January 16, 2021
When life feels challenging the last thing you want is to make it harder. Which is why I’m never a fan of restrictive eating regimes, clean-eating programmes and low-calorie weight-loss diets, unless there’s a clear clinical reason to make sweeping changes to the way you eat. In fact, when you’re unwell or recovering from illness, or you simply want to make a positive step to improve your nutrition, it’s what we add to our diets rather than what we take away that often makes the most difference.
The combination of January resolutions and the stay-at-home restrictions of lockdown means that many of us have a bit more time to look at what’s working for us when it comes to nourishment and what’s not. These are my tips to make good nourishment easier and affordable, whether you’re cooking for yourself, a family, or someone you care for. They work for me, and I hope you find them useful, too…
Pause before eating Before you pop something into your mouth, ask if it’s going to nourish you. It’s a handy cognitive check-in to help you eat more mindfully. If the answer is no, you could choose a healthier snack like a Nourish Drink or sliced apple spread with peanut butter, say, for a protein energy boost. Or do something else instead of eating – write in your journal, take a walk, or cuddle the cat until the urge to snack fades away.
Stock up on frozen fruit and veg These are more economical than fresh produce and because you can take out just what you need and save the rest for another day, there’s less food wastage. Don’t worry that frozen fruit and veg is less nutritious. Because it’s picked, packaged and quick-frozen straight from the field, it can often contain more vitamins than produce that’s lingered on a supermarket shelf or at the back of your fridge for a few days. Use frozen veg as accompaniments to meals, in soups and frittatas; frozen fruit is ideal gently stewed and served with Greek yoghurt or whizzed into a smoothie.
Batch cook meals The thought of cooking a meal every day can be daunting if we’re unwell, homeschooling children, or juggling work and family life. That’s when batch cooking comes to the rescue. Embrace the moments you have the time or energy to get in the kitchen and make larger portions of dishes such as Bolognese or tomato sauce, chilli, or meatballs. Freeze in portions so you always have a nourishing meal ready when you need it.
Bulk up dishes with extra veggies When I’m batch cooking, I match the meat or plant-based protein with the equivalent amount of vegetables – think a shepherd’s pie with like-for-like lamb’s mince and chopped carrots, swede and aubergine (swap brown lentils instead of the mince for a veggie version). Or a fish pie loaded with kale and spinach. It makes the more expensive ingredients go further and also increases your intake of vitamin-, mineral- and fibre-rich vegetables.
Eat a starter with added crunch I’m starting a meal with a Persian-style platter of raw veggies such as carrot, radish, peppers to nibble on, with a little bowl of sea salt to dip them into. They taste delicious, perk up the appetite and provide valuable nutrients. But because they contain satiating fibre, it means you’re less likely to overindulge in the main part of your meal – ideal if you want to cut back a little without losing out on flavour, enjoyment and, of course, nourishment.
Reduce alcohol A drink at the end of the work day can signal to body and brain that it’s time to relax, but you don’t need alcohol to get that feeling. I like alcohol-free Seedlip and tonic. Or if I want an alcoholic drink, I pour my chosen spirit over lots of ice in a beautiful small glass, and top up with soda or tonic. It’s too easy to fill a large goblet to the brim and have a larger serving than you’d planned, or to open a bottle of wine and decide you may as well finish it off.