The Instagram influence and taking pictures of food
The other night, I found myself defending my Instagram account over a glass of wine.
It's become a big mix of recipes, running and nutrition trend review.
However, there's also some philosophy, jokes and a lot of real-life reporting from the parenting front line.
Recently, I'd posted the children in their Halloween costumes, so the question I was asked was, “What do inflatable horses have to do with nutrition?”
Hmmmm, that's a pretty good question …
The first weekly column I ever wrote for this paper was in February 2005.
It was way back when we were first realising what a big problem sugar was.
I was newly qualified and horrified at sugar consumption and I wrote a serious piece with some pretty heavy-handed recommendations.
I don't know how many people read it … maybe three?!
I know that I thought I was doing a good job, but it didn't change the world.
A few weeks later, while I was writing something else sensible, Jasper (the puppy) arrived in the living room with a thong round his ankle and my bra in his mouth.
I'd been packing for a trip and he'd raided my suitcase.
If you ever try to get your underwear back from a six-month-old puppy who hasn't had a walk yet, then good luck.
It was pretty funny and I wove it into the dialogue.
You know who read that one? EVERYONE.
Well, obviously not everyone, but lots of people. And because they were already reading, they read the rest of the column too.
Someone said to me, “I can't believe your dog did that! Oh and I bought that probiotic.”
That's when I knew. If I wanted more people to read the nutrition bit, I would have more luck if I drew them in with something else first.
Maybe it wouldn't change the world, but it had a little more chance.
After that, the stories became a regular part of this. It would seem odd now if I just gave you some facts without any chatter (maybe you just wish that I did!).
Jasper grew to be the biggest golden retriever of all time. It was like living with an extremely hairy, hilarious giant.
He rolled in dead toads before dinner parties, licked the icing off a cake and ate an entire remote control.
He once licked a broken dish while I was out and cut his tongue.
He was totally fine but bled prolifically. When I arrived home I thought he'd murdered an intruder. It took about three weeks for my heart rate to return to normal. He was a constant source of stories!
After Jasper, then came the children and all the domestic chaos that comes with multitasking and sleepless nights.
There were these incredible highs and absolutely massive lows. I've never been so excited about life yet so completely exhausted all at the same time.
When I was at home, I wanted to be at work, when I was at work, I wanted to be at home.
I put the iron away in the fridge, I arrived at the office with no shoes on … there were always stories.
My favourite memory of all time is Chloe, aged 2, pointing at the clock in Lindo's and shouting repeatedly (so everyone could hear) “CLOCK!!”
She was so proud of herself. It was just a shame she couldn't pronounce her Ls.
Of course, now the children are bigger I have to be more careful.
With the column online, I ask them for permission to share stories and pictures. It's the worst!
They love to censor me, which I guess is understandable given how much control adults have over their day-to-day existence.
Fortunately, I was allowed to share the horses. Because to be honest, if your children dress up as horses (because what else would you be at Hallowe'en?) then you need to be able to share it.
While you're sharing it you can raise a conversation about the trick-or-treating sugar rush and throw in some tips about the Switch Witch. See? That's how it works!
For work, Instagram and Facebook have been a double-edged sword.
Social media can be a fickle and insatiable beast but on the plus side, it gives small businesses an amazing opportunity to carry a message and grow a brand.
It provides a reliable avenue to share details about events but also a background dialogue that keeps the conversation going about what you do.
At Natural, our focus is on providing real food, real-life solutions to nutrition problems … so there's a lot of real life in our media.
We share what works for us, in the hope it works for you too!
There's no doubt that social media — Instagram especially — has changed the way we look at food.
The BBC did a great feature on this recently, outlining food trends triggered by Instagram.
For example, the popularity of the vegan food movement has skyrocketed since platforms have been able to share how vibrant, colourful, interesting and diverse the food can be.
Let's face it, we used to think that vegan food was all nut loaf and tofu.
But now it's roasted chickpea bowls with cilantro, butternut squash, Moroccan dressing and fresh pomegranate seeds.
It's not the only way, but the vegan trend is appetising, ethical and getting a lot more people back into their kitchens!
In testament to how powerful Instagram imagery is, lighting design within restaurants is changing to become more Instagram-friendly.
Restaurants are recognising that almost everyone snaps a pic of their food these days — and it pays to help them make that picture good. How crazy is that?
Of course, it's important to set all that within context. I don't care how beautiful the bowl of hand-harvested-by-Tibetan-Monks oatmeal is, absolutely nobody eats that way every day.
Just like Facebook, Instagram tends to be a highlight reel where we show off the good stuff, so don't be fooled into thinking your regular cooking isn't good enough.
Unfortunately Instagram isn't just responsible for triggering health-food trends either, it's also responsible for the unicorn food movement (multicoloured everything from bagels to smoothies) and obsessions with the latest doughnuts.
It's hard not to crave junk when your feed is littered with a steady stream of unhealthy treats.
Here's a tip though — get all the junk out of your feed and only follow the healthy stuff.
You'll experience way less self-sabotage that way. Out of sight, out of mind!
Don't worry, the healthy options really can be delicious.
I have a recipe for cookie dough bites that are properly melt-in-your-mouth.
They're sweet but not too sweet and made from chick peas versus flour.
Does that sound totally gross? I promise you it's not!
And the great thing about chick peas is that they provide tons of fibre and a little vegetarian protein to help steady that sugar release.
I've shared the details with you below. Give them a try this weekend!
Cookie dough bites (vegan, gluten-free)
Ingredients (Makes about 20 1-inch bites)
• 1¼ cups canned chickpeas, really well-rinsed and patted dry. I used Eden Organic which are nice and soft and come in a BPA-free can but Progresso, etc, will do in a pinch.
The Waitrose organic ones are a bit small and hard but if you have a super-good processor they would be fine too.
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (gluten-free if necessary)
• ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons natural cashew butter (you can use almond/peanut/hazelnut etc, but NOT Skippy-type brand as it will be too soft. If it has separated, stir it together WELL.)
• ¼ cup honey
• 1 teaspoon baking powder (gluten-free if necessary)
• A pinch of salt if your nut butter doesn't have salt in it
• ½ cup chocolate chips (I use the Enjoy Life chocolate chips from Supermart.)
1, Preheat your oven to 350°F.
2, Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3, Pop everything in a processor except the chocolate chips. Whizz till very smooth.
You may have to do this in bursts. I added a tablespoon of water the first time I made these and not the second. Not sure what the difference was.
Scrape down the sides of the processor if you get large bits of chick pea creeping to the top.
4, Once the mix is smooth, transfer to a large bowl. It will be very thick and sticky.
5, Line up a small bowl of water for you to wet your hands (you will see why in a minute).
6, Add the chocolate chips to the mix and stir it if you can, or just use your hands.
7, Next, with wet hands (hence the bowl), form the dough into one-inch balls.
8, Place on the lined baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes until golden on the outside.
9, Cool on the sheet and transfer to a rack if you like. I pressed half mine down when they came out of the oven to make them look a bit more like cookies. The recipe will work for either soft cookies or cookie dough bites.
10, In our weather, the chocolate chips stay melty for ages, so don't be afraid of letting them cool if you want the goo factor.
Mine only went solid again after I refrigerated them.
Good in the freezer because they are great cold and chewy too!
• Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. For details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511 or, on Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda