Friday, 31 January 2014

How to get a lean ballerina body

By Rebecca Almond

Thighs burning, abs shaking, face a sweaty mess – working for a toned ballerina body is harder than I thought. I’m at Barrecore in Mayfair, London, road-testing the ballet-inspired workout craze that’s got the nation pirouetting with glee at its body-shaping power. ‘It’ll be fine,’ I convince myself as I walk into the studio, recalling my dance training of days gone by. But this is not the toes-pointed, tutu-wearing Swan Lake style of ballet I remember. Ballet shoes and experience are not required for this exercise class – just a willingness to work your body hard.

‘This will hurt – your muscles will shake, they’re supposed to,’ the instructor warns at the beginning of the session. And she’s not kidding. The 60-minute workout is a blend of high repetition pilates and barre exercises that use your body weight and small equipment (light weights, pilates ball, resistance band) to exhaust every muscle group, alternated with stretching – and boy do you need to stretch! It’s these isometric movements (static holds with small contractions) that shape and hone the muscles, improving your posture and alignment – and burn up to 500 calories.

In spite of the pain, I leave the class feeling a few inches taller, tauter and buzzing with endorphins – I even booked myself in for the same time next week. An exercise class that tones the whole body and burns calories, all under the pretence of gracefulness… I'm hooked.

The next day, I catch up with Barrecore founder Niki Rein and ask her to share her ballet-body tips:

What’s so good about the Barrecore way of exercising?
We work the body like dancers do – targeting every muscle in the body, especially the small stabilisers (the muscles that hold the body in place so a desired movement can be performed) to create long, lean lines.

What’s your favourite exercise?
I love our thigh exercise, V Waterski. Stand at the barre, heels together with toes turned out, then lean back and pulse towards the barre. It’s a thigh killer that shapes the inner and outer muscles, stretching and elongating them at the same time. Plus, it lifts the seat, flattens the abdominal wall and sculpts the back. 
The V Waterski

When is the best time of day to exercise?
Before 10am is the best time as our cortisol (stress response hormone) levels are highest. The amount of cortisol in our bodies naturally reduces throughout the day so we are relaxed by bedtime, but exercise – a stressor – results in the release of extra cortisol from the adrenal gland. By working out in the morning when cortisol levels are already elevated, it gives the body plenty of time to reach the relaxed state needed for deep restorative sleep. Exercising later in the day may disrupt the natural cortisol rhythm. Plus, studies show people who work out in the morning are more consistent exercisers than those who exercise in the evening. 

How long should you wait after eating before working out?
Two hours after a large meal, but it’s fine to have a light snack just before exercise.  Great light snack choices include a handful of nuts, a raw energy bar such as LoveRaw, or even a couple of bites of chicken will help you burn fat and sustain your energy levels during the workout.

What is your favourite post-workout snack?
I love a green vegetable and apple juice after exercising. Workouts cause acidity in the body, so the greens help increase alkalinity, while the sugar in the apple helps improve insulin uptake after exercise. I always aim to get a little bit of protein shortly after my juice, too, for muscle recovery.

What’s your best piece of fitness advice?
Stay mentally connected to what you are doing – try and visualise your muscles working and changing. This will get you working harder and burning more calories.

Fancy trying it for yourself? Barrecore has studios in London’s Mayfair and Chelsea, or you can download one of the online classes and workout in the comfort of your own home. Visit for class times and prices. 

Friday, 24 January 2014

Ditch the takeaway – try this…

There’s a misconception that all Indian cuisine is fattening, calorie-laden and generally unhealthy. But step away from creamy curries and deep-fried starters and you’ll find a host of fresh, flavourful dishes that are not only kinder to your waistline, but good for your health, too.
Sabbir Karim, Best Innovative Asian and Oriental Chef of the Year 2013 and owner of London’s Namaaste Kitchen and Salaam Namaaste, is an advocate of healthy Indian cooking. 

"I’m not sure where this misconception began that made people think that all Indian food is high in saturated fats, calories and overall just unhealthy for you. In the past, it's true, more attention used to be given to the taste of the food, rather than considering the nutritional value. But as more and more chefs have become aware and educated in the healthy eating and healthy cooking concept, they have shifted their focus to the nutritional value and how the Indian food is prepared. The fact is that when we cook traditional Indian food, unlike some of the takeaways people are used to, we use fresh ingredients and produce and we also incorporate a lot of vegetables into our dishes. Indian cooking also requires using a lot of spices that are considered to have healing properties, such as turmeric, ginger and garlic – all of which are healthy ingredients."

So this weekend, ditch the takeaway menu and treat yourself instead to Sabbir’s signature recipe…

Lahori Tawa Lamb Chops (lamb chops marinated in fresh ginger paste, papaya, herbs and spices)  

Prep 20 min + marinating
Cook 35 min
Serves 4

For the lamb chops
2tbsp ginger paste
2tbsp garlic paste
1½tbsp papaya paste (½ papaya, deseeded but skin on, blended with 2tbsp cooking oil)
4 large lamb chops, trimmed and flattened slightly
1tbsp lemon juice
2tsp garam masala
½tsp chilli powder (to taste)
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
5tbsp natural yogurt
½tbsp fenugreek seeds
½tsp chilli flakes
½tbsp cooking oil
1tsp English mustard
2tsp mint sauce

For the sauce
50ml cooking oil
4 onions, chopped
3tbsp ginger paste
2tbsp garlic paste
2tsp tomato purée
4 cherry tomatoes, sliced
4tsp makhani cooking sauce (available from Waitrose and Ocado)
1tsp chilli powder
2tsp ground turmeric
245g natural yogurt
2tsp lemon juice
1½tsp ground coriander
2tsp chopped fresh mint
½tsp kewra water or rose water
2tsp garam masala
Watercress, to garnish

1. First, prepare the lamb chops. Combine the ginger garlic and papaya pastes in a large mixing bowl, then massage into the lamb. Cover, then transfer to the fridge to marinate for at least 40 min.
2. Put the remaining lamb chop ingredients in a medium bowl and mix to a fine paste. Take the lamb out of the fridge, then add the paste to the bowl and turn to coat the chops. Cover, then return to the fridge for at least 1 hr.
3. Preheat the oven to its hottest setting. Lift the lamb chops out of the marinade on to a baking tray, then cook for 10–15 min. Set aside and keep warm.
4. Next, make the sauce. Heat the cooking oil in a large frying pan, then fry the onions until golden. Add the ginger paste, garlic paste and the tomato purée and mix well. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until soft. Stir in the makhani sauce, then add the chilli powder, turmeric and yogurt. Add the lamb chops to the frying pan with the lemon juice, ground coriander, chopped mint and 500ml water, then simmer for 3–4 min until the sauce is reduced and thick. Stir in the kewra water or rose water and the garam masala.
5. Divide the lamb among 4 plates, then garnish with watercress and serve with garlic naan or basmati rice, if you like.

Per serving
30g protein
26.9g fat
6.6g saturates
28.6g carbs
20.3g sugar
4.1g fibre
2.1g salt
293mg calcium
5.1mg iron

Low sat fat
Low sugar
High protein
High calcium
High iron
Gluten free
1 of 5-a-day

Health tip: why this dish is good for you

Lamb is a good source of vitamin B12, needed for normal cell division as well as neurological and psychological functions, and to prevent fatigue.

Garam masala (a blend of traditional South Asian spices, such as cumin, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves) is great for adding flavour, so you don't need any salt.
Ginger is good for soothing the digestive system and may also help alleviate pain linked to arthritis.
Yogurt is a good source of protein and is rich in calcium, needed for healthy bones and teeth.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Could chocolate and wine save us from type 2 diabetes?

By Tracy Kelly, Diabetes UK clinical adviser

According to research just published, eating high levels of flavonoids is linked to a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Flavonoids aren’t only found in healthy food such as berries, apples and pears, but also in wine and chocolate – so can it possibly be true?

Monday, 13 January 2014

How to tackle obesity head-on

By Melanie Leyshon

25% of adults in the UK are already obese and two-thirds are overweight. Worrying statistics, which, according to Professor David Haslam, National Obesity Forum chair and Healthy Food Guide expert, means we could be facing a ‘doomsday scenario’. At the start of National Obesity Awareness Week (13–19 Jan), David wants to see campaigns for obesity becoming as hard-hitting as those against smoking.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Easy ways to cut down on sugar

The Action on Sugar campaign was launched yesterday to tackle concerns that we’re all consuming too much sugar. 
While the debate rages on what can be done about the national obesity problem, here are Healthy Food Guide’s practical tips on how to reduce your own sugar intake – plus we reveal which foods are higher in sugar than you may have thought.

Sugar in our diets: what's the risk?

By Paul McArdle, British Dietetic Association dietitian and diabetes specialist

The newly launched Action on Sugar Campaign is pushing for a reduction of 20-30% in the amount of sugars in our diet – sugar hidden in products we buy and the sugar we add to our food and drink. Can our sweet addiction really put us at risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes?