I am often asked what I eat during a typical day. As you’ll know, I really do seize every opportunity to eat in season and I do LOVE food: I enjoy the whole process from dreaming up delicious things to eat, the prepping and cooking of food, and especially the eating! So I thought I’d document and share the meals I enjoyed over one day last week: simple, quick & delicious dishes (all rustled up in minutes!).
Like many of you, I lead a busy and often stressful life – no two days are the same – and I agree that it can be a challenge to find time to shop wisely, eat purposefully and end the day feeling well nourished, especially if you are also cooking for a family. BUT eating well – by that I mean ensuring that you eat three well balanced, nutritious meals a day – needn’t be complicated. I am a firm believer that simple meals that are quick to assemble and cook are often the most delicious, satisfying and nutritious. Of course, that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy making more complicated or flamboyant dishes but I reserve these for the weekend when I know that I’ll have the time and added joy of sharing my efforts with friends and family. But during the week and busy times, I am realistic about what I can achieve and plan and prep accordingly.So, rather succinctly because I have so much to say on the subject, this is how I approach my ‘day on an plate’:
- I choose foods that are in season: they are fresher and tastier with much greater nutrient value to support our nutritional needs through the changing seasons (hydrating salads in the summer and warming vegetables in the winter high in Vit C to help fight colds and flu). Nature guides us brilliantly and affords us the nutrients we need to nourish ourselves in timely bursts. Food in season is cheaper, too!
I assemble meals mostly from scratch using the freshest ingredients I can. I am fortunate to have a wonderfully fruitful kitchen garden but if I’m in London or busy elsewhere, I’ll order an organic veg box online.
- I plan well, stealing a couple of hours each Sunday to prep for the week ahead: for instance, I’ll chop food such as shallots, garlic and leeks in my Magimix and pop into the fridge or freezer to grab when I need them (I highly recommend this), or I’ll poach fish or chicken and steam veg in anticipation of a busy week ahead.
- I follow the mantra “cook once, eat twice”: if I’m cooking salmon for supper, I’ll poach an extra fillet for lunch the following day, or I’ll make double quantities of vegetables so that I can swiftly warm them up with an egg for breakfast. This saves so much time, cost and effort.
- I aim to leave approx. 5 hours between breakfast and lunch and I’ll drink only water (from a glass bottle) in-between to keep well hydrated. If you feel the need to snack, question whether you are eating balanced meals packed with adequate amounts of protein and goodness. Snacking is mostly an emotional response to food or a sign that your diet is lacking in nutrients.
- I assemble my dishes carefully and I’m always mindful to include:
protein (eggs, fish, nuts & seeds, lean meat, goats cheese),
plant (mainly dark green leafy veg, tomatoes, beetroot, lettuce, artichoke, green beans – respecting all the colours of the rainbow),
flavour (herbs, spices & lemon juice),
and a good dash of healthy fat (nuts/seeds, oily fish, olive oil, avocado), plus a little fruit (papaya & lime juice).
Vitally, I ensure I add protein to all meals, especially breakfast. If I don’t eat protein at the start of the day, I find I get hungry much sooner and start to crave snacks (especially the sugary, naughty ones). For anyone who gets those mid afternoon energy slumps and end up heading for the biscuit tin a) get rid of the biscuit tin, and b) start your day with some protein. This has been scientifically proven to slow down our blood sugar response, and by keeping our blood sugar level more stable, the better our energy reserves and our ability to stave off hunger. As well as protein, I’ll always add vegetables: we understand from scientific research that our diets should be predominantly plant based and I encourage all my clients to aim for at least 10 portions each day.
BREAKFAST: Poached Egg & Broad Beans on Toast
As soon as I wake up, I do a short yoga routine consisting of basic stretches as I find that I get so stiff in the hips from all of the sitting I do during the day. I start with a mug of warm water, sometimes with lemon, sometimes not. Then it’s time for my black coffee (I’m a creature of habit) which I take with me when I give the dogs their early morning walk. My mind quickly turns to breakfast when we return, unless it’s a training morning which I do 3 times a week with my personal trainer Steve Mellor FreedomToTrain.com, in which case I won’t eat until after I have trained as I prefer to exercise on an empty stomach.
The old me loved nothing more than a bowl of sugary cereal or jam on toast for breakfast. These days, thankfully, I much prefer to start my day with a plate (or glass in the case of a green smoothie) of nourishing food that will set me in good stead for the day ahead. Most often it will be something savoury like a poached egg which I’ll serve with leafy green vegetables such as spinach or avocado (or quite often, leftover veg from the night before!). We have become so pre-conditioned to the disingenuous marketing claims of cereal makers and the likes, believing that breakfast should consist of either cereal, toast or a grain based meal such as muffin. I firmly challenge this – there should be no boundaries to what we perceive to be an ideal breakfast – best of all, seize the opportunity to build up reserves of veg and protein.
My breakfast this morning was especially delicious thanks to yummy broad beans left over from last night’s supper: I warmed them in a pan with finely chopped spring onions and olive oil, then piled them high on a piece of gluten free toast (I use Biona Millet bread which I toast well to make it crispy). To finish the dish, I drizzled over lemon juice with a pinch of fresh black pepper and popped a soft poached egg on top. I finished off with a small bowl of blueberries. It was heaven – so much so, I swear I could have eaten it a second time over!
LUNCH: Yellow Courgettes, Herb and Feta Salad (click here for the recipe)
Depending on the sort of day I am having, lunch is usually a quick assembly of whatever I have in the fridge, be that leftovers or something that I prepped at the weekend. Vitally, I ensure that I spare time to eat lunch properly, even if that’s only 10 mins. By that, I mean I sit down and savour it. Digest it. It’s so easy, especially when one is busy, to eat lunch on the go (literally) or to skip it altogether and that leads to multiple bad habits later in the day. If I know I am going to be out and about, I’ll prepare a ‘salad in a jar’ the night before, or something similar, to take with me and I’ll find a quiet spot to eat it.
If I’m at home, I’ll grab five different vegetables (preferably a rainbow mix of colours), one portion of fruit, a source of protein such as an egg, poached salmon, goats cheese or even just a handful of nuts and seeds, and I’ll gather together fresh herbs and spices (chili pepper is one of my favs), lemons (unwaxed if zesting) and extra virgin olive oil to lend good flavour and liven up the dish. As I mentioned above, I do often prep vegetables in advance to have handy in the fridge for speedy lunches – I find a spiralizer is particularly good for this.
After a busy morning today, I craved something warm and tasty for lunch but my fridge was sadly a little bare. Luckily, my kitchen garden has produced huge quantities of courgettes (green and yellow), so using my new electric spiralizer, I quickly made courgetti and sautéed it in a pan with chopped spring onion, a little chilli, and a good handful of cherry tomatoes. It was summer on a plate – made in 5 mins with just one pan to wash up (ok – and the sprializer – but you get me drift)! Click here for the full recipe.
I finished off with an apple and a decaf black coffee (I use CRU Kafe organic coffees which work in a Nespresso machine).
SUPER: Salmon, Greens & Peas with Potato Salad (click here for the recipe)
I try to wrap up my day by 5.30/6pm and take the dogs for their final walk, either in Kensington Gardens if I am in London or for a lovely quiet walk along the river if I am at my home in the country. Whichever it is, I love the chance to organize my thoughts and sign off for the day. As soon as we get home, my thoughts always turn immediately to supper.
My evening meal is the meal that I most enjoy cooking. I love that end of the day feeling; I put on some Jazz and start thinking up lovely things to cook. This evening, I created a glorious potato salad as we have so many potatoes in the garden and, whilst gathering some, I felt nostalgic for the salad cream dressing flavour I remember from childhood. After cooking the potatoes, I added a good dollop of coconut yoghurt (I use COYO but If you don’t want to use coyo you could use a good organic mayonnaise but check that it’s sugar free), a spoonful of dijon mustard, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper and lots of dill, chives and spring onions. I quickly pan fried two salmon fillets and made an extra one for lunch the following day, of course, following the “cook once, eat twice” rule. The dish lacked leafy greens, so I sautéed spinach and chard with garlic and a little shallot (stolen from my prepped supplies). It was a winner and my boyfriend absolutely loved it (and it didn’t disappoint on the nostalgia front!). This was a simple supper and very typical of what I’ll often eat, just switching the vegetables and proteins according to what I have. We enjoyed a bowl of raspberries (fresh from the garden!) for pudding. We each had a glass of red wine which we often do.
Before bed, I drink a couple more glasses of water. I try not to eat later than 8pm to ensure my digestion has time to do its job before I go to sleep.
None of the dishes today took long at all to make and I doubled up my time whilst cooking to prep and prepare food for the next day. For breakfast tomorrow, I’ll have the leftover courgetti salad with an egg, and then for lunch I’ll have the salmon with potatoes again and I’ll add in some more greens. See, I’m always thinking about the next meal 🙂
Photo credit: Susan Bell