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 enjoy writing to you in the early hours of the morning. This quiet time is best for thinking about what is working in my life that could also help you feel a little healthier, happier and more content in yours.
Today, my mind wanders back to last Friday in Napa, where I was speaking with my sister-in-law about meal planning. If you remember, I used to be an avid meal planner, before the whole thing became a little time-consuming. Since then I have focused on one meal at a time, rather than a weekly menu. Flying by the seat of our dinner pants did suit our schedule for a surprisingly long time. But recent life changes — namely my pregnancy penchant for eating at 6 pm — have required us to go back to the tried-and-true meal plan concept.
Which is why my little tete-a-tete in Napa was such an eye-opening conversation. My sister-in-law, a spreadsheet whiz, decided to make a monthly meal plan to use on repeat. She created four weekly menus, with many nights following a similar theme, and has been repeating it each month.
Aside from the time she saves thinking about food, the benefits of this routine include:
Having a ready-made grocery list
Knowing how much food will cost each week
And not defaulting to cooking the same meal night-after-night.
I imagine that Steve Jobs would have like this method of menu organization. The billionaire computer genius may have been famous for creating Apple, but he also makes a fascinating case study of daily habits. Jobs’ uniform of blue jeans and black turtleneck wasn’t a fashion statement, but rather a statement of intelligence: limiting the number of (useless) decisions one needs to make every day leaves more brain power for thinking, conversing and deciding on things that honestly matter. The choice to wear a turtleneck or a button-down pales in comparison to figuring out how to create the most revolutionary tech company in history.
Decision fatigue is a real thing, and when it comes to healthy eating, it can be your downfall. Figuring out what to eat every meal of every day is exhausting, but not pre-planning is a recipe for living on takeout, packaged food or grilled cheese sandwiches.
My sister-in-law’s strategy is excellent for anyone who wants diversity on their dinner plate without reinventing the wheel every single night. On the hour-long flight back from Sacramento to LAX, I actioned her suggestion and came up with 28 dinner recipes to repeat for the next three months.
(I used this same technique to pre-plan my prenatal workouts and can see myself getting addicted to Excel organization charts…Sorry, Nate!)
Interested in making your own batched meal plan? I hope so! Here’s a video that shows you exactly how to do it:
The turkey has been gobbled, which means it’s on to the next big celebration…yep, it’s Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa time folks! If that sentence awakens your inner Grinch, then this post — How To Let Go Of Holiday Stress and Find Those Festive Feels — is right for you.
So far in this four-part holiday series we have talked about:
Today I’m hoping to help you find some more inner peace, with seven easy tips for staying relaxed, in control, and dare I say merry, all December long. Let’s jump to it!
Personally I love this time of year. I sew stockings, paint cards, go to bed ridiculously early and play Celine Dion’s rendition of O Holy Night until even the neighbors start banging on the walls — for the love of carols, skip to the next track! Of course I’m also not immune to the stress of the season: last minute gift shopping, navigating safe conversation in a minefield of relatives, and getting out of my normal life routine can all make me a little tetchy.
But if your tendency to get tense at this time of year feels all-encompassing, you may be affected by excessive seasonal stress. AKA the holiday blues.
Numerous studies have highlighted that women in particular will experience overwhelming feelings of stress and anxiety during the holiday season. This is often caused by a combination of factors: end-of-year fatigue, financial worries, the over-commercialization of what should be a time of gratitude (this one gets me), unrealistic expectations of what can/should be achieved, the demands of social events and hosting relatives, or not being surrounded by loved ones. Additional stress comes from not getting enough sleep, excessive eating and drinking, and the post-holiday let down.
So what’s a gal to do? Can December really be merry and bright? It can. These seven proven strategies will allow you to thrive, not just survive, right through the final New Year’s toast.
Make This Season Significant For You
Keeping up with The Jones’ is never a good idea, and the holidays are no different. From Pinspiration to direct marketing, people have a lot of opinions about what you need to do to make your holidays special. Instead of listening to them, focus on what makes this time of year special for you: Spending time with family, observing religious traditions, volunteering, or simply taking time to slow down and reflect on the year that has been.
Find your focus and keep it at the forefront of your mind. Any time you’re faced with a decision to do more, buy more or be more, you can ask whether or not it enhances your interpretation of the season.
Take To Your List With A Big Red Pen
Reality check: completing everything on your December To-Do list is a recipe for major stress. Reduce your list to your top priorities — what are the things only you can do or that you love doing? Keep these tasks and ditch or delegate the rest. If this strategy (of not being in control) makes you feel little uncomfortable, its time to learn than other people really can do things as well as you, or at least well enough. Still struggling? I recommend reading “Drop The Ball” by Tiffany Dufu…Perhaps ask for it in your Santa Stocking.
Lower Your Expectations
Perfect is the enemy of the good. So you burnt the bread rolls, who cares?! When you strive to make everything look like a Martha Stewart magazine you will find yourself very anxious or very disappointed. Do your best, but remember what really matters: the conversation, the awkwardness of the family photo, and your gratitude for being given another year here on earth.
Start The Day In A Healthy Way
Skipping your movement routine because you feel short on time is a big mistake. Exercise improves your mood and helps you manage stress, not to mention aiding digestion after heavy meals. Commit to 10 – 15 minutes a day at a minimum. Similarly, eat a nourishing breakfast every single morning. This ensures that you have started with a healthy choice, despite what might transpire later on. Next week I’ll be back with some tasty holiday breakfast recipes for you to try.
Be Thoughtful Not Flashy
This need not be an expensive time of year. Do you really need more stuff to clutter up your home? Not likely. Nor do the people you’re buying for. It really is the thought that counts, and in particular, the acknowledgement that someone in your life matters to you. This year think of spending time rather than money: gift a small homemade something with a hand-written note saying how much that person means to you, or organize a catch-up or phone call with a relative that you haven’t seen for some time.
You Are Responsible For You
You’re not responsible for the joy and contentment of your family and friends (especially when they arrive at your home in hordes). You can do your bit to make everyone comfortable, perhaps preschedule some activities or have games on hand to play, but at the end of the day everyone needs to take ownership of their own good time. That said, it’s essential that you set aside some personal time to do the things that will keep YOU sane and sociable.
Easy, no? Not always. Stress makes us forget to breathe properly, which limits oxygen to the brain and increases that blood-boiling feeling. Whenever anxiety creeps in, stop for 30 seconds to inhale and exhale through your nose, fully and deeply.
It’s never too early to start practicing these seven tips to reduce holiday stress. Put them into play at the office, at social events and especially in your own home. And as always, let me know how you go.
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.
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.
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.
I’m about to start a new 21 day eating program and, to be honest, it’s bringing up a bit of resistance. Today’s post digs into that topic of the diet mentality, along with a gentle reminder of why diets don’t work.
Let’s dive in.
By this stage you know that I’m no fan of dieting. So it’s with mixed emotions that, for the next 21 days, I’ll be following a rather strict eating plan.
For the past few years I’ve been struggling with some aspects of my health. Despite my “good” eating, exercise and sleep habits, I still often feel like I’ve been hit by a semi-trailer.
Much of this has to do with my gut health, or lack thereof. Technically speaking, there’s an imbalance in my microbiome and I quite possibly have intestinal permeability.
While that may sound a little concerning, it’s totally fixable. In layman’s terms, this condition is known as “leaky gut” — a rather evocative description that you may have heard of it around the internet.
In addition to my weak digestive system, there seems to be something going on with my thyroid or adrenal glands. TBD.
Long story short, I’m following a medically advised eating program that eliminates foods that might trigger a negative response in my body. It’s not at all bad: lots of veggies, meat and yummy fats, which you know are right up my ally. But there are a few key ingredients that will be sorely missed, including:
Wine & champagne.
Cheese & yogurt.
Bread & grains.
Chocolate & coffee.
Objectively I feel ok about eating this way, but emotionally something has been coming up and I feel a little bit of resistance, a little bit of…meh.
I’ve been wondering why I have this hesitation, considering that:
This eating plan is for a finite amount of time and for a very specific purpose. No one is saying I can’t ever have a grilled cheese sandwich ever again.
I know that I’ll feel better when I have a break from these foods, because I know how my body reacts to this sort of thing.
So the answer has to be my history of dieting.
You may know that for many years I struggled with eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia & orthorexia (that last one is being obsessed with only eating the healthiest food). Sprinkled amongst these more serious conditions were regular rides on the fad-diet rollercoaster.
While I’ve finally been able to get off that ride, there is a residual fear of food restriction.
This is why I need to reframe the next 21 days, and view this eating plan as the next step in becoming my healthiest self (something that traditional diets do NOT do).
I’m going to focus on everything that I can have, which is really an abundance of delicious food, and I’m going to remind myself that this is simply a three week process of healing. With that mindset I know that willpower won’t be necessary, deprivation won’t be felt, and at the end of this process I’ll feel so much better than when I started.
I wanted to bring up this topic with you, incase you have a similar case of diet mentality, and if the idea of starting a new “healthy eating plan” feels a little overwhelming. If so, I totally understand and I hope that you can also find a great way to “reframe” the situation.
And, if you do still dabble with diets and excessively restrict your calories, please remember this:
Diets make you gain weight…
Diets help you lose weight quickly because they restrict calories. At first this works, but after a few days or weeks your brain notices that you’re not getting enough food and it starts to panic. This triggers your hunger hormones (leptin & ghrelin) to team up and protect you from starvation. Their solution is to lower your metabolic thermostat so that you burn less energy, which causes you to store the few meagre calories that you ARE eating as protective body fat. This consequence can be short term or long term.
Diets ruin your stomach…
Restricting certain healthy foods, or eating science-lab food, alters how your stomach and digestive system function. There’s a natural, chemical process to this eating and digesting thing. Mess with this process too much and you’ll end up spending date night telling your significant other about your leaky gut.
Diets mess with your mind…
Many women that I speak with have some kind of struggle with food; whether that’s worrying about weight gain, or feeling concerned that they’ll be judged (or judge themselves) for eating certain foods. Diets exacerbate this mentality, causing you to swallow a hefty dose of guilt and shame with every bite you eat.
Diets kill your willpower…
You only have a certain amount of willpower each day; it’s highest in the morning and decreases as the afternoon wears on. Every decision you make throughout the day taps into your willpower reserve; from food to fitness, or deciding keep your cool during a particularly frustrating conversation, choices zap willpower. Diets zap that willpower doubly fast, which makes you irritable, exhausted and with a hand in the cookie jar after dinner.
Now I’d Love To Hear From You
I hope this gentle reminder helps you ditch the diets and get back in the driver’s seat of your own health.
Please let me know what you think of today’s conversation, by leaving a comment below.