Over the past year, I’ve found Twitter and Instagram to be amazing for meeting like-minded people who have become good friends, thanks to a shared interest in health food, cooking, blogging, fitness and music; basically, my main passions. You should never underestimate the power of social media channels when building and developing connections, while being inspired through photos or blog posts.
Belonging to buzzing, vibrant networks and sites like the Health Bloggers Community, Train Eat Gain and as one of Wheyhey’s monthly guest bloggers, Twitter and Instagram have played a huge part in helping these opportunities – and many more – come into fruition, including being filmed in a healthy cook-off series for Body Power Expo, Bake’n’Shake (airing early next year, woohoo!).
It’s here where I finally had the pleasure of meeting the talented, creative protein genius that is Nicky, aka Proteinologist as many know her through social media and her website. After spending two days on shoot with her, I was keen to spread the word of Nicky’s fantastic brand and her very exciting plans for the future – read on to find out!
So Nicky, first things first – tell us what made you get into protein baking?
I started baking at university as I was vegan at the time and found it easier to bake my own things as vegan (and healthy) baked goods were hard to find. I also found it a distraction from my studies as I wasn’t really enjoying my time at university 😉 I got to a point where I was really fed up of doing cardio so I got a coach and took up weight lifting and knew that I needed more protein in my diet to support this. I became vegetarian and this allowed me to have dairy including whey so I starting incorporating it into my baking after being inspired by Protein Pow.
Can you sum up for us the ethos behind your brand, ‘Proteinology’, and what it stands for?
Proteinology stands for having your cake and eating it too! Yes, cliché but it is true. I think people need to realise that being healthy doesn’t mean having a boring diet, eating only chicken, broccoli and rice or going to a low carb or no fat extreme.
You don’t have to deny yourself of anything, it’s just about making healthy choice and having things in moderation. By baking with protein and healthier ingredients it means you can satisfy that craving for a sweet treat during the week, then absolutely let yourself have a little something naughty at the weekend too! I think you’ll find also that because you can bake healthier things and they’ll satisfy that craving, you just won’t end up wanting that naughtier version because you know you can make it healthier too!
I really want people to be experimental with their diet and have lots of variety and be proud of the things that they bake and cook too!
You’ve developed ‘Proteinology’ to include a blog and wonderful recipe book, plus a cafe launching in January. What have you learnt along the way?
Firstly, lean on people. You don’t have to be alone with anything you’re doing. Surround yourself with positive people and they will be willing to help you if they can!
In terms of baking, if you’re not confident, try doing other people’s recipes first so you can learn what works and what doesn’t. You’ll soon be experimenting with your own in no time!
Also, it’s okay to make mistakes. I used to be such a perfectionist but I’ve kind of grown up and realised that every mistake I have made whether it’s been in business or with my own recipes or anything in life really, I have learnt from for the future and this makes me do better.
What can we expect from your new establishment? Food, interior, experience…give us an insight!
Obviously protein baking will be involved as this is what I absolutely love so plenty of protein cakes and cookies etc. But also healthy high protein meals full of flavour because this is what makes healthy food come alive and makes people realise that it doesn’t have to be boring at all.
There will also be great coffee of course! In terms of interior, it will be a work in progress as I am taking over a current café but over time it will become a contemporary black and white and splashes of colour themed café as this goes with my logo.
I really hope that it will be a friendly place that will attract lots of regulars including the students by the university as I’d like to think that students don’t have to live on fast food and are becoming more interested in health and fitness now.
The concept of ‘protein’ has exploded in the past year – why do you think it has established such a popular reputation? Do you think it is just a passing trend in the food/diet industry, or has it got longevity?
I hope it has got longevity because there is evidence to prove that a high protein diet is beneficial in many ways. Protein is essential for our bodies to function and perform at it’s best and has so many functions in the body from repairing and building muscle, skin, hair and bones.
Not only that but protein keeps you fuller for longer and it’s harder for the body to digest protein so it has to work harder – therefore assisting in fat loss.
What are some of the main challenges you’ve come across when ‘proteinising’ a standard recipe? Can you give us one of your top tips when it comes to substituting ingredients for healthy ones?
Obviously standard recipes contain sugar, unhealthy fats, wheat, gluten and various other unhealthier alternatives so they taste indulgent. To make protein goods taste just as good is a challenge but can be done!
When I first started out, I was that person with the dry muffins that tasted like cardboard. Whey makes baked goods very dry so to counteract this you need plenty of ‘wet’ ingredients.
In terms of substituting ingredients for healthier ones, I use oat flour, coconut flour and almond flour as all purpose flour alternatives. I tend to keep some whole eggs in because eggs are healthy, packed with protein and omega 3 and I find that keeping some fat in the recipe just makes them taste way better and more like the real thing. This is why I tend to use nut butters in recipes too. If a recipe usually has margarine in I’d recommend coconut oil or butter as they aren’t as processed. Some of the fat can also be replaced with fruit purees that I tend to get from the baby aisle!
Things like cream I tend to swap for Greek yogurt. And for sugar, I personally use Truvia which is made from stevia leaf so it natural and also calorie free. You can also use honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar or agave as other natural sources though.
For those wanting to start out using protein in their diets, whether as supplements, powder or in baking, what advice would you offer?
Start off simple! Try experimenting with smoothies in the morning..you can get some really great flavours if you’re inventive. Then maybe move onto pancakes as you can throw in the ingredients into the blender and then cook them like you would a normal pancake. And then take it from there! Like I said before, look at what other people do and what ingredients they use together.
Looking at your own diet, what’s your favourite protein-packed treat? How about the recipe you most enjoyed making/eating?
Gosh..that’s hard! I would have to say any of the protein cookies I do though. I am such a cookie monster! I have never tasted a decent protein cookie that you can buy anywhere so tried hard to really get my protein cookie recipes right and tasting like real ones so I’m pretty proud of them. My favourite one has to be the toffee peanut butter choc chip ones on my blog or the chocolate hazelnut ones in my book.
Where do you get your inspiration from when it comes to creating new recipes for not only your website and book but other for other brands?
I usually get it from things I see when I’m out and about whether it’s in the supermarket or a café with sweet treats around. Also I love proteinising childhood favourites!
You’re a massive fan of health food and protein products. Tell us some of your favourite brands?
Haha yes I am! At the moment as people will know from my social media feeds, I am a nut butter addict and obsessed with Hognuts and I love Nuts N More and Barney Butter too. I’m also loving Sukrin products for baking as they do sugar free sweeteners including icing sugar also I use their flours all the time like the reduced fat almond flour is a particular favourite with it’s protein content.
Finally, any other exciting plans for the future coming up alongside the opening of your cafe? Give us a sneak peek!
The whole idea behind the café was not only to start producing fresh food for people, but the kitchen will be used to produce my product line to sell online and in other stores hopefully. This will include things like protein cookies, protein bars, protein balls and other protein snack products. I’m really excited about it and hope this is just the start of my brand ☺
Want the recipe for Nicky’s Chocolate Orange & Ginger Protein Cake?
I could not be more excited to host and share a fabulous guest recipe kindly provided by Nicky especially for my blog – HOW delicious does this sound?! Go check out the recipe now!