Pinch, punch with meatballs for lunch!
Personal trainer (and former chef) Ian Eassom shares his tips on staying fit and healthy, with the occasional treat…
Can you believe March is here already? I love this month as everything is starting to grow with the daffodils and crocuses already in full bloom. Plus as the dark nights get shorter, it makes it more appealing to be outdoors. There are also lots of national celebrations going on in March including national meatball day on Tuesday 9th March. With this in mind I have my own healthy, but tasty vegan version, although you can easily substitute ground beef into it for a more traditional dish if you prefer.
But before we get to that, let’s talk about how to make the most of these longer days! One of the most popular activities I’m asked about is boxing. My clients love putting on a pair of boxing gloves and throwing some pretty hard punches, while I hold the sparring pads. However, in these days of social distancing and working online, shadowboxing is a great alternative and avoids the need for gloves and pads (and a sparring partner!).
It’s easy to think of shadowboxing as merely a warm-up, rather than an intensive exercise in its own right, but it’s actually a full body workout targeting your chest, shoulders, arms, legs and core. It’s great for toning and burning belly fat, as you build muscles through it, and as well as being a fun cardio session, it’s good for your mind too, improving memory and mindfulness.
Try these five moves, and for each, try to do three or four rounds, by either doing sets of 10 or setting the stopwatch and doing 20 seconds of each.
Jog ‘n’ Jab
This is a nice simple one to start: while jogging on the spot give two quick, but powerful air jabs, keeping fists clenched and palms facing downwards. There are variations to this, like running on the spot as quick as you can for around four seconds, then stopping while throwing out a couple of hard jabs, before going straight back into your fast running. Alternatively, if running’s not for you, then a nice strong marching action will do just fine. If you are more advanced, try putting in a jump squat between each double jab.
Squats with UpperCut
An uppercut is a swinging punch upwards with a bent arm, like an underarm throw.
Start with legs shoulder-width apart and go down into a nice, deep squat; then on your way up, get those uppercuts out left and right, before going back down into that squat position. Again, depending on your fitness and flexibility levels, you can vary the intensity of your squats.
Going into that lunge position, throw a couple of high air punches forwards, then return to your starting position. Change legs and repeat. Again there are plenty of variations on this one, such as walking lunges or reverse lunges, working on your speed, or going slow and deep instead.
Go into that deep squat position again, then on your way up, kick one leg out, either forward, sideways or reverse, punching the air as you get the kick nice and high. Rather than swapping legs each time, work one side first, seeing how many you can get out or how long you can go, before changing legs.
This is a familiar move, but this time instead of doing the ‘wiper action’ with your arms, how about punching both arms upwards at once? If you want to make these less intense you could do a double air punch and add in a slight dip, which is a lot easier on the knees.
If you find you still have some excess energy after this then next time start with some warm-up exercises, such as a rope jump or crawl outs, or you can add more to these exercises by adding in press-ups, divebombs or climbers between each boxing move to add to the intensity and keep it interesting.
Now, I bet you’re hungry after all that!
Easy Vegan Meatballs
These Italian style vegan meatballs will serve 4-6 people (depending on how hard you have worked on your boxing!). They only take 10 minutes to prepare and not long to cook either.
For the meatballs:
2 tins chickpeas
50g nutritional yeast
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 onion (small finely chopped)
1 tsp oregano
3 tbsp ground flax seed
Pinch salt and black pepper
Half cup water
For the spicy tomato sauce:
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
170g onion (diced)
4 cloves of garlic
2 tins of tomatoes (chopped)
1 tsp chilli flakes (crushed)
2 red peppers (chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
…served on a good portion of your favourite pasta.
Preheat oven to 170°C. In a small bowl, stir together the ground flax seed and 8 tablespoons of the water. Let it sit for five minutes while you prepare the chickpeas.
Blend the chickpeas in a food processor until there are almost no whole beans left (you can mash them by hand with a potato masher if you don’t have a machine). Add the chickpeas to a large mixing bowl. Now add the flax/water mixture, breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, garlic, onion, oregano, salt and black pepper, stirring in until well combined. The mixture will be very thick; sometimes I even use my hands to make sure everything is incorporated well. Roll the mixture into balls (about a heaped tablespoon each) and place on a parchment lined or greased baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, turning once halfway through.
While the meatballs are baking, you can prepare the sauce and cook the pasta. For the sauce, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat. Add the onion and garlic, cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes, and then stir in the tomatoes, red peppers and chilli flakes. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 10 minutes.
When the meatballs are cooked, carefully place them in the spicy tomato sauce. Gently stir to coat, but be careful not to break them, as they aren’t as firm as regular meatballs. Serve over cooked pasta with optional vegan parmesan if desired. You can make this recipe with black or kidney beans as well, for a slightly different flavour, and they can also be served on a skewer with rice and a sauce of your choice.
Until next time, enjoy the great outdoors, and in April I will be sharing my Blueberry Fool recipe with you (which is fat free), and a (April) foolproof way to help with your motivation. As always, stay safe and see you soon!