Keeping Fit In Korea

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I’ve spoken before about healthy eating in Korea and explained why I find it easier to follow a healthy diet here than at home in England. The other part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is obviously to exercise. Before coming to Korea I’d switch between using the gym and going for runs outside. Since moving, I’ve found some aspects of keeping fit easier, others more difficult.

Here are what I consider the pros and cons of exercise in Korea:

♥ Hiking

There are hiking trails everywhere. From the numerous mountains for keen hikers, to the smaller trails hidden inside cities. Whether you want want to go for an intense 3-hour long trek, or for a gentle hour-long hike, there’s an option for you.

In Wonju where I live, there are not only two mountains just outside the city, but numerous trails within the city, so there’s plenty of choice should I wish to get some exercise, without having to head to the gym or go for a run. Plus, with the beautiful scenery of the trails, it’s a much more pleasant way to get some exercise, especially for nature lovers.

♥ Fitness Equipment

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You see these blue things a lot- up hiking trails, in parks everywhere. Ok, it might not in any way rival fitness equipment that you’d find at the gym, but it is fine to use for a few stretches. I’ve used the machines a couple of times and yes, they’re usually rickety, squeaky and shaky, but I’ve also found that they’re perfectly alright if you just want to stretch/ warm up/down during a hike or a run.

♥ Walking

I find that I walk a lot more in Korea, especially if I visit Seoul for the weekend- if I can, I avoid the subway because of the crowds, and choose to walk instead. I imagine that if you live in Seoul, walking could easily be the easiest way to incorporate exercise into your daily life.

As it is, even in Wonju, I walk more simply because most things are within walking distance. And that’s one advantage of living in Korea- the vast majority of people live in cities, so you are able to walk 20-minutes or half an hour to get somewhere, rather than drive. In England, if you live in the suburbs, walking isn’t an option.

(That’s not to say a lot of people will still opt to drive for convenience, but it’s a definite positive that walking is an option. If you’re feeling saintly, you can choose to get an hour of exercise just by walking to the shops and back, instead of grabbing a taxi. It couldn’t be easier).

♥ Cycling

The pavements always have a cycle-lane, making Korea a lot more bicycle-friendly than England for sure! In the UK, you aren’t allowed to cycle on the pavement, meaning you have to go on the road with cars, and as a result a lot of novice cyclists (like me) would feel nervous cycling around a city. But you can cycle pretty much anywhere in Korea, because you can go on the pavements.

Perhaps there are cycle paths because of the driving in Korea; I doubt many cyclists would want to cycle on the roads lest for fear of being knocked off their bike by crazy drivers. Either way, I know that cycling is a lot more convenient in Korea, making it another option for easy exercise.

♥ ⊗ Gyms

I can never decide whether gyms are better or worse in Korea; they have both their good and their bad points. The good: in my experience, the gyms have good equipment, are clean, and there are usually a lot of gyms in a city, so it’s more than likely you’ll be able to find one close to your home (nothing worse than having to drive 20 minutes to a gym- it de-motivates you before you even get there).

On the other hand, there are negatives. I’ve found the average gym to cost around 50,000 won per month, or 150,000 won for 3 months. While this isn’t extortionate, it is expensive, especially in a country where a lot of other things are so cheap. Especially because in a lot of gyms, this price doesn’t include use of a sauna or swimming pool. You can easily find cheaper monthly fees in England, and there’s not a lot which I’d say is cheaper in England than in Korea.

Plus, the main downfall, in my opinion, is the fact that most gyms are closed on Sundays. It might be the ‘day of rest’, but it’s also a day off work; for me, that’s a day I want to be able to visit the gym, and it’s so annoying that the majority are closed.

⊗ Weather Extremes

Weather is the main reason why I find it hard to exercise outside for a large part of the year. Autumn and Spring are fine, in fact, they’re beautiful times to go exercise outside; the weather is perfect, not too hot or cold. But in winter or summer, the weather is far too extreme.

In summer, you break out in a sweat just by stepping outside, let alone once you’ve got your heart rate up. In winter, your hands and face are numb within minutes. Even if you can ignore that, there’s also usually ice or snow which prevents you from exercising outside, unless you want to risk slipping over and injuring yourself. I’ve tried exercising outside during these two months, and it was just horrible. As a result, there are periods of time when I can’t choose to go out for a run, which is something I am able to do back in the UK.

⊗ Exercise Classes

I know that this isn’t a negative of Korea, but it’s a negative of being an expat- not understanding or being able to follow fitness classes. It’s a shame, especially when you see good classes which you’d love to take part in. I was going to attempt yoga class once, but my Korean friend told me that without being able to understand Korean, you’d find it extremely difficult. So if you’re a fan of group exercise classes, like me, you will probably be sad to know that they aren’t really a logical choice in Korea.

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In general, I manage to incorporate exercise pretty easily into my lifestyle, similarly to back in England. However, I know that if I didn’t have a gym nearby, I might find it more difficult to keep fit. As mentioned, exercising outside isn’t always the best option due to extreme heat/cold. And while in England I’d work-out at home if I couldn’t outside, I find this hard in Korea. Living in a flat with people below me, I’m well aware that the neighbours might get tired of hearing me thump around the flat to an exercise DVD. 

On the other hand, there is a huge positive in Korea, which is hiking. I was so happy to introduce hiking as a new way to exercise; it’s probably my favourite way to keep fit, and something I’ll definitely miss back in England. 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy in Korea

cbs.nl
cbs.nl

Korea is known for having low obesity levels, with only an estimated 4% of people being obese, much lower than the 35% of Americans, or 25% of Brits. It’s true that the percentage of overweight Koreans is increasing, but nowhere near as drastically as other Western countries. And I don’t find the trend at all surprising; In fact, I’ve found it a lot easier to maintain a healthy-eating lifestyle since living in Korea.

While it may be true that if I lived in Seoul, I’d be a lot more tempted by unhealthy foods due to the abundance of Western cafes and restaurants, as it is where I live in Wonju, the majority of food places are Korean and therefore offer much healthier menus. Eating out at restaurants, which in England would lead to large calorie-and-fat laden meals, can be just as healthy an option as eating at home because there is always a healthy choice on the menu.

That’s not to say that the unhealthy alternatives aren’t there to choose from; you can still find fried chicken, huge fried donkas, or greasy fried rice, which obviously aren’t as good for your waistline. But, as a whole, Korean food is decidedly more guilt-free than Western food. And luckily, it also happens to be tasty and delicious!

Here are some of the reasons which it’s easier to stay safely on the healthy wagon in Korea:

Meals

644415_10200325594855428_557284242_nThe most obvious first- Korean meals. Compared to Western meals from around the world (pizza, hot dogs, burgers, fish-and-chips, pies, curries, mac-and-cheese…), Korean meals are decidedly healthy. Soups and stews filled with vegetables; low-fat noodle or rice based meals; barbecue with salad on the side instead of bread rolls, cheese, mayonnaise and ketchup. Then there’s the fact that rice is always given as the carbohydrate component to the meal, in place of mashed potatoes, roast potatoes or chips.

Again, the unhealthy alternative is there if you want to find it, but the vast majority is healthy. Plus, when you eat out, you’re not tempted to order an additional calorific starter or dessert, simply because the option is rarely available. A definite positive if you’re trying to be good whilst dining out.

Vegetables

Boribap
en.wikipedia

A lot of the meals are packed-full of vegetables, and if they aren’t you have endless side-dishes: kimchi, radish, seaweed, mushrooms, spinach, bean-sprouts, the list goes on. And they’re varied, so you often get a few different veggies as side dishes; definitely helps you getting your 5-a-day.

Alternatively, choose a main meal packed with veggies: my all-time favourite bibimbap, shabu-shabu where you get a huge plate of greens to add to your soup… There’s no excuse not to eat your veg!

Bakery Items

IMG_7295I’ve found (to my annoyance at times when I crave a naughty treat) that even sweet bakery items aren’t as calorific, greasy, or fatty as their Western alternatives. Fillings such as red-bean, sweet potato, corn, and fig take the place of things like chocolate. Result? The food is more nutritious and you don’t have to feel guilty at the thought of what you’re eating.

In England, all of the options are buttery, greasy, and you’d be pushed to find something for under about 500 kcals (I know, I’ve tried). There pretty much isn’t a healthy-option. In Korea, I wouldn’t call bakery foods ‘healthy’, but I also wouldn’t call them ‘sinful’.

(Again, there are worse options to choose from: doughnuts, cream-filled pastries, fried things, but on the whole, they are nowhere near as bad as they could be).

Rice As A Side Dish

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

Ok, it would be healthier if it was brown rice, but as side-dishes go, it’s definitely better than a load of buttered bread, chips, or fried potatoes. It’s a good, fat free carbohydrate to add to your meal, and far less calorific than the alternatives.

 

Lack Of Unhealthy Additions To Food

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

There’s a definite lack of added sauces, dips, or spreads in Korea. Though you can still find them in foods, the use of things like cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, or butter is a lot less.

You don’t find sandwiches dripping with butter and mayonnaise as you would in England, cheese is usually only found in Western meals like pizzas or burgers, and gochuchang is the most common sauce to be added to food, in place of ketchup, mayonnaise or mustard.

In general, then, it’s not hard to see why the obesity levels are so much lower in Korea. Meals are more nutritious and packed with goodness, fatty-foods like butter, cheese, mayonnaise are used less, and even snacks are, by comparison to other countries, less detrimental to your diet. 

However, there are some mistakes you could make in Korea which could have a negative impact on your diet:

  • Fatty meats: Samgyeopsal is the worst offender here. Barbecue is so popular in Korea, and can be so healthy if you eat it right- what can be better than lean, grilled meat alongside some salad? But, if you choose the fatty meats, it is obviously far worse for you. And Samgyeopsal, with more fat than meat, is the worst option you could choose.
  • Fast food: A bit of a no-brainer, but true nonetheless. There is so much fast-food on offer in Korea, not only the Western burger chains and pizza places, but the Korean favourite of fried chicken. I know people who eat a lot of this, so much so that my students call chicken an ‘unhealthy’ food, because they’ve only eaten it after it’s been deep fried. Um…
  • Instant food (especially ramen): Something which all my students are guilty of, snacking on microwave burgers or instant ramen pots (and for breakfast too, which is just gross). These foods are everywhere and it couldn’t be easier to pop into CU and buy a quick-fix if you’re hungry. But really, these instant meals are unhealthy and completely lacking in nutrients. Not a good option!
  • Eating too much (especially rice): Again, fairly obvious, but it’s easy to do. Especially when rice is added as a side to the majority of main meals, even when your main meal is carbohydrate-based. I’ve eaten a ton of noodles before, only to be offered rice as well. Is there any need for the rice? No. Do you eat it anyway? Well, if it’s there… An easy way to add un-needed calories to your meal. The same can be said for asking for more and more side-dishes to go with your meal, Well, if it’s free…

So, if you choose to eat at places like Pizza School, Lotteria, and Baskin-Robbins, buy instant snacks from CU and eat extra rice with every meal, you might not realise how healthily you can eat in Korea, But, I think it’s fair to say that if you avoid the pitfalls, it’s quite easy to eat guilt-free. And if that involves being able to eat out and enjoy delicious meals, that’s definitely a good thing in my opinion.

Saying Goodbye To Sugar

en.wikipedia
en.wikipedia

There’s been a big change in nutritional advice over the past few years; while before, fatty foods were seen as the worst thing for your diet, evil options which instantly add inches to your waist and clog your arteries, nowadays it’s sugar which is viewed as the enemy. Things with a higher fat content like eggs are suddenly ‘superfoods’, and nutritionists are advising increased consumption of such foods, advising people to restrict their sugar intake instead. (This isn’t to say that your entire diet should be made up from fats- it isn’t an excuse to eat unlimited amounts of cheese, unfortunately).

I’d read a lot of negative things about sugar, without really taking much notice. That is, until I read Nicole Mowbray’s Sweet Nothing which made me re-think things and make the effort to decrease my sugar intake. The reason? I simply didn’t realise how much sugar I was consuming; I am a healthy eater, and am not one to snack on sweets, cakes or to drink full-sugar drinks, and therefore didn’t for a second think I ate much sugar at all. As it turns out, I was eating sugar that I didn’t even realise existed in the foods I was eating, and my diet was in fact a lot-less varied than I thought.

The foods I’d eat daily would be things like: cereal, bread, fruit, low-fat yoghurts, crackers and cereal bars, dried fruit, noodles or rice with shop-bought sauces. All healthy options- or so I thought. After all, my diet wasn’t full of takeaways, fatty foods or sweets, and I’d choose a low-fat option over the ‘unhealthy’ alternative. But in reality, I was actually eating a relatively unbalanced diet  which was high in sugar.

Here are some of the worst foods for being deceptively high in sugar (and which my old diet consisted mainly of):

  •  Granola/ Muesli/ Cereal

    en.wikipedia
    en.wikipedia

Even the healthier-looking cereals contain a fair amount of sugar: Dorset Cereals Honey Granola has over 11 grams of sugar in one portion- more sugar than you’d find in a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut. Even Bran Flakes which are regarded as the plainest, healthiest of cereals have 12 grams of sugar in one portion- almost twice that of a Krispy Kreme. It turns out that cereal doesn’t have to be chocolate-flavoured or brightly coloured to be full of sugar.

  • Refined Carbohydrates- The ‘White’ Stuff

White bread, pasta, rice, etc. These refined carbohydrates turn into sugar very quickly in the body, causing your blood sugar level to rise sharply and then drop, leaving you feeling hungry after only a short amount of time. If you eat a lot of white carbs you might not think you’re eating a lot of sugar, but the effect on the body is similar. Plus, quite often sugar is added to things, especially to baked foods like breads/ bagels; this could lead to you eating sugar you’re unaware of.

  •  Low-fat Yoghurts

    KS_California_strawberry_yogurt
    BrokenSphere via Wikimedia Commons

Another one of my mistakes- always choosing the ‘low-fat’ or ‘low-calorie’ choice. In reality, these aren’t the healthy option, as they are packed with added sugar. Fat-free yoghurts have up to 14 grams of sugar in one serving, more than you’d find in a chocolate mousse and the same amount as in a portion of Haribo jelly sweets.

  • Fruit Juices/ Smoothies

Orange juice contains around  9 grams of sugar per 100 ml, while Coke has 10 grams per 100 ml. Would you drink coke with your breakfast? Obviously not. Orange juice, on the other hand, is largely marketed as healthy, despite their almost identical sugar content. If you have a glass of around 300 ml orange juice, you’re drinking almost 30 grams of sugar and a third of your recommended daily intake.

Smoothies are no better; they’re largely marketed as being super-healthy, a way to get your daily portion of fruit along with numerous vitamins and minerals. In reality, they contain more sugar than anything else. Take Innocent smoothies, branded for being completely natural and, well, innocent.Well, they contain up to 12 grams of sugar in only 100 ml- more sugar than coke. It might be natural sugars, but it is still an exceedingly high amount.

  • Low-Fat Products

Another thing I’m guilty of; thinking I’m being healthy by choosing low-fat desserts or ready-meals. But while they may be low in fat, there is a ton of added sugar in such foods: one Weight Watched Chilli and Wedges ready-meal has nearly 13 grams of sugar, while their desserts have over 23 grams of sugar- the same amount as a bar of Galaxy chocolate. It could be better to have a full-fat treat once in a while, than frequent ‘healthy’ treats, it seems!

  • Alcohol

    en.wikipedia
    en.wikipedia

It’s easy for forget that you’re consuming calories and consequently, sugar, when you’re drinking alcohol, when in fact alcohol is brimming-full of sugar. Beer can contain up to 20 grams of sugar in one pint and a glass of wine can have around 10 grams of sugar. Not to mention cocktails, which are loaded with sugary fruit juice…

  • Packaged Soup and Sauces

Another way you could be eating far more sugar than you realise. Even in savoury sauces and soups, there is a fair amount of added sugar. When looking at many different brands of sweet chilli sauce, one thing is the same: ‘sugar’ is the first thing written on the ingredient list. There is over 6 grams of sugar in one serving, and over 40 grams in 100 grams. In pasta sauces, you can see around 10 grams of sugar in one serving, even in the ‘healthy living’ version.

And then there’s soup- not something you’d think of as sugary. Well, in one can of tomato soup, there are, in fact 20 grams of sugar, and even in the ‘diet’ version there are nearly 10 grams.

  • Cereal Bars

I used to eat tons of cereal bars, thinking they were so healthy, when in fact, some bars have around 20 grams of sugar in them, double that of something like a Kit-Kat. Pretty shocking for something marketed as the ‘healthy’ alternative to a chocolate bar. Plus, if you look at the ingredients list, sugar (and alternatives to sugar: syrup, glucose etc) is always present high-up the list.

tips.stayhealth.xyz
tips.stayhealth.xyz

There are a few easy swaps you can make to your diet to dramatically decrease your sugar intake. Here are some foods which have become a staple in my diet:

  • Oats and oatcakes
  • Rye bread
  • Eggs (mainly for breakfasts to replace sugary cereals)
  • Grains- quinoa, oats, buckwheat, rye, brown rice
  • Protein- chicken, fish, eggs, tofu
  • Avocado
  • Vegetables in the place of fruit.

I have spoken before about easy, healthy food swaps here. It only takes a few smalls changes to make a big difference: swap white for brown, swap fruit for vegetables, swap processed for natural. If you’re like me, you’ll actually find that your diet becomes a lot more varied and interesting; my meals consist of much more flavour-full food now that I’ve replaced the refined carbohydrates with other, more tasty things.

I have found the benefits to be worth the effort; I used to get sharp hunger pangs a couple of hours after breakfast, even feeling shaky if I hadn’t eaten for a little while. This has now changed, and I feel fuller for longer, which is great! And you are safe in the knowledge that you’re filling your body with good stuff; I thought I was already pretty healthy, but it turned out I wasn’t. Now, I honestly feel better for the changes that I’ve made.

Obviously, you still need some sugar in your diet, and it is almost impossible to cut it completely from your diet. But what is important is to make sure the majority of your sugar intake is natural sugars, those found in fruit and vegetables, and to not eat too many processed/ unnatural sugars.

So, if you want to feel healthier, trying making a few small changes and cutting the levels of the sinful white stuff in your diet… even if you’re not chomping down on tons of sweets every day, your diet still might be a lot sweeter than you thought…

ilmonitodelgiardino.it
ilmonitodelgiardino.it

 

 

 

 

Korean Beauty Standards: Another Pressure Point

dailymail.co.uk
blog.asiatown.net

Working in a middle school full of adolescent girls is like being transported back in time to a teenage world of worries, insecurities, and an ever-present wish to change pretty much everything about yourself- hair, skin, body- in fact, if you look for it, you can pretty much find fault with anything, and that’s exactly what teenagers do.

It’s true that on the surface, Korean girls don’t appear as obsessed by their looks as Western girls; they don’t wear any make-up until high school (and even then wear a minimal amount), they don’t wear a lot of jewellery, no hitched-up skirts or high heels, and the ponytail is the only hairstyle I see. However, underneath the surface, these girls have far more disdain for their appearance, and it’s only when talking to them that you realise how incredibly low their self-esteem actually is.

Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon Myrick, via Wikimedia Commons

The way the word ‘ugly’ is thrown around is shocking; it’s a word only really used in England as an insult or as an extreme, and definitely not a word used normally to describe people. In  my opinion, it’s a word which shouldn’t be used at all due to its overwhelmingly negative connotations.

What’s even stranger is the girls’ treatment of other people, especially that of their friends. Here are just a few of the things my students have said about their friends. Oh, and not in a bitchy, behind-their-back way: this is said to their friend’s face:

“Her cheeks are like an apple, they’re so red from pimples.”

“She is quite ugly. She has a square face.”

“She is not pretty and has thick legs.”

It’s so weird to see friends talking about one another in this way, when for me, it’s always been girl code to automatically support your friends when they’re feeling down about themselves: “You’re not ugly”, “No-one can notice the spot on your chin”, “Of course you haven’t put on weight”.

The fact that friends are so quick and happy to insult, and to receive insults from each other without any offence just demonstrates how low their self-esteem actually is; it’s normal for them to be called ‘ugly’ and to accept this as fact, because they believe it.

Surgery2
ryot.org

With such bad views of themselves and how openly they discuss their ‘bad’ looks, it’s no surprise that plastic surgery levels are sky high. According to reports, ‘1 in 77 people’ now have surgery to change their appearance, and ‘20% of women aged 19 to 49 in Seoul admit to going under the knife’. Double eyelid surgery is increasingly popular and is something many of my students have expressed their desire to get done when they’re older. when I see double-eyelid tape and glue in CU convenience stores, it reminds me how the pressure for girls to change their looks is everywhere. 

Of course, the K Pop girls don’t do anything to boost confidence among teenagers- they actually have the opposite effect, and make the girls feel even more inadequate. One K Pop star admitted that she had so much plastic surgery, people no longer recognised her. Pop Dust website also describes how the stars no longer care about keeping their surgery a secret; one girl group, Brown Eyed Girls sang a parody of Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’, called ‘Plastic Face’. Is this a good message to send to impressionable young girls? I think not.

www.georgianewsday.com/news/world/156466-has-plastic-surgery-made-these-korean-beauty-queens-all-look-the-same.html
http://www.georgianewsday.com/news/world

When photos of the 2013 Miss Korea Beauty Pageant finalists were made public, they were criticised by many people who thought the girls had undergone so much surgery that they all looked the same. The desire for surgery was blamed on the desire to look more Western.

Even without resorting to surgery, I’ve witnessed many older girls wearing a lot of make-up, especially eye make-up, to try and look more like the ‘pretty’ girls on TV. Of course, it isn’t just in Korea that celebrities and the media have a damaging effect, it happens everywhere: extreme diets, changing of hair colour, make-up experimentation, fake tans… people trying to transform into someone else. But in Korea, it seems more extreme, perhaps because everyone wants to look the same. This results, as was made clear with the 2013 beauty pageant, in a group of beautiful clones with minimal individuality.

thefw.com
thefw.com

I know that for teenage years, and for many years after, women all over the world use make-up, endless hair and beauty products, and go on fad diets to achieve some sort of ideal. But I feel like pressure on Korea girls is so much worse, and it’s worrying. It seems like all societal expectations of the Western World are magnified in Korea; school pressure is ten-times worse, the pressure on women to find and marry a ‘suitable’ man, and in the same way, the pressure to look good seems so much more extreme than in other countries.

My question (and worry) is ‘when will it stop?’ A lot of Koreans face too much stress in their lives as it is, and beauty is one pressure point too much. Instead of trying to alter their looks, girls should accept who they are and not view themselves with such harsh negativity. I want to shake sense into my students sometimes, to stop them being so down on themselves and make them believe that they are in no way ugly. Teenage years are for having fun, for being with friends and family- not for worrying that you don’t look the same as the celebrities. In fact, I wish I could go back in time and tell my teenage self the same thing… well, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Why South Korean High Schoolers Want Plastic Surgery? Check out their answers here.

Food Swaps- Small Changes To Make A Big Difference

I am a total foodie- I love cooking, going out for meals and trying new things. I also care about being healthy and putting good, clean, fresh food into my body. But despite trying to be healthy the majority of the time, I also hate to deprive myself of things which I love. For this reason, I try to make small changes to make so called ‘naughty’ foods that much healthier.

Here are some of my favourite food alterations which make a big difference, so that  you can enjoy delicious foods completely guilt-free!

  • Spaghetti → Vegetable-etti
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Picture: Jessica Mullen flickr

I swear, the spiralizer must be one of the best inventions ever (for food lovers that is).

The most popular vegetable to spiralize is courgette (zucchini) but you can use most other vegetables if you’d prefer. It is so quick and easy to make, and if you don’t have a spiralizer you can simply cut the vegetable julienne style, or use a peeler to get a similar effect.

This simple food swap makes for a much lower-calorie, low-carb meal, but you can still have the fun of twirling your food onto your fork like spaghetti!

Let’s be honest, most of the taste in a pasta meal comes from the sauce and toppings anyway, right? This way, you can get the same taste for a fraction of the calories. Sounds good to me!

  • Rice → Quinoa
Picture: flickr
Picture: Geoff Peters flickr

Rice is by no means unhealthy, but white rice has a very high GI, meaning that it can causes your sugar levels to rise quickly, but then to crash to a low level, leaving you feeling hungry shortly after you’ve eaten.

The solution? Eat quinoa. Not only does it have a much lower GI, but it also contains more fibre than other grains and up to 8 grams of protein, meaning that it will keep you fuller for much longer.

It is also high in amino acids and it’s gluten free- really, you should be asking why you don’t eat quinoa.

  • Potato → Sweet Potato (and Chips → Sweet Potato Chips)
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Picture: John Blyberg flickr

For me, this is another no-brainer.  Sweet potatoes not only have much more flavour than plain potatoes, but they have many added health benefits.  They’re high in Vitamins (200 grams of sweet potato has more than twice your daily recommended intake for Vitamin A and half of your Vitamin C) and contain high levels of iron, magnesium and potassium.

Oh and despite having more taste than regular potatoes, sweet potatoes actually contain fewer calories and lower levels of carbs. Plus, as they are high in fibre, they will keep you fuller longer.

So next time you’re buying potatoes, go for the sweet version- you won’t regret it!

  • Burgers/ Sandwich Wraps → Lettuce Wraps
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Picture:  Steven Depolo flickr

This is one of my favourite methods to make a meal instantly healthier while saving the taste: it is the easiest way to save on hundreds of calories and to make your meal carb-free at the same time.

By taking away the bread part of the meal, you lose none of the delicious taste of the filling, and you’ll lose that bloated feeling you get afterwards. Plus you still get the feeling of eating a real burger/sandwich because it’s still wrapped up nicely in lettuce.

Try it and believe me, you won’t regret it.

  • Crisps → Vegetable Crisps
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Picture: rjp flickr

If you are a snacker and can’t resist the temptation of crisps, this is another easy substitution to save calories and load up on nutrients.

Veggie crisps are lower calorie, lower fat versions of the classic potato snack, but they still give you the same satisfaction.

The most popular version at the moment is Kale Crisps, which contain as few as 100 calories per bag, are gluten free and of course, full of vitamins and minerals.

To make this snack even healthier, make it yourself! Simply slice up your favourite veggies thinly, drizzle them with olive oil, add any seasoning (although watch it with the salt!) and then bake them in the oven until they’re crispy. Adding chilli is a favourite of mine because it gives the crisps a little kick. Mmmm.

  • Fizzy Drinks → Sparkling Water + Fruit
Lemonade_(Lime_version)
Picture:  Michael Fludkov common.wikimedia

Ok, so we all know how unhealthy fizzy drinks are- full of added sugar, artificial sweeteners, too much caffeine and additives- and the sugar-free versions are just as bad for you.

I used to be a diet-coke addict, until I realised that it was giving me headaches and wreaking havoc with my sugar levels. So, I  made a change.

I know that sparkling water on it’s own isn’t the most pleasant thing, but honestly once I got used to it, I began to enjoy it. Plus, adding some lemon, lime or any other fruit of your choice adds so much flavour that it actually becomes pleasant to drink!

Top tip- chop up the fruit/s of your choice and put them in a pitcher of sparkling water for about an hour for the flavour to fully develop. Keep the pitcher in the fridge so it’s nice and cool when you drink it.

Whether you want to cut out the empty calories from drinking too much soda, or avoid the unhealthy additives, this is the easy solution for you.

  • Tuna + Mayonnaise → Tuna + Avocado
Picture: nomnompaleo
Picture: nomnompaleo

Regular mayonnaise is full of unhealthy fats- nearly 80 g per 100 grams and high in calories- over 700 kcal in 100 grams.

Avocado on the other hand has less than 200 kcal in 100 grams and less than 20 g of fat. If this doesn’t already persuade you, then you should know that avocados are full of healthy fats, a good source of protein and fibre, and are low in sugar.

So how about next time you fancy tuna mayonnaise, mix the tuna with some avocado instead- you will get the same creamy texture and rich taste, but minus the unwanted fat and calories.

  • Tuna + Mayonnaise → Tuna + Natural/ Greek Yoghurt
Picture: en.wikipedia
Picture: en.wikipedia

For anyone who doesn’t like avocados, here is another easy substitution for the dreaded mayonnaise.

Find a natural/ Greek yoghurt to mix with your tuna instead. Yoghurt contains less than 130 kcal per 100 grams but will still provide the same texture that mayonnaise does.

Just make sure you don’t buy a yoghurt which has too much added sugar; go for as natural as you can!

  • Deep-fried Spring Rolls → Rice Wrap Rolls
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Picture: Vanessa Do flickr

There’s no denying that spring rolls are delicious, but because they’re deep-fried the calorie value automatically increases.

An easy way to counter this? Go for rice-wrap rolls instead. This way, you can still enjoy the taste and delightful fillings but for half the calories (and less fat content too).

Finally, a way to enjoy takeaway guilt-free!

  • Ice Cream → Banana Ice Cream
Picture: en.wikipedia
Picture: en.wikipedia

Ok, this takes a little effort, but only a little, I promise. And the easy subsitution means that you can enjoy ice cream which is low-calorie, low-fat and low-sugar, which is pretty amazing in my opinion.

All you have to do is cut up some bananas and freeze them. When they’re frozen, blend them- this can take a little time, but persevere, it’s worth it in the end! When they have blended into a creamy mix, simply mix in whatever other ingredients you like! Peanut butter, cacao powder, cinnamon, fruit, honey, nutella (if you’re feeling a bit naughty).

Voilla! Healthy ice cream… who would’ve thought it!

  • Flavoured Yoghurt → Plain/ Greek Yoghurt with Fruit/ Cinnamon/ Cacao
Picture: en.wikipedia
Picture: en.wikipedia

Shop-bought yoghurt can be full of sugar, artificial flavourings, additives, etc. So, why not buy natural yoghurt and flavour it yourself? It couldn’t be easier.

Buy some natural yoghurt (as I said before, make sure there isn’t loads of added sugar) and then simply add what you like. If you’re a cinnamon lover like myself, I would recommend this for a start! It adds delicious flavour to the yoghurt, but it’s much healthier and lower in calories.

If you have the time, you can also add fruit a little in advance so that the flavour properly sinks in. Another quick, easy option for a healthy dessert.

  • Milkshakes → Yoghurt/ Fruit Shakes
Picture: en.wikipedia
Picture: en.wikipedia

Yes, it’s tempting sometimes when you walk past a McDonald’s or a cafe and you really fancy a refreshing milkshake, but you just know how calorific and full of sugar and fat they are.

So, why don’t you make your own healthy version? Use yoghurt or milk instead of ice cream, real fruit instead of flavoured syrups, and you can even add your own touches such as honey or peanut butter if you wish.

This way, not only do you avoid the rubbish, but you can actually increase your fruit intake. It’d be a crime not to…

These are some of my favourite ways to avoid over-indulging and to still enjoy my favourite foods.

And I have one last tip which works in numerous different recipes to substitute sugar- use my favourite new ingredient, the increasingly popular Stevia. While I’ve found that in it’s powder form it can have a bit of an odd after-taste, there is a liquid version which is just amazing.

now_foods_stevia_drops
Picture: bh.steviadomain

I mainly use this to add to my porridge but you can use it however you like- add it to baking, coffee, smoothies, whatever you like. It’s available from www.iherb.com, and comes in many different flavours. In case you were wondering, vanilla and cinnamon is my favourite!

I hope this has given you some ideas of how to make your food healthier and cut back on calories, but not on flavour. Happy eating! 

Beauty: The Eternal Question

Picture: instantcinema.over-blog
instantcinema.over-blog
20120406074514Miranda-Kerr-Picture
irishcentral
Halle_Berry_10
en.wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grace Kelly. Miranda Kerr. Halle Berry. What do these three have in common? They are all famously beautiful women, celebrated for their incredible good looks, idolised by millions.

Beauty is everywhere, and it is something which plagues everyone in one way or another. It is an ever-present issue in society, even more so now due to social media: filtered images on Instagram, the rise of the selfie (or belfie if you’d prefer), Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter the list goes on. Millions of people trying to put their beauty out there for the world to see by posting flattering, posed photos. Social media also means that there are more images than ever of beautiful celebrities out there on display, serving only to make people feel inadequate about themselves.

The real question which bothers me is ‘what is beauty’. It is something which has such a presence in our lives, yet what actually is it? It is ever changing, that’s for sure: take weight, for example- hundreds of years ago, oversize women were considered beautiful, but fast-forward to the noughties and the image of beauty has completely changed into being an emaciated size-zero.

Everybody has different ideas of beauty: which do you think more attractive, curvaceous blonde bombshell Marilyn or skinny elegant Audrey?

GPI KathyChat Audrey Hepburn
Picture: greatplacesinc
Barris_Marilyn_Monroe
Picture: en.wikipedia

So if beauty is a subjective thing, then why are we always trying to better ourselves? Why do people continually strive towards something which is so artificial and unreliable: for what could one moment be considered beautiful could change instantly.

What made me start thinking about this was moving to Korea. The reason? I have been called beautiful more times during the past 18 months than the past 24 years in England. And before you think this is a completely arrogant statement I want to say that it is not by any means just me- every Western girlfriend of mine has received the same treatment. It is an almost daily compliment from students, and not only from people we know but from random people you meet in the street or in shops. In England, this would only happen if you were a supermodel, or perhaps a Mila Kunis lookalike. In Korea, it’s simply because you’re Western.

I’m under no illusion that my looks are in any way special, it just happens to be that some of my features are those wich Korean people desire, and so their automatic reaction is to think you’re good looking. The same thing happens with my boyfriend; he is over six foot, and as this is something which the Koreans greatly admire, he is continually noticed and called handsome.

It is exactly this treatment which has made me realise what a strange and pointless thing beauty is. In many ways it’s just a projection of our own insecurities, where we are conditioned to find features which we don’t have as beautiful.

Picture: en.wikipedia
Picture: en.wikipedia

It’s no secret that plastic surgery levels are sky high in Korea. It has been stated that one in five Korean women get surgery, and it is apparent that many more want to have it. My students who are only 12 years old openly discuss their desire to get double-eyelid surgery when they’re older. With double eyelid glue and tape being sold, not only in cosmetic stores but convenience stores such as CU, it’s no surprise that girls feel the pressure to change their looks.

I also find it shocking and disturbing how quickly my teenage students call themselves, and their friends for that matter, ‘ugly’. It is clear that self esteem among girls is at an all time low, and why? Because their idea of beauty goes against the inherent image of their race. Many of the K Pop singers and celebrities look almost Western because they have had so much surgery, and this is the image which younger girls strive towards.

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Picture: en.wikipedia

From a Westerners point of view? I see so many things which are enviable about Korean girls: perfect, even skin tone, thick glossy hair, their naturally slim figures and incredibly fast metabolisms (which I am so jealous of by the way). So this just proves my point; we quite often just seem to want what we don’t have.

So, what’s my point to all this? I guess being here has just made me realise just how subjective beauty is. It is always changing, over time and between different cultures. Skinny, curvy, blonde, brunette, pale, tanned, tall, short, made-up, natural. Beauty is little more than just another trend which people follow. And what one person finds beautiful, another will find ugly.

So when I see people here, almost brainwashed into thinking one thing is beautiful, it just seem absolutely ridiculous. There isn’t only one type of beauty, so stop trying to conform, to follow the crowd, to change yourself into something that you’re not. Instead, it’s time to ignore the pressures of society and to appreciate your own looks, to feel comfortable in your own skin.

Most importantly, remember that there are far more important things in life which are lasting and real. Beauty is just an illusion, and what is thought to be beautiful one moment could change the next.

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Picture: forums.tcm

 

 

“A woman is beautiful when she’s loved, and only then”.

Mr Skeffington.