• Guest Post: Top 5 Food Swaps For A Totally Free-From Diet

    Vicky Hadley Guest Post Sundried Food Swaps

    A few years ago I was diagnosed with an intolerance to gluten, dairy, and nuts. Yes, that does mean a lot of food is off the table for me and it is something that means I had to totally re-look at my lifestyle.

    Studying at university meant I was surrounded by students wanting to party and living off the pizza and alcohol diet. However, this quickly became a distant memory for me – as some alcohol has gluten in it. So, while my friends were drinking their way from bottle to bottle I had to substitute the booze for soft drinks.

    People didn’t get it and that’s a very nice way of putting it. I was always put into the ‘fussy eater’ category. Gluten wasn’t as well known a few years ago as it is now, so trying to find some free-from bread was almost impossible. Dairy was just as problematic – everything seemed to have the hidden ingredient. I couldn’t go to a shop without picking something that held at least one of my allergens. Even a simple salad would have barley, rye or dairy within it (yes, there are multiple names for wheat, just to make a free-from diet that little bit harder). Just as I’d assumed I’d found something gluten-free I’d have a reaction and spend the next day or so googling each ingredient to find out where and what it had come from.

    Over the past couple of years, the amount of people with a gluten intolerance has dramatically risen with so many people claiming they genuinely feel better after cutting it out. With this increase, the gluten-free market has quickly evolved meaning it’s become quite a lot easier for those on a free-from diet.

    As my career revolves around fitness I am very conscious about the foods I eat – always ensuring I get my three macronutrients into my diet (fats, carbohydrates, and protein). Following a free-from diet is a lot harder as I can’t just pick up a ready meal at my local supermarket like most people can at lunch time. It does require a bit more preparation but it doesn’t have to be impossible or even that expensive if you know how.

    Here are my Top 5 Food Swaps for those on a free-from diet:

    1. Breakfast Cereal swap for Gluten Free Oats

    Breakfast is probably the hardest change as a bowl of wheat-filled cereal or a couple of slices of toast are the typical go-to option. I now have 40 grams of gluten-free oats mixed with 40 grams of protein powder made from pea protein rather than whey (which contains dairy).

    2. Peanut Butter swap for Sunflower Seed Butter

    Who doesn't love peanut butter? I swear I hear people admitting they've eaten an entire jar in a day... Well, I have some great news for you - it's not totally off the table. Sunflower seed butter tastes just as good.

    3.Greek Yoghurt swap for  Soy Yoghurt

    Yogurt is a typical daily purchase for me, especially with its live cultures and probiotics. Luckily there is an easy swap for those with a dairy allergy; soy yogurt tastes absolutely amazing and has just as many live cultures within it so you really aren't missing out. 

    4. Pasta swap for Seaweed Pasta

    Another gluten favourite is pasta. Don't stress though as there are gluten-free options available including quinoa and chickpea pasta. One of my favourites is a pasta called, 'i-sea' which is made from seaweed! It's full of nutrients and fibre and has 80% fewer calories than traditional pasta so is a win-win.

    5. Chocolate swap for Protein Bar

    Chocolate bars are definitely a no-go with a dairy intolerance, plus they aren't good for your health due to the sugar content. A lot of protein bars come with whey or oats in them meaning again they are not suitable for gluten or dairy allergy sufferers. I love Trek Bars’ flapjack protein bars as they keep you fuller for longer and are totally free from all of my allergens.

    Bikini Girls Diary Vicky Sundried

    About the author: Vicky Hadley is one-half of Bikini Girls Diary and is a professional fitness model. 

    Posted by Guest Reviewer
  • The Benefits of Cold Pressing

    Cold Pressing Benefits Nutrition Healthy Sundried

    Welcome to the world of cold-pressing, a method of extraction and production which is sweeping the nation and fast becoming the most popular way of creating healthy food. Cold-pressing is not just limited to juices and oils; if you’re choosing high-end, top quality organic health foods, chances are they’re cold-pressed too.

    The classic extraction method for standard juices and oils is called centrifugal, whereby blades are spun at extremely high speeds, which generates large amounts of heat and can destroy the enzymes in the foods which means you’re losing vital nutrients. This process also forces in air which starts the oxidization process and makes your product start to expire before the extraction process is even finished.

    In comparison, cold-pressing stays at a much lower temperature, which retains the beneficial properties of the food. Cold-pressing means that the food product doesn’t compromise any of its taste or fibre which is always a plus. Common cold-pressed products include juices and oils, but now the health food market is swooping in and getting involved too. More and more companies are starting to use cold-pressing as a means of making their products, with many protein bars and similar products being made using this method. It is another way of making sure that a health food product is of the highest possible nutritional value and does not compromise any of its health benefits.

    Creative Nature Protein Bar Sundried

    What is the process?

    1. The process begins with filtration, in which the product is passed through a series of air propulsion systems to remove any impurities.
    2. Next up is milling: the fruit, seeds, or nuts are ground into a paste using either granite millstones or more modern stainless steel presses, which are common in larger commercial operations.
    3. The next step is the cold pressing itself. The milled paste is stirred with a rotating screw, which helps the oil to separate from the solids and mold together. After this, pressure is applied to force the oil out. This is the important part of the process as this pressure can increase the temperature of the paste, and if it exceeds a certain temperature, the oil may lose some of its health benefits. Food products must stay below a certain temperature in order to be claimed as ‘cold-pressed’. For example, extra virgin olive oil must stay below 25 degrees.
    4. After this comes the filtering. The pressed oil goes through a series of filters that separate the peel and pulp of the fruit from the oil. The final part of this filtering process involves passing the oil through a mesh to ensure that all impurities are removed.
    5. Once the filtering process is finished, the oil is decanted. Any remaining sediment is separated from the oil by gravity and a 100% pure and natural oil that retains all its properties is obtained.

      And that’s it! Cold-pressing does require the use of a lot of fruits, nuts, or seeds, but thankfully the unneeded parts do not go to waste, instead they are used for animal feed or fertiliser.

      So next time you go to choose a healthy snack or juice, check if it is cold-pressed! Because if it is, then that means it will be better for you and provide you with better quality vitamins and minerals.

      Posted by Alexandra Parren
    1. 3 Easy Ways for ANYONE to get more protein into your diet

      Vicky Hadley Bikini Girls Diary

      3 Easy Ways for ANYONE to get more protein into your diet

      By Vicky Hadley of Bikini Girls Diary

      So, you’ve recently decided to undergo a fitness transformation and are making all the right steps with your exercise but the one thing letting you down is diet. I’m sure you’ve heard that long word, ‘Macronutrients’ plenty of times or ‘macros’ from those in the know.

      Everyone you are seeing on Instagram is screaming about protein and you’re left sitting there holding your salad bowl wondering what on earth they are talking about. Plus don’t get me started on how to get protein into your diet without having to weigh everything in sight.

      Well, protein is essential for muscle growth and repair and is one of the three food groups that make up macronutrients. Carbohydrates and fats are the other two components but for today I’m going to help you get those protein macros up in these three simple steps.

      1. Swap rice for quinoa

      Such an easy step to make as quinoa takes just as long as rice to cook and don’t worry if you are one of those uncle ben ready meal lovers you’ll be thrilled to know quinoa comes ready made too. Quinoa is one of the only plant based proteins that is a complete protein with all 9 essential amino acids making it a healthy and nutritious part to your diet.

      Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and contains iron, B-vitamins, magnesium amongst other vitamins. Swap your rice at lunch or dinner for a side of quinoa and reap the benefits.

      1. Add a lean protein powder into your breakfast oats

      A bowl of sugary cereal really won’t start your day off right. Protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer so incorporating it into your breakfast will definitely have you kick starting your day in the best possible way.

      Mixing a protein powder into your porridge oats will get the needed macronutrients in straight away plus it tastes absolutely delicious. Whether you are a chocolate lover or prefer a vanilla flavour there is an option for you and you’ll turn bland, boring oatmeal into a tasty treat that will have you going to bed feeling excited for breakfast.

      1. Add seeds to your salads

      Okay, so we aren’t totally saying goodbye to salads but we are making them more exciting. Adding a sprinkle of chia seeds instantly adds a protein content plus essential fatty acids that help to balance hormones. If you fancy an extra crunch sunflower and pumpkin seeds are a great addition with a good protein content as well. Just don’t go too over board as their fats (even though they are healthy) are pretty high!
      Posted by Victoria Gardner
    2. Fitness Fact or Fiction: Is dark chocolate good for you?

      Could we really live the dream, is chocolate really good for you? Or are we just kidding ourselves into guilt free splurges?

      Dark chocolate is said to be better for you as it's lower in sugar and carbs than regular chocolate, as well as having a higher percentage of cocoa than regular chocolate, which is where it gets most of its benefits, but can it really improve your health, or is it just a less guilty go to snack?

      Dark Chocolate

      10 Reasons to Eat Dark Chocolate:

      1. Dark chocolate contains multiple nutrients. A 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains on average:

      • 11 grams of fiber.
      • 67% of the recommended daily allowance for Iron.
      • 58% of the recommended daily allowance for Magnesium.
      • 89% of the recommended daily allowance for Copper.
      • 98% of the recommended daily allowance for Manganese.
      • It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.

      2. Dark chocolate is a good source of fat. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturates. Eating fat enables the body to burn fat for energy, rather than gain fat.

      3. Dark chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine which can give you a little pick me up throughout the day.

      4. Cocoa beans are one of the highest scoring foods ever tested by ORAC. ORAC, Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, tests how foods react to potential harmful free radicals and gives them a score as an antioxidant. A study by the Chemistry Central Journal found that cocoa powder made from cacoa extract contained more antioxidants than acai, blueberries and cranberries, famed for their antitosident abilities.

      5. Dark chocolate can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the lining of the arteries to produce nitric oxide (NO). Nitric Oxide sends signals telling the arteries to relax, lowering resistance to blood flow and therefore reducing blood pressure. Research in The Journal of the American Medical Association discovered that including  small amounts of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate as part of a usual diet efficiently reduced BP and improved formation of nitric oxide in the control group.

      6. Dark chocolate decreases the risk of Insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can lead to a slowed metabolism, weight gain and diabetes.

      7. Dark chocolate lowers the risk of heart disease. LDL (bad) cholesterol causes heart disease, dark chocolate is thought to protect from high levels of LDL. In a study of 470 elderly men by The Archives of Internal Medicine, cocoa was found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular death by 50% over a 15 year period. Being an observational study means it could be another external factor which caused this effect, however surely it's significant enough results to try it.

      8. Dark chocolate may protect from skin damage from the sun. The flavonols can protect against sun-induced damage, improve blood flow to the skin and increase skin density and hydration.

      9. Dark chocolate may improve brain function. Dark chocolate has been shown to improve brain function due to its stimulation of increased blood flow.

      10. Dark chocolate may lower cortisol. Being high in antioxidants, dark chocolate effectively reduces oxidative stress inside the body which in theory should lead to lower levels of cortisol. Research by The Journal of Proteome found that dark chocolate reduced the urinary excretion of the stress hormone cortisol and catecholamines and partially normalized stress-related differences in energy metabolism after daily consumption of 40g of dark chocolate for 2 weeks.

      So there you have it 10 guilt free reasons to grab some dark chocolate.

      For more on chocolate see here.

      Tip: Remember its high quality chocolate which has this affect, your regular milk chocolate won’t cut it. Look for chocolate with as high a cocoa percentage as possible, ideally 70%+ and try and stay organic whenever possible.
      Posted by Victoria Gardner
    3. Should you put Coconut Oil in Coffee for weight loss?

      With recent news revealing shocking sugar highs of up to 25 teaspoons in our favourite café beverages are you looking for a sugar swap that still gives you that kick of energy? Although  plopping a teaspoon of oil into your coffee sounds like a weird (and super greasy) thing to do, there are claims it can help your body burn more fat, keep you more focused and alert and energise your workouts. In a society that’s desperate to remove fat and reduce calories, should we really be adding more?

      First things first, let’s debunk a myth before we look into this further, fat does not make you fat. In fact, eating certain kinds of fat can boost your metabolism and burn more fat. Glad we cleared that one up.

      Coconut Oil in Coffee

      Benefits of Coconut Oil for Weight Loss

      Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids instead of long chain fatty acids. Medium chain simply refers to the arrangement of the carbon atoms in the chemical structure. Unlike long chain fatty acids, medium chain fatty acids are readily utilized by the liver, which leads to greater energy expenditure and enhanced thermogenesis. Medium chain fatty acids occur naturally in low levels in milk fat (butter, milk, yogurt, and cheese), but the highest quantities are found in coconut and palm-kernel oils. Research by The International Journal of Obesity suggests that consuming more medium chain fatty acids can help to lower body fat percentages, participants who were fed diets higher in medium chain glycerides over a four week period finished with higher weight loss and less fat tissue, along with increased energy expenditure over those whose diet lacked the medium triglycerides.

      General Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

      • Research has shown medium triglycerides go straight to the liver from the digestive tract, where they are used as a quick source energy, which can have therapeutic effects on brain disorders such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.
      • Coconut oil can increase your energy expenditure, helping you burn more fat.
      • Coconut oil contains Lauric acid which can kill bacteria, viruses and fungi, potentially helping to prevent infections.
      • Coconut oil can curb hunger, keeping you full for longer due to the way which medium triglycerides are digested by the body.
      • The fatty acids in coconut oil are turned into ketones which have been shown in research to reduce fits in epileptic children.
      • Coconut oil can improve blood cholesterol, saturated fats raise HDL (the good) cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease.
      • Coconut oil is an effective moisturiser and repairs hair damage.
      • Why Start The Day with Coconut Oil Coffee?

      When you first wake up, your body has been fasted for the duration of your sleep and is in prime ‘fat burning’ mode as insulin and sugar levels are low, but not unstable. What this means is that your stored fatty acids are released and utilised for energy, rather than food consumed. Starting your day with a coffee help to increase fat burning hormones which use these fatty acids for energy. Creating a concoction of coffee and coconut oil prompts the body to enter ketosis (fat burning state) and kick starts your day with an energy boost, as well as all the benefits above.

      For more on the benefits of caffeine read our post on caffeine and training.

      Coconut Oil Coffee Creamer Recipes:

      There are many ways you can mix up your coconut coffee to benefit from the creamy combo, here’s our favourites:

      The Basic Burner:

      1. Add one teaspoon of organic coconut oil which has been at room temperature to the bottom of your coffee cup.
      2. Add instant coffee granules or brew your coffee if you like the posh stuff.
      3. Pour over the coconut oil and stir to ensure the coconut oil melts into the coffee to create a creamy mixture.

      Cinnamon and Vanilla Coffee Creamer:

      This one's a little naughtier than the basic coffee combo, but a delicious and still (reasonably) healthy drink, plus the sugars are all natural unlike our café bought beverages.


      • 150g coconut oil, organic (soft but not melted)
      • 2 tablespoon honey
      • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use flavdrops by Myprotein, as a calorie free sweetener in vanilla flavour)
      • 1 teaspoon Cocao powder
      1. Combine all your ingredients until the mixture is creamy and then store in a sealable jar.
      2. Melt into brewed coffee for a deliciously sweet creamer.

        Nutritional Value of Coconut Oil:

        One average teaspoon (4.5g)  of coconut oil / 100g is thought to contain:

        • Calories: 39 / 862
        • Carbohydrates: 0g / 0g
        • Protein: 0g / 0g
        • Fat: 4.5g / 100g
        So replacing your sugary and (dare I say it) overpriced (yes I did) coffee shop brew with a homemade coffee and coconut oil concoction is a smart move in more ways than one. Although it may sound strange, the result is actually quite delicious and highly nutritious. The combination of caffeine and saturated fat gives you the beloved coffee buzz with a lasting energy boost plus additional fat burning potential, and who doesn’t love extra fat burning potential?
        Posted by Victoria Gardner