sweets to sweeten up days

I never really knew I had a sweet tooth until recently. Or I just did not realise the intensity of it. It could also be catalysed by lifestyle changes. There was a time I restricted these indulgences to the weekends and try as much as possible, to eat more healthily during the week. But more so, these days, there is a blurring of the timing. I eat cakes even on weekdays. And as I read Mind Your Body yesterday, I was suddenly arrested by a page that talks about how bad pastries and cakes are, as well as biscuits, which tend to be replete with transfat and all sorts of unhealthy stuff. It isn’t the calorie count that matters, but rather what goes into my body that will probably wreak havoc that I would suffer for in later years to come.

For me, it is hard to make the change to steer away from these (used-to-be) weekend treats but I guess we all have to start somewhere. Recently, I still had a slice of cake. Ok, I haven’t stopped, I just had cake on a couple of days this week too. ._.

20140522-133119.jpgI really like this carrot cake at Spinelli because it gives me a false sense of healthiness in eating it. As compared to other carrot cakes maybe it really fares better because they isn’t as much cake in comparison to carrot. For most commercially-available carrot cake, it is pretty much a cake with cream cheese frosting, sometimes topped with walnut bits, like the one at Cedele which I also love lots. But this one has so much carrot strips, just check it out in the picture below.

20140522-133127.jpgAnd it comes in a size that is rather friendly, because I finished it and didn’t feel like a bloated balloon fall of cake and oil. So probably I will still keep this on the list for the occasional treat.

Pastries and my unfathomable love of it. Yet these are again packed with too much bad stuff. Why oh why are nice things always bad? Ok maybe not all nice things, for instance, things like yogurt and fruits are generally healthy and I love them too!

20140522-133134.jpgI have a strong craving to indulge in these sweets now, especially that I have been sick for the past few days. It seems like a long time ago since I last fell ill, but each time it happens it will be something really major and serious. And the sucky thing is that because there are meetings every day, I can’t just go on medical leave, wonder if I call myself responsible or acting tough. I just cannot make myself call in sick and cancel all the meetings that I am supposed to attend, even if my throat is parched and each cough brings forth chest pains, my head throbs and feels like it’s on fire yet my body experiences chills even with layers of clothes piled on. I believe I will recover well as soon as possible!

more soup!

Due to the cool weather that actually left me freezing in air-conditioned places especially the office, I thought it would be a great idea to have soup for dinner yesterday. So I popped into Soup Spoon for a dash of their soupy goodness. My usual order at Soup Spoon is Meatless Minestrone, which I really enjoy because it’s like vegetable soup with lots of ingredients, the beans and potatoes that I like so much. It’s perfectly ok that there is no meat, and the bonus factor is it is pretty low-caloried, if what is indicated on the menu is correct. That is without the bun of course, but these days I noticed that the buns I have been getting when I buy a soup is not the usual white bread roll but some perhaps wholemeal variety? It doesn’t look like normal/plain white bread, if you get what I mean, so besides giving me the feeling that it might be healthier (who knows if it really is or not), it adds some texture to the bread so that even if you decide not to dunk it into the soup, it can be eaten on its own.

I didn’t remember to take any pictures of the soup that I bought so I nicked this picture off Soup Spoon’s website, where you can find out more about the nutritional value of the soup. Oh, last night I decided on a change and ordered Tokyo Chicken Stew. I think this is the first time I’m trying this and I wonder why I haven’t done so yet because it’s so delicious! tokyochickenstew_ss

I used to think that this soup, with a clear broth, is an oddity among the rest of the soup choices in the menu because for such soups it feels weird to dunk bread into it. Most of the soup choices are creamy or with some degree of viscosity, besides alluding to being more “western-style”. Even by its name alone, it stands out as different. But yet I’m really glad they have something like this because all the ingredients are so tasty and the aroma when I uncovered the lid of the styrofoam take-out container which permeates the room had everyone else salivating for it. That explained why I had no time to take any pictures because one of my classmates was openly and unabashedly staring at my bowl of soup and asking me to share it with him so I had to quickly finish it. 

The only downside is that the soups don’t come cheap. A regular bowl of this costs S$7.50, which is also the average price of the rest of the soups. At Cedele, the small soup (which should measure less than this) costs S$5.80, with all-you-can-eat bread at the bread bar. Perhaps it is time to pick up cooking and in future, when I finally have my own kitchen, I can start experimenting with soups!

Healthy beginnings

One morning after a scheduled health screening, I was starving and in search of food. I had been fasting, except for water that I drank to try to keep myself from feeling too much hunger pangs, for more than 10 hours and usually I don’t go that long without food.

As usual, I mulled over the limited choices of cafes but as it was a weekday morning, I didn’t have problems with seats; it was more a choice of which cafe I would want to go to. Finally I decided on Spinelli and they have this on the menu as a breakfast option, muesli with yogurt!

20130726-085953.jpg

I know some would blanche at this choice of breakfast, as it is something that I can easily make on my own at home, at a much lower cost, but I didn’t really want to have a muffin or cake or sandwich, so I ordered this. It was a really huge bowl of muesli, much more than what I’d usually take, and the serving of yogurt atop it was not enough for me to mix it up with, so I ended up having to take the remaining muesli “dry”. I know I could have just left the rest there, since I am not exactly the biggest proponent of not wasting food, but I’m selective. When it comes to food I like I try not to waste. Haha. Double standards, yes. 20130726-090006.jpg

Breakfast is a great way to start the morning, and because I enjoy breakfast so much, it is usually not a problem to wake up early each day as I have something to look forward to! It helps that some of my favourite breakfast choices are healthy options that I won’t feel too guilty for indulging in on a daily basis! At least for this part of the morning, I can feel happy and chew on the food with a smile on my face.

good morning!

I used to be someone who could literally sleep till the sun sets. When I was a student, my mum was always complaining that I am a late-riser, because I go to sleep late at night, and I could spend the whole morning and even afternoon still asleep, then wake up maybe just before dinner. Of course this doesn’t happen all the time but it was something I was completely capable of. Now, this is totally unimaginable for me; maybe not impossible but perhaps as the years go by and as much as I guess one needs less sleep as one grows older, I find time to be too precious to be spent sleeping. I know sleep is important, and I try to keep a certain numbers of slumber hours each night too, unsuccessfully, but then I try not to spend too much time sleeping.

And it isn’t difficult for me to wake up early in the mornings either. It used to be hard, but these days it has become a habit to rise early. Even on vacations I don’t really sleep in because I want to make the best of my time, especially since I don’t keep late nights (anymore, usually), my days have become more regular. Generally, I wake up at about the same time each day, regardless if it’s weekday or weekend, and I always wake up looking forward to breakfast.

My breakfast isn’t an elaborate affair, and to some people it is even boring and unthinkable, but it is what gets me motivated every morning. It is also a part of the travelling that I enjoy, because during those trips I fully indulge in breakfast, much more than when I am at home, and let myself eat more. Haha.

Sometime ago, I got to know about a way of having breakfast that I totally enjoy now. Typically, I have yogurt with cereals or fruits, but what I came across was based on oats. I used to make quick oats, mixing oatmeal with hot water and adding in some fresh or dried fruits to flavour, but then because it was hot, I didn’t enjoy it as much because it made me perspire thereafter. This way that I came to know about through a friend’s postings online makes cold oats, which is a great idea for me.

I went online to find out more about it and modified the ingredients a little, until now the main things that go into my breakfast oats are yogurt, flaxseeds, old fashioned rolled oats and fruits. I pre-mix the items and keep them in the fridge overnight so that the oats could be soaked up in the yogurt and soften, and in the mornings, add in the fruits. I used to also add in milk or soya milk but it made the texture of the oats a little too watery if I didn’t put in enough yogurt, so I decided to cut the milk and stick to just yogurt since that is my preference over milk anyhow.

20130704-074218.jpg

This doesn’t look very palatable, especially to some of my friends who think I am eating baby food but it is something I really love and look forward to each morning! It is only on rare occasions when I bring this to office that I cut the fruits and put them into the jar, otherwise everything is in a bowl that I eat out of at home.

20130704-074233.jpg

It is a generally healthy way of having cold breakfasts, and I’m glad I got to know about this! My mum has her theory of cold breakfasts being not so good for the body, maybe she has a point there too because some of my friends can’t take cold stuff for breakfasts, but so far I think it is still ok for me. As I was rummaging through for used plastic bags to put the jar into one morning, I found this.20130704-074247.jpg

Helps to make the morning even better, doesn’t it? Have a good Friday and great weekend coming up!

Bikram Yoga, Paris, Grands Boulevards

In April, I checked out Bikram Yoga in Tokyo while I was on vacation. Exercise doesn’t have to take a break while we are on holiday, as I have realised, is not just my personal mindset because one of my two friends whom I travelled with was also hitting the gym almost on a daily basis! I suppose besides that we try to incorporate exercise into my daily lives, much like how we need to eat and sleep each day, it also helps us to burn off excess calories from all that good food that we enjoy when we are on holiday.

Maybe the fact that I am trying to maintain a regular exercise regime also affected how I think about what my job requires. Last year, I had crazy travelling schedules, by my measure; it wasn’t entirely hectic, but having to be out of the country each month, for either a week or two each time, could seriously disrupt this routine, besides screwing up my body clock and causing some health problems. Jetting across timezones can take its toll on my physical as well as mental health and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It might also be due to age, where somehow the body is not reacting well to the physical stresses of travelling, coupled with other forms of stress that this endeavour creates. Finally, I have probably also felt the desire to spend more time with my family now. Although I am still not what some would describe as being very close-knitted with my family, time does change people to a certain extent.

Anyway, on this last business trip to France, I decided to find out before I went if they had a Bikram studio too. Well, most big cities have some form of Bikram yoga, and I found two studios located in Paris, which I thought to check out during the weekend. I couldn’t go on weekdays because the office, as well as the hotel where I was putting up at, isn’t located within the city, and it easily takes about an hour to get to the heart of the city. On the first day that I arrived that was Sunday, I made a trip downtown but was too tired physically to want to drag myself to the class. From the website, I saw that they conducted lessons in English, once a day, at each of the two studios. As I could only make it for the 4pm class, I wasn’t able to last that long outside and still pull through, so I left Bikram for the coming weekend.

20130627-092605.jpg

On Saturday, I was out shopping on my own downtown, and after not having much success there, I found my way to the studio at Grands Boulevards. It is about 10 minutes’ stroll from Galeries Lafayette (on Boulevard Hausmann), and very near to the Grands Boulevards metro station. I spent a lot of time walking that day, and since the weather was rather good, I just walked around the city the entire time. The studio is pretty small, and it only opens its doors 30 minutes before class starts, so I was standing outside this door for quite some time since I reached way before 4pm.20130627-092623.jpg

They have a small changing room with lockers that you can operate with a one-euro coin, refundable when you open it, and 4 shower cubicles. It isn’t a large place, smaller than Bikram Shinjuku in Tokyo but it wasn’t crowded. The first time I went, the studio was only about half-full, which numbers probably about 10-12 practitioners, I couldn’t remember. The studio could supposedly accommodate up to 25 persons but perhaps being a fine Saturday afternoon, most people are out enjoying the weather in town. It was much warmer on Sunday, and so the studio was also more unbearably hot and humid, especially when the fans were not switched on at all. Sunday was also a day when most shops are not open, so that probably explained the higher turnout for the same 4pm class.

Perhaps the studio being small, the instructors could really focus on the students, and they even knew them by name. Also since I was a guest (of sorts), and obviously being very different in how I look as compared to the others, they would also call me out on the postures if I wasn’t doing something correctly. It was rather stressful at some point, but it’s a great way to improve! I had fun during the two days of practice at Bikram Yoga Paris, and I’m not sure if I will ever return because France is just too far away (and expensive to travel to too), but the instructors were great and I think the price is pretty ok, cheaper than Tokyo! I got myself a promotional offer, which was a 10-day pass at 35 euros. Considering that even though I only went for 2 classes in 2 days, it was already worth it cos a single class is priced at 25 euros (without adding on the costs of towels and mat).     20130627-092632.jpg

I wonder where will be the next city where I will get to practice Bikram Yoga at. It helps heaps that they had English classes in Paris, because although the 26 poses are always the same and the routine is the same, Bikram Yoga is still a dialogue-based class where we try to follow the instructions when to go into the pose and so on. When I was in Tokyo, the classes I went for were in Japanese (they also had limited English classes too) and I just went through the routine without knowing if the instructor would have been trying to correct me.

goodness of greens

The very first time I came to know about what “Thunder Tea Rice” is was probably years back when I was working in the Suntec/Millenia area. Oh how I miss those days…

Back then when Food Republic was still at the convention area (until recently that is) there was a stall that sells this and I was quite a fan of the stall but I never ordered this dish, because simply put it’s just a bowl of vegetables and rice, which comes with a bowl of mint green concoction that I was told wasn’t too nice. So obviously, it never entered into my realm of consideration when I was choosing what to eat for lunch. Instead, what always ends up on my tray is a bowl of brown rice, topped with dark soy sauce basil chicken and a fried egg. Supposedly, this stall sells healthy stuff, as in this Thunder Tea Rice is touted as a healthy food option, but with the basil chicken rice that I always order, seemingly coated with a glistening sheen of oil, I am not too sure about that.

20130305-112633.jpgIt was only recently, maybe in the last couple of years, that I started to appreciate the goodness of Thunder Tea Rice. No doubt I always knew how it is generally healthy, but the taste and texture of all the greens mixed together, plus the peanuts and anchovies and my additional option of the fried egg, these have begun to grow on me. Now instead of Basil Chicken, I only order this. Even the mint green-coloured soup that is served together with it doesn’t really taste that bad. You have to try it to know it, and although I won’t say I love the soup, it is pretty much ok; I just worry if greenish fibre-like objects stick to my teeth after drinking it that will cause a whole lot of embarrassment.

Honestly, I do not know if this is entirely a healthy lunch choice, but I just tell myself it is, and the best part is that I like it. Healthy food is generally never good or tasty but in this case, I would think otherwise, or perhaps it is an acquired taste. Some people think I am health-conscious and eat really healthily; I will admit to the extent that I am conscious of some of the things that I put into digestive system, but not so because I am always concerned about my health and well-being but because I try to compensate for my unhealthy eating habits. As compared to the average adult, I snack way more than most; even if I have a proper full meal my mind invariably wanders to the type of snacks that I can have. And we all know how most types of snacking are very unhealthy, which also happen to the types that I indulge in.

breaking a habit

It has been a fairly healthy start for me so far! I have successfully reduced my intake of alcohol and before the CNY period, I actually had not taken a single drink. On New Year’s eve, just before 2013 began, I had a couple of pints of beer and that was that. Even when I attended a wedding dinner in January I steered clear of any wines or spirits, and I was so impressed with myself. Not that I consider myself to be an alcoholic of any sort, though there were periods of my life where I had drank a little too excessively. I don’t think that had created any problems for me except being the huge stumbling block towards my constant plan to lose weight. Although it probably wasn’t such a great idea that these bouts of hedonism and drinking led to some partial memory loss, which is something of a concern because if I had drank till I lost some segments of my memory, is that tantamount to substance abuse? Anyway, other than the endless quest for weight loss, I also wanted to stay on the healthy track and lessen my intake of alcohol, since too much drinking works in detrimental ways to my body which negates all the other good that I am doing. Besides, there aren’t many people around to go out for social drinking with so now I spend more time on healthy jaunts like practising yoga. LOL. Drinking coffee doesn’t necessarily count as healthy but that’s something I am not yet prepared to give up for now.

And I did say before CNY, because one of my long-time pals returned for CNY and we met up for some drinks at the usual places that we hung out at before. But as compared to years past, I think I have mellowed, tremendously, though I have to work on the guilt complex a little. Drinking once in a while on a social basis is perfectly fine so I don’t have to feel bad about it, like I did after that, especially when I considered the beer with all that deep-fried food! Well, they did taste really great together when I was having them though.  20130228-112850.jpgSo… habits are hard to break, yes, but not impossible. I’m trying to change some other habits now and shall see if I am successful in that! Let’s all work towards a healthier 2013 and beyond!