Before I met my partner, my meals very much had a theme; meat or fish with salad. No marinades, no homemade dressings, just very simple and very ‘same-y’. Don’t get me wrong, I had a couple of ‘signature’ dishes if I needed to pull out the big guns, but as a rule that was what I ate. It wasn’t that I couldn’t cook, it was more that I liked to go to the gym after work so by the time I got home, I just wanted something quick and easy that would fill a hole.
When I moved in with Chris, I realised that my eating / cooking habits would have to change (read improve). There’s no way he was going to let me get away with serving him a plain salmon fillet on a bed of spinach. At first, it was a chore. I won’t lie, I would throw the occasional paddy when it came to my turn to cook as I could feel the judgmental eyes burning into me as he heard the sound of a jar opening. In those days, Chris did a lot of the cooking.
Funnily enough, it was at this point that I started to get a lot of bloating and stomach cramps that I would later discover was an intolerance to dairy.
As my symptoms progressively got worse however, I would blame some of the ingredients in the meals we were eating such as chilli, ginger and garlic and all I wanted to eat was plain food. I remember one evening we had an Indian takeaway and I had ordered tikka chicken pieces with a side of chickpeas in yoghurt. I felt so ill afterwards that I actually had to go to the loo and make myself throw up because I couldn’t stand how my stomach felt (not something I would ever recommend or condone but at the time, I just needed to get the food out of my body). Even then, I never considered that the trigger might have been the dairy and still blamed the spices.
As time went on and I became more of an avid Instagrammer, bloggers like Clean Eating Alice, The Body Coach and Kayla Itsines started to inspire me to take my nutrition more seriously. These bloggers really resonated with me as they covered both fitness and nutrition; I was already obsessed with fitness (but wasn’t doing the right things) and had a love hate relationship with food so it made sense for me to read up on their methods.
Two years on and our bookcase is bursting at the seams with recipe books and fitness journals so I thought I’d tell you about my top 5 picks!
This was the first book of its kind that I purchased and it really inspired me to take a serious look at what I was eating and how I was exercising. Alice’s aim is simple: to feel fit and fabulous from the inside out.
With 588k + Instagram followers, I believe the reason Alice has had so much success is that she resonates with so many people. She’s just a ‘normal’ girl who had an unhealthy relationship with food when she was younger. She succumbed to the marketing hype around ‘low fat’ products on the supermarket shelves and yoyo dieted like the rest of us. So being able to overcome this and transform her body into what she has become today gives us all that ‘hope’.
The Body Bible is one of my favourite books as it has a good balance of recipes and exercises, as well as examples of weekly plans. The recipes in this book are simple but incredibly tasty.
Some of my favourite recipes:
- Roasted vegetable and couscous salad with chilli and lime chicken
- Teriyaki steak skewers with asian style greens
- Grilled tuna steaks with roasted red pepper sauce and broccoli rice
Ironically, I’m writing this post on 10th July 2017 and Alice has just rebranded from Clean Eating Alice to her full name, Alice Liveing. The trend around ‘clean eating’ began around 2013 and since then it has exploded. However, as with everything, once a term is coined and it becomes mainstream, it eventually gets tainted so I think this rebrand is a very good move for Alice.
Madeleine Shaw is the epitome of health with her glowing skin and lush locks. Ready Steady Glow is one of a series of books from Madeleine and is definitely one of my favourites. The book features hundreds of wheat and sugar free recipes (and they can all be tweaked to make them dairy free) and starts with a detailed list of store cupboard essentials. Combined, these essentials could be enough to force you to take out a second mortgage but the positive is that once you have them, they’ll last for a long time so do work out to be more cost effective than you might first think.
Flicking through this book, I think you’ll first be struck by how wholesome it is. It’s clear to see that Madeleine really enjoys cooking rather than simply ‘cooking for fuel’ as some others are. What’s really great though is how wholesome the meals are yet also so healthy.
Madeleine splits this book up into two halves; meals that can be prepared within 30 minutes and those that take longer which she calls ‘sumptuous brunches perfect for lazy weekends and show-stopping mains and desserts’. Amazing!
Some of my favourite recipes:
- Pan-fried sea bass with spicy butter bean stew
- Mango and sunflower seed chia pudding
- Roasted cauliflower and spiced lentils
The book ends with an introduction to yoga exercises promising to reduce stress, energise your body and make you feel good. What more could you want?!
I have a confession to make. I have a girl crush on Hazel Wallace.
This girl is incredible. Not only is she a fully qualified PT, she is also a junior doctor, nutritionist, author, blogger and influencer. Oh, and she’s incredibly hot with abs of steel!
I’ve been following The Food Medic on Instagram for a while now so I was excited to get my hands on her first book published this year. The medical aspect of the book really resonates with me due to my digestive problems.
The book begins with a bit about Hazel’s life. I was saddened to read that her father passed away when she was young and how much this impacted her diet and health. Hazel has a different story to most: she actually needed to put on weight as opposed to losing it.
My theory that doctors aren’t trained well enough in the field of nutrition to give anyone with digestive problems a diagnosis other than IBS is backed up in Hazel’s book. She says: “Nutrition is not a subject that is heavily focused on, or even taught, at medical school…it’s surprising given that most healthcare systems, including the NHS, aim to focus as much on promoting wellness as they do treating and managing disease”.
In The Food Medic, there is a good chapter on the digestive system to introduce readers to the concept of the importance of a healthy gut.
A lot of the recipes in the book can be tailored to individual allergens and there’s a lot of hearty, classic recipes with a healthy twist including ‘bangers and mash’ and ‘salmon pie with cauliflower mash’.
The book ends with an exercise section and a very good reminder: you can’t outtrain a bad diet.
Some of my favourite recipes:
- Sticky soy roasted salmon and aubergine
- Balsamic chicken with strawberry, avocado and basil salad
- High protein pina colada smoothie
I actually have all three of Joe Wicks’ Lean In 15 books! I really like Joe’s attitude to life, diet and exercise (plus that body isn’t bad to look at). Although I have all three books, I actually follow Joe Wicks more for his high intensity (HIIT) training videos on YouTube.
The Lean In 15 books all start with an explanation of the specific plan the book is about i.e. shape plan, sustain plan and go into the theory behind each one which is really useful. One of the main things I like about these books is that Joe packs them full of recipes (rather than just a few recipes and the rest fluff).
The books are also incredibly easy to follow and Joe has added some success stories of his 90 day plan into the books which gives you even more of a kick to get off the sofa!
He also gives examples of HIIT workouts and strength training at the end of the book – again very simple to follow.
In terms of the recipes, my favourite book has to be The Sustain Plan (the green one). The 15 minute meals book (the red one) contains recipes that aren’t really my cup of tea but that’s not to say you won’t like them!
A few of my favourite recipes:
- Asian cod and lentils
- Massaman curry
- Tasty thai fishcakes
This is the latest addition to my bookshelf! I have an incredibly thoughtful boyfriend and as such, when I mentioned I seem to be having a reaction to gluten as well as dairy, he went straight out and bought this for me.
One of the main selling points this book has is that it’s written by a specialist in nutrition and natural medicine whose two sons were diagnosed with celiac disease and multiple food allergies.
As such, Dr Cobi Slater not only has the theoretical knowledge required to help those with food intolerances and allergies, she actually has practical knowledge too resulting in her being incredibly passionate and someone who really wants to help others (as opposed to just make a buck or two!).
The book starts with a comprehensive section about the specifics relating to gluten and dairy which includes a very detailed list of what to look out for on ingredient lists. There’s a long list of items which always contain the offending ingredient, sometimes do and ones to watch out for. There’s also a list of names under which dairy items can sometimes be called. This could be somewhat daunting but if you’re anything like me, you’d rather know and then make your own mind up as to how strict you need to be.
Also contained within the book are a list of symptoms relating intolerances and allergies, some of which I found quite surprising and have not come across before including dark circles under the eyes and joint pain.
Another huge plus relating to this book is that it is absolutely jam packed full of recipes, more so than any other books I have on the shelf! Plus, it doesn’t have all the photos that most recipe books are filled with which, although look lovely, are essentially wasted space (and I can never make them look as good!). There’s also a great dessert / snacks section (anyone with a dairy intolerance will know good desserts are few and far between!).
For anyone suffering with a dairy and gluten intolerance, I highly recommend this book as it takes all the thought and stress out of thinking of substitutes and allows you to just get on with enjoying cooking and eating.
The only downside from my perspective is that it is American so everything is measured in cups as opposed to grams but you can’t have everything!
Some of my favourite recipes:
- Chicken cacciatore
- Tandoori style halibut
- Tenderloin steaks with mushroom sauce
- Apple loaf
Which books are your favourite? I’d love to hear from you!