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5 books that could change your life….

It might have seemed like a dream career to many, and it was something that I dreamt about as a kid, but professional football can be a cruel career at times, and I had been on the wrong end of 1 to many cut throat decisions that had left me despising the industry and wanting to take control of my own life. So here I am, 3 years later with my own business in an industry that I am passionate about, helping people better their lives through physical exercise and nutrition.

I have no experience in business, I have 10 GCSE’s, no A levels, no degree, I haven’t even had a ‘proper’ job. All my life I have kicked a ball and got paid to do so. My main credentials though are hard work, passion and have optimism in abundance. However, that being said, I still had to think long and hard about waving goodbye to an easy salary in the prime of my career to start something completely from scratch. It was with the help of these books that made the process clearer for me….

Read More

Chickpea Tikka Masala!

Chickpeas are a great alternative to meat as they are filling and high in protein! This delicious curry is quick to make – if you want to add in chicken replacements you could add in vegan quorn found in most supermarkets.

Serves 4 

1 tbsp light olive oil

1 large red onion, cut into large dice

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into large dice

1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into large dice

150g cauliflower, cut into small florets

4 tbsp tikka masala spice pasta

2 400g cans chickpeas drained and rinsed

400g can chopped tomatoes

400ml can coconut milk

Sea salt and pepper

Coriander leaves to garnish

Chapattis or rice to serve!

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and pinch of salt, and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened – tip the peppers and cook for 1 minute

Add the cauliflower and tikka masala pasta and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Next. Put in the chickpeas, tomatoes, 100ml water and half the an of coconut milk. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, season to taste and simmer for 15 minutes.

Pour in the remaining coconut milk and cook for a further 5 minutes, Serve sprinkle with coriander with your choice of accompaniment.

🙂

 

Mushroomy VEGAN Mac ‘N’ Cheese!

Thinking of going Vegan? Or maybe you can’t eat diary or are cutting down and can’t bear the thought of giving up your favourite winter comfort dishes – look no further! This is without a doubt the BEST vegan Mac ‘n’ cheese you will ever taste – with absolutely no dairy in! I can’t take credit for this delicious recipe – Lucy Watson’s cook book is full of great vegan dishes, I will post my favourites on the website to share with you all! Give this recipe a go and fool all the family!

Serves 6

500g dried macarooni

40g dried mushrooms (I used normal mushrooms as couldn’t find dried – and the 40g is a rough estimate is doesn’t matter too much)

2 tbsp vegan butter (loads of options in all supermarkets – I stick to non-soya ones such as sunflower or coconut oil)

250g chestnut mushrooms

2 garlic cloves

1 tbsp thyme leaves

Sea salt and pepper

For the Bechamel sauce

50g vegan butter

3 tbsp plain flour

800ml almond milk

1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

4tbsp nutritional yeast (this can be found in most health stores – I know the one in Thame next to Waitrose sells it, also in Ocado, and on amazon – If you are diary free I strongly recommend buying some it is great stirred into pasta sauces, or added  to curry for a cheesy taste!)

200g vegan cheddar cheese grated (VIOLIFE found in Tesco or Waitrose is the best)

50g vegan parmesan grated  (again found in most Tescos, Waitrose, Thame health shop, or Ocado)

For the topping 

40g vegan parmesan cheese grated

2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

METHOD

Preheat oven to 220 degrees. Cook the macaroni in boiling, salted water according the the packet instructions. Darin in a colander and refresh under cold water until cold.

Put the dried mushrooms in a small heatproof bowl – pour 15oml boiling water over them and leave them to rehydrate for 15 mins – drain the mushrooms from the liquid, reserving it for the bechamel sauce. Roughly chop the mushrooms (I missed this part out as couldn’t find dried mushrooms so just used added more mushrooms at a later stage!)

Melt the butter in  non-stick frying pan over a high heat. When hot, add the wild mushrooms, chestnut mushrooms garlic and thyme. Cook for 5-8 minutes until the mushrooms have browned well. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

To make the bechamel sauce, put a large saucepan over a medium heat, then add the butter and stir until melted. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Whisk in the milk, and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens, then lower the heat and add the remaining ingredients. Stir until the cheese has completely melted. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. (I used an electric whisk here  – if the sauce isn’t thick enough/too thick just add in some extra of flour or milk – I played around with the quantities a little until I had a nice thick but runny cheesy sauce)

Add the mushrooms and macaroni to the saucepan with the sauce and stir well until everything is evenly coated in the sauce. Transfer to a deep 25 x 30 cm ovenproof dish.

Mix the topping ingredients together and sprinkle over the macaroni. Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and crunchy.

I served with some green vegetables 🙂

Enjoy!!

Go to quick meals…

Wouldn’t it all be great if we had hours on end to cook delicious meals from scratch every evening? Unfortunately this is not the case for many of us and we often have 20 minutes to whip up something for the family!

Here is a list of my quick go to meals or easy lunches if you are taking on our meatless month challenge..

Veggie burgers– there are lots of recipes for homemade veggie burgers but these can be time consuming and often involve a lot of ingredients. However, supermarkets do some great veggie burgers and sausages. My favourite are strong roots kale and quinoa burgers – you can buy these from Waitrose. These are great with roasted veg and green veg, a salad or with rice or quinoa. I have these most days for my lunch and Steve loves them too! Tesco also do some great beetroot burgers from the fresh section – really tasty and filling. GOSH! burgers are also great- they have all sorts of burgers and can be found in Tesco, Ocado and I think Aldi!. There are so many options in the frozen section but just make sure to read the ingredients – some of them are filled with so many additions they barely have any vegetables in them! Try and stick to ones with wholesome, vegetable based ingredients.

Pasta– Who doesn’t love pasta? Carb heaven! There are some great pasta alternatives out there if you fancy a carb loaded meal but don’t want to eat white pasta. Chickpea pasta, brown rice pasta, red lentil pasta – the possibilities are endless! They can be found in most supermarkets, I know Waitrose, Ocado and Tesco do them. Amazon is also a great place to get all sorts from! I order nut butter, edamame and chickpea pasta from there. Whip up a quick tomato sauce filled with veg and spices – mix with pesto or make a big pasta bake for the family!

Mexican bean wraps– Another great one for lunches for quick dinners. Yummy wraps filled with a bean mix – smothered in guacamole,salsa and salad and served with sweet potato wedges!

To make the mix simply cook all of the below ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 60g Cheddar cheese (optional/ Vegan cheese)
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon tomato puree
  • 1 400g tin plum tomatoes
  • 1 400g tin red kidney beans

You wont even notice the lack of meat and the kids will love them!

Noodles-  If are going the full wack and trying out Veganism then there are lots of egg free noodle alternatives available! A tasty noodle dish is another quick and easy dinner to whip up. There are so many recipes you can find. I usually fry a load of veg, add some ginger, garlic and sweet chilli sauce, mix in the noodles, squeeze of lime juice and sprinkle some roasted peanuts on top! Delicious!

 

 

Snickers Bar!

Who doesn’t love snickers! Delicious caramel, biscuit base, crunchy peanut butter! This weekend I whipped up a slightly healthier version of a snickers bar, gluten free and vegan! They were the perfect weekend treat and kids would love them too!

I got the recipe from a recipe developer from social media known as ‘Healthy living James’. Definitely worth checking out if you need some recipes!

Ingredients for base:

  • 200g cashews
  • 200g gluten free rolled oats
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup

Ingredients for the middle “snickers” layer:

  • 250g medjool dates (roughly 235g pitted weight)
  • 4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Handful of jumbo peanuts, unsalted
  • Pinch of salt

Ingredients for the chocolate topping:

  • 6 heaped tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 75g cacao powder

METHOD:

  1. Firstly pit the dates and place in a bowl of boiling water for roughly 10 minutes to soften
  2. Add all the base ingredients into a food processor and blend until the base forms
  3. Now line a baking tray with baking paper (I use a 10×8 tray as its the perfect size)
  4. Add the base mix to the tray and push down until your desired thickness
  5. Place in the freezer whilst the dates are still softening
  6. Once the dates have softened add all the “snickers” middle ingredients to a blender and whiz until smooth
  7. Take the base out the freezer and evenly layer the “snickers” mix on top
  8. Add the jumbo peanuts across the top and push them in slightly. Add back to the freezer whilst making the chocolate topping
  9. Now over a bain-marie add the melted coconut oil (I melt mine in the microwave to speed it up) along with the maple syrup. Gently whisk in the cacao powder bit by bit until its nice a thick
  10. Remove from the freezer and evenly pour the chocolate mix on top of and smooth out
  11. Place back in the freezer for 1 hour
  12. They are now ready to serve

I keep mine in an air tight container in the fridge!

Enjoy 🙂

 

 

Eat for your body not for the label…

2 years ago I would tell anyone who listened to eat a Palaeolithic diet. Meats, Fish, eggs, fruits, veg – no grains, no bread, no lugumes, no dairy or refined sugars.

Here I am 2 years later… Very little meat, some fish, no eggs, no dairy. Lots of veg, fruit, grains, legumes.

When people hear vegan, they automatically think it’s for health reasons, but my belief is for people to commit to a vegan lifestyle there has to be an ethical reasoning behind that choice. For someone to not order a steak at a restaurant, or to not spread some butter on their bread, I believe that there has to be an ethical reason. Human will power to just be healthy is never strong enough.

If you look at the consumption of animal products around us, it is absolutely inconceivable that humane methods of producing that product can’t be in place. The amount of eggs that we consume far out ways producing them from happy hens. The amount of dairy we consume far out ways the amount a local farmer can milk from his free roaming cow. The amount of pork far out ways ‘happy pigs in s**t’ as the saying goes. These statements are on such a low level, the more you read or watch about the way we now produce animal products is enough to turn the most cold hearted meat eater to being more wary of where they source their meat.

So back to my experience..

My wife has been a Vegan for just under a year. So I thought it would only be fair to give it a go myself. I decided that I would go completely vegan for 4 weeks, that would be long enough to see any physical effects of cutting out meat in both aesthetics and performance. Initially I was actually amazed at how little I missed meat, eggs and fish. I already consumed very little dairy so this wasn’t an issue.

My daily intake looked something like this… (don’t be alarmed at the amount I eat, I am very active so need the cals)

Breakfast : Oats with almond milk, 2 scoops of Neat nutrition vegan protein, blueberries, flax seeds.

Morning snack: Avocado on marmite rice cakes (soooo good!)

Lunch: Mexican bean wraps or vegan bean burgers and vegetables

Afternoon snack: Shake from our fuel bar or cliff energy bar or nuts and fruit

Dinner: Bean chilli and rice or similar

Late Snack: Alpro yogurt with granola and berries

…Interestingly I was actually finding that my lunches and dinners were tastier than what I was having before which was predominantly meat and veg (very boring and bland).

I felt absolutely no different physically. My strength numbers were still increasing, my fitness didn’t decrease and my body composition was the same, if not a little leaner.

Once the 4 weeks were over I treated myself to a monster steak! I felt bloated, tired and the next day I felt like I had an enormous hangover! Weird!

So currently here is how I live my life. I eat fish occasionally – maybe 3 or 4 times a week – usually for lunch. I never have dairy – whats the point, there are so many alternatives now that are better for you. I only eat meat 2 or 3 times a month and it is almost always beef just because that’s what I enjoy most and the local butcher sells local part grass fed beef. I eat more fruit and veg than ever. I am not protein deficient, I am stronger than ever, and I also have a clearer conscious that my feeding habits are having less harm on our planet, for me, this is the perfect balance.

I for one hate how every diet needs categorising. What you chose to eat shouldn’t have to fall under vegan or paleo or pescetarian or any other labelling that we have. Whatever works for you is how you should eat. Me, I am a fish eating vegan who now and then eats beef… Sue me.

If you are intrigued by how you could cope without meat – then join us here at FitLife in out meat less month of October. what’s the worst that can happen?!

 

 

 

The best vegan choc cake!

Livia’s kitchen is my favourite vegan dessert book! It is filled with the most delicious cakes, tray bakes, and breakfast inspos! This year is was my Nan’s 80th and I wanted to bake her a cake for the occasion. Rather selfishly, I wanted to make her a vegan cake so I could ensure I could have a piece (or three). My Nan being completely against Veganism, of course I couldn’t tell her the cake was vegan, she would have turned her nose up and not had a piece. Safe to say she had no idea, hastily scoffed down two pieces before I revealed the truth and for that 2 minutes I may have turned her! One thing to note is this cake is EXTREMELY caloric, so if you are watching your calories don’t make it because you won’t be able to resist eating the whole thing in about 48 hours…it’s perfect for a weekend treat for the family or a special occasion cake.

Ingredients:

500g medjool dates

65g Cacao powder

700g Almond butter

600ml oat milk

Frosting 

Now I made my own frosting up – there are loads of dairy free frosting recipes online so you may want to find your own but I used to below ingredients- I cant remember the exact quantities but I basically just mixed it all together until it came to a nice thick buttercream consistency!

Dairy free butter

Icing sugar

Almond milk (tiny drop)

Cacao powder

Method:

  • Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and grease two 18cm cake tins with coconut oil.
  • Blend all of the cake ingredients a food processor until well mixed.
  • Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. You want the cakes to be firm along the sides, but bouncy in the middle.
  • Whilst the cake is baking, make the frosting by adding the ingredients to a food processor until well mixed.
  • To assemble the cake, spread half of the frosting onto one of the cakes and then place the other cake on top, finishing with the remaining frosting.
  • Top with your choice of berries – blueberries, strawberries and raspberries all work well.

 

Please let me know if you decide to make this ! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

 

Jess x

Veggie chilli

Veggie chilli

This is a great winter warmer! Super easy – super quick – and full of lots of plant based goodness! You can make a huge batch and take some in for lunch the next day.

The beauty of a chilli is the different variations you can do. Add kidney beans, quinoa, chickpeas, different spices! You can serve it with a jacket potato, roasted veg, rice or cauliflower rice! If you are missing the texture of meat, then a great addition is Quorn –

https://www.quorn.co.uk/products/meat-free-mince.

 

Serves 4

2 sweet potato’s

1 Teaspoon Cayenne pepper

1 Teaspoon ground cumin

Oliver Oil

Onion

1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper

2 cloves of garlic

1 fresh red chilli

2 x 400g tinned beans (kidney works best but you could use chickpea, or cannellini)

2 x 400g tins of plum tomato’s

 

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/gas 6.

Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into bite-sized chunks, then place onto a baking tray.

Sprinkle with a pinch each of cayenne, cumin, sea salt and black pepper, drizzle in oil. Roast for 40 minutes until tender.

Peel and roughly chop the onion, garlic, and peppers and deseed and finely chop the chilies.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat, add the onion, peppers, and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the spices and chili, and cook until softened!

Add the beans and tomato’s and ix them around so everything is submerged! Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and leave this for approx. 25 mins.

When the roasted sweet potato is finished stir this through – serve with your chosen side dish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veggie Shepherds Pie !

Another delicious winter warmer – great for all the family to enjoy! Throw in all your left over veg at the end of the week or make a huge batch to have for lunches with a salad. One of my favourite dinners served with some green veg!

Serves 4

3 sweet potatoes’ (you can also use normal potato’s, or parsnips although you will need more of these to create the topping- basically anything you can mash!)

2 x 400g tinned tomato’s

Teaspoon cumin (ground)

Teaspoon Turmeric (ground)

1 garlic clove

1 onion

300g mushrooms

1 large courgette

Bread crumbs – optional

 

(You can also add in the Quorn mince from the chili recipe if you want a meaty texture/taste!)

 

Boil the potatoes (or whatever you have chosen to be your topping) until they are soft.

Whilst these are cooking chop the onion, courgette, garlic and mushrooms roughly into small pieces and add with the spices into a large pan until the vegetables are almost all soft! Add in the tinned tomatoes and summer for a further 5 minutes. Pour into a baking dish.

 

Drain the topping and mash – you can add a little butter and salt and pepper to season – roughly mash (I keep the skin of the potato son! ) and spread along the top of the vegstble layer. To add crunch sprinkle on some bread crumbs!

 

Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins until to top layer is golden and crispy.

 

Serve with green veg or a salad!