I’ve gotta admit that I love it when my opinions are backed up by brilliant women and men wearing white lab coats.
It happened again last week when a new study published in JAMA confirmed that calorie-restriction ISN’T the best way to reach and maintain a healthy weight, and what really matters is food quality, not food quantity.
For years I’ve been saying that WHAT you eat matters more than HOW MUCH you eat. And, when it comes to eating for self-love, we need to prioritize the foods that best nourish our bodies.
Eating well is how I overcame a decade of anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating; providing my body with the nutrients it needed allowed me to regenerate physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The study, which was carried out on 600 people, found that participants lost a significant amount of weight by replacing added sugar, refined carbohydrates, and highly processed foods with vegetables, complex grains, and whole foods. Not rocket science, right?
But here’s the clincher: unlike other studies that set extremely restrictive limitations on specific food groups, participants of this study lost weight regardless of the calories or portion sizes eaten.
It’s not that calories don’t matter, but food quality matters more. Plus, it becomes a lot easier to eat an appropriate number of calories for your weight, age, and physical activity level when you eat real food. (Are you more likely to overeat a farro, roasted vegetable, and feta cheese salad, or a packet of Doritos or bowl of mac & cheese?)
The bottom line is this
Eating well is very easy to do and doesn’t require you to follow every trend that the diet industry throws your way. Focusing on food quality is the cheapest, easiest and most enjoyable way to lose weight and gain better health.
This week I encourage you to let go of food-phobia. Then ask yourself, how you can make the meals you’re already eating a little more nutritious?
It’s when “fit girls” brag about eating crap while showing off their size-two waists.
Example A: Fit-girl takes a crop-top selfie, and writes,“needed to crush it in the gym today after last night’s pizza binge!”
Example B: Fit-girl tags photo of fit-friend, and writes, “What a babe! Can you believe she LOVES donuts?”
I know these types of girls, and the reality is this: they exercise like the dickens and follow STRICT diets. They are not sitting on their bums, binge-watching Grace & Frankie, and sucking on bonbons.
For them, eating donuts is the exception and not the rule, so why highlight it?
Do they think it makes them relatable?
It reminds me of rom-com scripts that have a woman pretend to be a beer-swilling, football-loving hottie, to get the guy. It’s a clichéd, anti-feminist storyline that is SO 1990s.
These days, it’s cool to both be yourself, and take your health seriously (without being a wanker about the way you eat).
You can definitely have some junk from time-to-time…IF the bulk of your food is good for you.
My husband and I balance our Friday night takeout and Sunday croissants with the Brontosaurian amount of veggies that we eat during the week. It’s called the 80/20 rule, and it’s just the way healthy living works.
This is a principle that a lot of people gloss over:
But it’s also the principle that will keep you healthy, sane, and able to enjoy life.
So, on Sunday, while the cool kids were drinking mimosas and posting about it on Instagram, I was in the kitchen, blending up the recipes below. These three hidden-veggie hacks are a simple way to get more goodness onto your plate (and make the 80% part of the equation as tasty as the 20%).
Perhaps you’d like to give them a go?
Chickpea Carrot Hummus
Blending chickpeas with steamed carrots, ginger, and turmeric adds more nutrition and flavor.
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 large carrots, peeled, chopped, and par-cooked in microwave
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried turmeric
a decent grind of black pepper and a pinch of Himalayan sea salt
3 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
splash of water to thin, if needed
Add everything to a high-speed blender or food processor and whiz to combine. Refrigerate for up to five days (or freeze some and defrost in the fridge overnight).
Eat with veggie crudités, seed crackers, or spread on your lunch sandwich.
Beet-Berry Smoothie (serves 1)
This antioxidant-rich smoothie provides a serve each of fat, protein, and veggies at breakfast. I make three at a time and freeze them in glass jars. To defrost: place in the fridge overnight.
1 small beet, peeled, quartered, and steamed in the microwave (about 1.5 minutes)
1 cup frozen raspberries
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons vanilla protein powder OR 1 tablespoon cacao powder (optional)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
Add everything to a blender and process until smooth. This smoothie should be thick enough to eat with a spoon; if it’s too thick, add a little water. Feel free to top with fresh berries and nuts, if you like.
Loaded Vegan Pistachio Pesto
This recipe is lighter and more nutrient dense than store-bought pestos, as I’ve reduced the oil, omitted the cheese, and used a bouquet of different herbs. Pistachios provide potassium and magnesium, and they tend to be cheaper than the pine nuts used in traditional pesto recipes.
1 bunch each parsley, basil, cilantro (fresh coriander)
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts
2 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed with the back of a knife
juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a decent grind of black pepper and a pinch of Himalayan sea salt
Add everything to a food processor and whiz until smooth. Add a little more lemon juice or a tiny dash of water if needed.
Transfer half the pesto to a glass jar and drizzle olive oil over the top. Store in the fridge for 4-5 days, and use as a dip, a spread, or to toss through veg and pasta at dinner. Freeze remaining pesto in ice-cube trays to use in soups, pasta, meat dishes, etc.
Remember, healthy doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be boring. It should be simple, sustainable, doable, and desirable, and that’s precisely what I’ll teach you in my new 7-week online program, Slim Down With Self Love Bootcamp. Click here to find out more.
I don’t tend to share many recipes on this blog. The reason being that when it comes to helping women improve their health, I believe that we need to start with how we think and feel, before we can confidently change how we act.
Also, as much as I love food — and I really love food — my weekly meals are very simple and not particularly blog-worthy. There are only so many times that I can share a photo of grilled salmon, chicken curry, veggie stir-fry, overnight oats or broiled lamb chops until we all get a little sick of it!
Even if I kept a more food-focused blog (as I did hilariously, and with terrible photography, at Blushing Strawberries in 2010/2011), that alone won’t make YOU a healthier eater.
Because here’s the thing: it’s not your access to healthy recipes that’s the problem, it’s your unwillingness to cook them.
Today I want to tell you how proper nutrition was essential in my recovery from binge-eating.
Full disclosure: I am not a psychologist or dietitian, nor do I have any training in the field of eating disorders. What I do have, however, is my own experience, and my understanding that it was a combination of self love practices and proper nutrition that helped me create a healthy relationship with food.
If you’ve ever binged, or regularly tend to over-eat, you’ll know how physically and emotionally exhausting that process is. My personal experience was that I would restrict calories throughout the day and then binge at night. By the time I went to bed my stomach was so tight that you could have popped it with a pin. After every episode I would cry myself to sleep, and the next morning I would wake with equal parts indigestion and massive guilt. The cycle continued.
To overcome binge eating I tried to place (further) restrictions on myself:
Certain foods wouldn’t be allowed in the house
I’d eat with smaller bowls
Breakfast became my biggest meal and I would attempt to eat a peasant’s dinner (this was awful…dinner is my favorite!)
I would avoid eating snacks at parties, only to go home ravenous and polish off three bowls of cereal
I asked my husband to “not let me go back for seconds”
Every morning I would blame and berate myself…unsurprisingly, not a terribly effective strategy.
I’ve since learnt is that wasn’t the fault of the food, the crockery, the willpower, etc. The simple truth was that I was starving,and you might be too.
If you’re not eating your fill of nutritious foods throughout the day (yes, fats and carbohydrates are included), then your body will always be crying out for more. The problem is that when you’re running on empty, when its dark outside, and you’re wearing your sweatpants… that more tends to be easy-to-access, processed crap, and a lot of it.
Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be your future reality. If you want to find food freedom in your own life, then you have to stop being afraid of eating.
When you eat well — when you eat enough of the good stuff, and mindfully enjoy some of the treat stuff — it becomes easy to enjoy your food and your good health, without willpower, deprivation, or the obsessive need to check your weight at the end of any big meal.
So your goal for this week is to take a keen look at your plate and ask if depriving yourself of proper food is actually your biggest health and nutrition downfall.
And to help make things a little easier, I thought I would post a recipe today! These are my spinach and feta muffins, and they’re wonderful to grab as breakfast-on-the-go, a healthy snack, or as a side to a luscious lunch salad.
Gluten Free Spinach Feta Muffins
2 cups spelt flour or all purpose gluten free flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large handful baby spinach leaves, torn
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup (125 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup full-fat plain yogurt
1 cup pumpkin puree*
1/2 cup (4oz, 100grams) crumbled feta
1. Preheat your oven to 350°F / 180°C. Line a 12-hole muffin tray with muffin liners.
2. Combine the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, stirring with a fork to break up any clumps. In a separate bowl, mix together all the wet ingredients EXCEPT for the feta.
3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the wet mixture into the dry. Use a large spoon to fold together until combined.
4. Spoon batter evenly into the muffin liners and crumble feta over the tops of each muffin.
5. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the muffins comes out clean.
5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin and then remove and continue cooling on a wire rack.
*Purchase pumpkin puree cans in the supermarket. Check the ingredient label, they should read pumpkin only. This is different from pumpkin pie filling which has sugar and spices added. To make your own puree: peel and chop a medium butternut squash or 2 pounds of sweet potatoes. Place in a pot of boiling water and cook for 8-10 minutes or until soft. Drain and then puree in a blender. Measure out about 14oz or 400g for the recipe. Freeze the rest to use next time.
The Los Angeles wellness obsession has gone bonkers.
This isn’t new information— I live in a city where people pay thousands of dollars to have their fat frozen and spend a week’s take-home wage on juice cleansing — but it’s gotten out of control.
The straw that has broken this camel’s back came last night when I popped into the supermarket. As I quickly dashed about filling my basket with veg, milk and eggs, my inquisitive-journalist ears picked up the sounds of a conversation that would only take place in a city like L.A.
Following the treble tones, I turned into the aisle to find two women having an anxious and in-depth conversation about which brand of water they should buy.
I kid you not.
It went like this:
“This one is reverse osmosis”, says the brunette wearing a red neckerchief and holding a $6.99 bottle of H20.
“But this one has added electrolytes,” counters the blonde, pointing her manicured fingers at a label that has flown halfway across the world to sit on this mid-Wilshire shelf.
“Perhaps we should buy the glass bottles?” suggests the first. “To avoid BPAs.”
“Sure, that works…just make sure you read the nutrition label,” replies the second, a little more quietly as she catches me watching, transfixed.
I tear my eyes away, stash a few (home-brand) club sodas into my basket and head to the self service checkout, trying not to giggle at the scene I just observed.
Read the nutrition label on your water? Now that’s a new one!
Look, I’m not scoffing at these women’s determination to hydrate — drinking clean water is very, very important. And if you have the luxury of being able to afford the brand that is alkalized, charcoal-filtered or lovingly bottled at a cold mountain spring, and drinking that type of water floats your boat, then power to you.
But the reality is that it’s totally unnecessary to take a simple health habit — drink more water — and make it something complicated, and frankly a little bourgeoisie. Honestly, do YOU have the time or mental bandwidth to deliberate the pros and cons of various water brands? I sure as heck don’t!
As your wellness coach I suggest that you spend more time drinking water and less time worrying about the ideal way to do it. (Insider tip: the tap turns to the left.)
This goes for any new healthy habit…the easiest way to make progress is by simply starting.
Want to get fit? Lace up your sneakers and walk around your neighborhood.
Want to eat healthier? Load up your basket with fruit, veg and whole grains, and stop buying brightly colored boxes plastered with words like “healthy!” and “fiber!”. (These words are often there to disguise the whopping amount of sugar, sodium or trans-fats that the product contains.)
I know that I’ve talked about this before, but I will continue to beat the drum until we all get the message that being healthy is actually very simple.
The healthiest people that I know are not the ones who agonize over every last detail to make the perfect choice. They don’t obsess over what they eat, how they move, or what they weigh. They don’t trap themselves into rigid lifestyle habits or overload their days with unrealistic goals and expectations. And they certainly don’t spend Sunday evening in the supermarket, analyzing the merits of drinking water.
So your goal for this week is to commit to becoming one of the healthy ones.
You can do that in three steps:
Pinpoint an area of your life that is being held back by perfectionism, analysis-paralysis or straight up laziness.
Set an intention to change one single habit related to that area.
Take swift action, today, tomorrow, the next day, and so on; improve as you go, and know that each day you choose to do something different is the day that your life will change.
I recently had afternoon tea with a couple of close friends in Sydney. It had been about 8 months since we’d last seen each other, during which time I knew they had made some dietary tweaks. Being the curious health coach that I am, I wanted to ask them how it all went.
They told me that by making a few simple lifestyle updates — and bringing just a little more awareness to what was going on their plate — they’ve landed on a way of eating that makes them look and feel great.
I was thrilled! I love hearing that simple strategies bring great results, as that’s my philosophy through and through.
Yet as we chatted more about food, our conversation revealed a challenge that my friends had been facing. It was something that I’m also intimately familiar with and it rings true for many friends and clients who have chosen to shake things up in the healthy living department.
It’s been my experience that when you change how you eat – specifically, when you choose to become a more healthy eater – it’s not uncommon to feel isolated, teased or even ostracized by people that you know.
That’s why in today’s post I wanted to talk about how to handle this situation, as you may experience it too.
Let’s start with WHY “changing your diet” is such a touchy subject.
At its most fundamental level food is nothing more than a source of energy, vitamins and minerals. But we all know that it’s more than that.
Food is culture, family tradition, memories, and at the heart of many (if not most) social events.
This can make it a tricky subject to talk about.
You see, when you decide to change your diet it can send a message to the people around you that you no longer agree with something that you used to do. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that what you’re changing is most likely something that they’re still doing. You’re upsetting the status quo, and they might see you as judging the lifestyle choices they’ve made.
In short, your personal development choices might make people uneasy.
Let me give you an example:
In 2009 one of my best friends was diagnosed with Chron’s disease and placed on a strict anti-inflammatory diet. Despite already being a healthy eater, this was a major lifestyle change (especially for someone who was only 21).
Back then, anti-inflammatory diets weren’t really a big thing. Paleo and veganism lived on the fringes of society, and many people thought autoimmune diseases sounded a little woo-woo…a little “all in their heads”.
So one day my friend told our group that she would no longer be able to participate in our Friday night habit of drinking gin and tonics, and eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
That didn’t go down so well.
Without minimizing my own culpability — I can remember using the expression “you can’t even have one?” —I can tell you that another member of our group (let’s call her ‘Z’) was absolutely shattered.
“What good is it to live in a world where you can’t eat ice cream?” she cried dramatically.
The next Friday night my friend arrived at our house with an apple, a carrot, a bag of nuts and a bottle of water. Z was appalled and couldn’t stop talking about how “dangerous” and “extreme” this diet was.
(Apples, it seems, can have that effect on some people.)
You see, by changing her own diet my friend was challenging the shared Friday night experience that we had come to know and love. Her choices made us all question if we should do things differently too.
To be honest, we weren’t even thinking about WHY she was making those updates (and in hindsight, offering to support her through the process would have been the preferred reaction), but we were only thinking about ourselves.We didn’t like feeling guilty about our own choice to be less than healthy on Friday nights and it seemed to us like she no longer wanted to be part of the pack.
But the silly thing is, that wasn’t her intent at all.She was just making the best decision for herself, and for whatever reason that made us feel uncomfortable.I learned then and there that everyone is responsible for their own choices, and we all need to take ownership of our individual lifestyle decisions.
Since then I’ve been blazing my own healthy trail, which means that I’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of healthy living criticism, and while I don’t believe that people do it maliciously, after a while it does get pretty old.
So in the video below I’m sharing three strategies that you can use to minimize these sorts of experiences, which will allow you to eat what you want, when you want, without feeling judged OR making other people too uncomfortable.
Once you’ve had a chance to watch I’d love to hear from you. So stick around and join in the discussion at the bottom of the page.
What To Do When People Criticize Your Healthy Lifestyle
Now I’d love to hear from you!
Have you ever felt shunned for making healthy lifestyle changes? How did you handle it? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
So you’ve decided to make healthy eating a priority this year. You want to have more energy, maintain your ideal weight, and feel comfortable and confident in your beautiful body. Trouble is, you have no idea where to start, which begs the question: what’s the best diet for you?
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. For many years I struggled with food and my body. I believed that I couldn’t find the perfect diet, or if I had I must have been doing it wrong. (In the words of my inner critic I lacked motivation,I wasn’t good enough,I would start again tomorrow)
Truth is, I hadn’t actually found an ideal diet for my body, so it made sense that I was having a pretty rough trot with the whole eating thing. But once I figured it out, everything fell into place and questions of motivation were wiped off the table. Because you don’t need to be motivated to eat foods that make you feel great.
Today I’m sharing five actionable steps that will help you also discover your best personal diet. Read on my foodie friend.
Diet Versus Dieting
Before we dive in to the meat and potatoes — i.e. figuring out what you need to eat in order to feel healthy, happy and filled with delicious delight — I need to clarify the distinction between YOUR diet and dietING.
The friendly nerds who contribute to Wikipedia (my darling husband included) tell us that: diet is the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism (1). They go on to talk about dietary choices, the ingestion and absorption of vitamins, minerals and macronutrients for energy, health and longevity. Basically your diet is just another way of saying the foods that you eat.
What makes this word tricky, and almost taboo, is when it ends with “ing”,or sits in a sentence with words such as follow, start, stick to, new, strict, struggle, celebrity and fad.
Going on a diet, or the act of dieting, is synonymous with restriction and deprivation. These are also words that make me think of a short-term commitment, something that you’ll (miserably) try for a while before going back to your regular diet, aka what you normally eat.
It’s a tricky distinction to make, but it’s really important that you do so. You should be able to talk about YOUR diet without people thinking that you’re going on A diet.
I’ve even had comments from women visiting jenniferdenewellness.com who have blasted me for being another so-and-so who is condoning unhealthy body image for women. Hmmmm…guess they didn’t see this post about flaunting your dimplesor this one where I helped you get back in touch with being beautiful you.
Honestly I don’t want to always say “the foods that you eat” or “your nutrition choices” just to be politically correct. A healthy diet means that you eat foods that have a high nutritional value and do wonders for your longterm health. It’s a word that has outlived any single dieting trend, and it’s what we’re talking about today.
Should You Stick To One Type Of Diet?
We’ve established the difference between diet and dieting, which is my cue to step off the soapbox!
Now you may be asking but what about things like the Paleo diet or being a vegan? Are they diets or dieting?
Unfortunately it’s in our culture to label everything we do, which leads to many people using these diets to self-identify — I am Paleo or I am vegan. But restricting yourself to the boundaries of a certain label makes it difficult to honor your body’s needs.
For example, a woman who is trying to get pregnant requires a certain amount of carbohydrates to ensure healthy hormone levels for fertility (2). This becomes a problem if she’s following a strict Paleo or Keto diet that focus on very low carbohydrate intake.
Or what happens when a man who thrived on a vegan diet for years starts experiencing depression, joint pains or fatigue? Will he be open to eating animal foods that will quickly boost his B12 and iron levels, or will he feel unable to make that choice because he has told the world he doesn’t eat meat? (3), (4)
The point is that we shouldn’t have to limit ourselves to stay within the boundaries of a certain label, and we should never, ever be held hostage to the food that we eat. That’s why I see these diets as guidelines…more like a cuisine than a strict set of rules.
I see enormous benefit in the principles of enjoying a vegan, paleo or mediterranean diet. But what works best for me is not following any of them to the letter, and rather taking a mix-and-match approach that suits my body’s unique needs.
With that in mind, here’s the mindset I want you to have as you start to incorporate the following tips into your lifestyle:
Food is just food, it’s not your enemy and it’s not your gate-keeper
I give you all the freedom in the world to combine the best bits of each diet to suit your unique needs — like mashing together potatoes, peas and gravy at Sunday lunch!
How to create the best diet for you
Below you’ll find my five top tips for discovering your best diet yet.
Keep it simple and enjoyable
Overcomplicating anything leads to confusion. A statement that is especially true when it comes to improving personal habits.
Planing 7 days of meals in advance may seem smart, but it’s actually very overwhelming…meal prep is absolutely a skill.
And while I used to do the big Sunday cook-up, I no longer do. These days I prefer to spend a little more time in the kitchen each day, to prepare the right meal for my body on that day. This shift has helped me reconnect with my physical needs and conquer old habits of overeating and emotional eating.
So instead of playing Martha Stewart during the working week, you can simply plan to have a few staples on hand — such as cooked quinoa or rice, roasted sweet potatoes, hardboiled eggs and plenty of washed green veggies. These form the base of an easy meal that you can top with other yummy things.
Get educated (but take other people’s advice with a grain of salt)
Here’s the deal — you can’t succeed at something that you don’t understand. Learning why it’s a really good idea to kick your sugar habit, or that drinking diet-soda is linked to dementia and stroke (5) will make it a heck of a lot easier for you to stick with your new way of eating.
Saying that, it’s also not a good idea to blindly trust every piece of diet advice that you hear. Glossy mags tend to publish the Cliff’s Notes version of any given dietary theory. While this may spark your interest, you really need to understand the why behind the what. I recommend working with a professional who can explain what is the best diet for you, why that’s the case, and how you can follow it.
Keep A Food-Mood Journal
In terms of intelligence, sometimes your body is smarter than your brain. A food diary traditionally tracks calories and quantities. A food-mood journal explores how different types of food make your body feel. I prefer the latter.
Here’s how to get started:
Start a new word doc (or grab a notebook), and create four columns
Column A: record each meal that you eat, listing as many ingredients as possible
Column B: make a note about how you felt physically immediately after eating
Column C: note how you feel 2 hours after eating; this is useful to highlight digestive reactions, note fatigue or energy, return of hunger, etc
Column D: this is a spot for any notes, thoughts or comments that you might have
Your food-mood journal can help you pinpoint the meals and ingredients that make your body thrive.
Be Consistent & Avoid Squirrel Syndrome
Once you’ve found a way of eating that works for you, you’ll need to stick with it. And yes, that includes ignoring the latest trend in Women’s Health or on Dr. Oz.
Again, feel free to gather information, but don’t jump ship on something that’s working well for you. Put your healthy blinkers on and commit to eating your ideal diet for 3 months before making any big changes.
Your Needs Will Change, So Be Adaptable
Avoid squirrel syndrome but also keep in mind that your dietary needs will change over time. Variable factors include: your age, lifestyle and immediate health needs; the climate in which you live; your menstrual cycle (are you pregnant, peri-menopausal, going through menopause or postmenopausal); holiday season and festive eating; and even life events that cause stress, physically, mentally or emotionally.
Creating YOUR own perfect diet is what serves your beautiful body at every stage of life.
You Don’t Need To Do It Alone
Would you like help in discovering your perfect diet? Are you committed to dropping the weight of deprivation, and slipping back into your ideal body and life? Why not find out more about working with me in my Fit, Feminine & Fabulous coaching program. Click here to learn more.
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved planning menus, organizing dinner parties and generally just daydreaming about food stuff.
At school I doodled appetizer ideas in the margins of my math book — calculusequations would morph into lists of fried zucchini flowers, smoked salmon blinis, and morsels of sweet splendor.
After class I would come home and pull down every cookbook from the shelf above the fridge, sit down with a cup of tea and a notepad, and get to work on organizing what the family would eat for dinner that week.
My suggestions regularly included things like:
Tuesday: 8 hour lamb ragu over polenta
Wednesday: braised quail with wild mushrooms
Thursday: spinach and ricotta stuffed conchiglioni with scratch-made marina sauce
By the time my mum got home from work I had the shopping lists made, the recipe pages marked, and I was ready to hit the grocery store and start work in the kitchen.
Oddly, Mum wasn’t as keen on whipping up a three-course meal as I might have thought, which always confused me as she loved food and cooking as much as I did. All she had to do was work an 8+ hour day, look after two kids, a dog, and a massive garden, pay bills, exercise, stay up to date on current affairs…I mean, what gives?
Fast forward ten years and the ball has dropped. I totally get it. The last thing that I want to do after a busy work day is spend hours in the kitchen on a meal that, to be honest, I may end up eating in front of an episode of Grace & Frankie.
(In hindsight my mum was actually a domestic goddess, serving up exotic stir-fry, handmade chicken pot pie, and incredible salads on a nightly basis.)
That isn’t to say that I don’t still spend an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about dinner parties and planning lovely menus, but my weekly rotation is a heck of a lot more simple than it used to be.
These days I’m happy with simple food, like baked salmon and veggies, chicken and rice soup, or tossing something on the grill.
Because as my mum knew, choosing food that is tasty, nourishing and quick to prepare makes it easy to consistently eat healthy meals.
With that in mind, try using these three tips this week, to simplify your healthy weeknight cooking routine.
Make Healthy Weeknight Cooking A Breeze
Tip #1: Use one cooking method
You can boil, steam, roast, grill or serve raw…but don’t try to do them all at once.
Roast: In the same oven you can roast vegetables (zucchini, asparagus, tomato, fennel, sweet potato…) and cook a bit of protein (chicken, fish, tofu, lamb chops, meatballs…).
Steam: Use a large saucepan with a steaming insert to simultaneously cook rice, and steam greens and chicken or fish on top; squeeze with lemon and drizzle with sesame oil to serve.
Grill: Cut vegetables into thin strips, brush them with coconut oil and season to taste, then cook alongside whatever meat or fish you’re grilling; it’s also delicious to skip the meat and serve with grilled haloumi cheese instead.
Raw: Go vegan and make a chopped salad with any raw vegetables that you like, a can of drained chickpeas, and lashings of olive oil and lemon juice.
Tip #2: Cook once, eat thrice
Cooking from scratch every day is not time-efficient.
In fact, it takes the same amount of time to roast one or two chickens, to bake multiple sweet potatoes, or to cook four cups of quinoa. You can even batch make salads and leave undressed until serving. (Cheeky salad!)
Leftovers become the saving grace of healthy eating during the week, so I recommend that you regularly plan to cook more than you need and reserve the rest for another meal; store in the fridge for quick assembly over the next couple of day, or freeze them for future use.
(We’ve just discovered that chopped and roasted sweet potatoes actually defrost really well…this was a very happy realization in my house, where the sweet potato currently reigns supreme!)
Tip #3: Keep it simple
The benefit of simple cooking is three-fold:
It eliminates the challenge of meal planning and makes preparing food feel manageable, even for the novice cook
You’ll save money on groceries as you’ll buy fewer ingredients and use them all
And it helps keep you honest about what is on your plate and how much you’re eating
This week I challenge you to keep it simple in the kitchen: choose one meal, one cooking method and use six ingredients or less. Make a double batch and repurpose it for lunch or dinner the next day.
Here’s What I’m Doing Tonight — Grilled Lamb Chops
Lamb loin chops
Salt and Pepper
Cut the vegetables into 1/4” strips, brush with coconut oil and season with salt and pepper. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Cook the lamb chops and vegetables until done to deliciousness. Serve.
Leftovers: slice leftover lamb and vegetables and toss it over lettuce for a lunch salad.
Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below.
In just a little while I’ll be celebrating with the handsome Nathaniel, a glass of Moet and some very good cheese. But before I kick off my shoes and pop open that bottle of bubbly, I’m taking some time to reflect on the last (almost three) decades.
I sometimes look around at my life and think: huh, who would have ever thought that’d happen. Every year brings with it new surprises and adventures, and we never really know what will transpire next.
Growing up as girl in a beautiful yet small Australian country town, I never would have expected that I would find myself living in Los Angeles, married to a Southern boy, and teaching women how to feel fit, feminine and fabulous through healthy living and self care.
In fact, this life that I’m living never really crossed my mind…it just sort of happened!
At various times throughout my childhood I wanted to be: a gas station attendant (I loved washing windshields with a squeegee); a bank teller (I got a real kick out of counting coins and shuffling notes); and for a few years my aspiration to become a lawyer (which would justify the owning of a briefcase) butted heads with my desire to be a marine biologist (and swim with the dolphins every day).
What actually happened was that I got a degree in journalism and started teaching fitness.
Since then, a series of unforeseen events, saying yes to new opportunities and rolling with the flow of life has brought me to where I am today…sitting in the Miracle Mile, thinking that pre-breakfast mimosas sounds like a very civilized idea.
The road that takes us to where we need to go is rarely clear and often tricky to navigate. But what we discover with every step will shape us in ways that we could never have realized, had we not dared to step off the beaten path.
With that in mind, and in honor of turning 29, I wanted to share 29 things that I’ve learnt about healthy living and loving the skin you’re in.
And then I’d love to hear from you.
What one nugget of knowledge would you tell your younger self? Like a rising tide lifts all boats, sharing our words of wisdom with one another makes us all stronger. So please, leave a comment below!
29 Things That I’ve Learnt About Healthy Living (And Loving The Skin You’re In)
Today we’re talking about home cooking and why you need to get on board, for your body, your wallet and the environment . If you commit to only one thing for your health this week, let it be this.
I am so very grateful to my mum for not only setting an incredible example of what it means to be a home cook, but for teaching me how easy and enjoyable it is to put food on the table. I’m also grateful to my Nan, who taught us that we should never serve more than we can eat, and always reuse your leftovers and wash your ziplock bags!
In fact, most of my favorite childhood memories are linked to the family kitchen. Dad’s famous spaghetti bolognese, Nan’s boiled potatoes with dollops of butter, Mum’s spinach and ricotta stuffed pastry, Mandy’s pavlova, Chella’s gratin…So many happy moments have been shared digging into a home cooked meal with people I love.
If it wasn’t for my upbringing I would probably find this whole healthy eating thing to be quite challenging; from an outsiders perspective it can seem rather daunting to know what to eat and how to prepare it. (This is especially true living in Los Angeles where fad-diets reign supreme and the number of ‘superfoods’ in your pantry acts as a status symbol.)
There has never been an easier time to find recipes, watch cooking shows, or learn how to prepare ingredients on YouTube, yet we’re living in an age where people are cooking less than ever before. Part of this may be due to time (we’ll get to that) or not knowing how to cook (we’ll get to that too). However, I can also see that simple home cooking has been elevated to something gourmet, putting pressure on busy women to not only get food on the table, but to make it look like a Martha Stewart centerpiece.
Home cooking shouldn’t be seen as something elitist, expensive or complicated; it should be simple, enjoyable and affordable.
Healthy home cooking also doesn’t mean eating an undressed salad, or a meagre piece of fish with steamed asparagus. Making food from scratch let’s you be in control of the quality and quantity of ingredients that you’re using. This let’s you cut back on sodium, choose the best quality fats and meats, and bulk out the meal with lots of vegetables. It’s more economical, much better for you, and puts things like pizza back on the menu!
A 2015 study from Johns Hopkins University found that people who cook at home (without consciously trying to eat healthier or choose low calorie foods), eat at least 140 fewer calories per day. While that may seem small fry on a single day basis, at the end of the week that’s 980 calories, at the end of the month it’s 3920 calories, and at the end of the year you’d be saving over 47,000 calories — that’s all without ever looking at a calorie-counting app.
(And yes, I did have to use my calculator during the writing of that paragraph. If we want to talk about other traditional habits that are going down the gurgler, my math would be one of them.)
Apart from your waistline, home cooking also saves time, money and food waste. This last point is absolutely huge! Did you know that the biggest source of CO2 emissions on the planet is food waste? And that’s not by the big industry players, but by the everyday person throwing away groceries that they don’t use, or leftover food that they don’t eat. This is really troubling and should make us all feel more responsible for how we treat our food.
So let’s talk about why you’re not cooking more often at home, and I challenge you to give it a go every day for this week.
“Why I Don’t Cook” Myth 1: I Don’t Have Time
I don’t know about that. While I don’t have a scientific study to link to, I know how long it takes Nate and I to order food versus cook a meal at home. The latter wins for speed, hands down.
Going through the rigmarole of deciding where to go and what to eat, then ordering, picking it up or waiting for a delivery, unpacking things at home (discarding the packaging waste), reheating if needed…it’s a long process only to realize that it wasn’t even what we felt like.
On the other hand, the following meal takes about 15 minutes and will leave leftovers for lunch if I cook double:
Fill a big saucepan with cold water and some scrubbed, chopped potatoes. Boil the spuds until they’re soft enough to stick a knife into. Just before they finish cooking throw in a good handful of chopped broccoli and cook for 1-2 minutes. Drain the lot, put it back in the saucepan (no heat) and add a good bit of butter, salt and pepper. Meanwhile, grill a piece of salmon or some lamb chops under the broiler, for 8 minutes or until done to your liking. Pop it all on a plate and enjoy.
This is one I hear all the time, but it’s just not true. Yes, making those ridiculous smoothie bowls that you see on Instagram would be expensive, but you also wouldn’t make them. It costs Nate and I about $20 to cook a big chicken curry with rice and greens (and yummy leftovers), but when we get Indian takeout we never walk away with change from a $50 note.
This is true even on the low end of the scale. To feed a family of four at McDonald’s (burgers, nuggets, fries and drinks) would cost you almost $28. For that same amount you could serve a whole roasted chicken, sweet potatoes and green vegetables. You’d probably have leftover chicken for lunch sandwiches, and you can even use the carcass to make homemade soup.
Plus there’s the very valid argument of investing in your health. So while these sweet potato brownies may cost more than opening a box from the supermarket, in the long run eating home cooked meals will save you a fortune in medical costs.
“Why I Don’t Cook” Myth 3: I Don’t Know How To Cook
That’s ok, it can feel overwhelming to learn new habits. However, cooking can be very simple and enjoyable. Start where you are and don’t try to be a gourmet chef — in my opinion some of the yummiest meals are the most simple). Buy a basic cookbook and learn one new dish each week; before long you’ll feel really comfortable in the kitchen. Challenge yourself to sticking to recipes that use 6 ingredients or less and you’ll be golden.
So what do you say, are you willing to cook at least one meal at home each day this week? I’ve thrown the gauntlet and would love to hear that you’ve picked it up, so please do leave a comment below.
Remember: healthy living is simple, eating well is not restrictive, and YOU CAN choose to create a body and a life that you love.