Staying positive during lockdown

This is a worrying time.  A frightening and anxiety inducing time for even those who have a positive attitude to life and all that it throws at them.

From various interactions on social media and with the voluntary work I am involved with I am aware that for many, the situation is really frightening, and they’ve been struggling with sleep, eating sensibly and managing their days whilst isolated from family, friends and regular social interactions.

I’m certain that you may have observed an increase in people running, walking, jogging and cycling.  Weekly routines for many individuals include regular gym visits or exercise classes and this group appear to be really struggling with the physical isolation aspect of life “in lockdown”.

We are unable to influence anything in the larger scheme of things.  All we can do is work within the constraints of what is in our direct control.

Some of these things such as not leaving the house unless absolutely necessary and, when we do, practising physical distancing are being imposed on us.  It’s imperative that we listen to the advice that we are being given and adhere to it.

But how can we ensure that we maintain or even improve our own physical and mental wellbeing at this time?  We have to take responsibility for keeping ourselves as mentally and physically fit as we are able to.

For me, there aren’t too many changes.  I am still exercising first thing in the morning, on a daily basis for around an hour and on my own – the same place and generally around the same time of day (7am/8am).

I have a daily exercise regime which involves back, neck and shoulder stretches to maintain my flexibility and ability to remain independent.  That’s particularly important to me as a disabled person.  I need to be able to maintain (and perhaps even improve) my ability to carry out everyday activities of personal care – showering, dressing managing to use the toilet, mobility.

Exercises to increase my heart rate, maintain muscle mass and strengthen my core are an essential part of my daily routine, just as much as dental care is.

The view from my window as I exercise
Screenshot 2020-03-30 at 15.09.17
Concentration as I stretch

My exercise routine is seated on a gym ball, in an upstairs room looking out to the street – we have views across a large open lawned area – a University hall of residence.  I put music on, music that I love listening to.  I fully immerse myself in what I am doing for an hour.  Counting my reps, making sure that my stretches are done fully.  30-40 minutes of vigorous bouncing and “marching’ swinging my arms to get my heart rate up to peak.

That exercise is now particularly important and the urge to just “get it over and done with” in order to get on with my day has gone.  I have more time in my day to get on with those other things.

The gym ball went to Tenerife with me!

I also have the time to concentrate on ensuring that my meals are as healthy and as nutritious as possible – including beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, fresh salads and vegetables.  This is also something I am very used to doing.  We don’t eat takeaways and we eat out only rarely – so we aren’t seeing the changes to our everyday life as being too restrictive.

We are also able to spend more time in our garden.  I appreciate that not everyone is lucky enough to have outdoor space and there isn’t a day that goes past at the moment when I am not grateful for the space that we have and the fact that we both love gardening so much.  Watching the progress on the growth of various seeds we have planted (courgette, cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs, flowers, salad leaves, beetroot).


Stay safe everyone, stay well and take care of yourself.  It’s really crucial that you do that at the moment.

Our garden sanctuary (taken in the Summer last year)

Sweet Chilli Chicken Stir-fry – 552 calories

Super healthy, lots of added vegetables and a BIG portion. This could have easily have made 3 portions, but we are greedy and have been working in the garden all day….

Sweet Chilli Chicken Stir-fry – 552 calories

Preparation Time: 10 mins

Cooking Time: 15 mins

Serves: 2

Calories per serving:  551.7


Red Peppers – 85g

Chestnut Mushrooms – 117g

Mange Tout – 66g

Wholewheat Noodles, Sharwood’s – 110g

Chicken Breast Fillets, Skinless & Boneless – 193g

Olive Oil – 11ml

Carrots, Peeled – 80g

Brown Onions – 72g

Frozen Garden Peas – 100g

Sweet Chilli, & Garlic, Stir Fry Sauce, Blue Dragon -1 Sachet/120g


Cut the chicken into thin strips. Peel the carrot and cut into matchsticks. De-seed and de-stalk peppers and cut into strips. Top and tail mange touts and cut in half. Peel onion and cut into slices, De-frost the peas. Wipe mushrooms and cut into chunks.


Place noodles into a pan of boiling water and cook for 10 minutes, drain and set aside.

Put oil in a large wok and heat over a medium heat. Add the chicken, stir fry until browned, remove and set aside reserving the oil. Add the peppers, carrots and onions. Cook for around 10 minutes stirring all the time. Add the mushrooms, mange touts and peas and continue to cook for a further 5 – 7 minutes.

Add the sachet of sauce to the vegetables and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

Add the browned chicken and continue to cook through for about 3 – 4 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the drained noodles and combine.


Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 551.7

Protein (g) 40.5

Carbohydrate (g) 73.1

Fat (g) 9.9

Fruit & Veg 3.5

Fibre (g) 10.8


Pan fried halloumi, ratatouille and roasted cauliflower steak – 549 calories


The ratatouille was a batch of previously frozen home made (74 cals)

Cauliflower steak recipe (serves 2)

60 calories per 50g “steak”


1 x cauliflower cut into steaks

10ml of olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

1 garlic clove peeled and finely diced

Pinch of dried chilli flakes


  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
  2. Place the cauliflower onto a cutting board with the stem side facing downwards; cut vertically into 4 steaks approximately even in thickness. Arrange ‘steaks’ onto the prepared baking sheet.
  3. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, dried chilli flakes, salt, and black pepper together in a bowl. Brush 1/2 of the olive oil mixture over the tops of the cauliflower steaks.
  4. Roast cauliflower steaks in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Gently turn over each steak and brush with remaining olive oil mixture. Continue roasting until tender and golden, 15 to 20 minutes more.

The halloumi was pan griddled – firstly dipped in beaten egg and then a light dusting of cornflour.  Halloumi is VERY calorific (approx 315 calories per 100g), which is why we enjoyed it with these low calorie but filling accompaniments.  415 calories for the 112g of cheese alone, including the cornflour dusting, egg and a teaspoon of avocado oil for frying.

Total for this meal : 549



Squash, sage and sourdough bake – 246 calories

IMG_4647Squash, sage and sourdough bake

It took quite a bit of preparation, but well worth it – we have four portions in the freezer and it was absolutely delicious! We enjoyed it with M&S Italian Style sausages and a small amount of stir-fried leek and cabbage and mashed swede and carrot.

I think many vegetarians would be very happy with this (minus the sausages, of course….)

Preparation Time: 45 mins

Cooking Time: 1 hr 45 mins

Serves: 6

Calories per serving: 246.4


Butternut Squash – 1150g

Olive Oil – 10ml

Red Onions – 220g

Garlic – 4 Cloves/12g

Sourdough Bread – 100g

Chilli Peppers, Red – 2 Peppers/26g

Lemon Zest – 2 Tsps/4g

Double Cream Alternative – 1 50g/50g

Knorr Vegetable Stock Pot – 1 Pot/28g

Water – 300ml

Pecorino Cheese – 100g

Pumpkin Seeds – 1½ Tbsps/15g

Fresh Sage – 2 Tsps/1.6g


Heat oven to 140C. Peel and dice red onion. Peel and finely slice the garlic. Peel the butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise, remove seeds, and slice into semi-circles, keeping the slices as thin as possible. Wash the sage leaves and finely slice. Remove the zest from the lemon. Finely chop the chilli peppers.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and fry stirring regularly (don’t allow to brown). Once softened, add the garlic and continue to cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Switch off the heat and add the chopped sage, stirring through and set aside.

Take a large shallow casserole dish. Starting with a layer of butternut squash, alternatively layer the sliced butternut squash with the onion/garlic, finishing with a layer of butternut squash.

Make up the stock pot with 300ml of boiling water, stir until dissolved and set aside. Measure the flour into a small bowl, add a few spoonfuls of the stock and mix into a smooth paste. Add the stock a little at a time until completely combined with the flour. Add the cream alternative into the mixture.

Pour the mixture gently over the butternut squash and onion layers.

Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover the dish in foil, place into the oven and bake for 1.5 hours.

Whizz up the sourdough in a food processor using the “pulse” button to make breadcrumbs. Mix with the lemon zest and finely chopped fresh chillies. Finely grate the pecorino and mix in with the breadcrumbs.

Remove the bake from the oven and sprinkle over the breadcrumb/cheese mixture. Top with the pumpkin seeds. Turn up the oven to 180 degrees and continue to cook the bake for a further 15 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden and the cheese is melted.

Remove from the oven and allow to settle for a couple of mins before serving.

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 246.4

Protein (g) 8.9

Carbohydrate (g) 27.4

Fat (g) 11.4

Fruit & Veg 2.7

Fibre (g) 4.0

Covid-19 – motivation and maintaining emotional wellbeing

Derrick Evans –  aka “Mr Motivator”

Unsurprisingly, the news recently has been dominated by the news of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Understandable alarm – and even panic (when it comes to toilet paper buying) has been well documented via social media platforms.

It was refreshing this morning to listen to a programme on BBC Radio 4 which was rather more reassuring about what we can do to keep ourselves as well as we can in the period leading up to preparing for the effects of the virus to hit its peak.  I thought I would share here.

These aren’t the “usual” things that we might have been hearing or seeing.  Spreading  panic isn’t helpful or constructive and often has a profound negative effect on our emotional health.

The programme looked at how we should all ensure that we look after our own health – even before we consider offering support to others.  This isn’t just be about our physical health either.  Emotional wellbeing is vital at this time and that will become even more important if we are forced into self-isolation or when those around us are affected.

I have read and heard concern from those thinking ahead to self-isolation.  How good are we at being kept apart from others?  Our friends, family members, social activities and events, holidays and trips, days out…..  these are all critical in maintaining our wellbeing.

One of those who appeared on the programme was Derrick Evans, aka Mr Motivator.  Derrick is a Jamaican born British fitness instructor who rose to fame in 1993 through appearances on the UK breakfast show GMTV where he performed live fitness sessions and offered tips and advice to viewers.

I remember vividly Derrick’s lurid tight-fitting spandex outfits.  I also recall his infectious enthusiasm and big smile and listening to him on the programme this morning, at the age of 67, he appears not to have changed.

He advised listeners of the importance of maintaining physical wellbeing as we age and outlined some simple things that we should be doing on a daily basis in order to keep as mobile and fit as possible as we grow older.  His advice today was that we can use time when we are forced into our homes to concentrate on our physical activity.  He exercises daily for an hour and does a press up for every year of his age.  He described the value of music whilst we do exercise.

You can listen to Derrick on the programme here : at 2:52:56 into the Today programme.

If you want to do one thing today to make it a better day, listen to Derrick’s advice!

The programme was really interesting from 1:51:42 when it came to other information about the Virus and its effects.

Sharing good practice – improved access in physical activity for disabled people

I’m all too aware my recent Blog posts have all been food related.  Well, it’s time to change that!

Yesterday I attended a Forum which aimed to “provide a platform for the physical activity and disability sector to come together and share good practice, network and explore new and improved inclusive opportunities for disabled people.”

The event was organised by Get Berkshire Active who’s aim is to work with partners and stakeholders to inspire, enhance, co-ordinate and deliver physical activity where they matter locally.

The day was well attended by around 100 people at the Madejski Stadium, Reading – the room had magnificent views out across the pitch.

View out across the pitch at the Madejski Stadium

The first presentation was delivered jointly by the Activity Alliance and Access Sport and gave an overview of a recently published Activity Alliance survey which provides an in-depth comparison of disabled and non-disabled adults’ experiences of sport and activity.  The key findings of the survey showed that:

  • Four in five (81%) disabled adults want to do more activity than they currently do compared with fewer than three in five (57%) non-disabled people.
  • Just four in 10 (40%) disabled people feel they are given the opportunity to be as active as they would like to be compared with seven in 10 (71%) non-disabled people.
  • Disabled people are half as likely as non-disabled people to agree that ‘sport’ is for someone like them (32% vs 63%).
  • Seven in ten disabled people are motivated to be active to improve or maintain their physical health.
  • Two in five (41%) disabled people said a fear of losing benefits prevents them from trying to be more active.
  • Two in three (67%) disabled people said they would listen to GPs, doctors and nurses about taking part in activity.
Helen Newberry,  Engagement Advisor (South West). Activity Alliance 

The Alliance also shared details of the “10 Principles” that sports providers could follow to help make their sport or activity more appealing to disabled people.

The day provided an excellent opportunity to hear about much of the work that is going on around getting disabled people locally more engaged and active (from people like elite athlete Damian NG  who works for SportsAble).  However, I couldn’t help but feel that it would have been nice to hear first hand experiences from disabled people who had taken up a sport or found an activity that enabled them to be more active.

Damian NG, SportsAble

From my own perspective, I know that peer mentoring is an essential part of engaging and encouraging disabled people to become more active and explore ways in which they can safely do that.

Increasing activity levels and a daily programme of stretches and other exercises has enabled me to:

  • reduce pain levels
  • improve mobility
  • maintain and enhance independence
  • improve mental wellbeing
  • sleep better
  • reduce my risk of preventable diseases (diabetes, stroke, heart  disease)

Most importantly, it’s enabling me to do things that I could never have dreamed of 10 years ago.  I’m fitter now than at any other point in my adult life.






Turkey Chilli with a tortilla and cheese pie topping – 400 calories

IMG_4560Over the weekend I made a HUGE portion of healthy turkey mince chilli and made a pie for our dinner tonight with 2 portions.

For the chilli:

Preparation Time: 20 mins

Cooking Time: 1 hr

Serves: 7

Calories per serving:  189.4


Onions – 151g

Celery – 38g

Garlic, Raw -3 Cloves/9g

Tomatoes, Chopped, in Rich Tomato Juice – 1 Can/400g

Mixed Herbs – 1 Tsp/5g

Peppers, Red – 155g

Tomato Puree, Double Concentrate – 45g

Kidney Beans, Canned, in Water, Drained – 1 Can/240g

Turkey, Mince, Lean, 7% Fat – 500g

Cumin, Seeds, Whole – 2 Tsps/4g

Spicy Chipotle Chilli Paste – 15g

Sweetcorn, Canned, Naturally Sweet – 1 Sm Can/160g

Olive Oil – 2 Tsps/10ml


Preparation: Peel and finely dice the onion. Peel and finely dice the garlic clove. De-seed and dice the red pepper. Finely dice the celery.

Put the olive oil into a pan and warm over a moderate heat.

Add the onions and celery, and let them cook until soft and pale gold. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

Add the minced turkey to the pan, and let it brown lightly, stirring occasionally.

Add herbs, the chipotle paste, tinned tomatoes and tomato puree. Bring back to a simmer and leave to cooked, covered, for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Add the drained beans and sweetcorn after the first 30 minutes. Add a little water if it is drying out too much.

Let the mixture simmer for a good 5-7 minutes until thoroughly heated through.

Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal) 189.4

Protein (g) 17.6

Carbohydrate (g) 11.6

Fat (g) 7.3

Fruit & Veg 2.3

Fibre (g) 4.7

To make the pie. Place 2 portions of the chilli into a shallow oven proof dish.

Topping: 2 x folded flatbreads cut into triangles (106 calories x 2) and 50g of Mature Cheddar cheese, grated (204 calories). 2 spring onions, sliced (7 cals). Unfold the flatbread and cut into triangles. Scatter randomly on top of the turkey chilli. Sprinkle with the grated cheese. Place the dish in a preheated oven (190 degrees) for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the sliced spring onions once it’s removed from the oven.

Chilli & tortilla / cheese topping – 400 calories per portion

Lovely served with a generous blob of soured cream!


King Prawn Chow Mein – 411 calories

IMG_4540Haven’t done a stir-fry for ages, but really fancied one and this pack of prawns in the freezer needed to be used!

A hit with the husband, and we’ll be doing another – perhaps next time with a chilli and garlic sauce, or using strips of steak, chicken or toasted whole cashew nuts.

Serves: 2

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes


Jumbo King Prawns (cooked, frozen) -1 Pack/240g

Chow Mein Sauce, Asia Specialities, Aldi -1 Pack/120g

Green Peppers – 125g

Red Peppers – 50g

Green Beans – 66g

Chestnut Mushrooms – ¾ Pack/187.5g

Spring Onions – 27g

Avocado Oil – 8ml

Mange Tout – 72g

Wholewheat Noodles – 110g


De-seed and de-stalk peppers and cut into strips. Top and tail beans and mange touts and cut in half. Trim spring onions and cut into bite sized slices. Wipe mushrooms and cut into chunks.


Place noodles into a pan of boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Put oil in a large wok and heat over a medium heat. Add the peppers, beans, mange tout and onions. Cook for around 10 minutes stirring all the time. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for a further 5 – 7 minutes.

Ad the sachet of sauce to the vegetables and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

Add the noodles and prawns, combine. Continue to warm through for about 3 – 4 minutes.


Nutrition Data Per Serving

Calories (kcal)  411.3

Protein (g)  27.9

Carbohydrate (g)  55.9

Fat (g)  7.6

Fruit & Veg  3.4

Fibre (g)   10.3