Bryony Hopkins | A Belly Full Of

I’VE GOT GUTS. IBD Awareness Week Q&A

This is something I’ve been promising for a while and I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to compile! I first came up with the idea of doing a Q&A on living with IBD in the summer, having been asked a series of similar questions in my DMs for sometime. I wanted to create the post then but I quickly got quite sick afterwards (with my Crohns, classic!) and I didn’t feel like I could write all the answers I wanted to without compromising my mental health. Being open and honest can take it’s toll sometimes, and I seem to find it a lot easier to write about my experiences when I’ve come out the other side – rather than when I’m in the middle!

However, I am so passionate about raising awareness of this wretched illness and so I thought Crohns and Colitis Awareness Week was the perfect time to finally bring this Q&A to fruition. I am constantly overwhelmed by the amazing messages I receive in my inbox and so I really hope this article helps answer some of the most common questions I get. All of these have come in the form of comments or DMs and I really hope it’s useful.

Of course, before we get into this I should say I am NOT a medical professional and so everything I share below is anecdotal and first person experience. I am merely sharing my experiences and if you ever want to change your own diet, or medication, you should always consult your doctor first. IBD is different for every single person and so you should always be mindful that works for me, may not necessarily work for you.

So let’s launch in! This is a long one… so feel free to jump down to see which questions interest you most. I’ve addressed diet, alcohol, social life, work, diagnosis, surgery, medication and much more!

What is IBD?

IBD stands for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which is an umbrella term for Ulcerative Colitis and Crohns Disease. IBD is an autoimmune disease, which means your body attacks itself and it’s a chronic illness (life-long and ongoing, there is no ‘cure’) The main symptoms are stomach pain, diarrhoea, fatigue, mouth ulcers, loss of appetite and anaemia. IBD can also cause arthritis, joint pain, abscesses, fistulas and eye inflammation. You can be in remission from drugs or surgery and it impacts over 300,000 in the UK alone.

What is an ostomy?

Sometimes, surgery is needed to treat Crohns Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. There are many different types of surgery, which you can find more about here.  In some cases it is necessary to form an ‘ostomy’, which is basically a re-routing of your digestion system. It requires forming a stoma, which is when they bring your intestine out of the stomach and an ostomy bag is attached to collect the waste. More info here.

When were you diagnosed?

I was diagnosed when I was four years old, so literally 22 years ago now. I was on holiday in Wales with my family when I started experiencing some awful symptoms – running to the bathroom and losing a lot of blood. I don’t remember an awful lot about it to be honest, as I was so young and I know lots of people can remember way more about their diagnosis than I can. But I was whisked to a main hospital in Wales where I stayed for a few nights before I was well enough to be transferred immediately to a paediatric gastro specialist unit (the John Radcliffe in Oxford). I essentially completely skipped primary care because I was so poorly, and so young, and my consultant quickly diagnosed me with Crohns Disease.

What were your initial symptoms before diagnosis?

I find this such a hard question to answer because I was so little! A lot of my early childhood with the disease was quite traumatic, so I don’t remember an awful lot. All I do remember from when I was 4 years old was going to the loo A LOT, looking down the toilet bowl and seeing scarlet blood. I lost a lot of weight, was in a lot of pain and therefore it was a pretty swift diagnosis for me.

How did you feel about surgery and talking openly about it?

I had my first operation when I was 12 years old and to be honest, I was absolutely desperate for them to remove my large bowel because I was really so poorly. Even though I knew that meant I would have to live with a temporary ileostomy, I was just so sick of constantly being in pain, not being able to be more than 2 minutes away from a toilet and feeling constantly like I was functioning at 30%. I missed heaps of school, barely socialised and was either blown up like a balloon on steroids or on a liquid diet. There was no other options and surgery literally gave me my life back. That being said, I was of course still a child, so there were many people around me who also had a say in the decision, including my family and the doctors. After the ileostomy surgery and subtotal colectomy, my life was transformed. I went on school trips, parties, holidays – I was suddenly able to do it all. I didn’t however, have the ability to speak openly about it.

I don’t think I felt confident enough to talk about it until I left university at 21. So that was about 9 years after my first operation which removed my bowel – and it was 5 years after I had my ileostomy reversed (that happened when I was 16). I think there were many turning points in my ability to articulate what I’d gone through and how I felt about it. One was meeting my partner, Josh, who has given me more confidence in myself than I probably ever admit! And the second was entering my career and meeting amazing friends at university who accepted everything about who I was and loved me for it. Learning to be open about my surgery has been a process over years and years – and many people, including my family, Josh and my friends, have helped me get there. I never could have imagined at the age of 16 and even 20, that I’d be writing this all down for anyone to read!

In a nutshell (this has turned into a rather long answer!), the journey for every single person is completely different. And you shouldn’t feel like you need to share anything until you’re ready.

Bryony Hopkins

Straight after surgery in 2014, one of many

What was it like living with an ileostomy?

It was…. challenging! But also, amazing because my quality of life improved dramatically. I think it’s important to remember that I had my ileostomy between the ages of 13 and 16 – which is literally the most critical time of your life when it comes to figuring out who you are, how you feel about your body and establishing self confidence. Therefore my memories of how I felt about it are very much skewed by the feelings I had as I went through puberty and so it was quite a negative experience for me in terms of accepting my body. I know however that if I was to need an ileostomy in the future (which is fully possible), I would find it a lot easier to accept because I am so much more confident and comfortable in my own skin. Also the online community is just AMAZING now (which didn’t exist when I had an ostomy!). Two amazing accounts I would recommend are Billie and Where’s My Ostomy.

How do you deal with your scars?

Again, my journey to accepting my scars has taken years! It took me a long time to accept my scarred tummy but now I fully embrace it. The amount of times I have been so poorly I could barely get out of bed, it seems totally mad not to celebrate how much my body has overcome and my scars are part of that story. Of course sometimes I still have self conscious days like anyone else and sometimes when I’m on holiday that centres around my scars. Being in a solid relationship has definitely helped my body confidence, as well as going on girlie holidays and realising mostly people don’t give you a second glance! I’ve written a lot more about scars here and here.

Bryony Hopkins | A Belly Full Of

Proud of my scars, after many years of hiding them away

What medication have you taken?

I have think at some point or another, I have tried nearly everything! When I was first diagnosed as a child I was on a cocktail of extremely high dose prednisolone steroids, mesalazine – and also went on to try Infliximab and Budesonide. I was on azathiaprine for a long time as a teenager. I’ve been on multiple drugs to treat nausea specifically including ondssatron and cyclizine. I’ve also been treated for bacterial overgrowth with big antibiotics and a anal abscess which also required surgery and big old antibiotics. I’ve had the tablets, suppositories, foam – literally every way you can minister drugs, I’ve done it!

Right now I am unfortunately in a little flare up – and I take humira injections once a week (which I do myself) and I’m also taking prednisolone suppositories (THE GLAM LIFE GUYZ).

How do you stay so positive?

The honest answer is that I don’t stay positive all the time – in fact, when the disease is at it’s worse I really am an emotional wreck. Having said that, perhaps it’s just the length of time I’ve dealt with it, I’ve learnt that negative thoughts and feelings don’t actually assist in me feeling any better about things. I have long found that positive thoughts breeds positivity around you – and I am so lucky that I have that in my whole support network. I almost always have someone coming with me to hospital appointments, so I’m never alone for the good or the bad news, and I talk about it A LOT with my Mum, Dad and Josh. Being able to talk about it means I am able to rationalise things and essentially, just get on my daily life!

My emotions are permanently at the surface though and I cry at just about everything (I cried at an advert for a Christmas light switch on last night and I cry at FRIENDS episodes even when I know the outcome!) I guess my best advice is to talk, cry and moan when you need to and do things that make you feel good. For me this is my work, my social life, travel, yoga and reading a good book!

Bryony Hopkins | A Belly Full Of

Incredibly lucky that I have visited some amazing places, including San Fran

Why did you decide to go gluten and dairy free?

I went gluten and dairy free after I completed a 4 week liquid elemental diet to treat a particularly bad flare up of Crohns. It was actually the whole reason the blog was born – and you can see lots of my recipes + my liquid diet story on the ‘A Belly Full of Crohns’ tab.  Afterwards you have to reintroduce slowly on the LOFFLEX diet and during that process I found my stomach pains and bloating significantly reduced when I took dairy and gluten out of my diet. The whole process was supported by my specialist consultant and a dietician.

Everyone is different so of course eliminating these things from your diet won’t help everyone, and other people find other diets work, but this seems to have done me okay for the past couple of years! Being gluten and dairy free does NOT mean I am cured or symptom free. Unfortunately it is quite the opposite, I find gluten and dairy only really helps with bloating and some pain. My Crohns has a mind of it’s own and will play up anyway, meaning even if I am totally free-from these things, I still have mad toilet rushes and lots of pain.

How does alcohol impact your Crohns?

Alcohol seems to constantly impact my Crohns in different ways – and it largely depends how active the disease is and how I’m feeling overall! For example, in a flare up right now I am finding alcohol a massive irritant. Previously when I have been in remission, I found I can tolerate alcohol. This one really is a moving feast and I know everyone with IBD will have a different experience or way of dealing with it. I know some people with IBD who don’t drink at all – and I totally respect that. I personally prefer to judge it based on how I’m feeling. When I’m poorly I’ll avoid – when I’m feeling well, I will enjoy a drink.

Bryony Hopkins | A Belly Full Of

Burger + prosecco = YUM

How do you maintain a social life?

I think I manage to maintain a social life because I have such amazing, understanding friends! They will however probably all tell you I am a massive flake – as I do have a habit of over committing myself and then cancelling when I feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Luckily they are all incredibly understanding, for which I am grateful every single day!

Having a social life with IBD can be extremely challenging though and I have gone through periods where I have cancelled everything because I’m not well. These periods can feel lonely and isolating – and my best piece of advice here is to try and get friends and family to come and visit you. Movie nights and meals at home are perfect for this. Phone calls also are a great way of keeping in contact, even if you don’t have the energy to make it out the house. Being open helps too, so friends know that you are cancelling on account of your health – not because you just can’t be arsed. And any friends who judge you or make it difficult for you – ain’t worth your time.

How does your partner deal with your IBD?

I feel like Josh should really be answering this – but I know it is a constant challenge for him too. No-one wants to see their partner in pain but he is unbelievably positive, always making me laugh at hospital appointments and at my bedside. I know that it takes its toll. I think I should get him to write a proper answer to this!

Bryony Hopkins | A Belly Full Of

He actually hates social media – but he is my absolute rock

Did you tell your workplace about your Crohns and how did you go about it?

This has been a right old journey for me too since I left university, because there is no handbook in ‘telling your employee you have Crohns’! (Ok actually this resource on Crohns and Colitis website is actually pretty good, I wish I had found it when I was first entering my career!) I did tell my current workplace when I first joined and I’m really pleased I did – as two years later I ended up needing surgery and was off for 10 weeks. I think being honest and open as you can really helps reduce your own stress around needing time off for sick days and appointments etc. I enter into every new job with openness about it, but it ultimately always helps me too. This year I even reduced my hours to help manage my fatigue and they were amazing about it – I think because I had that open and honest conversation. It’s difficult for sure, but it does get easier.

Bryony Hopkins | A Belly Full Of

I work in journalism, which sometimes requires very early starts! Here’s me on the radio at 4am!

Does shift work mess with your tummy and how do you deal with it?

Yes it does!! Working as a journalist in a 24 hour newsroom means I have worked earlies and lates and it really messes with my tummy. In all honesty, the only way I have dealt with it is to be open with work and minimise the amount of shift work I actually do. Sometimes I do radio shows which require a 2am alarm and that will always impact my tummy for the rest of the day. I know a few people have messaged me to say they have felt the same – so unfortunately it seems to be a thing!

Do you find probiotics help your IBD symptoms?

Yes and no! I’ll hold my hands up and say I haven’t tried lots of different probiotics and I still find the whole topic quite overwhelming and confusing – especially when it comes to my well and truly messed up gut! I have recently been taking Symprove, which I have found helps with my bloating and pain on a daily basis. However having been on Symprove ,I’ve still had a flare-up – which shows how stubborn the disease can be. I’m not an expert in probiotics and I won’t pretend to be but I do find this one helps balance things out for me.

I’ve just been diagnosed and I’m so scared and overwhelmed. What advice do you have to dealing with this?

This is probably the most common question I get into my DM! Being diagnosed is completely overwhelming and can be totally terrifying (especially when I know people can be misdiagnosed with IBS for months and even years, beforehand). My best advice is to get yourself into secondary care as soon as you can and don’t be afraid to ask your consultant every single question on your mind. The online community is amazing and there are so many blogs and resources out there now, for you to read other people’s experiences. It’s SO important to remember that every single case of IBD is different though, so although it’s great to read other people’s stories so you know you’re not alone, it’s important that everyone’s journey is different. I would thoroughly recommend reading the information on the Crohns and Colitis Website – they have incredible resources.

If you’ve got this far – thank you for staying with me! I really hope it has gone some way to answer some of your questions <3

Bryony Hopkins A Belly Full of Food www.abellyfullof.com

 

bryonyhopkins

A Belly Full Of Leek and Potato soup for The Big Broth Campaign

A Belly Full Of Leek and Potato soup for The Big Broth Campaign

Today, leading youth homeless charity Centrepoint, launched their campaign The Big Broth. The campaign is seeking to bring awareness to the 86,000 young people in the UK facing homelessness (which utterly staggers and upsets me)

Young people face homelessness for a host of reasons and this amazing charity helps support over 10,000 them in accommodation and other support services in London, Yorkshire, Manchester and Sunderland. 86% of young people who come to Centrepoint move on in a positive way – but there is still so much more that can be done, with more funding and more support.

So when they got in touch with me to ask if I would create a soup recipe for The Big Broth campaign – it was a no brainer. Everyday I feel lucky to be happy, healthy and a roof over my head – and in the mill of day to day life, it can be so easy to forget how fortunate we really are. As an ode to my amazing Mum, I have created A Belly Full Of version of a family favourite – Leek and Potato soup. This is with a Bryony twist though!

A Belly Full Of Leek and Potato soup for The Big Broth Campaign, Bryony Hopkins

The pea shoots in the recipe give this a lovely peppery kick

The recipe is vegan, gluten free, dairy free and could be made low FODMAP. It’s a proper hearty, thick soup, which is the way I like it and deliciously mopped up with lots of bread! If you prefer a more liquid soup, up stock and the almond milk measurements.

Massive thanks to Riverford, for delivering me the best possible organic produce to make this recipe!

A Belly Full Of Leek and Potato soup for The Big Broth Campaign, Bryony Hopkins

Massive thanks to Riverford for delivering this super delicious, organic produce to create this recipe! The box contained pea shoots, tomatoes, carrots, kale, cauliflower, potatoes and leeks.

Serves 4 (gluten free, dairy free and vegan)

Ingredients

3 large potatoes, washed, peeled and chopped into small chunks

1 large leek, chopped

1 small red onion

1 small carrot, peeled and chopped

2 gloves of garlic

1 vegetable stock cube (make sure it’s GF!)

750 ml boiling water

300ml almond milk – unsweetened

Big handful of pea shoots + more for garnish

Olive oil

Salt & Pepper

A Belly Full Of Leek and Potato soup for The Big Broth Campaign

A proper winter warmer as it starts to get so cold!

Method

  1. Pop a glug of olive oil into a shallow pan (ideally with a lid) and add your crushed garlic, chopped red onion, chopped carrot and leek into the pan. Keep on a medium heat and sauté the vegetables for about 20 minutes. Be sure not to let the vegetables burn!
  2. Meanwhile, add the vegetable stock cube to your boiling water (or just use vegetable stock if you have it!) and whisk so it’s smooth. Add the liquid to your pan, along with a handful of pea shoots and your potato chunks. Bring to the boil and then simmer for around 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are totally tender and falling apart. Season well with plenty of black pepper and salt.
  3. Pop the mixture into a blender and add 300ml of unsweetened almond milk. Blend until smooth.
  4. Serve with black pepper on top, a swirl of olive oil and a handful of pea shoots.
A Belly Full Of Leek and Potato soup for The Big Broth Campaign

The Big Broth Campaign for Centrepoint launches 2nd November

** The vegetables from Riverford were gifted for this recipe. This is not a paid post. **

Bryony Hopkins A Belly Full of Food www.abellyfullof.com

bryonyhopkins

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of, Sadhana Yoga

The outside of the studio had a very on point message. Sweat. Chill. Repeat.

With a really frantic few weeks moving into my new flat, when I got a mail in my inbox inviting me to try a class at Sadhana Yoga studio, I thought – YES BLOODY PLEASE! I need all the zen in my life. When I found out it was close to where I had just moved into, I really did think Christmas had come early.

So what’s the deal with me and yoga? Well, yoga has been part of my life on and off for many years. I was actually first introduced to it by my Mum back when I couldn’t have been older than 12 years old, when I desperately needed some distraction and relaxation. She took me to a class at a local leisure centre and I loved it – I had never felt such a serene feeling sweep across me when I was in the class. I loved the breathing, the feeling of totally letting go of stress from the day and just having that sacred five minutes at the end of the session to focus on your breathing and relax.

Since then I have never quite kept up consistent yoga practice, even though I know I love it. I have taken some yoga classes at various places and done a couple of beginners courses of 6 weeks – but it always seems to fall off my radar. When I saw that Sadhana was located so close to where I lived and was a studio dedicated to all different types of yoga classes, I thought yesss, this is when I can get back on this horse!

Sadhana Yoga and Wellbeing studio is based near Clapham Junction and is literally walking distance from the main train station and bus stops. The choice of classes is vast – everything from Bikram Yoga, to Vinyasa and even ‘Dynamic Body’ yoga. I had a look at the class descriptions on the website before deciding which one to go for – and decided that I would push myself out of my comfort zone and go for something different. So with that, I booked into the ‘Dynamic Body’ class, which was described as a core muscle work out, with strength building in the upper and lower body. The class will culminate deep stretches to encourage the body to open and release any lasting tension’.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of, Sadhana Yoga

The outside of Sadhana, on what was a bit of a rainy day in London. Immediately forgot about the weather as soon as I stepped in the door!

I arrived on a Saturday morning for the 1030 class and the interior of the studio were just beautiful.  The vibe was very relaxed and the front staff were really helpful, giving me a short form to fill out. This is of course quite normal for a yoga studio, so they have your next of kin details and also can be made aware of any injuries you have.

I had looked up on the website the night before to see if I needed to bring my own mat – which they did advise, although you can rent a mat if you need to when you’re there. I headed into the class five minutes early and it was already quite full. People lay with their eyes closed and it became clear that people came to Sadhana very regularly – these people looked utterly relaxed just lying with their eyes closed, whilst we waited for the teacher.

The instructor was Letitia Wilkinson, a professional dancer and what I quickly found out during the class, was this was very much about core strength – of which I massively struggle with due to so much abdominal surgery! Letitia was a fabulous teacher though, very gently motivating as we moved our bodies into many strength positions – from the plank to balancing on tip toes. I realised about 10 minutes in that the reason everyone else was just in yoga pants and a sports bra was because this is a SWEATY class. It really did push my body.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of, Sadhana Yoga

Internal scar tissue in my stomach means I really struggle with core strength exercises – but the instructor was very patient and encouraging. Which is always nice!

I am always weary of my core strength when I enter into classes like this – because mine is disastrously weak in comparison to other people’s. Lots of scar tissue has meant I’ve consistently never engaged that part of my body, always opting for work outs which focus on my lower or upper body instead. There was no where to hide in this class when it came to core strength, and Letitia was totally patient and encouraging. I spoke to her after the class and she gave me some fabulous tips about how to engage my core better in the plank and other core based exercises, and I walked away feeling like I had some tangible tools to move forward, whilst also feeling good that I can completed a very challenging class.

I can’t wait to try some of their other classes next and I would definitely recommend this yoga studio, offering  such variety and also something different in their strength and movement classes. Sadhana means ‘disciplined and dedicated practice or learning’ – so I guess I will just have to keep on going!

img_6295

**I was gifted the class for free, but was not paid to write this post. All reviews and opinions completely honest.**

bryonyhopkins

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of Food, Food Dairy Co

The gorgeous pages from the Food Diary Co. Scroll down to find my 10% off discount code – exclusive for you guys!

‘Why don’t you start a food diary Bryony? You might actually be able to see what is making a difference rather than speculating’. That was my Mum, talking to me after I had my sixth open stomach surgery. I was at home undergoing a mega recovery and felt frustrated I was still in pain and discomfort. With nothing else I do, I started a meticulous food diary, which went on to dramatically change my quality of life.

That was back in 2015 and so when Laura from the amazing Food Diary Co got in touch with to share her amazing food diary, I was made up. And also in disbelief. It is so useful and life changing to document what you eat and your symptoms, that someone has actually made a business out of it? What a brilliant thing. At the beginning of the this summer, with my new diary, I started documenting my lifestyle and diet again and just as it did before, I found some hard to ignore patterns. (Scroll down for my discount code to buy your diary!)

But before I get to that, let’s rewind back to 2015. It was the first time I had even thought about documenting my diet and my symptoms and I didn’t really know where to start. I was first diagnosed with Crohns Disease when I was four years old and nobody had ever suggested to me that this might be a good idea. Which seems mad now even three years on – but back then it was a bit of a breakthrough. I started by simply writing down what I ate and rated my pain out of ten. I thought it might be quite poignant to show one of my diary entries, which I dug out of the archives below.

A Belly Full of Food, Bryony Hopkins

You can see dramatically how much my pain changes when I had a drop of milk!

Even just with this very basic method, I was able to deduce that dairy was causing me major problems. My pain shot up to 8 or 9 out of 10 on days when I had milk in my tea, a slice of cheese or even milk chocolate. When you see changes like that, it becomes incredibly hard to continue as normal. I went through a similar process in 2016 to discover gluten was having a similar effect and since I cut them both out – I’ve never looked back, and I’ve never documented what I was eating since.

So when I received my diary, it seemed like a no brainer to start again. The most brilliant thing about The Food Diary Co, is the ability to document SO much more than just your diet. Like so many other people with gut conditions, I am massively impacted by many lifestyle factors outside of my diet. A busy day can impact my stomach. A run of late shifts, lack of exercise or drinking alcohol, can all impact my stomach. Even just a bad nights sleep – that can impact my stomach! And it was brilliant to have a place to jot all this down in my new Food Diary. It became almost like a journal for me – as I was able to write down so much more than just my pain.

A Belly Full of Food, Bryony Hopkins

You can see here the layout of the page, where you can jot down everything from mood, sleep, stress, drinks, medicine and exercise.

Having a place where I could write down everything from sleep, drinks, stress and medicine essentially gave me place where I could actually identify patterns. I’m sure I’m the same as many in the fact that I am very time poor – with a demanding job, a busy social life and juggling lots of commitments constantly. It seems strange saying it out loud, but sometimes I genuinely can’t remember what I ate for breakfast – let alone how it made me feel! It actually became incredibly refreshing to see how I was doing every day – and be able to look back on it, see it in black and white and absorb the patterns appearing.

Living with a condition like Crohns Disease is a minefield – every day is different and sometimes in the fog of fatigue, it can be hard to see the wood from the trees. From looking back at every entry over a month and then looking at the ‘month’ round up page at the back, some of my triggers became clear. I am majorly impacted by stress, lack of sleep, alcohol and unfortunately my one love, coffee. My summer with The Food Diary Co has also made it pretty clear that I can’t do oats in large quantities and I can’t do soya milk everyday. Who knows why this is the case and I am still in the process for hunting for other patterns for other niggles. What I do know now though is that I have the knowledge and tools to make better decisions for my health – based on my scrawly biro writings in my Food Diary. I’ve started reserving my energy so I don’t get burnt out and I always make sure I get 8 hours sleep. These lifestyle changes have essentially made it easier for me to put one foot in front of the other.

Bryony Hopkins, A Belly Full of Food

A veggie pasta packed with goodness

So what top tips would I give if you are starting a diary for the very first time? Throw everything at it and literally write down everything you can possibly think of. Even if it doesn’t seem relevant – jot it down. What this diary is amazing for, is making you see that everything you do has an impact on how you feel. I will even write down ‘cried today about X’ or ‘felt really happy about Y’, because I know my mood is detrimental to my wellbeing. I’ll also write down what medication I took, as well as how much water I’ve drunk. I asked Laura, the fabulous founder of The Food Diary Co, what her advice was.

‘I would say firstly, congratulations! You’re starting a journey to taking control of your gut and health again, and I am so excited for you! Secondly, be sure to check out our blog on the website because we have lots of really great posts that can help you, including our big bumper guide to using a food diary (if you want a downloadable copy of your own to keep, be sure to sign up to the newsletter for your free download!), and the 8 ways I used my food diary to heal post. That one is all about the habits I formed to help me successfully keep a food diary.’

I hope this post has given you some food for thought on starting on a food diary journey, I would love to hear your thoughts. Better yet – to get you kick started you can use my exclusive discount code for 10% off a beautiful Food Diary Co! 

Use the code ‘BELLY10’ for 10% off at the check out – and get in there fast! The code ends on 31st October 2018. Click here to buy.

Cannot wait to hear what you think!

img_6295

** I was gifted the diary for free, but was not paid for this post. All reviews completely honest.**

bryonyhopkins

Students sometimes opt to cut out meat altogether to make meals cheaper – my brother recently told me he did this!

Today Waitrose hit the headlines for a rather different reason – no, it wasn’t a big shiny Christmas ad it was a page from their magazine which shared ‘5 Student Store Cupboard Essentials’.

If you haven’t seen the article (read it here), it shared 5 ingredients, which it said would ‘set your tastebuds alive’ and would create you a bunch of eclectic and delicious meals. On the list was Aspall Organic Cyder Vinegar priced at £1.70, Organic Italian Seasoning at £1.89 and Harissa Paste priced at £4.35 for a 170g jar1!

I went on BBC Radio London today to discuss it (you can listen back here, in at 1610) and I was very honest with my views – this list is ridiculous!! I had absolutely no idea what harissa paste was when I was at university. I lived off stir fry, fried egg and bacon and toast and beans. I have absolutely no shame in that, but there are so many factors at play when you start university. Unless you are already into cooking, lets be honest, you probably won’t be using your time to find out what to do with harissa paste!

It took me back to 8 years ago when I was a fresher myself and got me thinking about student staples I would recommend now, with cooking knowledge and how the free-from market has changed! So, I have complied my recommendations for 9 essentials for the gluten and dairy free student.

1. Garlic

Okay, I know this is probably obvious 101 but I had no idea the ability of a garlic clove at university and because it is SO versatile, and can be used in basically anything, I’ve popped it number 1. Pasta, stir fry, chicken, fish, turkey, spinach – literally add garlic and you are away. If you’re LOW FODMAP you could go for garlic oil. Costs about 80p for 2 bulbs in many supermarkets.

2. Salt and pepper

Again basic – but also, life changing. A good old season of salt and pepper really makes a difference. Especially a good quality sea salt, if the budget can stretch to it.

3. Chilli flakes and paprika

As I said on the radio, add paprika and you can get a taste upgrade on so many meals. Meats, fish, veg alike – even an aubergine with paprika baked in the oven would be delicious. A life saver, along with some chilli flakes. Cost about 90p each for a supermarket own brand (which is the same as any brand!)

The best chicken sticky recipe which is based on soya sauce and rice! Both cheap ingredients, plus the chicken can be cheaper if bought frozen (see more below!)

4.Gluten free soya sauce

Okay so perhaps I am hypocritical here because the Waitrose article did say gluten free soya sauce, but that was for nationwide application. Obviously when you’re gluten free, you have little choice in the matter! Soya sauce is incredibly useful for making bland rice and noodles interesting and so therefore, it should be on the list. Clearspring is £3.15, however Meridian comes in cheaper and so does Kikkoman. So shop around for the best price!

5. Basmati rice

Rice is hard to get right but it’s cheap. Basmati rice is not that much more expensive and essentially cooks quicker and easier. I always use basmati now – and again, not too expensive.

6. Frozen peas and sweet corn

Frozen peas and sweetcorn can go in ANYTHING! Pastas stir fries, a side for your meat or fish – and frozen is cheaper and goes a long way. You’re looking at £1-£2.

7. Chopped tomatoes

Again the base of pastas, pasta bakes, curries etc etc! Cheap and easy to store and lasts for ages.

8. Chickpeas

A cheap and filling alternative to meat and easy can make a quick curry with your chopped tomatoes, garlic, chilli, paprika, frozen peas and rice. Looking at 55p for these!

If you do fancy fish, I recommend going for frozen. Roasted veg is also filling and goes a long way!

9. Frozen chicken breasts or fish

If you do go for fish or meat, I am saying frozen because it lasts longer and is generally cheaper. You can get large packs of frozen chicken breasts or fish for under £5 in some supermarkets and is just generally a more cost effective way to consume these products.

All hail pasta!! I’ve used quorn in this spag Bol, which is actually cheaper than beef and incredibly filling.

10. Gluten free Pasta

I am putting this at the bottom because it is expensive, but I have mentioned pasta a lot above as a key staple! Unfortunately, gluten free pasta is just more expensive but all the major supermarkets have their own GF pastas now, which are generally cheaper. Sainsburys, Tescos and Morrisons are all good ones to look out for.

I’d love to know what your student essentials were or are?

bryonyhopkins