A month of learning BSL on blue background with hand gestures in the background

Day 1 – Why I want to learn BSL

It is 1st August and that can only mean one thing – it is Brighton Pride and the start of my new “a month of” challenge. Throughout all of August I am going to try and learn at least 4 signs a day for the whole month.

I have really struggled with how many I should aim for but as I am going to use Flashsticks to learn these new signs I thought that 4 each day would be a good plan. This is because the post-it note style learning tool comes in 4 stacks so it will be easy to manage.

So why is BSL the choice of my next a month of challenge. It basically is a very long story starting when I was in year 11 when for the last week of school we were taught how to say good morning and the alphabet in BSL. At camp in the same summer we were also taught a song’s chorus in BSL and a a bible verse by our tent leader. It was wonderful as it made the chorus and verse so easy to remember (I still remember the song now because of that!)

Me and my friends used to sign the alphabet front and back while we were bored in assemblies and attempted to gossip in very very broken sign language. It was our way to get around the no talking rule and also stave off the terrible boredom as we waited for the whole school to file in to the hall to the same music every week. Those happy memories of sign stuck with me and we often heard stories of how many girls had to learn it to talk to family members.

When it came to my A-levels, signing slipped as most of my friends were prefects so had to sit on the stage leaving me to drifting away in thought. In my first year at university there was no one else interested in signing and no sign language society so again it slipped away.

It was only in my placement year that it came up again – in fact it came up on my first day working for disability charity MERU. We had to learn in the afternoon how to communicate to those with limited sight, hearing or cognitive capabilities and part of that was being able to sign “Sorry but I can’t sign”. It came up that some of the engineers had learnt basic sign language so that they could ask questions to the kids. At the charity there was even someone who had a qualification in BSL so that they could talk to them. That year I had to use that handy phrase so often as we would go to disability events and people would often sign at me.

After graduating I was lucky to work at a Student Union managing student groups. One student approached me with an application to start a sign language group to teach others basic BSL. She was rather shocked when my first question was if I could join! Luckily staff could and a week later her group was up and running with a classroom full of staff and students who wanted to also learn. For many staff there they wanted to be able to communicate to deaf students, and most of the students were studying social care, nursing or other topics where this could be an incredible useful skill.

I got to learn some incredibly useful signs for 3 months – I even taught some of them to friends, such has how to order drinks for when we were out. Students who were on the course would come in and gossip in BSL with all of the other SU staff looking on confused. It was so useful and I found myself and friend using it so often and we only knew a tiny number of signs. We could though have conversations about drinks, dancing and relations all in a noisy nightclub or without others knowing what we were talking about.

I still today will sign “what” to people often causing people to look at me just as confused. BF knows certain words now too as they creep in when I get excited, its loud or just because it is easier. When we were in Barcelona we would sign to each other from across the carriage about when we were getting off or how we were feeling.

When Flashsticks were giving bloggers the chance to review their BSL line I jumped at the chance – now I will be able to learn more BSL and in a new exciting way! I could not contain my excitement when they came back and told me they were sending me some. They arrived back early July and it has been so hard not to pick them up and have a look – I knew that I would just go “just one more… I’ll have enough for my challenge!” and I wouldn’t.


So now it is August and I can start! So I’ve downloaded the app and I’m going to learn my 4 signs for today. As I have done some before I will not include those I remember already as my 4, so this will be interesting to see how much I actually remember.

I will be asking BF to test me (hopefully he won’t be too busy to do it!) so I won’t be surprised if he picks up some more signs too. It should be a fun challenge – after last months impacting so many aspects of my life I am so glad that I planned for this one to follow now!

Already I have found that on the first day there are 5 that I already know – these are mother, father, happy. eat, drink and happy. This means that today’s words are start, sad, hospital and teacher. Now I knew teacher but a with all languages there are often different variations of words. For teacher in Dorset you do the sign from your head rather than chin like the flashstick app shows. I know that I have covered sad before but I only remember happy from wishing people a Merry Christmas and a happy new year every December.

Already I love the app – it is great to see someone actually doing the sign as the drawings are sometimes not completely clear. I have only used the scan bit but it is still have a while to explore the rest of the app. The notes are awesome – I love how you can stick them on to anything to help you remember these words. I can put things like eat and drink in the kitchen, and hospital on a doctors letter. I love this so much though I am not sure how much BF will be happy with all the sticky notes around the house…

So day one seems easy enough – I do only have 4 new signs to remember though. As this goes on it is going to get harder and harder as it goes on, especially if there are days like today were there are 5 words I apparently still remember!

So do you want to learn BSL? Have you tried lessons? Have you tried books? Have you tried flashsticks? What words do you know? I would love to hear from you so leave a comment below!

Please note that I am reviewing Flashsticks and have only received the product to do so – this means that all of my opinions are true and my own.

5 a day branding with courgette fries on a plate

Day 31 – I made it!

It is 31st July and that can only mean one thing – I made it to the end of my 5 a day blog challenge! I can’t believe that I have managed it when I think back to the beginning of the month when this challenge seemed like a mountain. 31 days on and the actual eating 5 a day has gotten really easy and I have changed in so many ways. 

I have learnt so much this month about food, health, shopping and my self. They include things like:

  • Planning food is so important as fruit and vegetable die so quickly
  • Planning will go out the window so many times
  • Snacks will exist as whole fruit or little bags of dried fruit and veg
  • Dried carrot is weird but actually nice
  • Innocent smoothies are amazing
  • When focusing on 5 a day, you will spend 90% of your time in the fruit and veg aisles
  • Eating 5 a day is really filling – stupidly filling!
  • Strawberry pancakes are amazing and one of your 5 a day!
  • Change4Life sucks unless you are a parent
  • BBC Good Food is incredible – there is so much great advice and recipes
  • Bloggers have a wealth of knowledge and recipes too

There have been so many recipes that I was sent by bloggers and companies to try that I still haven’t managed to get through so I will be sharing these when I get to them. It has been fantastic the outreach and support that I have got all of this month and I can’t thank everyone enough!

I am so proud and I am in shock. It has really been a day of celebration with lots of yummy dishes and finishing in a well deserved Indian takeaway.

As it is the final day I thought that I should finish with a Vlog so check out my ramblings of how it feels and what it has been like.


I do though, as a result of this incredible challenge, that you try it out. Only 30% of people in the UK manage to get their 5 a day and there are so many great health and beauty benefits to managing this daily feat. Doing it for a whole month as a challenge where you talk about it can be so hectic (I know that I have been blogging about it sometimes up till midnight) but it gave me the drive to do it but there are much easier ways such as just sharing it on Twitter or Instagram with a picture, or just doing a break down of what you have had to eat that day.

You could even do it without sharing it to the world – just being strict to aim for 5 portions of different fruit and veg will completely change how you think, plan, cook and eat food. I have lost weight so easily and yet eaten so many incredible dishes all because I just forced myself to get my 5 a day. (I have forgotten to weigh myself but I will tomorrow and share!) I have noticed that some clothes are getting a little too big or that I have lost weight on my face. Looking back at the video from the beginning of the month I can see a massive difference – I am ashamed to see a nasty double chin in the early videos that is now almost gone.

Now I have been happily eating other things – I have not tried to stop myself eating sweets and cake. The only change was eating 5 a day and yet I have almost lost my double chin so it is only more impressive!

I am going to keep trying to eat my 5 a day now – I have so many tools and while I am in the grove of it now is the time to keep it up! I am thankful though that I won’t have to blog till late as I try to wait until I have eaten dinner to blog each day.

Thank you everyone who has given recipes, tips or support all this month – it has really meant a lot and helped me achieve this life changing goal!

Have you been inspired to add an extra portion everyday to your diet? Do you think you will try my 5 a day challenge? Have you enjoyed this challenge? Will you be following next month’s challenge to learn sign language? Leave a comment below as I would love to hear from you! 


Day 30 – erggggg

Today has been a struggle – I have wanted to just pig out on sweets all day. Ah the joys of a monthly visit from the witch and I just want to pig out of sugar. It happens every month but this time it feels so much worse.

I am not sure if it is the diet, the rubbish day or just a particularly bad visit by the witch. It might be all three but despite pigging out on sweets and a doughnut, I managed my 5 a day still.

Throughout the years I have heard from other girls about the witch and the increased cravings for sweets and chocolate around this time. I get the cravings for sugar and for once all I wanted to do was throw strawberries and raspberries in a blender and down all day long.

Yeap even my witch visit is different with what I’m reaching for. It seems 5 a day challenge changes everything.

So exhausted that I’ll am going to spend more time blogging tomorrow with it being the end of this whole project. I’m shocked tomorrow is the last day and I hope that today’s cloud lifts and doesn’t spoil my chance to celebrate.


5 a day branding with courgette fries on a plate

Day 29 – Who Am I?

What a day – I have managed 8 portions of fruit and veg and all without any Innocent Smoothies or struggle. Every single meal today has contained 2 portions of veg and my snacking was not out of hunger but the desire to review a new type of “1 of your 5 a day” bar that I picked up yesterday.

Breakfast was my favourite meal and it was the first time that I decided to have a fry up. It was so quick, yummy and helped me get two portions just for the first meal of the day. Now for everyone else my fry up would not be considered a “fry up” but it did contain the bits of a fry up I like – scrambled eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes. I have never been a fan of sausages, bacon or beans so have normally avoided fry ups in the past. Meeting BF I found I could finally enjoy fry ups with someone – as a veggie other than adding beans we have a very similar idea of what makes a delicious fry up. What I found really great though was how frying the mushrooms first then adding the tomatoes added a tomatoey tang to then mushrooms and allowed me to use only a tiny bit of oil. I must admit that I failed at scrambled eggs – it has been about 2 months since I last made them – after I added why too much milk by accident so had to remake them but the end result was still incredible.

Compared to trying to make a fruity mix to add to porridge this breakfast was so much easier, quicker and just as nice. I am really wondering whether I should switch to such a filling, quick and yummy breakfast for my everyday choice.

Someone I know lost a lot of weight last year and swears by starting his day with fry up as fat has false reputation concerning health. Having watched a few documentaries this month, and in the past, all of these documentaries have the same finding – sugar not fat is the biggest issue in modern diets. When Channel 4 ran a documentary were a “celeb” swapped all her full fat food for “fat free” or “sugar free” products, she gained so much weight in only a month. Tescos have now made a controversial move to remove fruit drinks with added sugar in a bid to help cut down childhood obesity as they appear a healthy alternative yet contain so much additional sugar. I am interested in finding out the other 10 moves that they will be rolling out and see how many are connected to sugar.

I must say that with so many portions of fresh plant based food I have found that I am not looking at any calories or food information you’d normally check to make sure that you aren’t eating something that will shock you with the fat, sugar or calories. Fruit and Veg generally doesn’t come with all that nutrition information  and with it now making up so much of my diet at the moment, you stop looking at labels as most things don’t have them. I spend more time looking to see how much of the fruit or veg accounts to a portion. It felt weird and annoying at first but now it just seems to lead my life now.

Lunch was another great dish – it was a mix of sliced courgette, tin of chopped tomatoes and mozzarella in the over for 40 minutes. I felt so lazy – yes it takes longer but the prep and leg work was so quick – but there I had 2 more portions. If I was having the work in an office this sort of dish would not be possible while running around trying to get ready in morning and commute to get to work for 9am. Working from home does make exploring healthier food easier – especially now that snacks have faded more and more from the flat. If felt really lazy I could have grabbed some mixed salad leafs, tomatoes, and slice (then add) some cucumber and cheese.

I think I felt lunch was lazy because of my plans for dinner – to cheer up BF from a stressful week I planned out a full veggie roast. Starting at half 6 and finished at 9 I spent hours making roast potatoes, boiled carrots and a delicate geek style sun dried tomato, feta and spinach pie topped with a mushroom sauce. My feet still hurt but it was worth it for the smile on BF’s face when he found out what dinner was and when it was laid in front of him. I must admit that the pie was a bit rich for me – I still can’t work out if it was the feta or the sun dried tomatoes but I was chuffed when BF definitely wanted it all again.

It did all though make me sit and count out all of the portions of fruit and veg through the day including meals and snacks that ended up totaling 8 different portions of different types of fruit and veg. I cooked so much veg today though – I really have become a different person that I wouldn’t recognise a month ago. I spend so much more time joyfully in the kitchen than cooking, worrying less about food (ironically) and have a cupboard and fridge full of plant food. I think as this all goes on I didn’t realise the difference it would make. I even feel healthier in general and happier. Maybe it is not connected, or maybe it is the fact that I have managed a challenge like this – something I previously thought would never be possible.

I like who I am at the moment – I am eating much healthier food because the focus on the fruit and veg makes it hard not to. Yes there are some occasional meals that don’t have any fruit or veg but these are slowly reducing more and more. I feel like I am lazier but in reality I am doing more hands on cooking than I was last month as I whip up a quick tomato sauce rather than just adding pesto from a pot, or create a fruity sauce for my porridge. I may not be a completely different person, which is a good thing as I am still an awesome person in other ways, but these little changes are definitely a good thing.

Anyway, I am going to curl up and rest after so long cooking one of the most complicated dinners for someone with only a single shelf in the oven…

Have you found that you have changed as a person because of a small change or diet? Leave a comment below as I would love to hear from you.

Day 28 – becoming the norm

My habits have changed so much – my resolve to have all of my 5 a day is unshakable at the moment. I turned down the offer for BF to cook so that I could make sure I had my final portion and ended up with dinner containing two portions each of veg. BF is even coming up with ideas of how to do this so that I could rest after a hectic day with the array of now easy to grab 1 portions of fruit laying around the house.

This challenge was definitely the best decision I have made – I am finally feeling in control of my food, enjoying it and managing some form of healthy aspect to it. At the end of it all I know that I will be a different person and moving forward from now on will be so much easier. I am going to keep up this (minus the blogging everyday) and I know that even after another month of doing it that it will be a habit much harder to break!

Today I had the chance to watch Vegucated on Netflix – I wasn’t what it was about but with lots of fruit and veg on the image and such a title I assumed it was a fruit and veg pro documentary. I was half right as in the end it was a documentary about 3 people going vegan for 6 weeks exploring how they could do it, as well as the health, environmental and emotional reasons to do it. Most of the documentary was around more about the negative treatment of modern farm yard animals (which I was aware of from other documentaries and Vegans at school) but the information surrounding comprehensive studies on how meat within diets suddenly increases rates of cancer and heart disease. I still will be eating meat – sorry but I have enough issues finding supertaster food as it is to try and add veggie or vegan in the mix.

The other interesting aspect though was how the documentary raved how “awesome” New York was to have almost 150 veggie or vegan restaurants. It seems Brighton is a veggie haven with so many around or options at all the others – you lose business if you don’t have something for either when so many locals have chosen one of these diets. Even today I was able to pick up a fruit smoothie (though is it a smoothie if it only contains fruit and ice) and I walked past various other places that offered a similar service. I don’t have enough fingers and toes for how many veggie/vegan restaurants or shops I passed today in my brief walk through the North Laines. I think this is why BF who is a veggie (not by choice but an allergy to meat) never has an issue to find anywhere to find something to eat, and probably is a massive reason to why he loves Brighton so much.

It is though more obvious now as I walk swiftly through town – my eyes and stomach seem to be drawn more to these fruit laden shops compared to the sweet and milkshake shops that otherwise caught my attention. It was harder to resist sitting in a newly opened restaurant for a salad than walking past Cyber Candy for a browse of their sugary array of products.

It really is becoming the norm and this was only replicated by those who took part in Vegucated’s vegan experiment. All three people said that their tastes and habits changed and it was just so easy to not turn back. At the end of the documentary they return to find that all three had become veggie or vegan, and quickly checking on the documentaries website afterwards shows that even now they have kept this up!

I can only hope that I have maintained this long enough and have the passion for me to keep this going and going. If they are anything to go by I think that I have a good chance of managing this permanent positive lifestyle shift.

If you are not a fan of blood and guts (I am terrible so I struggled to watch the screen at certain points) then avoid watching it – it does after all cover a lot about how animals are poorly treated in modern farming. I am glad I did today though – at one point one of those taking part was really struggling but kept it up. In the end she was able to make the change permanently but for her it was the desire to reach the end of the challenge with her head held high that helped her do so and make that permanent change.

I guess that is why I have been so successful and so driven to make sure that I get all of my portions each day – it is a short term challenge that gets easier as the month goes on. Now only 3 days lay ahead of me but that isn’t really how I see it any more, it is only 3 days until I have to start blogging about sign language rather than food!

Have you seen Vegucation – did you find it interesting? What food documentaries would you recommend? Leave a comment below as I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

5 a day branding with courgette fries on a plate

Day 27 – Shopping

Ah the start of a week and for once I am actually going to start with everything planned out so that I get through all the veg in a timely manner without the need to throw anything out. This seems to be the biggest issue of cooking so much fruit and veg – I need to plan food out a lot better or find that it quickly goes off and then has to be chucked.

I am glad that throughout this challenge that I’ve limited wastage of fruit and veg drastically, often finding lefts over useful to experiment or add an additional portion for the day.

With the promise of takeaway though I promised BF to plan out food for the whole week, working out when I needed to buy what to ensure it was all in date.

Shopping while doing 5 a day is heavy; with £20 worth of food I was struggling to get the basket all around Waitrose having to add more and more heavy fruit or veg to my basket. I’ve found that I now plan shopping better as trying to attempt this sort of heavy shop then having to walk home for 10 minutes with thin plastic bags ripping into your fingers is not fun. Now I’m always grabbing my nice soft long handled shopping bags and a mini backpack to ensure that I make it home not in agony. It seems that having a 5 a day diet also helps the environment!

The contents of my shop is so different too – 90% of it is fruit or veg. I hardly touch the other aisles at the moment; no sweets filled my basket but little packs of berries and smoothies made up my sweet tooth aspect. I think the drastic change is a mix of two things – the carefully planned out meals and ingredients to a clear change in taste.

Even at home I’m finding a difference with me raiding cook books for more fruity filled cakes and desserts (well it can’t take away my love of cakes). I want to try out carrot cakes and courgette cupcakes that I have come across or whip up some scones with some jam. I still have a sweet tooth but there is a definite change in wanting a fruity edge to it.

I didn’t even go down the sweet aisle and while I had a look at the bakery my heart didn’t drop when there were no yum yums left – I instead wondered if i’d have time to make carrot muffins.

Now by 4pm I had finished my target portions of the day with the help of an Innocent smoothie and a mushroom pie planned for the evening. It seems that as normal with planning out food that BF will suddenly want something else. While I’m ok to provide delicious bread rolls and the ability to get rid of some old cheddar it does mess with the rest of the week. Life as normal throws up its hurdles and yet all I want to do it make strawberry pancakes – I think I am  addicted to juiced and heated strawberry.

So shopping has been successful – my fridge is full of so many different fruits and vegetables I just have to hope that I don’t get knocked off my meal plan for the rest of the week now! With only 4 more days of food left to cook and eat I’m really excited about the food I’m going to try – it is full of things like pancakes, mushroom pie and salad so that I sail through these final few days with ease.

Since the start of it all shopping has gotten so much easier but it does mean that I can’t rely on the wonderful thing that is online shopping now – they always will give you fruit and veg with the shortest best before dates known to man that we have received stuff that ran out on the day it was delivered quite a few times now…

It is weird though – I’m excited about the end of this challenge but also scared; what if I don’t keep up all this hard work and fall back to my old ways of easy food? Will I keep the motivation and passion after this week? I am hoping that the outreach and support from everyone doesn’t stop but it will – the challenge will be over.

I just need to keep it up, not lose this momentum and changed interest in this sort of food. That is why the end of the week is filled with some of my favourite recipes from the month. I will probably have Sunday off though – it will be nice not to have to worry about how counting things for once, or carefully weighing it out to ensure that it counts as a portion.

Have you found that your shopping habits change when on a diet? I’d love to hear from you so leave a comment below!


fancy mushrooms on toast

Day 26 – only 5 days left to go

I can’t believe that there are only 5 days left of this challenge! It seemed so hard to think that I could manage to have 5 a day all those days ago and now I’m just breezing through most days.

This challenge is definitely the best decision I have made as I think about food completely differently these days. I am still terrible at planning meals and now finding that I have bought enough fruit and veg but not enough of the other types of food, usually resulting in a hungry BF. I think that he will be happier when I return to not being so strict in part – he will be able to ask for food and not get meekly asked if salad was ok.

Meal planning is still my biggest weakness – I really need to get better at this aspect. It is funny that it is things like meal planning, blogging everyday and vlogging that have been the hardest part of the challenge rather than eating 5 a day. I am going to try and plan out this week – it seems BF is not happy with the lack of planning and food resulting in him having to nom not as yummy things as normal waves of mac and cheese or enchiladas but instead being offered salad, fried courgettes and stuffed mushrooms.

I must say that the level of cheese that I have consumed has decreased this month – almost as much as the amount of sugary sweets. I am ashamed to say though that my hunger for takeaway has not diminished at all; we almost ordered it tonight on my request until I realised I had defrosted chicken to cook for this evening.

5 a day saladIt seems with today so easily unwraps with a simple salad here, orange there and other now normal fruit and veggy foods handy to finish off that today was nothing new or exciting. It was however delicious but I guess as the more I eat 5 a day everyday that it is less exciting and more just normal life to manage this.

One of the outcomes was that eating 5 a day would be much easier but I never realised just how much of a difference it would change how I manage food. I have found out how to eat these rich foods that often eluded me to how full you get from eating your 5 a day.

I don’t know what I am going to do yet for my last day – maybe I’ll return to Boost, my first portions of the challenge and finally have their “5 a day” drink. As the days count down, for me it is less about not having to eat 5 a day but more about not having to blog about it everyday – with the vast amount of content I’m writing I am not able to advertise it across channels as much as my normal blog posts. Maybe with next months challenge being more visual and needing vlogging maybe I’ll be able to promote each written blog more (though the challenge of Vlogging is still daunting!)

So it is finally coming to a close and I can’t believe it! Will my journey inspire you to eat more fruit and veg? Or take on trying to have 5 a day? What do you think I should do for my final day? Leave a comment below as I would love to hear from you!

A month of 5 fruit and veg surrounded by various fruit and veg

Day 25 – Maple Glazed Carrot Tart

I have loved today – I have been enjoying leftovers of the wonderful Maple glazed carrot tart that I made late last night from BBC Good Food. I found BBC Good Food after BF sent me a link to their definitive 5 a day guide and did a search for a carrot recipe to try after giving up on finding anything interesting or yummy sounding from the Change4life website. It had mushrooms, hazelnuts, carrots, puff pastry and maple syrup – all things I like so I was so excited about this different way to eat carrots.

If you like all of the above I would highly recommend that you check out the website at http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/golden-glazed-carrot-mushroom-hazelnut-tart. With it being so filling though I would maybe half it as both me and BF could only manage half before we gave in to leaving it for leftovers. Even today this still as leftovers tasted so yummy – despite being lots of textures they seem to work so well.

The only downfall was that I did end up taking ages to make it – it says 50 minutes cook and 15 minutes prep but I took 2 hours from start to finish in the end (though this was while trying to wash up, hang up washing and working out what to do). I will be making this again but next time I’ll be way more prepared so I’m sure it will not take anywhere as long to prep it.

BBC Good Food Maple Glazed Carrot TartAfter the stresses and strains from trying to deal with Change4Life, BBC Good Food are almost like a white knight riding in to rescue me from uselessness and disgusting recipes. They even have these wonderful sounding courgette fritters that I want to test out and I have barely looked into their website yet!

Today has been a mixed day – on one hand I have had a lovely tart leftovers on the other I was so full from even half the tart that I only had an apple for lunch which had the exact same effect! It has been one of those day where the food is so filling that I struggled more to eat a meal than it was finding things for me to eat. It is a good side effect – I eat less as I’m too full to snack but it then makes it harder to meet my challenge!

I think I realise why people who eat the standard healthy diet we are all preached to eat (but hardly ever do) are so skinny yet seem to say they feel like they eat so much! If you really do try to eat 5 a day and then some protein, carbs and drink the 2 litres of water we are supposed to everyday I don’t think I would ever be able to snack again at this rate.

This challenge has definitely changed my opinion of diets – you don’t have to starve and in fact you can end up feeling so stuffed, eat yummy food and still be healthy. I think keeping this up (minus the blogging everyday about it – sorry) will be an incredible outcome for me. I know that I will need to plan food better – another great thing I have learnt from this challenge) but I just wonder if in the long run how much healthier I will get in terms of weight, hair, skin and just better in general.

Well tomorrow is the start of the final 5 days – I still can’t believe that this is coming to an end so fast! It only seems like yesterday I was struggling to get my head around portions and getting all 5 portions in a day.

Will you try the 5 a day challenge? Have you been inspired? I would love to hear from you and share your story! Have you tried out the carrot tart? Or any other BBC Good Food recipes that you would recommend? Leave a comment below as I would love to hear what you think!

Day 23 – Interview with Karen from the Sensitive Kitchen

Today I’m interviewing Karen from The Sensitive Kitchen about her food journey, her business based off her experience and some hints and tips to getting more fruit and veg into your food.

Portrait of Karen from the Sensitive KitchenHello Karen, thank you for talking to me today. First question – what is The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen and what do you do?
The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen is a business I set up at the beginning of last year, primarily to promote the benefits of eating a plant based whole food diet through talks and taster sessions. I do cooking demos to teach people how to make great dairy and meat based alternatives and carry out one to one sessions with people who want to make changes to the way they eat, often due to health and/or food allergy problems, but need help in doing so. I realised that the best way to illustrate to people that healthy food can be really gorgeous tasty food was to feed them; this started off in my talks and taster sessions, and I now do monthly supper clubs offering a four course seasonal menu to treat the tastebuds and body. I am also developing a 6 week support course, a physical attendance one and an on-line one, to provide more on-going support to people who find making changes a bit hard and need more contact and group support.

How did The Sensitive Foodie start?
As all good things do – through personal pain and frustration! I had always suffered from headaches and a ‘dodgy stomach’ throughout my life, some times worse than others. In 2008, after a particularly stressful period in my life, I started to suffer from almost continual headaches and/or migraines. I consulted my GP who told me I was fine and just keep taking the painkillers (the NICE guidelines have since changed thank goodness!). As a nurse, I didn’t want to do that due to potential side effects, so decided to work out what was triggering them. In the past, I was always on one diet or another, and had been on Carol Vorderman’s detox diet – during this time I felt much better so realised it was something to do with food, and eventually got a food allergy test done. This told me I was sensitive to dairy and yeast. So basically, all the things I liked to eat were making me sick – cheese, cakes, bread, wine….. So I started my journey of discovery into how to feel better.
Initially, I just cut out dairy and yeast products which I found hard but felt better – I soon learnt that the consquences of eating a delicous creamy pudding were really not worth those few minutes of indulgence, and started to look at making my own alternatives. Luckily I enjoy cooking and experimenting so decided to make it fun rather than a chore. Then we moved to India with my husbands job; as I was not working, I decided to study nutritional medicine to understand more about the connection between food and health. I also started my blog – The Sensitive Foodie – initially writing about eating dairy-free.

Then I met Dr Nandita Shah who heads up an organisation in India called SHARAN. She teaches various courses about using food as medicine and promotes a plant based whole food diet. After attending various courses and cooking demos, I decided to cut out all animal based products – this was when I finally started to really experience the benefits of eating well. On our return to the UK, I wanted to use everything I’d learnt and share it with others, so set up The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen, connecting it with the blog.

Since having a very fruit and veg filled diet, what differences have you found in your life?
Minimal headaches (it’s very difficult to avoid yeast products so I still get some if eating out), more energy, better skin, less irritable (I used to get hunger related moods swings), fewer coughs, colds etc and, apart from improving the headaches, probably the best – weight loss. Having spent my life yoyo dieting, I no longer have to worry about my weight. And as someone who really enjoys eating, I can eat loads and feel good about it rather than guilty. It’s liberating!

wpid-wp-1437344310347.jpegIn one of your blogs you state that only 30% of people hit that 5 a day target – have you found this to be true?
Yes! And now the 5 a day target no longer includes fruit juice, some people will struggle to get one! So many people are reliant on processed products, they don’t really think of fruit and vegetables as food, or believe they are getting their fruit for example from a strawberry yoghurt, which has probably never seen a strawberry. Many people have issues related to eating fruit and vegetables too which is hard to deal with, often related to family or school dinners. Lots of people tell my they have bought a nutribullet, so I’m hoping they use them for healthy smoothies rather than let them gather dust at the back of a cupboard!

Do you have any hints or tips to getting 5 fruit and veg a day in a diet?
If you have a blender, make a smoothie. Use some berries, a banana and a couple of handfuls of spinach and you’re well on your way. You can take it to work to drink during the day, or fill up there and then.

Eat soup – there’s so many different vegetable soup recipes out there that are easy to make and delicious to eat. Have some at lunch time and it will fill you up. Check out my blog for ideas.

Snack on fruit rather than biscuits

Add it to cake – carrot, courgette, beetroot are all great in cake and help reduce the amount of fat you need to use.

Have a salad before your main meal – it can be as simple or as complicated as you like, but don’t make it boring!

Add more veg to stews, stir fries or curries. Too much salt or spice can ruin a dish. Too much veg won’t!

I’m someone who has always struggled to eat fruit and veg – do you have any hints and tips that you would give to fellow super tasters or fussy eaters?
Some of the above work well, particularly smoothies, soups, stews and cake! Soups are great if texture is an issue, as they can be pureed to a completely smooth texture. Homemade soups are always better than shop bought as you can alter the flavour and texture to how you want it. Using vegetables in different ways to ‘normal’ can also help. For example, cauliflower, a key contender for most disliked vegetable, changes it’s flavour when roasted and can be made into a soup or sauce that tastes almost cheezy. Roasting caramelises vegetables and often makes them more palatable for those who struggle with flavours.

What is your favourite food?
I have a bit of a thing for aspargus and green beans, and get rediculously excited when they’re in season! But deep down I still have a very sweet tooth, so raw banoffee pie is heaven on a spoon!

Thank you to Karen for sharing her expertise today – it really is interesting to hear that only 30% of people on average are getting their 5 a day! If you want to find out more about Karen and get more tips for eating healthy at her website at www.thesensitivefoodiekitchen.com. You can also get recipe ideas at her blog at www.foodiesensitive.blogspot.com or check out her Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheSensitiveFoodie for updates, events and demos.

Are you one of the 30% hitting 5 a day? Do you use a nutribullet? Have you found out any interesting tips? Will be trying out any recipes or lessons from Karen? I would love to hear from you so leave a comment below.

Karen portrait the sensitive kitchen with "a month of 5 a day"

Day 22 – Pancakes

At the beginning of this challenge I explored strawberry pancakes on a whim. My off the cuff breakfast worked really well with the flavours working so well together. Now that I am only 9 days from the end I felt it was time to finally try a Change4life recipe and a yummy sounding pancake recipe seemed perfect.

Now I don’t like the Change4life website – it doesn’t explain things, uses crappy flash embedded things that are constantly broken and is difficult to navigate. In their “portion sizes” section there is nothing really helpful at all – this is all that is there…

Change for life portion sizes information

With this being a key place that you are sent to by the NHS for healthy eating and exercise information you can imagine how frustrating I was when at the bottom of this there was a link to similar information on a non child friendly page. When you compare this to BBC’s version of what counts as a portion size (and they are the TV service not health care service unlike the NHS run Change4Life) it is laughably bad! The BBC one was so good and I am gutted that I was only sent it today by BF after searching Change4Life and NHS websites so much.

So while it has all of these things against it (as well as an equally broken app for my HTC) I finally decided it was time to try one of their recipes and thought their tomato and mushroom pancakes would be a good place to start as it would be fool proof.

While I like the send to e-mail feature for ingredients I hate that I would then have to copy it somewhere and what not to add all of the other things that I need so I just grabbed a sticky note and made my shopping list. The addition of yogurt as an ingredient for the pancakes should have been a warning as I have never ever made pancakes using yogurt – for me it is just salt, egg, flour and milk.

I really love pancakes – normally choosing the sweet variety though so one with two foods that counted as portions in a pancake was great. It was just about chopping up mushrooms and tomatoes and frying them up in a little bit of olive oil – easy! Having been taught how to get the correct amount, pan temperature and flipping pancakes since I was about 7 I thought that this slightly different mixture would work but the colour and cooking pattern looked so different from any that I have ever made before with an almost tiny bubble pattern on the bottom. Huge air bubbles also formed after it flipped it that would not settle with my normal tricks – I really should have realised that something was wrong…


On high speed I turned out pancakes and topped and folded with the fried tomatoes and mushroom brimming with pride. At first I thought that I must have cooked the mushrooms or tomatoes wrong as it just didn’t work – that was until I nabbed a mushroom and tomato that had escaped and they tasted amazing.

Change4Life apparently have a very crappy pancake recipe to go with their website. It is just a shame that the UK has such a strong brand that is so highly recognised yet keeps failing at so many aspects.

I am now so worried to trust Change4Life recipes – this has been the final nail in the coffin for me to be a useful tool when it comes to general people having a healthy lifestyle. Their focus is clearly towards families with young children – it is such a shame nothing exists for everyone else really at all.

The rest of the day has been quite normal – strawberries here, clemintine there, so that I managed to on 4 portions even before this disappointing pancake dish; I have fallen in love with BBC Good Food though! This is a much better system with so much more useful information. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them feature tomorrow…

Now if you read the post for yesterday – I managed to get round Waitrose and not grab any but succumbed 9 at night when BF asked if I wanted him to grab anything on the way home. Oh well it just means I have managed 7 portions today.

Have you tried a change4life recipe? Did you like it? Are you a fan of BBC Good Food? Are there any other food sites that you would recommend? Leave a comment below as I would love to hear from you.

strawberry pancakes with "a month of 5 a day" surrounded by cartoon fruit and veg