Lifebox – Birthday Box

Lifebox. A monthly package delivered to your door, bursting at the seams with snacks, powders, treats, chocolate, drinks and teas to enrich your life, widen your tastebuds and make healthy eating easy and accessible in your busy lives. Jennie and her team have now been providing people across the country with their goodies for the past three years, I have been following them from the very off after finding them on Instagram and watching how far they have come since then.

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With a choice of four different boxes to either order as a one off or as a subscription there is something to suit every lifestyle and pocket. The everyday wellness box, the men’s health box and the women’s health box all costing £22.95, encasing full sized products from exciting new startups and old favourites on the market. Also there’s the Lifebox mini, offering samples of products featured in the everyday Lifebox for a smaller price, so you can dip your toe in the water before committing.

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Is there anything more enjoyable than receiving a parcel in the post? Not really. It’s like Christmas day for me! So the fact that if you subscribe to Lifebox every month you will receive a jam-packed white box, with food and drinks to fall in love with, that’s a pretty great thing to look forward to. Also included is a booklet with workout routines anything from HIIT to yoga and recipes from guest bloggers using ingredients found in the box so when you’re lacking some inspiration you know where to turn.

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So in this birthday box, first some things that were well-known to me:

Alongside that many new nibbles:

Standouts of the group have to be the Vild and Co. granola. Strong in cinnamon but a tart bitterness cuts through from the bilberries. It’s addictive. It’s granola, what’s not to love. The Wilde Nuts chocolate cashew butter is mightily good, creamy but with a good cacao hit. In porridge with raspberries…NEXT LEVEL. I’ve also been enjoying the energy bomb sachet from Your Superfoods in my overnight oats. Cinnamon typically is the only spice or powder that features in my breakfasts (maybe maca if i’m feeling fancy), but this mix-up of açai, guarana, lucuma, maca and banana powder is nice to switch things up a bit. Lightly sweet from the banana, supposedly great for energy levels, not that I’ve noticed a difference but as long as it tastes good, that’s what we’re here for really!?! A note on the Leithy Creates raw puds, specifically the peanut butter truffle, it’s a good job that you don’t get more than one they’re devilishly good and would be polished off in one sitting!

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Head on over to their website to see what’s in store for this months’ box. Follow them on instagram @lifeboxfoodco for some daily inspiration for recipes, the breakfast and drinks in particular are really rather funky, and the odd giveaway here and there. you never know you might be the lucky devil one day! Don’t miss out on the seasonal specials either, at Christmas time and Easter there tends to be a luxury Lifebox, full of seasonal treats. Better than your tub of quality streets?? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

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Funky ferments from Loving Foods

I’m sure many of you reading this will be well and truly familiar with kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi. Perhaps due to the fact that I talk about them quite often, always giving that gut some good loving! Or maybe it’s due to them going through a hype at the moment, these new foods that we are discovering and adding to our diets which are actually age old processes that past generations lost the taste and practice for.

In London and other major capital cities or areas of known ‘wellness’, these foods are a regular on the menu and found in every health food shop. Occasionally kombucha is even served on tap in bars!!! Kombucha shots, now that’s some drinking game I’d happily be a part of. I have a few favourite brands of kombucha from my stints in living in London, particularly Jarr and Wild Fizz kombucha. There are now so many new companies popping up with unique and interesting flavours it’s hard to keep up.

Now there’s a little problem in that I live in the north of England. To the majority, fermented tea sounds like a brew that you put down and forgot about for a few days, only to find it smelling slightly cheesy a few days later.

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Thankfully that’s not what it is, and there are a few new companies in Manchester alone busy brewing up the bubbly stuff. One of these is Loving Foods. Situated in Hale Barns they’re a relatively new start up founded by brother and sister Mendel and Faye. They specialise in fermented foods and drinks, none of them pasteurised so the good bacteria is alive and thriving to maintain a healthy gut flora. Everything is made traditionally, salt, vegetables and spices left to sit and bubble until tangy, and the kombucha made from green tea to leave that fruity-almost-cider flavour us booch fans adore.

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I first picked up a bottle of their hibiscus and lime booch from a cafe called The Garden in Hale who stock a small range of their products to buy. Loving Foods products are also available to buy online if you are not from the area and they also deliver worldwide! Anyone else know how to describe the flavour of hibiscus? Me neither, but it’s tart and refreshing all the same. Poured directly over ice for a boost, or if you’re feeling naughty on a Saturday night, mixed with some vodka. Don’t blame me if the results are less than virtuous!!

The other flavours on offer are blueberry and lavender, lemon and ginger, matcha and mint and grapefruit hibiscus and ginger – which is my favourite of the lot! Something for everyone and every mood. They also produce a drink called Jun, one I hadn’t heard of until recently, similar to a kombucha however instead of sugar it is fermented with honey. Thought to originate in Tibet and known as the champagne of kombucha, this is a very special and niche drink that you won’t be able to find in many other places.

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Alongside the drinks Loving Foods also produce cultured vegetables. Sauerkraut – classic, sauerkraut – juniper and caraway, kimchi – classic, kimchi – turmeric and black pepper and their own creation of krautchi – a blend of carrot, kohlrabi and fennel. Their sauerkraut is as tangy as it should be, and would happily sit besides a bratwurst as it would a buddha bowl. The kimchi has a little more heat (not blow your head off though) with some fragrance from the ginger and garlic. All the cultured vegetables are easy to add to your diet, breakfast, lunch or dinner, and even snacks they’ll find their way in! High in prebiotics to feed your gut bacteria and also those necessary probiotics to increase the diversity of your gut microbiota too.

SO. I am SUPERRRR excited to announce that I have paired up with Loving Foods, and I have 3 kombuchas and 3 of the cultured vegetables to giveaway. One of you lucky lot will get your hands upon the blueberry and lavender kombucha, lemon and ginger and grapefruit, hibiscus and ginger AND also a jar of sauerkraut, kimchi and a krautchi too. A little bit of everything that Loving Foods have on offer. To enter find me on Instagram @theahudson and follow the instructions on the post. Sadly I can only offer this to those of you in the UK, but the main reason is to draw attention to this young company who have big things ahead of them. I’m sure we shall we seeing a lot more of them in the near future!

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So you GUYZZZZ. Head on over to my Instagram to enter and tell all of your friends so you have a better chance of winning, the competition closes at 11:59pm Monday 18th September GMT, so that gives you 1 week, and I will choose at random and announce the winner on Tuesday. Best of luck to you all, and a big thank you to Loving Foods. Someone is in for a real treat.

Sorry folks the giveaway has now ended. Thank you to all who entered!

CHEERS my lovelies *raises glass of booch!*

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What’s the dealio with dairy?

We pour it on our cereal, splash it in our tea, our coffee, eat it as an after dinner dessert or slice onto crackers with chutney for a mid-afternoon snack. Dairy in all its forms is something we have been brought up on. In the western world we are told as soon as we stop breast feeding to drink our milk, so much so that is an integral part of most peoples’ diets.

Memories of a glass of warm milk before bed as it helps to send you to sleep, that minuscule red wheel of Babybel cheese you fished out of your lunchbox daily, and squeezy yogurts that you stuck in the freezer to make into ice lollies on those (more frequent back then) days of stuffy summer. Frubes I’m looking at you! Dairy, seemed to be a fundamental part of the diet.

Marketing campaigns encourage parents to feed their children dairy products, enforcing the fact that without it they won’t get enough calcium to grow and have strong bones, ‘it will make you strongerer’. The fear of rickets is probably on most parents minds, so if the guidelines say to eat dairy, the children will eat it. What if they were lactose intolerant though? Around 10-20 years ago the only option you had as a dairy alternative was fortified soya milk. Probably sweetened. Most likely a bit gross. There wasn’t really much development in terms of dairy free milks, yogurts and cheeses, and the free from aisle…what free from aisle? If you were lactose intolerant you either gave it up cold turkey, or suffered the consequences.

I can’t pinpoint when exactly, but here in the UK, let’s say 5 years ago? Something triggered a small amount of the population to go dairy free. We also became more aware of the effects of soya on the environment and how it disrupts hormone levels (particularly for us women). The dairy free market was steadily growing, the occasional almond and coconut milks were accessible, still didn’t taste that good- mainly water and emulsifiers – so the need for creamy dairy wasn’t ever satisfied. You know it’s become a thing when Starbucks catch onto the trend and almond and coconut milk become an optional extra, with a 30p charge of course. Soon the media channelled into it spreading the word that dairy is the devil, it leads to cancer and causes osteoporosis, and every other ailment under the sun.

Around the same time, another tribe of people were touting that low fat dairy should be avoided at all costs. You can still eat your cheese, yogurts, milk and butter, but ensure that it is full fat. The higher the better for some, swearing off high fat – low carb diets. Bulletproof coffee (that is indeed coffee blitzed with butter to supposedly give a creamy drink without the crash from the caffeine), full fat yogurt, choosing cheese over dessert and searching out raw milk if possible. Totally contrasting to the dairy free crowd, making it utterly confusing to us consumers.

There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer to this problem for the time being. The government guidelines include dairy as part of a healthy balanced diet, it’s a good source of protein and calcium ensuring that you stick to lower fat varieties as the amount of saturated fat can be high. Personally, I find a happy ground in between all this conflict. I eat full fat yogurt (organic if I can, Yeo Valley is my go to), spread salted butter liberally on my toast and eat cheese when I want. I enjoy dairy. Cutting it out from my life would make me miserable and being unhappy doesn’t contribute to a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve ever experimented with removing or reducing your consumption of something, you will have realised that it penultimately ends up in being substituted with something else. The best dairy substitute by far is nuts, healthy though they are, you can always over do it. Need some cream, use cashews, spread nut butter instead of butter on toast, make cheese from cashews herbs and garlic, and milk from, yet again, more nuts.

Nuts aren’t the only culprits in the dairy free gang. Rice milk has been a favourite for many for years as it’s naturally very sweet, and coconut milk too for something a bit creamier and richer. Oat milk hailing from Sweden and even hemp, quinoa and tiger nut milk can all be spotted. If you’re wanting to switch up your milk routine and try something new here’s a list of dairy free milks that I would always choose. They are tried and tested, all of them with a different flavour which lends themselves to different things.

  • Oatly – Oat Milk

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A personal favourite, creamy milk which tastes as delicious chilled from the fridge as it does on your morning muesli or stirred into your porridge. Also note that it is one of the best dairy free milks for using in tea and coffee as its foams well and doesn’t separate. I tend to choose the blue Oatly carton as it is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, B12 and riboflavin and it is also cheaper than the organic version.

  • Rude Health

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I’m a huge fan of the company Rude Health, having sampled all of their range of milks (many times I may add) they still are a firm staple on my shopping list. Their almond, hazelnut and coconut milks all are made with a base of brown rice so are delicately sweet, perfect for those of you wanting some sweetness without adding sugar, and when blended into smoothies or lattes have a nice subtle flavour. Then there’s the ultimate almond for the purists – with a heftier price tag – and a higher percentage of nuts and none of the rice. The cashew milk too, which I’m highly fond of, purely made from cashews and water, it is the creamiest of the lot and makes a mean turmeric or matcha latte. All of the Rude Health milks have the added bonus that there are no emulsifiers or stabilisers so they do require a good shake before pouring. However if you’re worried about missing out on certain nutrients when you cut out milk, none of these are fortified so you may want to opt for another brand for the everyday use.

  • Alpro – Unsweetened roasted almond milk

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Alpro is well known by the masses notably for soya products, which has a bit of a bad rap. This almond milk though is the best of the lot they offer. Unsweetened and fresh, it’s the sort of milk that fits into your everyday life. More cost-effective too at the cheapest on offer, but with a very low content of almonds and quite a neutral flavour it may not be the most exciting for your tastebuds.

  • Califia farms – Unsweetened almond milk

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New to the UK and currently found in Sainsburys, Califia Farms is a bit of a game changer in terms of almond milk. Carageenan free, no added sugars and utterly delicious I have to add, this one is something to hunt down. It’s so good I enjoy drinking it as is, from a glass (and when I’m that desperate straight from the bottle) and that’s that. Also brilliant for use in hot drinks as there is no curdling and it isn’t thin so you won’t require half a carton to get your tea how you like.

Now what’s my stance on dairy? I love the stuff and have tried (vow to never again) giving it up, and believe that if you aren’t allergic or intolerant and most importantly you enjoy it, don’t deprive yourself. Dairy is high in saturated fat but as long as you don’t overdo it, there will absolutely be no problems. Here’s some of the dairy products that I like to eat, I always try to stick to organic if possible and mix it up by consuming not only cows milk, but sheeps, goats and buffalo too. You will be surprised how many of your favourite cheeses aren’t actually made from cows milk.

 

  • Yeo Valley – Natural yogurt, Greek style yogurt and salted butter

 

I love this brand as all of their products are organic the cows are fed on luscious grass and made in Somerset . I always return back to their natural yogurt, or the greek style if I want something richer, as it has a good tang and you can find it in most supermarkets and even corner shops. The butter too is lovely, a bright marigold yellow with a little salt, spread it on sourdough. That’s what you call heaven.

  • St. Helen’s farm – Goats yogurt

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This may be a dividing option. It’s rich, but with a salty savouriness that balances all out. The flavour too is much stronger than a cows milk yogurt so a little goes much further. Dolloped on a crumble, topped with strawberries or strained to make a labneh. Perhaps keep it real simple with just a drizzle of local honey and a little pinch of salt, bloomin’ marvellous!

  • Feta cheese

The most famous of offerings from Greece. That salty crumbly cheese that none of us can get enough of. It makes every meal better, whether that be avo on toast, a mundane salad, a sandwich or a pile of broccoli. Add feta and automatically it is elevated. Traditionally feta is made only from goats milk so try to opt for one of those, searching in your local Aldi or Lidl should do the trick.

  • Halloumi

Halloumi tends to be the vegetarians’ choice (and eaten by all the carnivores too) particularly when BBQ weather rolls along. You Nando’s aficionados will know the drill. Squeaky cheese, as my mum refers to it, takes on flavours well so when marinaded and griddled to leave blackened scorch marks, that rivals any sausage or chicken drumstick. Another cheese which traditionally is made from goats or ewes milk and found in the Mediterranean sunnier climes of Cyprus.

  • Longley Farm – Crème Fraîche

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From a dairy local to me comes this crème fraîche. Alongside many yogurts, butters, milk and creams they produce, this is the better than any supermarket version. If anyone knows in more detail, please back me up on this, but supposedly this is the only variety of cream available to buy in France. Crème fraîche goes through a fermenting process to give it that tang, meaning it lasts longer in the fridge and is better for our digestion than cream.

  • Godminster – Organic Cheddar cheese

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Having worked a stint in a farm shop and on a cheese counter, a good few chunks of cheese came my way. Blue, Cheddar, Lancashire, Cheshire, Brie, goats cheese, I like them all, but when it comes to making a cheese board I know that a good cheddar will always be the first to disappear and everyone fights for the last slither. This Cheddar cheese from Somerset is mature and punchy enough to stand up to any chutney, but still creamy and lingers on your palate…until the next piece. Available to buy in the UK at many delis by the slice or in individual truckles. Grated into a cauliflower cheese or sliced in a cheese sandwich, guaranteed it will be the best you have ever made.

To wrap it all up, I still don’t think there’s an outright decision on whether we should be eating dairy or not. Do what works for you. I do try to limit my dairy consumption, so that means substituting dairy milk for a plant based milk instead, for environmental reasons mainly as methane production is one of the main causes of global warming. Milk is something in the western diet that is consumed at least once a day, particularly for us Brits – we’re all rather partial to a cuppa – very swiftly by switching that up you’ll be eating and drinking much less. Yogurts, cheeses, butter and cream don’t tend to be an everyday thing. Also yogurt and crème fraîche (and some butters if they’re french) are all fermented or cultured. They’re beneficial to our guts and if you’re not a huge fan of other fermented products such as sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi they are a good way of getting those good bacteria into your diet.

Do what’s right for you, your lifestyle and your budget. As long as we’re all ensuring to eat as many vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, mainly plant based, then that cheeseboard and a glass of vino, it’s there to ENJOY!

Until next time

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Cowherds. A juice company based in Manchester

Juice. A favourite found on the breakfast table, nothing beats a freshly squeezed orange juice, bits ‘n all. Wandering down the aisles at the supermarkets the range of juices on offer is rather significant. From concentrate or not, with bits or without, not to mention the price range from your budget carton to the bestselling brand. You may also see words spring up like cold-pressed, the odd vegetable here and there and the term ‘no added sugar’ I’m sure is often labelled loud and clear.

In terms of governmental guidelines, fruit juice, a 150ml glass counts as 1 of your 5 a day. Thought to be a healthy option by some and something to steer well clear of by others, it seems to be dividing the crowd. Unless there are bits in it, all the juice has been squeeezzzeddddd out leaving the cellulose and tough fibre behind, but producing a juice still with the vitamins and minerals you would find in the whole fruit. As a lot of people here in the UK struggle to meet all of their 5 a day, a glass of juice is sometimes their only chance of obtaining much needed vitamin C. However it also contains a high dose of sugar and with none of the fibre to slow the release, ultimately the blood sugar levels will be raised. Juice has also been linked to tooth decay and in some studies with obesity and type-2 diabetes

Pushing the not-so-good deets aside, putting vegetables into juices and reducing the fruit to an absolute minimum is the ideal way to enjoy them. You could err on the side of the hard-core green juice fans, adding tons of leafy green vegetables, a zippy hit of lemon and ginger, but absolutely no fruit. Or opt for the sweeter side, mixing carrots and beetroots with apples, pineapple or pear.

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Searching out juices, more vegetable based ones, isn’t a hard task. In London a juice bar seems to frequent every street corner (more often than Pret a Manger I kid you not!), up in Manchester we’re not following far behind. One juice which us northerners may have spotted the odd time in cafes and health food shops is from a little company called Cowherds, based in Salford. Supplying Greater Manchester with non-pasteurised, raw and cold pressed juices.

They contacted me and sent some juices to try. I’m not one who is ever going to go on a juice detox, I don’t believe in that, also I want to eat, there’s nothing better than a good chew ;). However adding juices into a healthy diet is a great way to add even more nutritious goodness, just try to stick to vegetable based ones to keep down the free sugars.

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I sampled four of their flavours, Popeye, The Breakfast Smoothie, Phat Beets and Turbo Charger. All utterly delicious, with a bonus of the beautiful glass bottles they arrive in. I will be making sure to reuse them…water bottles, vases for flowers, pencil holders, throw some other ideas at me!

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Popeye. My personal favourite. A hard-core green juice with no fruit added at all, just that hit of lemon to perk it all up. Spinach, Celery, Cucumber, Lemon and Hemp protein, I drank this after my workouts for a refreshing sip and a bit of plant-based protein to fuel my (pretty exhausted, I did this Jane Fonda workout, my god it’s good) muscles.

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The Breakfast Smoothie is made up of pineapple, banana, cinnamon, oats and lemon, which my dad enjoyed for his breakfast when he was running out of the house. A sweet little treat for the morning when you don’t have time to sit down and enjoy your food.

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Phat Beets. A glorious deep purple colour from the beetroot alongside carrot, apple, lemon and cucumber. Drinking beetroot juice before a workout has been proven to increase exercise performance and the blood flow to the brain due to nitric oxide. Is there any better excuse to get drinking your purples as well as your greens!?

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Turbo Charger. One of the sweeter juices containing apple, carrot, ginger and lemon it has a real zing from the ginger to wake you and your taste buds up. A lovely golden hue that will make you glow inside and out (don’t eat tooooo many orange things folks, you will turn orange, I’ve been there AND done that!), but in moderation it’s high in vitamin A which is brilliant for the skin.

Give them a follow on Instagram @cowherds_cafe and twitter @CowherdsVegCafe where you can see the full list of stockists, and head on over to their website for more info.

Big thank you again to Cowherds for sending me your juices, I love to spread the word about products and brands that I believe in, so here’s to big things in your future!!

Much love to you all

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