Let’s eat what God gave us.
(Clarissa Dickson Wright’s partner on the BBC cookery series Two Fat Ladies)
Let’s eat what God gave us.
(Clarissa Dickson Wright’s partner on the BBC cookery series Two Fat Ladies)
Eggs were back in the news recently – now the Food Standards Agency says they’re good for everyone, even raw. Call me reckless but I never stopped eating runny eggs in the 80s (sorry Edwina). Salmonella levels in UK eggs are low and when British Lion-marked the hens have been vaccinated.
Does anyone remember ‘Go to Work on a Egg’ in the 1950s? OK it was an advertising slogan (Tony Hancock originals on YouTube). That’s much sounder advice than breakfast cereal ads today, so it’s galling they were not permitted a rerun in 2007 on the grounds that they promoted a non-varied diet.
An egg is a superb food in its own little package. They’re a great source of protein, used as the reference standard against which all other foods are assessed. They provide a full set of essential amino acids, in the right proportions and contain several vitamins including B2, B12, D, A and E, plus minerals like selenium, iodine and phosphorus. The fats are mainly mono-unsaturated with some brain healthy, long-chain, omega 3 fatty acids (DHA). (The fat profile depends on the hens’ diet, with free-range hens beating corn-fed, caged hens hands down.)
Don’t fear the cholesterol; it won’t affect your blood levels. The advice to restrict the number of eggs you eat has been dropped. I almost always include an egg in my breakfast so I don’t need to snack before lunch. Two favourites are fried steak, egg and mushrooms or a green smoothie, both of which last me about 6 hours.
Protein is very good for satisfying appetite. When I’m travelling, I take Jon Gabrielle’s omelette pizza (recipe on YouTube). It’s delicious cold as well as hot. He uses 3 eggs but for me one is enough for a lunch.
There are lots of other great recipes at http://www.eggrecipes.co.uk/recipes. I tried the egg and chorizo one-pot. A bit of a starch-fest but a tasty and filling winter warmer.
Top tip – Go to work on an egg!
It’s World Obesity Day today.
If diets worked there would be really one diet, everybody would go on it, lose weight and that would be the end of it.
But 95% of diets don’t work (other than short-term). So what’s the answer? Don’t diet, learn to eat well.
Real, fresh food is the solution.
As I walk through town looking at the gardens, the flowers may be fading but the leaves are turning copper and gold and the apples hang red on the trees. Whatever the season, there are wonderful shapes and colours in nature. This is how our food should be too.
There are many types of fish and they’re fish-shaped, not oblong, battered or crumbed. It’s easy to add your own toppings if you like. Fresh meat will have been cut up into large joints with individual shapes or small pieces. There can be a world of difference between a bought burger and some mince to make your own and between chicken nuggets and a free-range drumstick.
Take a look at your shopping as it goes along the supermarket conveyor belt. Is it all beige? Is it all square? I wrote a little rhyme:
When you go to the shops
If it comes in a box
Let it stay on the shelf
For the sake of your health
Each type of food brings its own special nutrients. Eating the same things every day can leave you with deficiencies and makes intolerance more likely. Most people have loads of recipe books and eat the same dozen meals all the time. Mix them up: white meat one day, fish another, then red meat, perhaps an omelette, or have a boost with liver or oily fish. Have rice or quinoa sometimes rather than always potatoes. Challenge yourself to buy a wider variety of vegetables. Eat two types with each meal, different colours. If you have something starchy, pair it with something non-starchy eg carrots with green beans, peas with red cabbage, sweet corn with pak choi. It’ll be a feast for your eyes on the conveyor belt and your plate.
Top tip – buy some foods with shapes and colours.
Have you noticed the lambs in the fields? I love to see them jump and play in the sunshine, full of the joys of spring. We should feel like this too.
Watch people walking down the street and notice how few of them have a spring in their step or sparkle in their eye. People in the Western world are used to struggling along with low energy, aches, pains, excess weight and minor ailments. They think that not being ill is as good as it gets. Real wellness is rare.
When we think about energy use, we think of exercise. Another big drain is digestion. Yes, we use up energy when we eat! Ever fallen asleep after a meal? When you eat unsuitable food, your body can’t cope and keep you awake, so it shuts down all non-essential systems and you nod off. Inside your body’s working flat out. The fashion for processed food is robbing us of energy. It’s called ‘fast food’ because you buy it instead of making it from ingredients. The preparation part is certainly quick – but once you’ve eaten it, fast food is really, really slow. Your body has to work very hard to digest it. The process takes a long time and uses up lots of vitamins, minerals and enzymes and huge amounts of energy.
Contrast this with fresh, natural food. It takes time to prepare but is quicker and easier for your body to use so more of the energy is available for you to feel great.
Dead, processed food may be convenient but it won’t allow you to live as vibrant, healthy a life as you could be enjoying.
Top tip – have more spring and sparkle with fresh, natural foods!
What’s the hardest thing about a healthy lifestyle? The exercise? Juicing wheatgrass? Growing sprouts? Actually the hardest thing is constantly resisting temptation in our hostile food environment.
We live in a sugar and oil saturated food world. Last month I found myself in a typical town, past lunchtime, without having brought anything to eat. The mass of non-food for sale was depressing. I felt like a reformed drug addict in an opium den. It’s very, very easy to eat badly but difficult to eat well. Amid the throngs of willing consumers, I stood out from the flock like one of the decorated (model) sheep we had around Cumbria this summer.
To improve our food environment we can support the taxation of sugar in drinks and foods; we can oppose the advertising of sugary products to children; we can stop supporting sellers of junk by refusing to buy what they sell; we can just say, “No”.
As an antidote to mass-produced fodder, we were treated to a wonderful weekend when Taste Cumbria came to Cockermouth. What a great event!
There were artisan producers you could talk to, samples to taste and all sorts of delicious foods to buy. We bought smoked mackerel for tea that evening. The next day I enjoyed scrambled eggs with smoked salmon for breakfast. Monday evening it was smoked sausages for dinner (many thanks to all you lads at Haverigg).
On the Sunday I put the slow cooker on – well it’s not summer any more – and made a casserole with venison from Deer and Dexter which we ate with the last of our home-grown potatoes and lots of veg. Delicious.
Finally we popped into the United Reformed Church to restock my favourite Rhubarb and Ginger from Jill’s Jams. Jam isn’t health food but a teaspoon on a cracker topped with the creamy unpasturised Lancashire from a cheese stall was yummy.
The Rotary Club’s Human Fruit Machine was an absolute delight and brought smiles all round.
Top tip – Buy real, local food.
As sad as it is for me to say, the current food and farming system is creating catastrophic change as it contributes to climate change, global famine and malnourishment, damaging our planet to the brink of disrepair. Parts of our conventional food system harm nature, people, communities and civilisations in the wild and urban world.
Spring is nearly here and doesn’t it lift your spirits to see flowers appear? Some of you will be making preparations to grow this year’s vegetables. It’s wonderful to eat them fresh the same day you picked them when all the vitamins and enzymes are at their maximum. Not everyone has a garden or allotment but something we can all do is sprout seeds and beans on the kitchen worktop.
You’ll need some sprouting trays with slots in (buy from a health food shop or on line), then choose what to grow. Mung beans and green lentils are readily available in most supermarkets, very easy to sprout and only take 3 days to grow. Alfalfa seeds are my favourite but few shops stock them so I buy them on line. Then there are radish seeds which have a real flavour kick, chickpeas, broccoli seeds which are high in sulforaphane (being studied for potential cancer protective effects) and lots more.
Soak your seeds/beans in a glass of water for 4-8h depending on their size. Rinse and put into your trays in an even layer about one seed/bean thick. Each morning and evening, rinse the sprouts thoroughly under running water, then tip the trays to drain away any excess so that the sprouts are not sitting in water. When they’re ready, harvest them with a fork; they’ll keep in the fridge in a container for a few days. Give your trays a thorough clean with a brush and they’re ready to start growing the next batch. (Step-by-step sprouting video under my superfood series.)
Eat sprouts raw so that you keep the goodness. They’re good on salad or with breakfast or as a snack.
Top tip: Grow your own health booster.
Weight gain seems inevitable at this time of year but if you don’t want to start 2016 fat, tired and ill, how can you minimise the damage?
Eat as much natural, real food as possible. Buy fresh meat, fish and vegetables and fill yourself with good home cooked meals. Bake your own Christmas cake (nice with a slice of Wensleydale and some almonds) and mince pies using butter and reducing the sugar content. Make salad dressings, dips and healthy treats (ask me for my no-cook chocolate, seed and nut recipe). Doing a bit of something in the kitchen can be great fun if the family gets stuck in too.
The right breakfast can set you up for the day. Include some protein and fat eg nutty muesli with natural yoghurt, poached egg on toast, home made porridge (not sachets/pots) with flaked almonds and cream or a low-sweetness smoothie (mine is based on avocado and coconut milk).
The worst choices are cereal, toast with jam, fruit juices/smoothies and chocolate which will have you on a blood-sugar roller-coaster for the rest of the day, and craving for more bad things.
Have a healthy snack before going out and drink plenty of water before and during parties. You’ll be less likely to drink too much alcohol or over-eat. Sugar and vegetable oil are in almost all processed ‘party’ food and will cause weight gain. Soft drinks are sugary and, surprisingly, “diet” drinks also increase weight.
Hide biscuits, chocolates, cake, crisps and alcohol in cupboards and leave bowls of nuts, veg sticks and dips in plain sight. Treat treats as treats. Enjoy them but don’t make a meal of them. If you try to abstain and you’re more likely to have a blow-out. Ditch the diet ‘on it, off it’ mentality and allow yourself to have a little. Accept that there will be naughty goodies everywhere you go; you will eat some, and so will I!
Top tip – Eat well and have a Merry Christmas
Did you know that French kids don’t get fat? They have the lowest levels of childhood obesity in the developed world and it’s the only place where it isn’t rising. Children aren’t educated about nutrition and taught to be anxious about food, they are taught the joy of food and learn to love it.
At home, the family eats together so children develop a taste for real food, not fake ‘children’s food’. Kids don’t snack randomly but learn to wait. Parents don’t use food as bribes or rewards for good behaviour – it’s for pleasure and nourishment.
The French rarely buy ready meals or takeaways. Instead, they spend more than we do on real food, revelling in copious amounts of butter, cheese and cream. They consistently have the highest levels of saturated fat intake in Europe and the lowest levels of heart disease. It’s termed the French Paradox; how do they get away with it? But actually there is no paradox. Research, including a review last year by Cambridge University of 72 studies, reveals an “absolute lack of evidence that consuming saturated fat leads to heart disease“. Yet the old school dietitians still cling to the notion and only last month, Nigella Lawson was vilified in the paper for using coconut oil in her new cookery book. But the French aren’t doing something mysterious to cheat the death that their diet deserves; their diet does them good. They look at the British eating processed sugar and oil and think we’re mad.
The French government helps too, with tough policies designed to prevent commercial interests damaging the health of its children. Tax on fizzy drinks (Jamie Oliver is campaigning to introduce the same here), health warnings on TV ads for snack foods, incentives for fruit and vegetable producers, no hormone treatment of animals, no vending machines in schools, water only to drink with the children’s 4-course, freshly-prepared school lunches for which they have a 2 hour break! Sounds good to me.
Top tip: Like the French, learn to love real food.
(I wrote this month’s piece a few weeks ago and decided to post it as intended in spite of the recent terrible events. It seems appropriate to celebrate the French at this time.)