I hear this A LOT.
“I don’t have time to plan or make healthy meals.”
“I don’t have time to eat well.”
“I usually skip breakfast.”
"I have no idea what to make."
And I get asked this a lot!
"So, Gemma, what do you eat? Do you eat red meat, do you drink alcohol? I bet your diet is perfect."
Let me tell you... I'm certainly not perfect (just like everyone else), but I do take care of myself and stick to a daily routine as much as possible.
Yes, I know what makes a truly healthy diet, I do my best to eat well and look after myself of course, but I also live in the same world as you and know that sometimes it isn't easy.
Life is for living and obsessing over with what to eat or what not to eat can be a real headache.
It’s all about balance, doing your best and doing what makes you feel good, so I've written a (rather long) post with my best tips and meal plan ideas, I hope it helps you in some way.
My own personal diet and daily routine
There are so many different diets and programs that one could follow, believe me, over the years I’ve tried most of them! I've learned to listen to what my body needs and this is what I try my very best to do on a daily basis - it works for me and my lifestyle.
I drink a glass of filtered, room temperature water as soon as I get up, to flood my sleepy organs and send the hydration message to my body.
I try and skin brush every morning, ideally before my shower. Always on dry skin with a dry body brush. I don’t spend too long on this just a quick ‘sweep sweep sweep’ to invigorate the body and it helps bust that dreaded cellulite. Check out my skin brushing video.
Rise and shine
Hot water and lemon, perfect for cleansing and alkalising the body by helping to expel gas from the intestines, purify the blood and boost liver detoxification.
If I'm feeling really tired I’ll opt for a cup of green jasmine tea. I especially l love the loose tea leaves (jasmine pearls), the taste is so delicate and mildly sweet and I love the aromatic fragrance.
I sometimes add a large thumb size chunk of ginger in my juicer, along with one apple – this gives gives the perfect natural wake up boost, with the added benefit of anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties. Great if you have any allergies, like hay fever.
I go through phases of what to have for breakfast, this is purposeful as it’s really key to rotate foods (even healthy ones), so that the body doesn’t form an intolerance to it again.
I’ve had my fair share of those in the past and I still don't ever drink cow’s milk. I used to drink a lot of soya milk when I first cut dairy out, but this was having an effect on my menstrual cycles and PMS as it contains phytoestrogen that mimic the action of the body's own oestrogen.
As a ‘milk’ alternative, I switch between Almond, Oat, Coconut or Quinoa milk. Personally, I’m not a fan of Rice Milk as I find it too sweet and watery.
My 5 Favourite Healthy Breakfast Options
1. Home made, organic, gluten free muesli
I make up a kind of bircher muesli in a glass jar and leave it in the fridge overnight, it lasts a good few days.
I use organic (gluten free) rolled oats porridge and ground flax seeds as a base, and add whatever ‘milk’ alternative I have with some water or even coconut water.
I add and vary from time to time the following:
- chia seeds
- dried chopped apricots
- crushed mixed seeds and nuts (sunflower seeds/ pumpkin seeds/ almonds/ walnuts/ goji berries/ chopped dates/ cacao nibs (to make it chocolatel-y)/ cinnamon.
Sometimes, I add a little natural probiotic yoghurt and/ or top with fresh fruits or berries.
It’s delicious and really quick and easy as it's all pre-prepared.
2. Breakfast muffins or healthy banana bread
I have found some great recipes out there for gluten & wheat free breakfasts that even my husband takes to work as he ‘never has time to eat breakfast’. (Look out for recipes on the blog, I'll be letting you know my favourites!)
3. Fresh home made juice or smoothie
I have lots of favourite juices and smoothie recipes I’ve tried over the years and I'm happy to share my favourites.
Top Tip! - Add ripe avocado, to give a really creamy, satisfying smoothie.
I also add probiotic, omega oils and wheatgrass. Breakfast can be on the go if need be, packed with all your essential vitamins, minerals and essential fats in a glass, or portable flask.
4. Eggs, poached or scrambled.
When making scrambled at home, I usually add some kind of organic veggies in - spinach, courgette, tomato, spring onion.
With poached, I love 'Eggs Royale', with smoked salmon and spinach (minus the hollandaise or on the side). This is usually at weekends if we eat out, which we regularly do at the weekend.
I love the comforting taste of pancakes for breakfast (must be from loving New York, I took my husband as a surprise for his birthday and we had the best trip!). However I like to eat a healthy pancake an old personal trainer of mine told me about banana pancakes (just egg and banana!) sounds strange but trust me, once you get it right it’s a delight. Add a light drizzle of maple syrup!
6. Non-breakfast-y breakfast
I’m not a big fan of conventional, sugary breakfast cereals. They are well marketed as a ‘breakfast meal’, but I don’t see why other foods can’t be eaten as breakfast too.
I've been known to eat chicken, tuna, salad and veggies sticks for breakfast. It only seems odd as we are conditioned to eat something ‘breakfast’ appropriate.
I think good food is appropriate at any time of the day, I often make more of my ‘lunch’ and eat some of it as breakfast before I leave my apartment in the morning. Anyone else do this I wonder?
Lunch + Dinner
I try to be pre-prepared for lunch.
With a busy work schedule, it's really important for me to have good food to snack on and eat for lunch without having to go to the local shop or canteen for a last-minute sandwich or wrap filled with gloop.
Don’t get me wrong, some days this is the reality and I hate it. I feel so much better when I've taken my own food supplies to work, but it can be a challenge.
The key is going to the supermarket and buying good food to have in your fridge (it won’t appear on it’s own) and either making it the night before, or getting up that little bit earlier. I have a fridge at work that I often leave fresh food items like salad in so I can quickly make it at work.
Now this is something I do a lot.
Whatever I make for the evening meal, I make extra and take it for lunch the next day. This is a Godsend! Left over quinoa is great to add to salads the next day to give it more substance and protein for energy. Brown rice or brown rice pasta is also another great stable if you need a healthy dose of more filling carbs.
Juices + smoothies
A fresh juice or smoothie can also be great for lunch or extra snacks throughout your day. I take in an air tight thermos flask and keep in the fridge or take a cooler bag if you don't have a fridge at work.
I get hungry around every 3-4 hours, so I’m a constant grazer. I make sure I have something like nuts, seeds or fruit (although too much fruit can cause me to bloat), veggies (whole carrots and mini cucumbers are great snacks), or a bigger salad for lunch than I would normally eat and then eat again, say mid afternoon, or before I drive home to keep the hunger pangs away before I can make dinner.
I generally try to have a some kind of salad every day and use olive oil and apple cider vinegar as a dressing.
I eat a variety or raw or steamed/ lightly cooked vegetables daily (aiming for at least 5 different types), such as broccoli, courgettes, green beans, mange tout, asparagus, artichoke, green or red cabbage, bok choi, peas, spinach, brussels sprouts, carrots, sweet potato, parsnips, butternut squash, pumpkin, baby corn, celery, leeks, fennel, mushrooms, onions, radishes, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, lettuce, beetroot... I could go on!
It's a great idea to add either brown, short grain rice, quinoa, lentils, beans or pulses to salads and cooked dishes to get a good nutritional balance.
Fish + Chicken
I eat a lot of fish, including tuna, salmon, cod, red snapper, mackerel and locally caught fish .
I do eat chicken, organic wherever possible is the best option.
I flavour food with natural fresh herbs, garlic, onion, chilli, ginger or a sprinkle of organic bouillon powder into rice or quinoa to give a flavour. Adding coconut oil is another favourite of mine.
Home made soup
I love to make homemade vegetable soups to store in the freezer for when I’m feeling lazy or it's too late to cook. I add pre-cooked brown rice, quinoa or mixed beans to the soup to make a more substantial meal.
I try my best wherever possible to eat clean foods. I refer to my 'clean cook book' from my old personal trainer and have recently come across other sites and blogs which provide great recipes and new ideas for healthy meals. Some even provide shopping lists, which I find so helpful in planning.
I'll do a separate post with some of my favourite sites soon and I’ll be sharing some of my favourite tried and tested recipes with you on the blog, make sure you sign up for my email updates below!
I do love to eat out. What I don’t love is that too much eating out undoubtedly has an impact on my health and waistline!
After a period of eating out regularly, or having visitors to stay, my routines are completely out of the window. I feel sluggish, my clothes feel tight and I can get very disheartened.
I truly enjoy going out, so I do have to be careful with the choices I make. I try and choose healthy options and lucky for me they're the foods I most enjoy anyway, like fish and salads. And Yes, I do like a good steak from a good grill restaurant from time to time.
Sometimes you just have to go for it and have what you fancy.
I think it’s really important not to beat yourself up about it.
My advice would be if you are making ‘good’ sensible choices most of the time, then when you have the ‘blow out’ moments, take always, big meals out, lavish deserts, holidays eating and drinking... enjoy them at the time and then get back on track as soon as you can.
This is where I find doing a juice cleanse really helpful, to re-set the system and most importantly of all, to get my mindset back on track. If you're in need of a proper cleanse, you can get a comprehensive 14 day detox plan for free by signing up to on my Detox Guide page.
This is really important for me.
I can often dread exercise or put it off, but then find I really enjoy it once I’m doing it!
I then think to myself I’m going to get up everyday and do just half an hour (I am lucky enough to have a gym in my building along with many other fellow Dubaian’s)… I’m still saying it to myself and have yet to manage it!
In reality, I can manage with my work/ life/ procrastination balance around 3 to 4 exercise sessions per week. Sometimes this doesn’t happen and I feel sluggish as a result, so I get back to aiming for 3 to 4 sessions a week it as soon as I can.
My exercise generally comprises of running, yoga and the cross trainer. In the past, I mixed this up with Bikram Yoga, individual and group personal training sessions, all were great motivation especially when you have a goal in mind. What a girl will do before she gets married!
I’m a creature of habit and need someone to drag me out of my comfort zone from time to time, but at the moment Yoga is my thing I’m trying to improve. I hear Flybarre and FlyWheel is great in Dubai, it’s on my list of must tries.
My tip for getting myself to the gym has been downloading a series to my ipad and only watching it at the gym. For a while there Gossip Girl was effectively my gym buddie! Each episode or two is around 40mins, so I go in cross train, bike or tred mill for this time, then do some stretches and cool down and I’m out within the hour. If you can’t face 40 mins, find a shorter program to watch. It’s about finding what works for you and making it enjoyable, otherwise, If you are anything like me, you just won’t do it.
I try not to drink fluids with my meals as it causes a lot of bloating and dilutes digestive enzymes, which can cause havoc with digestion.
I aim to drink glass every hour and I don’t drink sparkling water as this again causes bloating. I will take a litre bottle to the gym and drink that during a work out.
Fluids to help digestion
Peppermint helps my digestion greatly and I drink Green tea (Jasmine or lemon) if I need a boost. I rarely drink ‘normal’ caffeinated tea, but being British, I do enjoy the odd 'cuppa' from time to time with my milk alternative of choice (or it has to be soya if I’m at Starbucks or Costa!)
If I drink too much caffeinated tea I’m a jittery wreck and can feel anxious, so never really have more than 1-2 per week. I love the taste and smell of coffee but it gives me the worst migraines so I never drink it. From time to time I have a coffee alternative called Whole Earth Organic no Caf. It’s similar to Dandelion coffee. To me it tastes like exactly like coffee but not coffee bean in sight and it is naturally caffeine free, made with roasted Italian barley, ground chicory and figs. If you're struggling to cut out the coffee, give it a try!
I’m lucky I live in a warm sunny climate and I love to simply go and sit out in the sunshine or go to the beach. Great for lifting the spirits.
Recently I’ve been making the time to have a regular massage or reflexology treatment, which has been wonderful. It’s so important to make time for yourself and to do something just for you. I used to feel very guilty about it, and spending money on the ‘luxury’ of treatments, but I can honestly say it has helped so many niggling health issues - from headaches, bad posture, neck and shoulder aches and pains from standing treating all day, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a bit of R&R. I always feel amazing and revitalised afterwards.
I also love outdoor running (when it’s not too hot) and yoga for exercise and relaxation. It gives me time and space to clear my mind and re energise. I’m lucky to have found a fantastic yoga teacher here in Dubai, really close to where I live, so there's no excuse! I’m really enjoying trying to improve my yoga practice, I’m definitely not as flexible as I was in my 20’s. The challenge of the head stand awaits me every week!
I have a fairly busy social life and love to meet up with friends. In Dubai, there's certainly no lack of amazing restaurants, bars and beach clubs.
Having a good old dance and letting your hair down is good for the soul. Some days, I just like to curl up on the couch and watch a cheesy movie.
Everyone is at a different stage of their health journey when they come to see me. I'd love to hear your thoughts or questions on this post in the comments below.
Do you have a daily routine, or want one but can't find the time? Where are you struggling most with your daily routine? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.
Have a wonderful day,
P.S. I post great recipes, articles and advice on my social media pages, follow me!
P.P.S. Check out the natural treatments I offer at AACSH in Dubai