Category Archives: advice

Eating Out- without breaking the diet

Over the years whenever I have started a diet or healthy eating plan I find myself extremely determined and aggressive at the beginning, meal prep and enthusiastic organisation takes over when the determination is strong. Inevitably along the way, like most of us, life catches up and we find ourselves at the office without lunch as the kids were running late for school and there just wasn’t enough time, or getting home late from work with no dinner planned. This is usually the part where we give in to ordering takeaway, allowing the cravings for pizza and carbs to consume us. If we look at eating out in a different light, perhaps those crazy days of no meal planning won’t result in diet ruin.

  1. Know Before You Order

Practically everything is available online these days, and this includes calorie information for your favourite go-to takeaway restaurants. Before placing your order, quickly check out the portions and the calories in order to make an informed decision.

  1. Substitute More Greens

Most restaurants offer a standard side dish that includes carb-driven chips, rice, or potatoes. Although alluring, next time your main entrée includes a side, opt in for a greener vegetable instead. If you are getting Indian cuisine delivered to the office, perhaps a side of curried spinach or a house salad with your lamb Dhansak to complete your delivery order.

  1. Portions Are Everything

It is not rocket science; the portions you receive from most takeaway places are much more than what you would prepare at home. This is particularly tricky when a restaurant posts calorie information “per serving”, which is often half of what is in your container. If you are given a mountain of food, immediately portion it out and put the other half away – out of sight, out of mind.

  1. Eat Slowly

Listen to your mother – don’t wolf down your meal! We get it: you are hungry. The faster you shovel in the food, the slower you have time to digest and “feel” how satisfied you are. In obvious terms, this results in overeating. Another useful tip is to stop for a glass of water here and there – not only does water play a vital role in your diet, it also fills you up!

  1. Modifications Are Your Friend

Most restaurants allow order customisation in order to accommodate diet and allergy requests. This can include ingredient substituting or omission, preparation methods, and sauce selection. If possible, ask your restaurant if they are willing to swap the double cream for a lighter dairy or the sodium-based sauce for a lighter dressing. Simple switches can help more than you know!

Since I started my Slimming World journey in August this year I have learned that it is all about making the right choices. You can have the takeaway or dine out in a nice restaurant but you do need to be aware of what is on offer and what is the best option while still treating yourself at the same time. Do not be afraid of asking for the dressings to be separate, or asking for a salad instead of the normal carb filled sides. Eating out with friends and family, or even a weekend takeaway needn’t be the end to your healthy eating plan. Look at the menus beforehand so you are aware of what is going to be available and know what you are going to order before you get there. With takeaways such as  Indian or Chinese opt for plain boiled rice instead of fried rice, order a side of vegetables and have a smaller portion of anything that is seriously going to knock you off your diet and help you stay on track.

Eating out should not be the death sentence to your diet goals. Following these few simple suggestions will rid you of any takeaway or dining out guilt and keep you on track.

My tips on preparing your teen for University

My eldest baby left us on 12th September this year to start his university adventures. I didn’t want to write about it straight away ( or before) as my head was literally all over the place with a huge mixture of emotions. Yes I was unbelievably proud of him, but I was, as most mum’s would be, absolutely terrified that he wasn’t going to cope! It was so hard to leave him there on his joining weekend although we are lucky enough to be relatively close enough to go there for a day visit- which we did the next day to take him for a final family meal before leaving him properly.

last-meal-pic-with-conor

Almost a month into his new independent life and I am super pleased to say that he is not only coping very well but he is also loving his new found freedom. He has done several weekly shops now ( he loves the fact that he has an Aldi near him) and also done a few clothes washes too…………….this probably amazes me the most. He has also got himself a part time promotions job as well so is now earning a few extra pounds here and there to boost his weekly spending amount.

We had discussed the importance for him to maybe look for a part time job to subsidise his money as we as parents are not in a position financially to heavily subsidise him on a weekly or monthly basis. He is a sensible boy money wise as both my boys have been taught to save for the more expensive things that they have wanted over the years, but they also are shrewd enough to buy dvd’s/ older video games pre-owned from places like CEX and Game to make their money go further.

When my son initially discussed going to uni my husband and I did worry hugely about the financial side of things until it was explained at one of the uni talks that he could apply for possible bursary and loans etc that were means tested. Thankfully my son fell within that particular category however, I know other parents have had to look at other methods of supporting their child such as personal loans, savings and even equity release in order to support and subsidise their teen as necessary.

In a very short period of time I have come to realise that:

  • they will not starve!
  • they will eventually find the launderette
  • they will learn very quickly that their money does NOT last
  • they will cope because they have too

So here is a few of my top tips that you can help prepare your teen for living away at uni

*Teach them a few simple dishes to cook. My son is a very plain eater but he could at least cook pizza, cook eggs and bacon, cook chicken breasts properly and make sure he wasn’t going to get food poisoning!

*show them which of their clothes can go into the washing machine together and that their precious white t-shirt does not go in with their black jeans.

*one of the best things we did when setting up his student account was to keep his normal current account open so he could agree a weekly amount he could transfer on a weekly Standing Order from his student loan account into his current account. That way he has an agreed weekly amount he needs to manage on without the fear of dipping into his loan unnecessarily and whittling away at the money without realising.

*get them used to normal security measures ie: make sure before they go away they are used to always taking house keys with them everywhere-even if you are going to be home when they get in. If they are used to always taking their keys when  going out they stand less chance of losing/ forgetting to take keys when they are at uni…………..sounds silly but uni’s charge the students a fortune to replace lost keys!!

*take them with you when buying all their essentials to take with them, that way they know exactly what they have with them and they don’t waste money buying things when they get to uni that they already have tucked away in a cupboard!

* teach them to self medicate when they feel unwell. My boys have been doing this since their early teens and have a very sensible approach to over the counter medications. They know how and when they can take things like paracetamol/ ibruprofen and how often, cough mixture, hayfever tablets etc. YOU WOULD BE VERY SURPRISED HOW MANY TEENS DO NOT KNOW THE BASICS!

I could go on but those are a at least a few of the basic necessities to getting your teen ready for their independent uni adventure. If you have boys they will tell you that they wont be calling everyday, but what they don’t realise that they will find themselves texting you to check things about the cooking, the washing machines, their food shopping without actually realising that they are doing it………………………………………so do not fret THEY WILL KEEP IN TOUCH!

How to Prepare for Your Driving Test: Top 5 Tips

Having been a qualified driving instructor ( until my illness took over) I know how difficult it can be for anyone to transition from a provisional to a full driving licence, the driving test itself can often be a very daunting prospect. Both the theory test and practical test are actually very straightforward, but the pressure often makes these tests more difficult than they should be. My son has recently passed his theory test and hopefully will do his practical test quite soon ( when he gets a break from uni).

So, If you’re taking a driving test soon, these next five tips will help you prepare better in no time.

Take Advantage of Online Mock Driving Tests

There are many ways you can prepare for a driving theory test. You can read one of the available books on the UK driving test and learn more about the highway code and other knowledge. You can also use the tests at the end of those books to practice. The best way to prepare for the actual test, however, is to take a mock test online. I always advised my pupils to do what they think will be enough ( especially with teenagers!) and then do lots more!

There are a lot of sites that offer mock driving theory tests for you to try. Taking the online tests will help you prepare for the actual test mentally too, which is why it’s the best way to get ready. You can learn from your mistakes more effectively this way.

Timing the Test

Never take a driving test at a time when you feel stressful. For instance, you shouldn’t take a driving test on the same week as a school exam or any other stressful events in life. You have all the time in the world to get the driving license you need, so time your test correctly.

Get Enough Sleep

As mentioned before, it’s the pressure of taking the test that often make you fail. The test itself is very easy to handle. It is very normal to be nervous, but do not allow the nerves to take over, think of all the people already driving on the road they have all had to pass the test! To avoid feeling stressed on the day of the actual test, get enough sleep the night before. You should also avoid drinking too much coffee (or worse, energy drinks) before the test. The high level of caffeine will make you feel more agitated than usual.

Get There Early

Arrive at the test centre early. There is nothing worse and more off putting than rushing through the test centre doors with only minutes to spare.  Give yourself at least 20 minutes to get used to the test environment and catch your breath. You will feel so much better when the test starts and you’ll have no trouble at all passing the test with flying colours.

Getting to the test centre early will also help you prepare for the test mentally. Take deep breaths and visualise completing the test. Be positive about it and you’ll feel so much better – and so much more prepared – for the driving test. The examiners are normal people ( I know it’s hard to believe!), they are not there to fail you I promise.

Take the Necessary Documents

Last but not least, make sure you have the right documents with you. Most of the time, you need your driving license and your theory test pass certificate. Don’t wait until right before you leave for the test centre to prepare these documents. Have them ready the night before. If you do not have the appropriate documents you will not be able to take the test, so please be prepared.

You are allowed to bring someone to the test. If your child is taking their driving test, it is always a good idea to go with them and sit in the back of the car during the practical test. You’ll be providing a lot of moral support and your kids will have an easier time in general.

If you have a specific tip that helped you on the day of your test please share it with us as it could help someone else who is feeling very nervous about their upcoming test.

The benefit of a bedroom upgrade

With the summer season now well and truly here, (although no sign of any summer weather yet) there is no better time to refresh the bedroom and it makes sense to ensure ultimate comfort for those nights when it is too humid and nothing but the window and fan will let you get some sleep. My bedroom is up two storey’s in a Dorma loft conversion so when the weather does heat up it can get rather humid and uncomfortable.

bed pic for post

Clearly, the main attraction of the bedroom is the bed itself, so this should be at the forefront of any update ideas. It is the type of purchase that only needs to be undertaken every few years, so getting it right is everything, although in all fairness once you have invested in a good bed frame it would normally be only the mattress you change unless you are having a decorative overhaul.

One way to make your bedroom classier and more elegant is to change to a leather bed. Leather beds are some of the best looking bed frames around, and add a look of sophistication to any room. Not only eye-catching, but it is also incredibly pleasing to touch – leather really gives a sense of luxury at any time of the year. Bedstar offer a great range of leather beds, and with a range to fit a variety of budgets, upgrading is cheaper than you’d expect. Their range incorporates numerous different styles and sizes, including single leather beds, small double leather beds, double leather beds and king-size leather beds. The variety on offer at Bedstar is also impressive. For those who want to spend less money ( or are on a budget), the faux leather option is very stylish, it’s the same quality and presentation is available at a lesser price, using high-quality materials for luxury on a budget.

As well as traditional beds, they also offer modern luxuries such as the TV bed. This clever piece of technology means that the television is hidden until it is called upon – at which point a remote control or push button means that it is revealed at the end of the bed to be used. Now I know for certain that both my teenage boys would love a bed with a hidden television, however, I know for a fact they would never get out of bed if we actually had one!

There are numerous other techniques available for a good-value bedroom upgrade. One simple trick is to add plants. Adding plant life to any room adds personality, whilst being a natural air filter all year round. Also, certain types such as the peace lily are easy to care for and can reduce stress. Another way of adding a personal touch to a room is to add some artwork, it doesn’t have to be expensive and could be by a favourite artist, or even an attempt by yourself but it really can add some real character, making the room feel homely and gives a chance to show off your unique taste style to any visitors.

I love to see how others choose to decorate their homes and looking online is a great source of inspiration. Some people can be so creative and ingenious when it comes to styling their homes and can give some of us less bold types the chance to see and maybe try some new and fabulous designs we may never have thought of ourselves.

So where o you get your home decor inspiration from?

 

*Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

 

 

 

‘Papa Don’t Teach’ – Would you teach your teen to drive?

Now if you asked me this a few years ago my answer would have definitely have been yes, that would have been because I was then working as a qualified Driving Instructor as a job and obviously had a suitable car which had duel controls. In fact it was something I was really looking forward too. I no longer work as a driving instructor due to my long term illness and so I am now looking at it purely from a parent’s point of view.

Therefore,if you ask me that question today, the answer is a resounding NO! In fact, just today I have booked him to start his lessons with a reputable company and instructor. Many of you will think this is madness to throw all that money away on lessons even though I feel I could teach him no problem but I would only do so in a suitable car with duel controls, believe me I speak from experience that learner drivers  try to kill you on a daily basis when they are only starting.

Then throw into the mix that you are the parent. You know, the parent who see’s that they live like a slob, cannot cook for themselves and that they NEVER do as you ask them to do. Then you expect them to listen to you just because you are going to teach them to drive in your precious family car…………….RECIPE FOR DISASTER RIGHT THERE PEOPLE.

As a previously qualified instructor, I went through rigorous training so that I learned very quickly that a teen learner driver will take everything you say literally, so do not be shocked when you tell them to turn right and they end up in someone’s driveway ( because they didn’t realise you meant ‘the next right’), or that they cause you whiplash as you told them to slow down so they slam the brakes on because they thought they had to stop right there and not at the give way at the approaching junction. These mistakes are easily dealt with when you, as an instructor can take control of the car to ensure you do not get whiplash or cause an accident and therefore have the patience of a saint!

As a rule instructor DO NOT shout at their students however, as a parent driving my family car with my learner teen at the wheel I can see where parents teaching their own teens is a much more stressful situation. Instructors have a certain way of explaining things, we have been through our training sessions where our ‘instructors playing trainees’ will take everything you say literally and believe me as an instructor you learn VERY quickly what NOT to say to a learner. Come on most of you will have seen Sky’s Driving School of Mum and Dad where they draw on Sandra Dodson’s experience, who also is former deputy chief driving examiner at DSA, Driving Standards Agency to point out how things should be done.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of how much driving lessons cost and I can see as a parent I can see how you could question how or why they cost what they do. Then just look at it from the other side, that instructor has undertaking the rigorous training programme ( and believe me not everyone is cut out for the job!). They are also providing a suitable learner car complete with dual controls for the safety of your teen, themselves and other road users ( something that you could not even contemplate pricing on insurance). Your teen learns in the correct way at their own pace ( as everyone can learn differently) and then they have the same car to take their test in so everything is also familiar to them. The instructor will have visuals to explain any manoeuvre they need to learn  and teach them the safe way of completing it ( don’t forget a parent may have been driving for 20 years and have an huge repertoire of bad driving habits that they could automatically pass on).

So before you take the plunge just take a look at this video produced by Carfused.com after a recent survey of how a stressed learner is a very distracted learner. Also look at how the Dad instructs his daughter as opposed to how Sandra does……

Papa Don’t Teach- Carfused

So take it from me, someone who has been trained to actually do the instructor’s job and just think twice before letting your little prince or princess into your precious family car with no dual controls and then expecting them to A) listen to you and B) not misinterpret what you actually want them to do. Look at the cost of the lessons overall, and then the cost of possibly replacing your car (if they are unfortunate enough to cause an accident) and then the insurance premiums afterwards………………………..I know which I would prefer!!

Have you taught your teens to drive? I would love to hear about your experience.