When it’s cold in the evening, there’s nothing better than a warming dessert. Well, actually, perhaps the best thing is a guilt-free warming dessert. I’m a huge fan of apple pie, apple crumble, apple strudel, basically anything apple-flavoured. But, it wouldn’t be too healthy to eat these every night. And let’s face it- the best part of these puddings is the sweet apple filling. So I decided to recreate my favourite apple desserts, minus the unhealthy pastry part.
What was I left with? A completely innocent apple treat, which you can enjoy any night of the week. After all, according to that famous saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away…
Here is the recipe for my sin-free stewed apples. Simple, quick and delicious (I apologize for the lack of photos, I got too excited whilst cooking/ eating to remember to take any).
Ingredients (for 2 or 3 servings):
Apples- 4 large
Water- 150 ml
Cinnamon- 2 large tablespoons
Brown sugar/ Honey/ Sweetener- 2 large tablespoons.
1) Peel the apples and chop them into small chunks
2) Put them in a large pan, and sprinkle on the cinnamon and sugar/ sweetener/ honey.
3) Pour on the water- it doesn’t look like a lot, but it is enough once it has started cooking. If you need, you can always add more later.
4) Turn the heat on high until the water is boiling high up the pan and covering the apples.
5) Turn down the heat slightly, but make sure the water is still bubbling enough to cook all of the apples. Cook at this temperature for about 15 minutes, or until your apples are soft.
6) Take the apples off the heat. You can serve as they are, or if you prefer a softer texture (as I do), mash with a fork or potato masher, until they are at the consistency you desire.
If you want to make the dessert a little naughtier, add a topping like custard, ice cream, peanut butter, whatever you desire! Or, eat alone for the perfect, warming, healthy dessert. It couldn’t be easier.
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:
The 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.
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!
I’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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
Eggs (mainly for breakfasts to replace sugary cereals)
Grains- quinoa, oats, buckwheat, rye, brown rice
Protein- chicken, fish, eggs, tofu
Vegetables in the place of fruit.
I have spoken before about easy, healthy food swapshere. 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…
In the past month, there’s been a distinct change in season; evenings are darker, the temperature has dropped by about 10 degrees, and I’ve gone from wearing sandals and skirts to covering up with a coat, gloves and scarf. I’m only one pair of wellies and a thermal vest away from my full-on winter gear.
Still, Autumn is a great time of year, when the temperatures aren’t arctic yet, and you can enjoy the beautiful colours of the trees before winter kills them off completely. And how can you make a chilly autumn evening even better? By making a nice bowl of hearty, warming pumpkin soup, that’s how!
This is one of my favourite recipes; it’s quick, easy, and extremely healthy- the perfect thing to warm you up on a cold evening. The pumpkin makes the soup velvety and thick, while the corn adds a bit of texture and gives it almost a creamy taste. Delicious. Even better, there is so much flavour from the vegetables that you don’t have to bother adding loads of herbs and spices, which makes the process ever simpler.
(Oh, and if you’re not a fan of pumpkin or find them hard to find, you can substitute them with butternut squash.)
1 Pumpkin, around 1 kg
2 Large Onions
1 Tin of Sweetcorn (or fresh corn if you can get it)
2 Large Carrots
Chicken/ Beef Stock (around 800 ml depending on how thick you like your soup)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1) Chop up the onions into small chunks and saute in the olive oil until they’re soft and tender.
2)Chop up the pumpkin and carrots into chunks and put in a large saucepan. Add the corn and then the onions.
3) Pour in your stock until it is just covering the vegetables. (You can add more or less water depending on how thick you like your soup. I prefer to add less at the start, and thin later if needed.
4)Bring the water to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft (the pumpkin should be almost mushy).
5) Blend everything. When the soup is ready, add salt and pepper to taste. If you would like to add cream, add some now and then re-heat the soup.
And there you have it…a minimal effort recipe with maximum taste. Perfect.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
“A woman is beautiful when she’s loved, and only then”.