Category: Health

A Dinner Bell guide to the best protein sources

Surprise! I can almost guarantee none of you were expecting a post like this – but there are only so many egg whites a person can eat.

 During the Idiot Challenge, with no days to recover from exercise, eating plenty of protein seemed important – but when you’re cutting down your meat consumption, this becomes alarmingly tricky. For a blog that started out being 90% cake, a run-down of protein sources sure is a departure from the norm, but here we are.

There’s this trend on the internet that for anything food-related, magazines love to present information in the least readable way possible, and often say things like “vegetables are high in protein!” but neglect to tell you that you’d need to eat a field of kale to get a decent quantity in grams. So I spent (what felt like) hours clicking through slideshows trying to find a range of high-protein foods that weren’t also high in fat, or stupidly calorific. Read More

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.

On the heavy language of weight loss

I

seem to have fallen into a bizarre pattern. Over the past few years, June has become the Big Decisions month.

Three years ago, I finished uni, pulling my first and last all nighter in the library and running around with cat whiskers drawn on, in the early hours of the morning when university libraries get weird with the pressure of deadlines.

Two years ago, I started on my journey to spinsterhood and cut a foot of hair off. Weirdly, I’m wearing the same dress in the photos of this and the previous year’s event. I also made strawberries and cream cookies.

One year ago, I came back from a holiday and decided it was time to drop some pounds (which I touched on previously). And then made a lime and coconut yoghurt cake, obviously.

So naturally, it’s a time to reflect. I did drop some of those pounds*, and, although I still have some to go, the question I get asked most often is how did you do it? Read More

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.

That zincing feeling

As far as play on words go, that was pretty bad, I know. I’m sorry. Let’s move swiftly on, shall we? This is a longish story, and perhaps contains a little too much information. I’ll probably cringe as  I hit the publish button. It’s a story about my face, inspired by this post on adult acne by the oh-so-fabulous Laura Jane Williams, who also wrote an entire ebook on acne which is pretty damn good.

Now, I wouldn’t call my face situation adult acne, mostly because at 22 I don’t class myself as an adult, despite the fact that I now have to pay council tax. Sadly, to the rest of the world that’s probably what I am.

During my teenage years, the universe, not content with making me ginger, overweight, short sighted and a brace wearer, threw a healthy dose of pizza face my way. Really, it was never that bad and I’ve not been left with any acne scars, but it was enough that I spent 8 years on the hunt for a cure.

When I approached my doctor, they prescribed me with a roll-on solution, with an aroma much like chip shop vinegar, to apply to my face every morning and night. It worked. It made me smell like a fish and chip wrapper, and gave my skin the feel of a recently wiped chalkboard, but it really did help my skin.

Sadly, the last thing an 18-year-old girl wants is vinegar face, particularly when it comes to snuggling down for the night with a fella. Nothing says “Worship me, for I am a goddess” less than snogs that taste like that anti-biting nail varnish your mum made you use when you were 7.

At university, passed between doctors that saw dozens of students every day, things improved slightly, starting with a puzzled GP asking me why I was on the pill and applied acne medication. She looked at my records and saw that at no point had my doctors at home tried to merge these 2 medications by moving me onto a pill that’s better for skin.

It was a start. But none of them – none of the dozen or so doctors I’ve seen in the past 8 years about my skin – mentioned that I might not need medication for it at all.

Let’s back up a second. That original medication. The one that worked, but made my face smell distinctly unappealing. The active ingredients in that solution had 2 main functions: inhibiting bacteria growth (ew), and getting zinc into the skin.

The recommended daily allowance for zinc is 5.5-9.5mg for men and 4-7mg for women

So I did my research and it turns out that zinc is an unsung hero. Despite being one of the lesser vitamins and minerals in terms of recommended intake, it’s linked to a wide array of bodily processes: most notably, the immune system and cell renewal. It’s also linked with fatigue, which explained being constantly tired, and stress. The puzzle pieces all came together and, without any medical professional saying so, I knew that the problem wasn’t acne that needed meds. I just needed to get more zinc.

You could say that making the following changes means a generally healthier diet which would of course lead to improved skin. But when I flicked through my mother’s well-thumbed copy of “Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal”, I raced to the shops to buy supplements, not actual food, and within days the situation got better. These days, it’s all about getting it through small changes in diet, and if I fall off the wagon a few green smoothies sort me right out. Here’s my top 5 foods for getting more zinc without faddy eating.

Spinach

Spinach isn’t just for Popeye. I can’t say it’s made me particularly strong yet, but it’s one of my favourite ways to get a quick hit of zinc and a load of other vitamins, blitzed up in a green smoothie with apple juice and ginger. Zing!

But it doesn’t have to feel like a health food, as this deliciously cheesy spinach bake at Smitten Kitchen shows. Good news there, too – 100g of cheddar cheese will give you 3.11mg of zinc. I probably wouldn’t recommend eating that much cheese, though. Nobody likes the cheese sweats.

0.53mg per 100g
Also a good source of: vitamins K, A, C, B1, B2, B6 and E, and manganese, iron, and calcium.

Seeds

Roasted pumpkin and squash seeds and dried watermelon seeds provide a whole lot of zinc in a really small space, with about 10mg of zinc per 100g, so there’s no excuse for not eating those watermelon pips. Throw seeds into your breakfast, straight into your mouth, or on top of a cake (totally counts). There are also some amazing sounding recipes for pumpkin seeds here.

Dark chocolate

I know, I know, it just keeps getting better and better. High cocoa content (70-85%) dark chocolate contains up to 9.6mg of zinc per 100g, whereas milk chocolate contains around 2.3mg.

Chickpeas

Nope, that doesn’t mean eating a lot of houmous. Chickpeas can be worked into main meals really easily, by adding them to meat dishes and curries to make the most of their 3.4mg/100g zinc levels. For a sweeter tooth, honey cinnamon roasted chickpeas may be the way forward.

Shellfish

Shellfish are among the most zinc-rich foods out there. Oysters ranking as the most laden with 3.49mg zinc per oyster, whereas crab provides 5.5mg/100g. There’s a good excuse to go to that fancy seafood restaurant, eh?

Please note this does not constitute medical advice. I’m not trained in health in any capacity – this is simply what has worked for me and it is possible to overdo zinc consumption. Visit NHS Choices for more information on zinc and consult your doctor before making any major changes to your diet! 

Main image courtesy of yannickgar/Flickr.

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.

Lightly lemon polenta biscuits

A few days ago, my (food) world fell apart a little bit, with a friendly nurse in a cardigan and a swooshy skirt gently uttering six little words.

“You need to cut out carbs.”

Outwardly, I nodded solemnly as she clarified – because we all know that cutting out whole food groups is a bit ridiculous – “Well, maybe have them once a day, definitely not more than that.” But maniacal laughter echoed around my head through all the talk about BMIs and pasta, as I envisioned my life without starchy deliciousness. Stir fry without noodles. Poached eggs without English muffins. No more cake.

But this time, it’ll be more sensible – not like the disaster  month that saw me shed a stone and almost a few friends when I did the Dukan diet (not even allowed fruit) and went a bit mental. It’s a good story, but one that illustrates why carbs are not optional for me.

So here we go. I’ve not really eaten much meat, until now – not because I don’t like it, but because both meat and my rent are expensive, and I am unfortunately contractually obliged to pay for the less delicious of the two.

But for now, let’s focus on biscuits. Obviously the best way to deal with all this is to make biscuits which contain both flour and polenta, as a last supper, if you like. If I was doing it properly, it’d be a last supper of something crazy like mashed potato toasties (I have no idea if that’s a thing people do. But I can’t try it out for the foreseeable future).

With the butter (£££) swapped out for margarine, these biscuits are a little cakey like a Viennese whirl biscuit, and a whole lotta delicious, thanks to the subtle addition of lemon.

Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 20

Ingredients

110g plain flour
1/4tsp salt
75g polenta
110g margarine
70g sugar
Zest of half a lemon
1 medium egg + 1 yolk
1/2tsp vanilla extract

Method

1) Preheat your oven to 180C (170C for fan ovens, 350F, gas mark 4) and line two baking trays with baking parchment. Combine flour, salt, and polenta and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the margarine, sugar, and lemon zest.
2) When light and fluffy, add the egg and then the yolk, beating until just combined after each addition. Add vanilla, and then, gradually, the flour mixture, beating until combined.
3) Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle, and pipe onto the baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
4) Bake until just going golden at the edges – about 15 minutes.

The lady behind The Dinner Bell! I’m that person who doesn’t let you leave their flat without eating something, and will probably press a parcel of cookies or cake into your hands as you head to the door.

I’m a sub-editor by day, avid book-reader by night, and octopus fan always. I live in north London, but little bits of my heart still belong to Norfolk, where I grew up, and Sheffield, where I went to uni and finally lost my bumpkin accent.