Fitness, Wellness

Gym Wear Edit

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This post is long requested by the insta fam, so here it is finally. My workout routine is quite simple, so inevitably my gym wear is too. I do not have separate clothes for running and training. My outfits fit the bill for both. I spend approximately 40-50 minutes in the gym three times a week. More on my full (very simple) routine later. First let me walk you through my workout wear essentials.

NIKE bottle

Credits: https://shop.nordstrom.com

Water Bottle

Before I list my favorite gym wear, let me say that a BPA-free water bottle with a straw is an absolute essential. I prefer straws because they make it easy to drink water on the treadmill and cross trainer. In the past, I have used bottles with caps and such, and I find that with a built-in straw, I don’t have to pause or slowdown my running program. I use this bottle from Nike, which is BPA free and contains a straw for easy drinking.

Adidas Bra

Credits: https://www.zalando.nl

Sports Bra

A well-fitting sports bra is an definite must in my book. It makes a ton of difference in how you perform. Previously I used a bra from Lululemon and experienced back pains due to the lack of support it provided. Also, the material was too thick for my liking. Now I wear the Adidas Performance Techfit bra, and I have never felt better during my workout.

The mesh-jersey material is thin, airy, and sweat-wicking. The fit is snug, which makes running significantly more fun than a bra that is loose fitting. Instead of coming in the generic XS, S, M… sizes, the techfit bra comes in separate band and cup sizes, hence finding the perfect fit is easier. Out of the sports bras I have tried on and bought, this is by far my favourite! If that changes in the future, I will update this post and my insta story.

To find the perfect sports bra, I would suggest looking for a) a snug fit [try doing a few jumps to assess this] b) a band that rests on the same level all the way around your chest and does not ride up in the back c) the presence of any scratchy seams and/or tags that can cause irritation during a workout.

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Trainers

A good quality pair of trainers is as important as a well-fitting sports bra to achieve a great workout. Depending on what type of workout (weight-lifting, running, aerobics, etc) you do, the shoes you opt for may be slightly different. Considering I spend most of my gym time running, I like to wear shoes that are most suited to running.

The pair I have been using for two years now (time for a replacement!) is from Nike’s Free Run Flyknit range. It is foot-hugging, light-weight, breathable, and ideal for short runs. The only aspect I do not like as much is the relatively thin sole of the shoe. When I will purchase a new pair of running shoes, I will look for a style that offers more support than my current one.

Tops & Bottoms

For this category, I am a fan of Nike’s Dri-FIT range. I find the Dri-FIT material a) provides ample support for all types of physical activities b) is stretchy enough to be comfortable c) is sweat-wicking d) is opaque to allow bending without being transparent. I also find that the Dri-FIT range is offered at a great price point and many different colors and designs for anyone looking to have more fun with their gym outfits.

The tights and top that I use are pictured above, and available here and here respectively. The tights come with a drawstring waist, which I initially thought was odd but have grown to love overtime as it prevents the tights from slipping and sliding (people with small waists would know what I mean).

I do not like wearing shorts in the gym because I am a germaphobe. I find the most flattering tights styles to be high-waisted (up to my belly button) and 7/8th in length (slightly above the ankle). The high waisted styles also ensure that you can bend and sit as you please without worrying about the tights riding down. When you try a pair of tights, also look for any excess fabric around the crotch–that would be the reason for a potential camel toe and ain’t nobody got time for that.

Socks

I like ankle socks that are made from synthetic materials. Natural materials like cotton can cause scratchy, irritated skin during movement. The material also has to be sweat-wicking and thin for a lighter feel on the feet. Some people prefer thick socks for more cushioning, so if that is your preference, you do you. My favorite pair of socks is this.

Care for Gym Clothes

Lastly, I thought I would also include a few tips on caring for workout clothes. After every workout session, I throw my clothes in the washer on a gentle, cold cycle that lasts about an hour. In addition to the normal detergent, I also use a small amount of the Dettol Antiseptic Liquid. Fitness centers carry so many germs considering the number of daily visitors. Not everyone practices the best hygiene, so I hope using an antiseptic liquid rids my gym clothes of potential viruses and bacterias.

Bonus tip? Keep a dryer sheet in your gym bag or whichever bag you use to carry your gym essentials and your clothes will always smell fresh. 🙂

I hope this post was helpful! I am planning a full post on my workout routine, so keep a look out for that. Meanwhile if you have any questions, feel to comment below, email me, or send a direct message on my Instagram. Have a great rest of the Sunday and a fabulous week ahead!

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Food

Chicken Tikka Drumsticks

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Without complaining about how the South Asian diaspora has transformed my childhood favourite BBQ item chicken tikka into a saucy, messy staple takeaway item “chicken tikka masala,” I shall begin writing this post.

As a child, chicken tikka with paratha (fried flat bread that looks like this) was my most anticipated meal all week. My father used to honk the horn after reaching home on Friday evening, and myself, my three siblings, and my mother would quickly get into the car and be on our way to eat some BBQ. As we grew older, we would also BBQ chicken tikkas for family picnics by the beach or on cool winter evenings at our roof terrace. Such beautiful memories!

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I have always loved the charred flavor of a delicious chicken tikka. Full disclosure, this recipe will not give the taste of a Pakistani streetside chicken tikka because a) it is not made in open air on a charcoal grill b) it is meant to be clean so it does not use a lot of oil. That said, I think it comes pretty close to the taste of a juicy BBQ-ed chicken tikka, but with a lot less mess and time, and a ton more convenience.

I use drumsticks for this recipe instead of full chicken leg quarters because drumsticks are easier to work with. And I like to pair them with brown rice and some yogurt or coriander chutney. The meat from the drumsticks can also be used to make a killer chicken tikka salad (see tips for more). It was actually this salad that I posted in my insta story, prompting several requests for the recipe. So without further boring you with my incoherent stories, I will get down to the deets of how you cook up this deliciousness.

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Don’t mind the Fresh face mask container…I tend to recycle pretty much everything and these little containers are best to carry sauces for lunch to work.

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How delicious does that look? I love myself on days that I have healthy lunches at work. Yay to Sunday meal-prep.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • Yogurt (3tbsp)
  • Tandoori masala (2tbsp)*
  • Garlic powder (1tsp)*
  • Organic skinless drumsticks (4)
  • Lemon, juiced (2)
  • Olive oil (1tsp)

Method:

  • Mix the tandoori masala & garlic powder in the yogurt.
  • Place diagonal slits on the drumsticks.
  • Marinate the drumsticks in the spiced yogurt. Also add oil and lemon juice at this point.
  • Leave in the refrigerator overnight for maximum flavor, or for at least half an hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 425F/220C and bake for 40 minutes flipping the drumsticks halfway through.

Tips:

  • I used this store-bought tandoori masala, but I have also tried this recipe with homemade tandoori masala and it works just fine. The recipe for the homemade tandoori masala is here.
  • If you don’t have garlic powder, you can use two garlic cloves minced.
  • The meat from the drumsticks is delicious with mixed greens, quinoa, and some greek yogurt as dressing for a “chicken tikka salad.”
  • In a food processor, pulse 1 cup of mint and coriander, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 lemon juiced, and 2 green chillies. You will have yourself the best chutney to serve with these chicken tikka drumsticks.

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Food

Chickpea Masala

Chickpea masala served over basmati rice has been one of my comfort meals since I was a child. As I have grown up, I have found chickpea masala doesn’t always have to be served over rice; it is so versatile in the ways that it can be enjoyed. For instance, if you dry the gravy slightly, you can stuff a wrap with mixed greens and chickpea masala; in a snap you’ve a perfect lunch wrap. Similarly, chickpea masala makes a delicious salad with mixed greens, quinoa, and a boiled egg. Yum!

My recipe for the chickpea masala is fuss free. It comes together in under 20 minutes. I use canned chickpeas in my recipe. If you too will be using canned chickpeas, I strongly recommend using high quality ones, preferably organic. The brand I am hooked to for canned grains and legumes is La Bio Idea. The chickpeas out of their cans smell so much like freshly boiled chickpeas and they are perfectly tender. Just a little disclaimer, this post is not sponsored by La Bio Idea.

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Without further ado, let’s get down to the recipe.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • Onion (1–chopped)
  • Oil (1tbsp)
  • Garlic cloves (3–minced)
  • Green chillies (2–chopped)
  • Tomatoes (2/3 cup–chopped) I used the organic peeled La Bio Idea tomatoes.
  • Chili flakes (1tsp)
  • Cumin powder (1/2 tsp)
  • Garam masala (1/2 tsp)
  • Turmeric powder (1/4 tsp)
  • Salt (1/4 tsp)
  • Chickpeas (400grams/15 ounce can)
  • Water (1/2 to 1 cup)
  • Lemon (1/2–juiced)
  • Coriander (10 sprig–chopped)

Method:

  • Sauté the onion in oil until golden brown.
  • Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant. If onion and garlic stick, use a splash of water to deglaze the pan instead of more oil.
  • Now add tomatoes and green chillies, as well as all the spices. Cook for a couple of minutes. Again, add water to deglaze the pan if needed.
  • When the oil separates from the mixture, add chickpeas and 1/2 cup water.
  • Cook covered for 5-7 minutes and garnish with chopped coriander and lemon juice.

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Food

Quinoa Crusted Chicken Fingers

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I recently mentioned on my Instagram that I am on a mission to healthify (I know it’s not a real word, but let’s get on with it) some of my favorite foods. Chicken fingers are definitely something that I not only love for their taste, but also love for their versatility and convenience. As in, they can be eaten on their own, stuffed in a lunch wrap, or chopped for a hearty salad. In whichever form I choose to eat them, they remain fuss free—for instance no leaking out of the lunchbox into my pampered work bags.

And so, like every new mission, this mission of healthifying chicken fingers started with research (read: typing “healthy chicken fingers” into Google). I was baffled to learn that breading chicken fingers with quinoa was a thing in the healthy eating world.

The novelty of using quinoa instead of breadcrumbs was enough to inspire me to create a recipe of my own instead of using someone else’s recipe. I like my chicken fingers to have a subtle spice kick (you’d know what I mean if you’ve eaten fried chicken at Pakistan’s KFCs), so this recipe has that + it is oil-free. Basically what I am giving you with this recipe is an opportunity to glorify the most boring of proteins, chicken breast, without adding unnecessary fats (oil) or carbs (breadcrumbs). I call that a miracle and it is being passed on to you.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • Organic Chicken breast (1)
  • Chickpea flour (1 tbsp)
  • Chili powder (1/2 tsp)
  • Cumin powder (1/4 tsp)
  • Chili flakes (1/4 tsp)
  • Egg (1/2)
  • Cooked quinoa (1/4 cup)

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 375F/200C.
  • Slice the chicken breast into thin strips.
  • Mix the flour and spices.
  • Coat chicken strips in the flour.
  • Beat an egg (you will use only half of it).
  • Coat strips into the egg.
  • Press cooked quinoa into strips coated with flour and egg.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, place the chicken strips on the tray, and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
  • Enjoy on its own or in salads and wraps! 🙂 And to view the full nutritional profile of this recipe, see the end of the post.

Tips:

  • Chicken breasts can vary in weight. Organic chicken breasts tend to be smaller. The one I used was around 100 grams.
  • You may use any flour. I had chickpea flour on hand that’s why I used that one.
  • If you do not have individual spices as listed in the ingredients, you could also just use a spice mix like cajun/jamaican.
  • If you line the baking sheet with foil instead of parchment paper, I would grease the foil to avoid having quinoa stick to the foil.
  • To ensure chicken fingers crisp on both sides, flip them over halfway through the baking time.

 

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This is the first time that I have calculated the full nutrition profile of my recipe. I am adding it to this post. Please let me know if that is something that you find helpful. And have a wonderful weekend!!

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Wellness

Weight Loss: Food Edit

I never considered how my food is made until I gained an awful load of kilos in my first year living in the US. The year was 2008. I was sixteen and living with an American host family in mid-west. I knew little about how to cook with the American pantry staples, and missed my mother’s home cooked food. Result? McDonald’s sandwiches, buttery packet popcorn, and frozen pizza as my everyday meals.

When my friends and family criticized my new “appearance,” I was quick to realize this lifestyle couldn’t continue. That realization was my first step towards healthy eating and nutrition. I taught myself how to cook on a student budget and with the ingredients I could find in the local grocery store. Shortly after, I went back to my normal weight.

Fast forward ten years, I am working fulltime in a fast-paced industry, traveling for work (and otherwise), taking a Dutch language course, blogging as a hobby, and trying to grow my social circle as an expat in Amsterdam. Budget is no longer an obstacle, neither is the availability of international food items. But finding the time to grocery shop and cook has become my real struggle.

The last two months of 2017 were pretty hectic work-wise. I was providing cover for a sick colleague and traveling for work more than usual. Being disorganized about my meals and eating out led me to gain 5.5 kilos. I went from weighing 58 kilos to 63.4 kilos. With my 5’6” height, 63.4 kilos is still within the normal BMI, but I do not feel good. There is a lot of bloating, some love handles that were not there before, a general feeling of being tired—honestly, it feels like living in a body that is not mine.

So, after I returned from my holiday to Karachi last week, I started finding ways to be more organized about grocery shopping and cooking. I also decided to track the foods I eat, so that I can assess whether or not I am meeting my daily nutrient requirements. I was recently diagnosed with iron, calcium, and vitamin B12 deficiencies, so the motivation to track my food was not only for losing the excess weight but also for assessing my intake of all critical nutrients. Another motivation factor was to evaluate how super is the nutrition of the “super foods” that are blatantly advertised on social media.

I tested a few apps that would provide me an overview of nutrient goals for my weight & height, as well as allow me to track these goals. I had briefly used MyFitnessPal before, so I tested that and Cronometer more closely. Both are excellent apps but in comparison to Cronometer, MyFitnessPal has an extensive food database (huge benefit for someone who cooks fusion food) and a user-friendly layout in both the mobile app and website. You can input your current weight & height. The app also requires that you add a “Weight Goal.” Taking these three factors into consideration, MyFitnessPal gives you a daily calorie requirement (mine was 1200). You can then maintain a daily food diary, which counts your calories, as well as carbs, protein, fats and other nutrients. The app allows you to enter unlimited recipes and also tracks your steps. Your daily exercise can also be logged into the app.

One thing to keep in mind while using an app like MyFitnessPal is to use the calorie requirement as a guide not divine revelation. Starving yourself is the worst thing you can do to your health, so listen to your body’s needs and make sure you respect them. More than the calories I have consumed, I like to look at whether I met my protein, calcium, and iron goals. One early benefit of tracking nutrients is that I realized I was not meeting my daily calcium requirement, and that’s because I was barely eating any dairy—most common source of calcium. Based on that observation, I have switched from unsweetened almond milk to cow milk (until I find another non-dairy calcium source).

When I shared on my insta story that I will be starting a mini weight loss journey, many of you requested that I share my meal plans. In all honesty, sharing what I am eating every day in this much detail makes me nervous, but at the end of the day if my eating plan helps you improve your nutrition, I am happy ignoring the few negative comments I might receive. 🙂 So, I am adding screenshots of my food diary for every day of last week besides Monday. This should allow you to see the whole foods I have incorporated in my diet for each meal. The foods I am avoiding are full fat dairy, refined sugar and flours, excessive oil, and processed junk items. As for the recipes, the Shrimp & Broccoli one is on my insta profile. The remaining ones will be posted soon on this blog! If you have any questions about the foods mentioned in the screenshots, comment below or send me an email.

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In addition to tracking my eating, I am also recording gym time (more on this in another post). With my one week of exercise and a healthy meal plan, I have already come from 63.2 kilos to 61.4 kilos. The initial drop is usually high, which is great for boosting motivation. I also feel less bloated and tired. Keep in mind that everybody is different, so how this meal & exercise plan impacts me is not necessarily how it will impact you. 🙂 Since this is my first meal plan, it has a ton of room for improvement. So feel free to customize it as per your needs, but please make sure you’re eating at least 1000-1200 calories everyday—that’s the number recommended by the National Health Institutes for women (1200-1500 for men).

I am truly delighted to see the results of tracking my meals and exercise last week, and I cannot wait to do the same this week with new foods and recipes! If you have any ideas for healthy foods and fun exercises, do let me know. And if you would like to get a daily sneak peak of this weight loss project, check out my Instagram page.

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Food

One Bowl Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins

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More often than not, I succumb to a banana for breakfast because mornings are so rushed. And that is why having something that’s more decadent than a banana—banana bread or muffins or sorts—are a saviour to my chaotic mornings.

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Not too long ago, I tried the Pick Up Limes One Bowl Oatmeal & Blueberry muffins, and that was truly a hit in my work life. Every weekday morning I could just pop one of these in my handbag and either have it as breakfast on the go during my commute to work, or have it at my desk after reaching office.

My recent breakfast muse, however, were these delicious and decadent 1 Bowl Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins by Nikole from Healthnut Nutrition. Nikole is one of all my time favorite bloggers out there, so I was beyond excited to try her recipe without messing it up.

IMG_0606Honestly, I do not think I messed up. The muffins were dense, but soft. Also, perfectly sweet. I only made one major tweak to her original recipe. Instead of using almond flour, I used oat flour, and that was simply because I did not have almond flour in my pantry.

So without further blabbering, I will list the recipe below.

Ingredients:

Dry

  • Spelt flour (2 cups)
  • Oat flour (1/2 cup)
  • Baking soda (1 teaspoon)
  • Cinnamon (1 teaspoon)
  • Nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Salt (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Shredded carrots (1 cup)

Wet

  • Eggs (2)
  • Coconut oil (1/4 cup)
  • Vanilla extract (1 teaspoon)
  • Apple cider vinegar (1 teaspoon)
  • Unsweetened soy milk (1 cup)
  • Unsweetened applesauce (1/2 cup)
  • Coconut sugar (3/4 cup)

Method:

  • Mix the soy milk with apple cider vinegar. Let sit for 10 mins. Meanwhile preheat oven to 375F/200F.
  • Now in a large bowl whisk together the remaining wet ingredients.
  • When everything is well-combined, add all dry ingredients except the shredded carrots.
  • Once the batter is smooth, mix in the shredded carrots.
  • Transfer batter to a muffin tin. It will fit in approximately 12 moulds. Top with crushed walnuts & place in the preheated oven for 18 mins.
  • Voila! Enjoy with a cup of tea, hot cocoa, or your fav coffee. 🙂

Tip:

  • You can top with sugar, too, like recommended in the original recipe. I liked them more without extra sugar.
  • Soy milk can be swapped with any other plant based milk. Don’t try dairy milks or the apple cider vinegar will curd them.
  • Coconut oil can be substituted with avocado oil.

 

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Food

Hearty Paneer Chilli


Until recently, I was afraid to cook with paneer. I just did not understand how it could be used in everyday cooking. Having cooked with paneer a few times now, I am a huge fan of the taste and texture it brings to ordinary ingredients.

In this rather quick recipe, I paired paneer with capsicum/green bell pepper, and those two combined create an amazing flavor. At first I thought, I would add more East Asian flavor to this recipe, but then I decided to stick to the South Asian spice palette to avoid any unpleasantries on Tuesday night. 😛 Would you like to see an East Asian variation? Let me know in the comments!

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This dish can be served with quinoa, rice, or flat bread. I will be taking leftovers in a wrap for lunch tomorrow. Why not, right?

So without any more story around paneer, let me list what you’d need to make your Tuesday evening slightly brighter. 🙂

Ingredients:

  • Oil (1/4 cup)
  • Onion (1 large chopped)
  • Ginger Garlic Paste (2 tablespoons)
  • Green chillies (4 chopped)
  • Tomato paste (3 teaspoons) or tomatoes (3 chopped)
  • Turmeric powder (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Garam masala (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Red chili powder (1 teaspoon)
  • White pepper (1 teaspoon)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Green bell pepper (1 chopped)
  • Paneer (250-300 grams)

Method:

  • Sauté the onion in oil.
  • When the onion is golden brown, add the ginger garlic paste.
  • Once the ginger garlic paste is fragrant, add chopped green chillies, tomatoes/tomato paste, and all the spices. Cook this mixture until oil separates.
  • Now add the green bell pepper and cook until it is 80% cooked. Add water if needed to make more gravy.
  • Once the bell pepper is cooked, add paneer and gently mix. Cover and cook for five to ten minutes. Voila!

Tips:

  • Garnish with chopped coriander if you’ve it on hand.
  • Serve with naan, wholewheat chapati/tortilla or rice.
  • Use leftovers to make a wrap for lunch on the go.


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