daffodils

Magical flower rings:

There’s something that feels a bit magical about seeing flower rings around the trunk of a tree – it reminds me of fairy tales. And they are pretty too of course:

Magical flower rings around trees: Daffodils and crocuses

The intricate beauty of flowers:

I thought these flower shots were particularly gorgeous:

Intricate beauty of flowers

Dad’s flowers:

And let’s not forget Dad’s driveway flowers – so pretty:

Dad’s driveway flowers

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next week for another catch up.

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References

1. Dyspraxia Foundation, 2021. Dyspraxia in Adults.
2. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.
3. Food Standards Agency, Ca. 2021. Food additives: Different food additives and advice on regulations and the safety of additives in food.
4. NHS, 2020. Food colours and hyperactivity.

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Health Diary Week 70: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

A Trip to A & E

Image: mohamed Hassan (Pixabay)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

Well, it’s been a bit of a medically themed week…

My Shoulder:

I first noticed something wrong with my right (dominant) shoulder when I went outdoors swimming in Week 49, but I stubbornly ignored the pain. During Week 51, I awoke with my shoulder feeling mis-aligned – my muscles and tendons felt like they were over stretching. In Week 53, my shoulder did a large crack and re-positioned – the pain relief was amazing. But, in Week 57 still half asleep, I stretched and my shoulder felt like it moved out of its socket. The pain was immense, and I instinctively bashed it back into place. I ignored the discomfort and adapted to my ridiculously reduced range of movement (I know – I shouldn’t have ignored it). Just before Christmas, I noticed my shoulder didn’t look the same as the other, but Covid cases were surging, so I just decided to put it to the back of my mind until it was safer to seek medical attention.

On Monday I finally caved (thanks Harry for nagging caring). The Doctor’s surgery saw me that morning and sent me to the hospital’s A&E ward (FYI: nowadays you need to phone 111 to make an A&E appointment). I had two x-rays and the Consultant tried manipulating my arm. Thankfully my shoulder is probably in the correct position (phew!), but my rotator cuff was locked and needs musculo-skeletal physiotherapy. On Wednesday’s phone review with my Doctor, she completed the physio referral and we discussed investigating my hypermobility issues.

Image: Tumisu (Pixabay)

Histamine intolerance:

So, the last time I went to the pharmacy to buy antihistamine, they raised concerns about the amount I was using and asked me to review this with my Doctor. I absolutely hate going to the Doctors, so I figured I’d address the shoulder, hypermobility and histamine issues at the same time. There wasn’t time to talk about it on Monday or Wednesday, so on Friday I had another Doctor’s phone appointment, who prescribed a stronger antihistamine (H1 blocker) than my usual over the counter one. We’re keeping the possibility of H2 histamine blockers under review.

Job update:

I didn’t get the Occupational Health Admin job despite interviewing really well and being told I could “breeze it”. Apparently, the major reasons were that they wanted someone who would stay in the job – I’m pretty sure I made it clear I was committed. They said a basic admin role wasn’t sufficient for me and I should aspire for greater things – I guess I should feel complimented. Also, the successful person could audio-type and was willing to work full time (I’d agreed 30 hours over 4 days). I’d really wanted to work in Occupational Health, but of course I continued on and got back on the job search.

Food and Nutrition

Okay, let’s have a look at what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices…

Breakfast:

My breakfasts included porridge oats, cereal and fruit:

Week 70 Breakfasts. Left: Melon. Right: Cornflakes with oat milk

Lunch:

I had salad for lunch every day; mostly salad filled pittas with Quorn ham – I’m so pleased I seem to be able to tolerate these Quorn slices even though they’re fungi based (contain some histamine):

Week 70 Lunches. Salad filled pittas

Dinner:

I opted for fusilli pasta meals four times, just because it was easy. Also I had cauliflower with turmeric rice and green sauce. Another day, I made Mum some scrambled tofu, so I decided to risk some myself in a wrap with salad leaves and notomato sauce. Mum surprised me on Saturday with fennel steaks and homemade chips (fries), accompanied by notomato sauce – yum:

Week 70 Dinners. Left: Scrambled tofu wrap. Right: Fennel steaks and homemade chips

Snacks:

I hadn’t realised until writing up my food diary that I didn’t snack much this week. I just had popcorn, Brazil nuts and some oat biscuits:

Week 70 Snacks Log Table

Drinks (excluding usual water intake):

I drank chicory coffee alternative with oat milk and ¼ teaspoon of golden sugar (three to four large mugs each day), apple juice, and rooibos tea with oat milk:

Week 70 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

I’m pleased with the amount of physical activity I achieved this week. I’m especially happy I used my exercise bike five times, totalling 160 minutes (2.7 hours). Admittedly, I only went for a walk once (50 minutes total, 42 minutes brisk). Also over five days I did some shoulder exercises recommended by the A&E Consultant (approximately an hour in total), which has started loosening up my shoulder a little:

Week 70 Exercise

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

I didn’t really have any idea what to expect result-wise this week. So, I was content with losing 0.2 lb (0.1 kg) weight and I wasn’t too disheartened that my body fat increased by 0.6%:

Week 70 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Here’s a few of my smile-provoking experiences this week…

My A & E visit:

Okay, I get that going to A & E doesn’t sound like something that would make you smile. I was really nervous about going, but relieved to book an appointment to reduce waiting time as a walk-in patient. I was there at 12pm and home again within two hours – in the past, getting through A & E so speedily was completely unheard of! As it was, there were only two other patients waiting. Of course, there must have been plenty of people arriving in ambulances with life-threatening conditions. And although the corridors I walked along seemed relatively calm, I was well aware the Covid wards would be full-on busy and I was so grateful for not being one of those patients. And the best news (for me) this week was that my shoulder didn’t need re-positioning:

My Trip to A & E as a walk-in patient. Left: Me in A & E. Right: A&E adults walk in area

Cushion collaboration:

My parents looked kind of cute working together on making new seat cushions for the conservatory – the previous ones were faded and literally falling apart. Dad calculated the amount of material required for six chairs and assisted in cutting out the pattern when the material arrived. They’re a cute bee design. Good work Mum and Dad:

Cushion Collaboration. Clockwise: My parents discussing cushions. New bee design and old faded stripey cushion. New bee cushion. Old stripey cushion

A Room with a View:

On Thursday, I was having a break from my computer screen, when I heard rowdy seagulls, so I looked out of my window and watched them circling, some flew quite close. By the time I’d decided to grab my phone, they’d mostly dissipated, so I only managed to catch one seagull on camera (badly). But I’m sharing the photo anyway, because I enjoyed watching those noisy gulls. Afterwards I became engrossed observing the steadily darkening clouds roll in:

A Room with a View. Left:Seagull from my bedroom window. Right: Dark clouds rolling in

Another Watson spillage:

I had a large glass of cold water and Mum had some very hot coffee. She asked me to pour some of my water into her coffee mug. I hesitated, thinking “Can I do this without an incident?” I reasoned “Surely I can!”. Alas, I was wrong. I completely missed Mum’s mug and poured my water over the chair. Dad, who had been watching us, sighed. Mum and I giggled. I cleaned up the mess. This reminded me of my cacao incident back in Week 52:

Amusing memories: Week 52 cacao incident

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

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Health Diary Week 69: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Talking to Strangers

Image: Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke, Pixabay

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

It felt like a lot happened this week. I was a bit wiped out by Friday afternoon and took things easy Friday evening and all of Saturday – I felt no guilt whatsoever about lazing around on Saturday and enjoying two rugby Six Nations matches. Okay, so let’s take a look at my week’s main events…

Job Interview:

I had pretty much given up hope of being interviewed for the NHS job: Occupational Health Service Administrator, despite my rejection being changed to we’ll put you on the reserve list (more on this in Week 68). So, as you can imagine, I was mighty surprised to receive an email on Wednesday inviting me to interview. I adapted my plans, suspending my work on several more job applications and my vaccine article, to prepare for my interview on Friday. Is it weird that I enjoyed the interview?

Covid-19 vaccinations:

I’m so relieved that both my parents have had their first dose COVID-19 vaccinations now. Dad received his invite last week and booked for Monday – he had the Astra-Zeneca jab. Mum received her invite on Tuesday and was vaccinated on Thursday with Pfizer. Dad said it’s the easiest vaccine he’s ever had. A few days later they were both a bit cold-like, but only mildly – a small price to pay.

On Monday, BBC news reported a quarter of UK adults had been vaccinated – that’s excellent! On Tuesday, I attended the University of Southampton: Beating COVID-19: Trials, Vaccinations and Prevention. It was informative, although the most interesting part was the Q&A session, as it addressed more of my queries. And on Wednesday, the BBC updated that priority groups 1-9 (over 50’s and over 16’s with underlying health conditions) should be vaccinated by the end of April instead of May. Also, the World Health Organization recommended Astra-Zeneca for adults and confirmed the 8-12 weeks gap until receiving the second dose was okay.

Food and Nutrition

Okay, let’s have a look at what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices and identify any tweaks I could make to improve my nutrition…

Breakfast:

I had quite a fancy (late) breakfast on Monday due to a cooking disaster that I managed to save (more on this later; also here). I had porridge oats with a gala apple twice and melon once. The remaining days were cereal – cornflakes once and I returned to my favourite multigrain maple syrup cereal, which was much sweeter than I’d remembered pre-low histamine:

Week 69 Breakfasts: Left: Porridge oats with apple. Right: Nature’s Path maple sunrise multigrain cereal

Lunch:

We were a little low on salad items this week, but I still managed to get our salad fix over four days accompanied by corn and potato balls or courgette ‘frittata’. Twice I had my simple go-to fusilli pasta (rice, corn and quinoa) with sweetcorn. And once I grabbed some courgette and sweetcorn rice from the freezer and added seeds and nutritional yeast (aka nooch):

Week 69 Lunches. Left: Cornmeal and quinoa flour based frittata with salad. Right: My simple fusilli pasta

Dinner:

Three times I opted for the above mentioned go-to fusilli pasta; twice I added vegan blue ‘cheese’ and nooch, another evening I used roasted butternut squash from the freezer (details here). Also, I ate brown rice (from the freezer) and added veg, accompanied by a garlic pitta pocket and a sneaky handful of my parents’ oven chips. Another day I had a baked potato filled with courgette, sweetcorn, sweet white onion, seeds, smoky ‘cheese’ and mild curry powder (small rhinitis reaction experienced). My dinner highlights were the roast-like meals – one from freezer bits-and-bobs, the other prepared by Mum with cauliflower and broccoli ‘cheese’:

Week 69 Dinners. Left: Roast from freezer leftovers. Right: Roast with cauliflower and brocolli ‘cheese’

Snacks:

Snacks included my usual sweet and salty popcorn and Brazil and pistachio nuts. Also, I’ve been enjoying my favourite ever chocolates: Booja Booja almond salted caramel truffles – so delicious! This means I can try adding more almonds to my nut menu – yay! And I seem to be forming a habit again for those delicious oat biscuits – thankfully they’re limited to four to a pack, so I know that’s my fill each time:

Week 69 Snacks: Two of my current favourite indulgences: Left: Booja Booja almond salted caramel truffles. Right Nairn’s Oaties biscuits

Drinks (excluding usual water intake):

I had lots of chicory coffee alternative (of course), a rooibos (redbush) tea and cranberry and apple juice a couple of times:

Week 69 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

I’m back on the exercise bike (three times this week), albeit a very gentle pace at half the resistance I was previously doing – but it’s progress and I’m proud of myself. This makes up for my lack of walking (just one short walk) – it was very cold outside and a bit icy – I just didn’t fancy it. This was probably what pushed me towards the exercise bike, and the bonus is I can watch TV at the same time:

Week 69 Exercise Log Table

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

My body weight didn’t change this week (it’s been the same for three weeks), but I’m okay with that, because my body fat dropped by 1.1% and that’s the most important figure here for my health tracking:

Week 69 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Ahh, my favourite section – what made me smile…

Meal Recovery:

I was really hungry on Monday morning and fancied a ‘frittata’. So, I grabbed the frozen potato slices I’d been saving and chucked them in the frying pan before defrosting them – big mistake! I ended up with smashed potatoes, but I thought “It’ll be fine, I’ll just mix them into my cornmeal and quinoa flour mix”, which I did. But then when I transferred the mix into a pan, I just had an unappetising blob (I wish I’d taken a photo!). I reassessed the situation, added some sweetcorn and made little balls, which I accompanied with salad and my green sauce from the freezer (sauce details here). I’m relieved to report it ended up being a delicious meal (although somewhat later than intended) and I had a batch to freeze for lazier days:

Meal Save: Potato and corn balls. Top: Potato and corn balls with salad garnish and green sauce. Bottom: Right: In a salad filled pitta. Left: Frozen sliced potatoes mess!

Snow Day?:

It was a proper Wintry week, with some parts of the UK snowed-in and experiencing temperatures as low as -23oC! – I really wouldn’t like that! Instead, in my part of the UK, we had some little snow flurries on Monday, and on Tuesday I awoke to this light dusting of snow – it didn’t last long:

A light dusting of snow

Jay visitors:

Recently, we’ve had new bird visitors – a couple of Jay birds. I couldn’t get a good photo, because we spotted them from inside the house and I didn’t want to startle them by going outside, as they’re notoriously shy.  It was lovely to see them, but I’m a little concerned for our long-tailed tits, as apparently Jay eat nestlings of other birds and small mammals, as well as acorns, nuts, seeds and insects (RSPB info). We’ll see if they become regulars:

Jay Visitors: Top: The bolder Jay on our driveway. Bottom: The shy Jay mostly stayed in the trees, but landed on the fence briefly

Talking to Strangers:

I’ve found myself looking forward to and enjoying talking to complete strangers (not random ones!) in these weird COVID times. It started with Dawn, another Admin on the long-haul Covid food group – I don’t consider us strangers anymore, we communicate regularly and know a bit about what’s going on in each other’s lives. Then last week, I was contacted by Hazel via LinkedIn, as she’s considering applying for the MSc Nutrition and Behaviour degree that I’d completed and wanted to know more. We had a video chat on Thursday for well over an hour – Hazel was an inspiring woman, carefully considering her options – why wasn’t I like this in my 20’s? Also, there was that Occupational Health job interview on Friday that I thoroughly enjoyed:

Socialising in the time of COVID. Image: Alexandra_Koch, Pixabay

Mindfulness with Friends:

I always look forward to my monthly meets with the Action for Happiness crew, Karen, Chrissy, Julie and sometimes Chris – I’m so grateful Karen invited me into this local friend group, because everyone’s so kind and accepting. Mostly we catch up on each other’s news and then finish off with a mindfulness session led by Chrissy. This time we did a relaxing seated mindfulness session – just what my busy mind needed. Fingers crossed we can meet in person next month:

Temple in Cambodia, 2006

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

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<<<Week 68
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Health Diary Week 68: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Enjoy the Little Things

Enjoy the little things. Image: Merry Christmas (Pixabay)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

I’m pleased to report that on the whole, it’s felt like a really positive week.

Covid vaccine update:

I love that many of my family and some close friends have either been invited to, or already received the vaccine, including my Dad (yay!), most of my Aunts and Uncles, cousin, sister’s boyfriend and two of my best friends. And it won’t be too long now before it’s my Mum’s turn. It finally feels like we’re properly moving towards getting out of this pandemic mess.

I have an article brewing:

Last week I told you I’d attended a brilliant expert panel discussion about the UK vaccines: The Race for a Vaccine[1] hosted by The Royal Society. And this week, I watched: Covid-19 Vaccines: What we know so far[2] hosted by the ZOE Symptom Study – also a great event. Next week, I’ll be attending yet another: Beating COVID-19 – Vaccines, Trials and Prevention[3] by University of Southampton. My plan is to collate the three discussions into a blog article.

Job application update:

Remember last week I told you I’d applied for an NHS admin role in Occupational Health? Well, I didn’t even get an interview. I sent my supporting statement to a friend who already works in the NHS and he said my application was… excellent, maybe too excellent. He suggested I request feedback, so I did. The response was that my application was “very good and details well your roles and experience…we have recommended you go on our reserve list”. Where I fell short was “recent, relatable administrative experience using various patient systems” – at least now I know how to move forward on my next admin application.

Facebook Admin

I had my first MS Teams online meet, so that’s another form of socialising technology I can happily use now. Dawn and I met to discuss further updates to the Covid Long-Haulers food group. I do enjoy our little social chats before we get down to business.

The Rugby Six Nations:

I’d completely forgotten that the rugby Six Nations was starting on Saturday, with two matches, so my day unexpectedly became rather lazy, as I settled down in front of the tele (but let’s not discuss the England results). There was another match on Sunday, so I achieved a bit more that day at least.

Food and Nutrition

Okay, moving on to what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices and identify any tweaks I could make to improve my nutrition…

Breakfast:

I ate cornflakes three times this week. I’m going to try re-introducing my pre-low histamine diet cereal again and see how I get on with it. I’d totally forgotten about my pledge to eat porridge oats at least once a week until Sunday, so I managed one portion, with apple, chia seeds, sweet cinnamon and golden syrup. Other than that, I missed breakfast once, had just two Brazil nuts another day and indulged in Nairn’s Oaties biscuits another time:

Week 68 Breakfasts. Left: Cornflakes. Right: Porridge oats with apple

Lunch:

I had some form of salad for lunch every day. I’d made a batch of vegetable balls (details here) to accompany my salads, which I ate four days straight – they tasted so good! I ate the veg balls in a pitta bread with salad over three days – I’m loving that I can get away with eating some gluten free bread products again. I have been a bit indulgent though, as Mum found me a soya-free garlic vegan mayo and I’ve been stirring a teaspoon of it into my salad – I need to do this less, as it’s high in saturated fat:

Week 68 Lunches. Left: Sweetcorn and onion ‘omelette with salad. Right: Veg balls and salad in pitta

Dinner:

Mum really wanted me to make her some scrambled tofu, so I decided to undergo a histamine challenge (food re-introduction) by having some too, in a wrap with fried potatoes on the side – I think I had a bit of a reaction, but it was well controlled by my antihistamine medication. Another highlight was the fennel steaks with Mum’s homemade chips (fries) – I ate way more chips than I should have! Oh, and there was also the roasted butternut squash with seeds and fusilli pasta – sooo good (details here) – this was a nice change to my go-to fusilli with vegetables and seeds, which I also had twice this week. Another day I cooked up some rice, vegetables and seeds, but wanted to add more excitement to my meal, so I accompanied it with cheesy garlic bread using a pitta pocket (small pitta) – more saturated fat:

Week 68 Dinners Log Table
Week 68 Dinners. Clockwise: Fennel steaks with Mum’s chips and not tomato sauce. Butternut squash and seed fusilli. Scrambled tofu wrap with fried potatoes and not tomato sauce. Vegetable and seed rice with cheesy garlic bread

Snacks:

I can’t believe I didn’t snack at all on Wednesday! On the other days I indulged in the usual sweet and salty popcorn, nuts and crackers. I do love beetroot – so on Monday, I snacked on beetroot leftover from lunch. Mum bought me some salted caramel and chocolate puddings, as I’d seen theirs last week and was a bit envious that I couldn’t have any. It was risky, but I decided to try one and honestly, I was a bit disappointed, so I told Mum she could have the other one – if I’m going to take a histamine risk, it has to be for something I really, really want:

Week 68 Snacks. Left: Steamed beetroot. Right: Plant Pioneer salted caramel and chocolate pudding

Drinks:

As you know, chicory is my go-to coffee alternative, so I had several cups of these each day. Other than that, I also had some apple and elderflower juice a couple of days, on top water intake:

Week 68 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

I was easily more active this week compared to last week’s abysmal 27 minutes walking. I totalled 224 minutes (3.7 hours) walking, of which 162 minutes (2.7 hours) were brisk. I’ve been considering giving the exercise bike a go, but I’ve been putting it off, as I’m nervous about causing a histamine reaction. I’m going to aim for a gentle exercise bike session next week though:

Week 68 Exercise

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Well, it could be worse, at least I didn’t gain any weight, but I did stay the same, despite the additional activity levels. But annoyingly, I gained body fat, so I need to keep an eye on this – starting by reducing the saturated fat intake:

Week 68 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

I actually had trouble deciding which smile-provokers to include this week, as there were quite a few, so I decided it would be fun to focus mostly on the little unexpected occurrences…

Tasty Balls:

…But firstly, I want to share my yummy vegetable and seed balls triumph with you. As I mentioned last week, my appetite has increased during these Winter months, resulting in larger portions. So, instead of making a cornmeal and quinoa based ‘omelette’ and eating the whole thing, I decided to add extra flax and chia seeds to firm up the mixture and make balls instead, and freeze some before I had the chance to go back for more (details here). This tasty batch kept me going for four days – excellent:

Batch cooked veg (courgette, carrot and sweetcorn) and seed (flax and chia) balls

Massive Onions:

We received some massive sweet white onions from Ocado – I was suitably impressed:

Massive white onion shown against an apple and mug, for context

Brilliant Blue:

It was a beautifully sunny Saturday morning, so Mum, Dad and I sat out to have a late morning cuppa together. It was pleasantly warm with the sun shining down on us. And the sky was such a brilliant bright blue colour:

Beautiful blue Winter sky

Is it Spring yet?:

I’m not a fan of the Winter months, so I was excited to see signs of Spring approaching, firstly noticing the appearance of Dad’s crocuses when we sat outside for our cuppas. And the following day we spotted a row of them by the roadside when Mum and I were out walking:

Is it Spring yet? Top: Dad’s blooming crocuses. Bottom: Roadside crocus row

Mask Fail:

What can I say? I wouldn’t want to be standing in the vaccine queue next to the lady who appears to be wearing her mask as an awkward earring. And don’t even get me started on the lack of physical distancing:

Mask fail: Department of Health vaccine rollout plan – 2nd part of diagram (BBC News)

Home Schooling – Learning the ‘F’ Word:

This one was a laugh-out-loud moment. I was talking to Bevy and Harry on Zoom and they showed me their son’s recent home school writing task – set by the school. For context, the children were being taught to write using a tree and monkey story to help them figure out where to start the letter. Now, do we really believe that the teachers didn’t realise what they’d done, or perhaps they wanted to give the parents a laugh, or subconsciously teach children the ‘F’ word?:

Home schooling: “Okay, today we’re going to learn the ‘F’ word”

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things”

Robert Brault, author

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

>>>Week 69
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References

1. The Royal Society, 2021. The Race for a Vaccine.
2. ZOE Symptom Study, 2021. Covid-19 Vaccines: What we know so far.
3. University of Southampton, 2021. Beating COVID-19 – Vaccines, Trials and Prevention.

More from What’s on Watson’s Plate

Health Diary Week 66: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Busy Bee

Busy bee on the driveway, 2020

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<<<Week 65

Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

It’s felt like a busy week. Has it been for real? Let’s see…

Job Application:

Firstly, apologies for the delayed post – a job I was applying for suddenly had the deadline brought forward from next Sunday to last night, so I had to drop everything and concentrate on that. I’ll tell you more about it next week.

Moving House (well, sort of):

Between my household, we’re doing a bit of house sitting of what was a rental property but is now waiting to be sold. We moved in some basic furniture and essentials and I’m planning to spend a few nights there each week. Packing and moving stuff kind of wiped me out – I felt like I’d completed a personal training session and the body aches the next day matched that feeling.

Facebook Group Admin:

As well as running my own Facebook page, I’ve also recently become an Admin on a covid long hauler food group, whose aim is to work together to pool resources. I had a video chat with Dawn, who set up the group, to discuss how we could encourage more members to contribute and I took away some tasks to work on.

Continuing Professional Development:

MyNutriWeb recommenced their free webinars and journal club. This week I attended How to be Vegan Savvy: A Practical Guide. I intend to write an Instagram/Facebook post about it soon, as there was some great information about building ‘Nutrition Bridges’, something I’m proud to report I’d already been doing.

Food and Nutrition

Okay, let’s have a look at what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices and identify any tweaks I could make to improve my nutrition…

Breakfast:

I’m loving a salad filled pitta for breakfast – it just feels refreshing. But I need to limit pitta consumption, because of its risky histamine ingredients, so I only had this twice and a pitta with yeast extract once (yeast is also risky, though usually tolerated in small amounts). I’m back on the cereal and had cornflakes with oat milk a couple of times. I had porridge oats once, with seeds, maple syrup and cinnamon. Another morning, I just ate some chia and flax seed crackers. I need more fruit in my life:

Week 66 Breakfasts. Left to right: Salad pitta. Cornflakes. Salad pitta

Lunch:

I had a version of my usual salad for lunch four times, once in a pitta and another time with a cornmeal and quinoa-based frittata (details here). Thank goodness for the freezer – twice I had previously batch cooked soup – cauliflower (my favourite) and butternut squash. I opted for my simple but satisfying pasta once (details here):

Week 66 Lunches. Left to right: Salad. Salad pitta. Frittata and salad

Dinner:

I had my trusty pasta for dinner three times, because it’s so easy when you’re strapped for time – I added courgette (zucchini) and red pepper and once I stirred in ‘not tomato sauce’ (from the freezer) for a bit of variety. On Monday, I experimented with coated cauliflower, using a plain flour instead of cornmeal, but it didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, although still tasted good, because I like cauliflower. I accompanied it with Mum’s homemade chips (fries), so that made up for my slight disappointment. My favourite meal was probably the veg and seed loaded jacked potato – such comfort food (details here). At the end of the week I made a vegetable paella. And, on Sunday, I experimented with a green sauce (more on that later) and topped my paella with it for a change from the night before:

Week 66 Dinners. Clockwise: Vegetable and seed pasta. Cauliflower bites and chips/fries. Vegetable and seed baked potato. Vegetable paella with green sauce. Vegetable pasta with not tomato sauce. Vegetable paella

Snacks:

I ate a small amount of chocolate most days – I seem to tolerate Booja Booja chocolate truffles, probably because they’re predominantly coconut fat (which is very high in saturates, so I need to keep my intake low). Raw chocolate coated goji berries seem okay too, so I’ll try to get some more of these. But it all went wrong when I ate a chocolate lolly (from Christmas), which I think triggered a pretty bad rhinitis histamine issue, so I definitely need to be careful about my chocolate choices. Other snacks were chia and flaxseed crackers, popcorn, Brazil nuts and crisps/chips-like products:

Week 66 Snacks

Drinks:

Typically, I drank a few mugs of chicory drink each day and I had rooibos (redbush) tea once. On Friday, whilst socialising with friends, I indulged in three vodkas (white rice based) with cranberry and apple juice – thankfully no ill effects experienced:

Week 66 Drinks

Exercise

At the beginning of the week the UK was battered by Storm Christoph, with over 200 flood warnings. It wasn’t too bad here, but there was enough wind and rain to put me off walking – I didn’t want a tree branch to fall on my head! I got out for a walk on four days, of which 135 minutes were brisk (over two hours):

Week 66 Exercise

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

I lost both weight (1.2 lb/0.5 kg) and body fat (0.5%) this week – I’ll happily take that. I really want to get back down into the 150 lb bracket soon, but I know I should be prioritising reducing my body fat over the weight, so perhaps my aim should be to get down to 34% fat, as this is the top end of the acceptable range for my age (according to my scales booklet):

Week 66 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

It’s a little bit sci-fi this week…

Food Experiment:

I decided it was about time I undertook another food experiment. I’d been inspired to try making a green sauce by someone on Instagram (I totally forgot to take a note of who it was, so sadly I can’t acknowledge them). My recipe is a mash-up of my cousin’s wife’s Mum’s (mouthful much!) green chutney and the mystery Instagram person’s green sauce. The base is coriander (cilantro) and macadamia nuts (ingredients here). I have to say it tasted great and is so versatile – use as a sauce, dip, spread or mix into coconut milk (occasional indulgence) for a mild curry-like sauce. I already have ideas on how I’m going to improve the recipe:

A portion of my green sauce

Let’s Talk:

I love that we now have widely accessible technology to see other people in real time when we talk to them. This week I met Dawn for the first time to discuss the Facebook group I’m assisting her with. We seemed to get on really well, which was a big bonus of course as we’re working together now. Also, I organised a Houseparty with my pub buddies who I haven’t seen as a group since before the Summer – so great to see this lot. And, I had my weekly catch up with Bevy and background Harry:

Online Meets. Image: mohamed Hassan, Pixabay

Threatened by a Dalek:

I was in the kitchen innocently preparing myself some food when a menacing voice repeatedly called ‘exterminate, exterminate!’ at me. I located the offender within a kitchen drawer. It seems the novelty dalek (Doctor Who) bottle opener’s contact had become nudged against some metal cutlery causing it to constantly shout at me:

Offending Doctor Who Dalek bottle opener

I found my pen:

You know how annoying it is when you can’t find your favourite pen (or something else) and all you can do is assume it’s been sucked into another dimension? Or is that just me? Anyway, I was pleased when the universe eventually returned my pen to me a week or so later, albeit in the depths of my weighted blanket cover:

My dimension hopping pen returned to present day in my weighted blanket cover

Twenty-One:

Realising that on Thursday at 9.21 pm it was the 21st minute, of the 21st hour, of the 21st day, of the 21st year, of the 21st century – like Wow!:

Twenty one: Image: Alejandro Garay, Pixabay

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

>>>Week 67
<<<Week 65
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More from What’s on Watson’s Plate

Health Diary Week 65: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Risky Business

Tandem Skydiving: Just me hurtling towards the earth with an Army guy strapped to my back (2006)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

There’s just a couple of updates for you this week’s …

Diary Re- Start:

Well, I’m finally back on the diary – I had to force myself to do it, but I’m glad I have, because it makes me more mindful about what I’m consuming (I think) – so yay, go me!

Water Leak:

Annoyingly, we had a water leak – water was seeping through the ceiling, so we had to let an ‘outsider’ into our house. We were all wearing masks, kept out of each other’s way where possible and ventilated the house by opening the windows. Although it raised the anxiety levels a bit, especially since it’s been a bad week Covid-19 wise, with the UK’s highest number of deaths so far in one day (1,564 on Wednesday), it was also good to see one of my friends briefly, as he also happens to be our plumber.

Food and Nutrition

Okay, let’s have a look at what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices and identify any tweaks I could make to improve my nutrition.

Food Risks:

I took a few ingredients risks this week where my low histamine diet is concerned, more than I’d realised when I looked back through my food diary whilst preparing this blog – I definitely need to keep an eye on this. The least risky were continuing eating mango and yeast (not together), as they’re usually okay in small quantities. Also, I’ve continued with a little dark chocolate most days, despite it potentially causing significant symptoms at usual intake – I seem to be okay with it though, which is fortunate since I love the stuff. But most importantly, I’m trying to slowly re-introduce legumes (seed-producing plants). Previously I’d tried green beans, a legume vegetable, but I experienced severe rhinitis. So, this time I attempted pulses (the dry seeds). More on this later.

Breakfast:

I’m happy to report I breakfasted on fruit three times – mango and melon. When I got up late (more often than I’d like to admit), I skipped breakfast (once) or took a light option of Brazil nuts (twice). Another morning I ate a salad pitta – who says you can’t have salad for breakfast? – Certainly not me. I should add that the pitta contained a little soya, as I used a teaspoon of vegan mayo:

Week 65 Breakfasts: Left-to-right: Melon. Salad filled pitta. Mango

Lunch:

It’s been a grey weather kind of week, which tends to veer me towards comfort food, so I opted for fusilli pasta four times. It’s so easy to prepare: Cook the frozen sweetcorn with the pasta, drain and mix with onion, chia seeds, dried herbs, turmeric, sweet paprika and rapeseed oil. On a side note, Mel from Lighter Brighter Me wrote a great post about comfort food recently. The remaining three days I had salad with a grain-based frittata or omelette:

Week 65 Lunches. Left-to-right: Simple pasta. Cornmeal based frittata and watercress salad. Pasta and salad pitta

Dinner:

Dinners were often comfort foods too. I had an always satisfying baked potato with courgette, cabbage and onion.  More potatoes – Mum’s homemade chips/fries, accompanied by cauliflower ‘cheese’ from the freezer. Also, excitingly, I had Christmas roast dinner leftovers from the freezer (details here). Of course, there had to be some rice dishes too – dhal (lentils) with brown rice and vegetable rice with a cheesy garlic roll (details here) – both delicious meals. And let’s not forget the pasta – I had spaghetti with vegetables and seeds in a not tomato sauce (details here) – tasty. After a big lunch, I just had a salad filled pitta with a few crisps/chips – I shouldn’t have eaten the crisps as they contained tomato powder (a big histamine no-no) – thankfully there were no noticeable consequences:

Week 65 Dinners. Left-to-right: Vegetable turmeric rice and cheesy garlic roll. Christmas roast leftovers: potatoes, stuffing, Winter mash and red cabbage. Vegetable and seed spaghetti in not tomato sauce

Snacks:

I’ve been incredibly hungry this week! Snacks included Brazil nuts, plain crackers, chocolates, crisps/chips, popcorn, poppadom and chocolates. Twice I had a pitta, once with salad, the other time with yeast extract:

Week 65 Snacks

Drinks:

As usual, I drank several chicory coffee replacements. I also had a rooibos tea once – this was my ‘go-to’ before I discovered chicory. I had fruit juice a few times, once with a double vodka:

Week 65 Drinks

Exercise

I’m pleased with myself that I ventured out for a walk five times this week – probably because Mum and I motivated each other more – Mum walks with me more at the moment because she’s unable to play tennis during lockdown. We achieved a respectable 197 minutes (over three hours), a massive improvement on last week’s 46 minutes:

Week 65 Exercise

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

I really wasn’t sure what results to expect, so I was relieved to have lost some weight – 0.8 lb (0.4 kg), although my body fat remained the same:

Week 65 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

I was happily contented this week, so let me share with you what made me smile…

Legume Love:

I finally ate some legumes – lentil dhal, a wonderfully comforting food. And, what’s more, I didn’t react adversely – yay! I’m a big fan of legumes, not just because of their taste and versatility, but also for their health-promoting properties:

  • Increased satiety (fullness after eating), reducing risk of over-eating[1, 2].
  • Low fat and lowers fat absorption[3, 4].
  • Nutrient dense – many contain fibre, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals[3, 4].
  • Protection against heart, gastrointestinal and cancerous diseases[5, 6].
  • Cholesterol-free and reduces total cholesterol[7].
  • Particularly low glycaemic index – less glucose spikes[8], increases satiety and reduces appetite[9].
  • Feeds your health-promoting gut microbes (prebiotic) – these friendly guys produce vitamins and reduce inflammation[10, 11].
Dhal lentils and brown rice. This is a photo from Week 38 (pre low histamine), as the photo I took this week was a bit rubbish, so ignore the tomato mix

Quinoa Experiment:

I was really excited to receive some quinoa flour, as it’s a source of quality plant protein and fibre. So, I used the flour as a base for a kind of ‘omelette’ and served it with a side salad (details here). It tasted so good, but I had an issue with stability – it got stuck in the pan, so much so that the first slice came out as a blob – it was kind of funny. Obviously, some tweaks are required, although my frozen and reheated portion the next day stayed together better:

Quinoa Flour Experiment. Clockwise: Amisa quinoa flour. My quinoa base omelette after freezing and reheating, with salad. My first slices (blobs) of quinoa base omelette, with salad. Quinoa omelette sticking in the pan

Mum Portrait Artist – Take 2:

I was excited that Mum started on a painted version of my photo. I cheekily asked if I could also have a painted version as Mum previously created a pastel and painted version for my sister – so it’s only fair right?:

Mum the Portrait Artist. Clockwise: My painted portrait started. My watercolour pencil portrait. Emma’s pastel crayons portrait (Mum’s first portrait attempt). Emma’s painted portrait

Minnie Mouse?:

I did have a chuckle when I noticed that the way Mum had pinned my photo to the board made it look like I had Minnie Mouse ears. It reminded me of when I was a kid (back in the 80’s) and asked Mum to do my hair Princess Leah style and someone in my class complimented me on my Minnie Mouse look:

Me and My Unintended Minnie Mouse Ears

My Girls:

I had a lovely girly online catch up with my besties Bevy and Charlotte (and Harry in the background). We don’t get to meet up with Charlotte that regularly, so it was extra lovely to chat to her. We first met at work in the early 2000’s and have been close friends ever since:

Me, Bevy and Charlotte at work (2004). Haha, I actually look kind of tall in this photo!

>>>Week 66
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References

1. Reverri et al., 2017. Assessing beans as a source of intrinsic fiber on satiety in men and women with metabolic syndrome.
2. Boers et al. 2017. Efficacy of fibre additions to flatbread flour mixes for reducing post-meal glucose and insulin responses in healthy Indian subjects.
3. Thompson et al. 2012. Bean and rice meals reduce postprandial glycemic response in adults with type 2 diabetes: a cross-over study.
4. Li et al. 2014. Dietary pulses, satiety and food intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis of acute feeding trials.
5. Kouris-Blazos and Belski 2016. Health benefits of legumes and pulses with a focus on Australian sweet lupins.
6. Bahado-Singh et al. 2015. High fiber Caribbean diets with low-intermediate GI improve glycemic control, cardiovascular and inflammatory indicators in overweight persons with type 2 diabetes: a randomized control study.
7. Zhang et al. 2010. Benefits of a rice mix on glycaemic control in Asian people with type 2 diabetes: a randomised trial.
8. Jenkins et al., 1981. Glycaemic index of foods: a physiological basis for carbohydrate exchange.
9. Mollard et al. 2011. The acute effects of a pulse-containing meal on glycaemic responses and measures of satiety and satiation within and at a later meal.
10. Fernandez et al. 2015. Healthy effects of prebiotics and their metabolites against intestinal diseases and colorectal cancer.
11. Bukyen et al. 2010. Carbohydrate nutrition and inflammatory disease mortality in older adults.

More from What’s on Watson’s Plate

Health Diary Week 64: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

We Are Family

My Grandmother (Nana)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

Here’s what’s new in my life this past week…

Lockdown:

I should probably start with the big news here in the UK – we are back into a national lockdown (3.0) due to a concerning (though unsurprising) rapid rise in Covid-19 cases, related hospital admissions and deaths. This hasn’t majorly changed my behaviour, as we were already being really cautious and following the science, rather than governmental updates.

Long Lost Family:

My biggest news personally is discovering about 90 new family members – how amazing is that?! My Mum had chatted to family in Australia, who told her about our extended family group on Facebook, so I joined too.

Job Interview Update

Last week, I forgot to update that unfortunately I missed out on the NHS Occupational Health and Wellbeing Practitioner position. I was told I was a close second choice and there was nothing I could do to improve my interview. The successful candidate already had experience working in the NHS and a specific mental health qualification. Upon reflection, I should have talked more about my mental health training from when I was a University Disability Adviser and the relevant mental health modules in my Health Sciences degree. I’m still really pleased with myself though, as I usually find job interviews incredibly challenging, whereas I enjoyed this one.

Food and Nutrition

It was another diary-free (and lax on the low histamine diet) week, although I did take some photos of what food was on my plate…

Salad Meals:

As you know, I often enjoy a salad for lunch. On my current low histamine diet, I skip the tomato, avocado and vinegar containing dressings. My salad is still tasty though and includes mixed salad leaves (not spinach or rocket), beetroot, radishes, cucumber, celery, spring onion, chia and/or pumpkin seeds in a sweet paprika and rapeseed oil dressing, with steamed potatoes and a cornmeal-based (no eggs) vegetable frittata (ingredients here):

My Typical Salad Lunch: Low histamine style with cornmeal-base frittata

Pasta Meals:

I never get bored of pasta – currently I’m having brown rice or corn-based fusilli or spaghetti accompanied by vegetables. My ‘go-to’ veg are courgette (zucchini), sweetcorn, green cabbage, grated carrot and sweet white or spring onion. I’ll often have a simple pasta lunch when I’ve run out of fresh salad items and load it with sweetcorn, onion, chia, flax and/or hemp seeds, mixed herbs, turmeric and rapeseed oil. Dinner pasta calls for more veg and sometimes quinoa or polenta balls (ingredients here):

Pasta and Veg Meals: Left: Fusilli. Right: Spaghetti with quinoa balls

Rice Meals:

Rice and vegetables have become a staple since adopting a low histamine diet – it’s an easy ‘go-to’ dinner:

Rice and Veg Meals

My Food Highlights:

One of my meal highlights this week has to be the comforting cauliflower ‘cheese’ with roasted sweet potatoes, pan-fried courgette and steamed purple carrot. The sauce didn’t actually contain any cheese and was instead sweet potato based – delicious:

A very saucy cauliflower ‘cheese’ (sauce made with sweet potato), roasted sweet potatoes, pan-fried courgette and steamed purple carrot

My other favourite were vegetable puff pastries (I made these) and Mum’s homemade chips (fries), although admittedly an incredibly high fat combination. And I scoffed my way through two batches of veg puff pastries this week, so that’s a lot of saturated fat! – but they were ever so tasty!:

Left: Veg puff pastries and Mum’s homemade chips. Right: Some of the vegetable puff pastry ingredients – see, it’s not all beige, at least not on the inside

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Okay, so I gained 3.2 lb/1.5 kg. This sounds like a complete disaster right? – Fear not, it wasn’t. Initially, the gain was a bit of a shock, but then I remembered I was expecting to weigh around 162 lb anyway at this stage after holiday indulgences – it’s just last week I lost weight for some reason when I expected to gain, so the 3 lb jump this week seems a lot. The truth is, I haven’t been particularly careful about what I ate and only went out for a walk once, but I needed a break from behaving. I’m aiming to be back on track from next week:

Week 64 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

So, let’s move on to some of the experiences that made me smile over the past week…

Family:

Earlier I told you about discovering loads of extended family I never knew I had. I’ve particularly loved looking through the old photos, noticing some family resemblances and connecting with new people. It’s made me reminisce about my amazing Nana who was dedicated to caring for her local community as a District Nurse:

Old Family Photos: Top: My beautiful Nana (grandmother). Bottom: My Nana as a girl (front row, sitting) with her family, Near Bhusawal, India

Online Socials:

Happily, it’s been a rather social week, albeit all online. I chatted to Bevy and Harry a couple of times, Tina and Becky and family (Emma, Carl, my Aunt and Uncle). And a monthly catch up with Karen, Julie and Chrissy – Chrissy led a bitesize mindful movement and breathing session, which was fabulous and much needed. There are still several friends I need to catch up with, so hopefully I’ll be doing that soon too:

Calming gardens in Luang Prabang, Laos (Eco Adventure Tour, 2006)

Portrait Artist Mum:

I might have told you previously that last year Mum completed portraits of my sister and the boy she used to look after. So, this week, it was finally my turn – yay! Mum decided to try out her new watercolour pencils to replicate my latest profile picture . My friend’s daughter might have influenced the inclusion of the sea-life additions (Week 63). I absolutely love it:

Portrait Artist Mum: Portrait of me at various stages

Cute Kittens:

I was searching through some photos for my extended family group and stumbled across some of the adorable kittens I looked after when house sitting for friends a couple of years ago. There were four kittens and two cats – what was I thinking?! It was a challenging, but heart-warming few days. The kittens learnt to climb over the child barrier from the room they were supposed to be residing in, during the short time between my friends leaving their home and me arriving. So, they weren’t where I expected to find them and I frantically searched for the little guys. On another occasion, I found one kitten hiding in a bag hanging on the back of the door – how on earth did the little tyke get in there? And how could I not share this?:

Cute Kittens: Kitten and cat sitting for friends (Lancing, 2018)

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

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Health Diary Week 63: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

A Brief Update…

Me Outside CommuniKate, Wales Trip (2005)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate. Unlike my usual posts, this will be a briefer one, as I’m taking a bit of a break, which means I’m not keeping a diary for a few weeks. I still want to continue communicating with you all though, so I’ll report my weekly results and share some positivity.

What’s New

All-in-all it’s been a very quiet week.

Hello 2021:

Happy New Year everyone! Wishing you all much happiness and success in 2021. Unsurprisingly, given the circumstances, I had an incredibly tame New Year’s Eve – just my parents and I at home watching TV. Very different to last year’s rowdy night at the pub. It was pleasant enough though. I opted for one cheeky alcoholic beverage – Polish potato-based vodka with cranberry juice:

My vodka and cranberry juice indulgence

UK Covid-19 Cases Rising:

As expected, Covid-19 cases (especially the new variant) are rapidly increasing. So, there’s been more movement into the top Tier 4 restrictions (I was already in this), which is very close to a localised lockdown. Thankfully, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use in the UK, which is great as it is more easily distributed than the current Pfizer one. Frustratingly, it sounds like it may take quite some time to trickle down to me, but I’ll be happier when my parents have been vaccinated.

Food and Nutrition

So, I didn’t keep a food diary this week – it was nice to have a break from tracking everything so closely. I was a bit lax on managing my histamine levels – although I mostly opted for low histamine foods, I did indulge in chocolate, ‘cheese’ and bread. So, I kept dosed up on medication to control most symptoms (I experienced some fatigue and nausea) – not the best method, but it’s only temporary.

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

I was completely surprised that I didn’t gain weight and body fat this week! Instead, I lost 1.8 lb (0.8 kg) and 0.3% body fat – amazing! I didn’t feel like I ate less or more healthily, so was I more active? I checked my Active 10 results for the past couple of weeks – I walked 66 minutes more compared to Week 62 and an extra 52 minutes were brisk walking. Maybe that swung it?:

Week 63 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Despite this being a shorter version of my usual post, I still wanted to share some of my week’s positive experiences with you all …

Storytime:

I absolutely love Pretty Pretty Good Short Fiction’s short stories, so I was really pleased to see a new release “Once upon a time… long, long ago…”. I look forward to the daily chapter publications, although sometimes I save them up for a good binge read. This tale was a little different to the previous love stories; instead, it was written from a child’s perspective, focused on homemade cookies made with mum. I could totally relate to this, as I fondly remember my sister and I baking cookies with our Mum and wanting to eat the lot immediately!:

My sister and I baking with Mum at Christmas time (actually, I just seem to be running around!), Tortola, BVI, late 1980’s (One of my favourite photos ever, because of the memories)

Delightful Nuts:

Macadamia nuts are one of the three types of nuts I know I can consume on a low histamine diet. Sadly, I wasn’t that keen on them despite their creaminess. As shared in Week 62, I was delighted to discover they work really well as a flavoured ‘cheese’, my favourite being onion, garlic and herb (ingredients here). I’d had some leftover in the freezer, so I decided to try it as a pasta sauce with added spring onion and sweet paprika (details here) – so delicious – I’m actually craving cheesy pasta now just thinking about it!:

Macadamia nut ‘cheese’. Clockwise: Cheesy pasta. Macadamia nuts. Crackers and bits with macadamia cheese. Macadamia ‘cheese’ spread

Snow – Well, a Little:

What a wonderful surprise to awake to snowfall on Tuesday morning, especially since we rarely get snow in these parts of the UK (video here). I threw on my dressing gown and hurried outside to enjoy the large clumps falling from the sky. I’m glad I went outside to appreciate it, as the snow didn’t settle and soon disappeared:

Snowy Morning. Left: Snowy sky. Right: Me in the snow soon after rolling out of bed

Princess Ariel:

I updated my Facebook profile picture and had a surprising load of likes and lovely comments. My favourite comment was my friend who said her young daughter was watching her scroll through the feed and asked if I was Princess Ariel from The Little Mermaid – how adorable and incredibly flattering. To be fair, this isn’t how I look day-to-day – I’m usually somewhere in between ‘just-rolled-out-of-bed’ (above) and ‘made a proper effort’ (below):

Princess Ariel? Left: My latest profile picture. Right: Princess Ariel from The Little Mermaid (Image: peridotmaize, Pixabay)

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next Wednesday for another catch up.

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Health Diary Week 61: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Unexpected Delights

Rainbow Spotted during my Walk

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate, health and nutrition updates and smile-provoking experiences.

What’s New

Okay, I’m starting with a heads-up – I’m unsure exactly when I’ll post week 62 results, what with Christmas happening. It might just be that I post a slimmer version than usual (I might not be slimmer though!).

I’m happy (and relieved) to report I had a minimal rhinitis week – Yippee! 

My most exciting news (for me anyway) is that I have an NHS job interview for the position of Occupational Health and Wellbeing Practitioner. Honestly, I was surprised to be shortlisted, but having said that, this job sounds very me and the more I think about it, the more I want it. So, fingers crossed I perform well and impress the interview panel.

The big national news (not good news sadly) came on Saturday – the Prime Minister announced there’s a new SARS-COV-2 variant in the UK and it’s around 70% more transmissible than previous strains. Sooo, the plan for easing restrictions for five days over Christmas were changed to just Christmas Day. And they’ve introduced a Tier 4[1], which is pretty much a localised lockdown – anyone in this Tier misses out on Christmas mixing. I’m fortunate to be in Tier 2[1] (for now) and we didn’t have much in the way of Christmas plans, but it must be horrible for those finding themselves in these last-minute circumstances.

Tier System. Image: Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms via BBC News

Food and Nutrition

Okay, let’s have a look at what food was on my plate, the healthy and not so healthy choices and identify any tweaks I could make to improve my nutrition…

Breakfast:

I opted for a light breakfast of just three Brazil nuts twice, just because I didn’t fancy much. I had corn cakes with apricot and/or blackcurrant jams three times – I prefer the taste of corn cakes to rice cakes. I ate porridge oats just once with apple, chia seeds, maple syrup and sweet cinnamon. My favourite breakfast was mango – it’s low histamine and I tolerated it well (phew!):

Week 61 Breakfasts. Left to right: Mango. Corn cakes with jam. Porridge oats with apple

Lunch:

Lunches were either my pasta (three times) or salad (four times) accompanied by some form of cornmeal (no surprise there). Once, I made a tasty cornmeal-based frittata with red potatoes, Winter cabbage and sweet white onion – delicious. The salad typically contains leaves, radishes, cucumber, celery and spring onion with a sweet paprika and rapeseed oil dressing. My simple pasta (twice) just contains sweetcorn, onion, turmeric, sweet paprika and rapeseed oil. But on Sunday I got a bit snazzier and added courgette and grated carrot – tasty:

Week 61 Lunches. My New Typical Salad with Polenta (left to right: bites, balls, frittata)

Dinner:

All but two of my meals were utilised from previous batch-cooking – whenever I cook something, I try to have at least one extra portion left to freeze for days when I don’t have time to or feel like cooking. This week I used up my vegetable spring rolls, sweet potato chips and wedges, cauliflower bites, cauliflower ‘cheese’ and my unusual paella. I’d fancied vegetable paella, but didn’t have the typical ingredients, so I just used what I had – yellow pepper, purple sprouting broccoli, Winter cabbage, sweetcorn, celery and sweet white onion… and it tasted great. One evening Mum treated me to some homemade chips, which I had with a spring roll and not tomato sauce:

Week 61 Dinners: Left to right: Spring Roll with Sweet Potato Chips and Cauliflower Bites. Unusual Paella. Mum’s Chips with Spring Roll

Snacks:

Popcorn continues to be my go-to snack, especially the sweet and salty variety. Other snacks included corn cakes with jam, nuts and crackers. I took a risk on Monday and helped myself to a handful of ‘cheese’ and onion crisps I’d found that were open (may contain histamine) – there didn’t seem to be any adverse effects:

Week 61 Snacks Log Table

Drinks

I drank loads of Chicory Cup – up to four cups a day. I had a rooibos tea and apple concentrate once. I took a risk on Friday and had a tiny sip of Mum’s glass of red wine (high histamine content) – it tasted so good. My vodka order arrived (moderate histamine, so I need to be careful) – I really wanted a potato-based vodka, but I couldn’t find any in the UK – they’re mostly wheat. Instead, I settled for quinoa and white rice. I’d ordered the vodka for Christmas and my Birthday but decided to try it and poured myself a double topped with ice – it was so strong and took me two hours to drink!:

Week 61 Drinks Log Table

Exercise

Go me! – I got myself out for a walk every day this week, despite there being quite a lot of rainy days – somehow, I managed to dodge the worst of it. Once I went for a walk with my neighbour, Elise – it was good to have a catch up. So, unsurprisingly, I improved on last week’s total exercise – nearly four and a half hours this week compared to just over two hours the week before:

Week 61 Exercise: Left to right: Squirrel. My Week’s Active 10 Walks. Red Leaves

Weight, BMI and Fat Results

Wow! 2.6 lb (1.2 kg) weight loss and 0.9% body fat reduction – I’m very happy with that. This brings me down to 158.6 lb (71.9 kg), so back under the 160 lb mark – yay! It seems that just little tweaks of getting out for a walk each day and being more mindful about how much rapeseed oil I add to my meals made a positive impact. Talking about positive…:

Week 61 Results: Weight, BMI and Body Fat

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

It’s been a positive week (apart from the latest virus stuff), so of course there’s been lots to smile about. Here’s a few things that brightened up my life…

Journal Club:

MyNutriWeb hosted its third Journal Club with Dr Gemma Walton leading the discussion. The research paper[2] we critiqued reported on a randomised control trial that found a specific probiotic mix (Lactobacillus gasseri PA 16/8, Bifidobacterium longum SP 07/3 and Bifidobacterium bifidum MF 20/5) reduced cold virus symptoms by two days. We discussed how specific bacterial species and strain (as opposed to just genus) were important for health outcomes. In hindsight, I’d also be interested to know which cold virus(es) the participants had, because there’s loads of different ones and I wonder whether this would make a difference in how patients responded to the probiotics mix:  

MyNutriWeb Journal Club. Images: Right: MyNutriWeb Instagram Post. Left: My Certificate of Attendance

Garage Social:

Excitingly, the garage door has been fixed – we haven’t been able to use it for a couple of months. This is fantastic news, because I could meet-up with Bevy, even though it was pouring with rain – we were nicely sheltered in the garage doorway:

A Working Garage Door – Yay!

My Little Elf Friend:

Mum and I went for a drive to hand deliver some Christmas cards. One such recipient was Tina. When Tina opened the door, it brought a smile to my face, as I was impressed by Tina’s cute elf attire. And, it was lovely to have a quick doorstep chat:

Tina the Christmas Elf

Rainbow Delight:

I was out walking with my friend, Elise, when we spotted this delightful rainbow in the park. There was a hint of a second rainbow above it:

Beautiful Rainbow on a Grey Rainy Day

Random Happiness:

I had a message from a new Instagram contact, @majellarohan, informing me that I’d been randomly chosen for a positivity quote. How lovely:

Random happiness message from @majellarohan

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. Wishing you all a happy holiday season.

Happy Holidays!

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References

1. GOV.UK, 2020. Guidance: Local restriction tiers: what you need to know.
2. de Vresea et al., 2006. Probiotic bacteria reduced duration and severity but not the incidence of common cold episodes in a double blind, randomized, controlled trial.

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