How I have changed my shopping habits recently

How I have changed my shopping habits recently

October 2020

Images of empty shelves, queues that snaked around the car park, and the risk of exposure to a large number of people in close proximity meant that the traditional weekly supermarket shop that we took for granted suddenly became a rather unattractive proposition at the start of lockdown. Many of us switched to ordering online, but demand vastly outstripped capacity in many locations, and I, like many others, couldn’t get a grocery delivery for weeks during lockdown.

We were immensely lucky that our freezer and pantry were already pretty well stocked, and the vegetable garden gradually started to supplement these staples with more fresh produce, but there were a few weeks where food insecurity felt very real indeed. It gave me a wake-up call that I think I needed. And I was one of the lucky ones. Many people didn’t have such a safety net to fall back on.

Perhaps one of the main benefits to come out of this experience was that it radically changed how I shop. Initially out of necessity, but now out of choice. I thought it might be interesting to share the suppliers I now use, in case any of them might be new to you (as they were to me initially). I’ve actually found it a far more enjoyable way to shop, and have been really impressed with the reduction in plastic packaging we produce as a household, and boost in taste and flavour of these ingredients. There have also been a few welcome cost savings too, not least because I am no longer tempted to buy all those added extras that catch your eye in the supermarket, but aren’t really necessary.

fresh fruit and vegetables:

We use as much as we can from our kitchen garden, freezing, jarring, batch cooking as well as enjoying it fresh. We are pretty self-sufficient for the peak of the growing season, but outside of this (or if we are away) I get a Quick Organic Veg Box (large) delivered automatically once a week from Riverford. I get an organic fruit box at the same time, usually with some extra bananas too. This works out cheaper than buying the equivalent organic produce from the supermarket (and involves a LOT less plastic).

eggs & dairy produce:

When our chickens are productive, they give us all the eggs we need, but when this slows down, I get 12 organic eggs delivered weekly alongside my veg box from Riverford, as well as some of their organic, unhomogenised milk.

nuts & seeds:

Once a quarter or so, I put a bulk order in with Real Food Source, who do great value nuts, seeds and dried fruit (including organic options). They’re a family run company, based in Scotland, who’s no bells-and-whistles approach mean that they can supply great quality products at significantly lower prices than found elsewhere.

health food products and cupboard staples:

Anyone who has seen this article will have already heard about Good Club, an online shop selling sustainable staples at up to 30% off RRP. They use a membership model (which costs around £30 per year – but they guarantee to refund the difference if you don’t save at least this much over the year). Plus if you refer a friend, they send a delivery to your local food bank, and are working on supplying zero waste products in returnable containers soon. I’m a convert, and put in a monthly order for tea, coffee, pasta, pulses, jars, plant-based m*lks, bread, flours, sauces, and wholegrains. Handily, it automatically saves your basket, so you can simply add items as you remember throughout the month before placing the final order.

home & personal care:

I’m a total convert to Bower Collective, who deliver really lovely personal care and home care products in plastic-waste free or reusable and refillable packaging. They stock Neal’s Yard, Bramley, TOTM, Natracare, Bio-D, as well as their own-brand (which is very good value).

fish & meat:

I now almost always buy my fish, meat, and chicken from our local butcher and fishmonger. Once a year or so, I will also get a bulk order of lamb or beef from a local regenerative farmer, who is responsibly and ethically grazing his animals to regenerate the soil health on his farm. This will last us a good few months as it’s all frozen and we don’t eat much. For those who aren’t so lucky as to have a local supplier, Newlyn Fresh Fish supply sustainably caught fish boxes nationwide and the Ethical Butcher supplies carefully and ethically sourced meat.

general:

And of course, because this is real life and sometimes I am not organised enough, I turn to Ocado and get a general delivery from them to keep me going.

Please note, this article uses affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our online content free for everyone to access. Thank you


Thinking about: Caffeine

Thinking about: Caffeine

October 2020

Wrapping my hands around a steaming mug of coffee on a cold morning, or sharing a cup of tea with a friend are a couple of my favourite simple pleasures. But I am often asked if the caffeine within these warming drinks has any health effects we should know about?

As always, there is no absolute ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in nutrition and so arming ourselves with some knowledge of the underlying nutritional science enables us to make informed decisions about the food and drinks we enjoy. You’ll find lots more of this in the nutrition articles section of this website.

Photo by Jen Rich

Let’s start with what Caffeine actually is.

Caffeine is a naturally occurring plant compound, which is thought to function for the plant as an insect repellant and herbicide (Wikoff et al., 2017).  In humans, it is the most commonly consumed stimulant worldwide and is well known for its effects on our wakefulness, focus and concentration.

Once consumed, caffeine is rapidly absorbed into our bloodstream and starts to have an effect just 15 – 20 minutes later. How long those stimulatory effects last varies significantly from person to person, but can be anywhere between 2-8+ hours.

How much caffeine do you drink?

Drink Approximate caffeine per serving
Mug of filter coffee 90 – 140mg
Mug of instant coffee 60 – 100mg
Single espresso (60ml) 80mg
Mug of black tea 50 – 75mg
340ml coca-cola / diet coke 35 – 45mg
50g dark chocolate 20 – 35mg
Mug of cocoa 15mg
Green tea 15mg

What are the health benefits of caffeine?

The good news first. Beyond the obvious benefits that caffeine can have in terms of pleasure (there is often an enjoyable ritual in making and drinking a cup of tea or coffee), helping us to get going in the morning, maintaining focus and concentration at work, or keeping us awake on late-night drives, caffeine may also come with some other health benefits.

Caffeine-containing drinks, including coffee, black tea, green tea and even cocoa, for example, also may contain relatively high amounts of health-boosting polyphenols.

Polyphenols are a group of beneficial dietary antioxidants and are found in particularly high concentrations in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, tea, coffee, spices, dark chocolate and red wine. Take a look at this article on why eating the rainbow is not a cliched phrase for more background on this topic.

Polyphenols have been reported to play a possible role in the prevention of some cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases and perhaps even diabetes (Scalbert et al., 2005). More specifically, caffeine consumption has been linked to a possible decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease in some people (Costa et al., 2010), while green tea may potentially be beneficial for reducing heart disease and stroke risk (Pang et al., 2016). More research is required to confirm such associations, but they do offer some hopeful possibilities for future studies to build upon.

A review published in the British Medical Journal examining lots of different studies into coffee and various health outcomes found that the greatest benefit of coffee consumption for all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease was seen at around 3 cups a day (although this is a population level study, so this intake might not apply to you as an individual). Interestingly, decaffeinated coffee was also found to have beneficial effects on the same outcomes, with estimates suggesting 2-4 cups a day having the largest effects (Poole et al., 2017). However, more rigorously designed studies are again needed to confirm these findings.

Caffeine may also be beneficial to support sports performance, by reducing perceived fatigue (Doherty and Smith, 2005) and potentially increasing muscle power output. This is often used to athletic advantage, as fortified sports gels frequently contain the same amount of caffeine as a large mug of coffee.

Are there any downsides of caffeine?

Alongside the potential benefits mentioned above, there are also a few circumstances where excessive caffeine may be detrimental to our health.

Although this is not a completely comprehensive list, below are a few examples of times when being conscious of your caffeine consumption may be beneficial:

  • If you are planning pregnancy or are currently pregnant, national guidelines recommend that you avoid consuming more than 200mg caffeine per day, as high caffeine consumption has been potentially linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, having a baby with a low birth weight and preterm birth (Poole et al., 2017).For more information on this; https://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/limit-caffeine-during-pregnancy.aspx
  • If you suffer from anxiety or panic, the physical symptoms of caffeine consumption (such as nervousness, palpitations, irritability or stomach upsets) can sometimes make your worry feel worse. It may be better to cut right down on caffeine in these instances. It’s one of the first things that may be recommended to clients who are particularly struggling with worry and poor sleep.
  • Excessive caffeine consumption can, in some cases, lead to palpitations and ‘ectopic’ heartbeats (the feeling of your heart beating in your chest). Of course, it is absolutely essential to discuss any symptoms like these promptly with a doctor, but you may find that you are encouraged to moderate your caffeine as part of your management plan.For more information on this; https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-palpitations/
  • If you suffer from insomnia or sleeping difficulties, you are probably already being mindful of minimising your evening caffeine intake. But any caffeine consumption, even first thing in the morning, could still be having an impact. It will somewhat depend on your genetics, however – that’s why some lucky people can neck a couple of espressos before bed and still sleep like a baby.If, however, you are struggling with your sleep, you may like to try cutting down (or even cutting out) caffeine completely for a couple of weeks to see if this makes a difference. Start by reducing caffeine consumed after 3pm. Some people find that they need to stop caffeine as early as 10am to positively impact their sleep. It is a case of individual trial-and-error to see what works best for you, understanding that this may well change over time.
  • Habitual caffeine consumption may lead to a certain amount of tolerance; you may end up needing a bigger ‘hit’ to get the same energising effects. This can be a particularly vicious circle for those suffering from fatigue; the more tired you feel, the more you reach for a caffeine boost – which eventually increases your tolerance and means you need even more caffeine to feel ‘normal’.If you suffer from fatigue that is impacting your daily life, it is always worth discussing this with a qualified healthcare professional to see if there is any underlying cause that needs addressing in the first instance.
  • Caffeine intake may also increase blood pressure slightly (although potentially less so when consumed as coffee than from other sources) (Noordzji et al., 2005). If you suffer from high blood pressure, it may therefore be worthwhile sticking to moderate amounts of caffeine (approximately 200-300mg/day). More research is required to give definitive answers on this topic.
  • If you suffer from osteoporosis, or are considered to be at risk of developing weak bones, it may be sensible to limit the amount of caffeine you consume, as it can potentially interfere with calcium absorption and excretion, particularly with higher intakes (Wikoff et al., 2017). This effect may be more significant in women (Poole et al., 2017). Again, the pragmatic solution might be to just stick to a sensible and moderate amount (no more than 400mg/day) and to make sure you are consuming plentiful of sources of calcium in your diet too.

Things to consider when cutting down caffeine consumption…

Dramatically cutting down caffeine can trigger headaches and significant fatigue in many people and even more so in those prone to migraines or frequent headaches. It is therefore recommended than anyone considering reducing their caffeine intake should cut down consumption slowly (by around 1 cup/day every 4-5 days), rather than trying to go ‘cold turkey’.

The bottom line?

  1. Moderation is probably key when it comes to caffeine; 1-3 cups of coffee or 2-4 cups of tea (perhaps including some green tea) a day is a sensible caffeine intake for most people. Some people can tolerate more than this, some people less. As always, there’s no single ‘rule’ for everyone. Have a play around to work out what suits you.
  2. For some, cutting out caffeine completely may be appropriate – perhaps for a short while anyway. It is recommended that this is done slowly over time.
  3. If you love the taste of tea and coffee but would still like to cut down on your caffeine consumption, look out for organic decaffeinated versions. Clipper does the best decaf tea I have personally tasted, or there is an amazing array of herbal teas available.

Written by my colleague Rosamund Yoxall BMBS BSc.

SHOP THE EDIT

CRU Kafe organic coffee capsules

These are my go to coffee capsules that work in the nespresso machine. They are organic, biodegradable and taste delicious.

SHOP

Clipper decaf tea

I love clipper everyday tea but this decaf option is the best I have tasted if you want a decaf option.

SHOP

Green tea

This one is my favourite and I add a little squeeze or slice of lemon to it.

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Herbal tea

There are so many to choose from but this fennel one is the one I buy time and time again.

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Tea set

If I could, I would buy tea sets forever and am often hunting in second hand shops for lovely cups. No one does tea better than Fortnum & Mason and I have been saving up for this gorgeous green set for a while now.

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Coffee machine

I use this machine and find it really easy to use and a much faster solution than brewing coffee in the traditional way.

SHOP

For more information:

This fact sheet on Caffeine is produced by the European Food Standards Agency and is a treasure trove of information.

For professionals:

Coffee consumption and health: Umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes.

Please note, this article uses affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our online content free for everyone to access. Thank you.

References & Bibliography

Costa J., Lunet N., Santos C., Santos J., Vaz-Carneiro A. (2010) Caffeine Exposure and the Risk of Parkinson’s Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 20(1); S221-S238

Doherty M. and Smith P. (2005) Effects of caffeine ingestion on rating of perceived exertion during and after exercise: a meta-analysis, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 15 (2); 69-78

Noordzij M., Uiterwaal S, Arends LR, Kok FJ, Grobbee DE, Geleijnse JM. (2005) Blood pressure response to chronic intake of coffee and caffeine: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Hypertension, 23(5); 921-928

Pang, J., Zhang, Z., Zheng, T., Bassig, B.A., Mao, C. and Liu, X. (2016) ‘Green tea consumption and risk of cardiovascular and ischemic related diseases: A meta-analysis’, International Journal of Cardiology, 202, pp. 967–974.

Poole, R., Kennedy, O., Roderick, P., Fallowfield, J., Hayes, P. and Parkes, J. (2017). Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. BMJ, p.j5024.

Scalbert A., Manach C., Morand C., Remesy C., Jimenez L., (2005) Dietary polyphenols and the prevention of diseases. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 45 (4): 287-306

Wikoff D., et al. (2017) Systematic review of the potential adverse effects of caffeine consumption in healthy adults, pregnant women, adolescents, and children, Food and Chemical Toxicology, 109(1); 585-648.


New in Nutrition

New In Nutrition | Sept 2020

September 2020

I’m so excited to share a brand-new feature with you, New in Nutrition. It is going to be coming to you on a regular basis from now on, as a way to showcase the new products, books, podcasts, people, places or initiatives that my team and I feel are doing interesting or exciting things in nutrition and wellness. I hope it will soon become the go-to place to hear about nutrition news.

If you ever stumble across something new that you think we would all enjoy (that’s related to nutrition), please do drop us a tip-off email hello@ameliafreer.com and we will take a look. Thank you!

1. Product | Eaten Alive Raw Fermented Foods

An exquisite range of fermented sauces and pickles, all made in London. Developed by two chefs and travel enthusiasts with a keen interest in the art of fermentation, these products taste incredible. All raw, unpasteurised (thus retaining their probiotic bacteria) and vegan, Eaten Alive have recently added a new range of hot sauces and a variety of fresh kimchi to their offering. A great way to pep up simple dishes with a big burst of flavour, I have absolutely loved having these to hand in the fridge.

You can order online for delivery across the UK through eatenalive.co.uk. They have very generously offered my followers 15% off purchases valid from 1st September to 10th October with the code AFXEA20

2. Podcast | Healthily, by Nicola Moore

Championing positive health messages and relationships with food, my associate, Registered Nutritional Therapist Nicola Moore, has spent the past 20 years having healthy conversations with people.

In her new podcast Healthily, Nicola shares fascinating discussions with friends and colleagues from her years in the nutrition industry, as she finds out what it means to them to live healthily. Topics in the first series range from digestive wellness and mindful eating through to weight gain in the menopause and combating unrelenting low energy. Through the power of conversation, Nicola and her guests are able to tackle complicated subjects including genetics, the microbiome, and the hormonal interplay with our cells, in a way that’s easy to understand, and importantly, take simple action from. Highly recommended! Listen here.

3. Publication | Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives

The UK government recently published its obesity strategy policy paper, causing much interest to those of us in nutrition. While many people feel it hasn’t gone far enough, and others who believe it to be excessive political involvement in our personal and home lives, my personal opinion is that it outlines some beneficial steps to help support us all to live healthy lives. I’d highly recommend reading it if you’re interested, as I feel that the press reporting has not always been representative of the policies and tone that the paper itself uses. Of course, it’s far from a simple issue, and compassion and kindness must be at the heart of all discussions on food and weight, but I welcome the engagement, attention and funding it promises to bring to the role of prevention in health and medicine.

4. Product | Plenish fortified M*lks

Many of us are choosing to consume more plant-based drinks and m*lks. However, these may not necessarily match the nutrient profiles of dairy milk, so fortification can be a useful way to support us in getting a nutritionally balanced diet overall. Plenish has developed a new recipe for its fortified Almond, Oat & Cashew m*lks, using 100% vegan ingredients, no oils, gums or added sugar, and using only sustainably-sourced nuts and oats grown without pesticides. They are enriched with calcium, iodine and vitamins D, B12 and B2 and they taste great too!

For a 15% discount use the code AF15 at checkout.

5. Book | Ottolenghi Flavour

In this stunning new cookbook, Ottolenghi and co-writer Ixta Belfrage break down the three factors that create flavour and offer over 100 brand-new inspirational vegetable recipes. The book is divided down into 3 clever sections to help us seriously elevate our vegetable game: Process explains cooking methods that elevate veg to great heights; Pairing identifies four basic pairings that are fundamental to great flavour; Produce offers impactful vegetables that do the work for you.

Out 3rd September. Order now through Amazon or buy a signed edition with Waterstones

6. Shop | Good Club

An online shop selling sustainable staples, that works on a membership model. They sell much-loved products at up to 30% lower than the RRP (think Clipper teas, nut butters, eco cleaning products, pastas, store cupboard staples and much more). You get one free delivery per month (helping to reduce the environmental impact of multiple deliveries), and they are working on supplying zero waste products in returnable containers – coming soon.

Membership costs £30 per year, paid annually, but if you don’t save more than this over the course of the year, Good Club will refund the difference, no questions asked. I’m a convert!

Click here to learn more.

7. Product | Eight Food (nourishing freezer meals)

The brainchild of three busy mums, Eight Food delivers delicious, healthy freezer meals to your door for those moments when you’re too busy or exhausted to cook yourself. They’ve just launched a new set of 3 sauces, including a delicious Ultimate Tomato Sauce (containing 7 different veggies) and a Boosted Bolognese (with lots of extra veg and chicken livers).

Every meal contains a minimum of 5 fruit or veg (although often many more), uses only ingredients you’d have at home, are as sustainable and ethical as they can possibly be, and are gluten free. They’re also a brilliantly useful and thoughtful gift for new parents, or people recovering from a tough time.

Take a look at their website here, and enter code AMELIA15 at checkout for a 15% discount off your order (minimum spend £30).

8. Book | How to Build a Healthy Brain, by Kimberley Wilson

This groundbreaking, science-based book is the ultimate, holistic guide to protecting our brain health for the long term. We may already know a fair amount about how to care for our physical health, but we often feel powerless when it comes to brain and mental health. How to Build a Healthy Brain is, thankfully, here to help. Written by psychologist Kimberley Wilson, it clearly and practically sets out how we can care for our brain with simple lifestyle choices. I absolutely loved this book and would highly recommend it to everyone.

Amazon.co.uk

Waterstones

9. Initiative | The Great Oven

This inspirational charitable initiative, set up by James Thompson (creative partner and long-standing producer of Nigel Slater’s TV shows and books) builds great, beautiful, ornate ovens in places where people need them most, including conflict zones and refugee camps. A nourishing focus for communities and the centre of shared kitchens. Follow their journey @thegreatoven.

10. Publication | The National Food Strategy: Part One

The National Food Strategy is the first major review of the UK’s food systems in 75 years. Commissioned by the Environment Secretary and headed by Henry Dimbleby (founder of Leon and The School Food Plan), the review will ultimately set out recommendations to guide a government white paper. It is a hugely wide-reaching analysis, from the resilience of our supply chains to the environmental consequences of food production, the impact of COVID-19 to the role of nutrition in healthcare. Part One has recently been published, containing urgent recommendations to support the country through the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic and to prepare for the end of the EU exit period on 31st December. You can read the executive summary here.

New in nutrition

11. Product | Brindisa

Brindisa is a wonderful company that celebrates the best of Spanish foods and culture whilst remaining committed to sustainability. I have long been a fan of their delicious and beautifully packaged products and I am delighted that they have recently expanded their range. Some of my favourite new additions include Catrineta sardines, all hand prepared and packed in the traditional Galician way, spicy Perelló olives, sold in glass jars and tins and crunchy Torres Beans and Peas snacks which are vegan and gluten free and make a tasty treat to enjoy with an aperitif.

Check them and their full range out at www.brindisa.com and here’s a 10% discount for you all, AMELIA10 valid until 31st October. (Not valid on gift cards.)

Please note, this website uses some carefully selected affiliate links. If you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep all of our online content free for everyone to access. Thank you.


Why ‘eating the rainbow’ is not just a clichéd phrase

Why ‘eating the rainbow’ is not just a clichéd phrase

This article was commissioned by Natural Health Magazine

You’ve probably heard that we should, ideally, be aiming to ‘eat the rainbow’ every day. While eating a colourful diet alone is not sufficient – we also need to pay attention to the spread of our nutritional intake from various food groups and other essential nutrients – it is still an aspect of balanced eating worth thinking about. However, ‘eating the rainbow’ can sound a bit clichéd if we are not clear about why it matters, beyond perhaps making our plates look prettier.

Plants contain an amazing array of compounds called phytochemicals (with phyto– meaning plant and ‘chemical’ meaning that they are molecules). Within the plant, they are produced to help fend off damage from external stress (such as UV radiation, pests or diseases). In the kitchen, they are responsible for the distinctive colours, tastes and smells of plant foods, and in our bodies, they have been linked to a wide range of potentially beneficial effects on health. Different plants, different colours, different phytochemicals.

While many of the potential health benefits of phytochemicals are still inconclusive, much of the association is positive and research is very much ongoing.  So what might they actually do? There are thousands of phytochemicals and each of these has a number of metabolites, so it’s a bit of a mammoth task to try to specify the answer to this question precisely.

However, we can look at a couple of examples: Lycopene is found in various red foods, but is particularly well absorbed from cooked tomatoes and is considered a potent antioxidant, mopping up potentially harmful free-radicals.1 Anthocyanins, such as those found in deep purple foods like blackcurrants and blueberries, have been linked to improvements in cognitive performance, cardiovascular health and inflammation.2  While glucosinolates, found particularly in cruciferous vegetables (and contribute to their pungent, sometimes bitter taste) have been linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers.3

While we needn’t worry about not achieving the rainbow at every meal, ensuring that we are getting a wide range of brightly coloured whole foods into our diets will ensure we are getting a varied mixture of micronutrients and phytochemicals too. And yes, it also helps our plate look pretty.

Tips to increase your phytonutrient intake:

  • Note the different colours you already eat (see below for reference) and how often. Kids often enjoy getting involved in this activity and can be very diligent accountability partners.
  • Use plenty of herbs and spices in cooking. Flavouring our food like this can also help reduce the amount of salt needed, so it’s a bit of a win-win nutritionally.
  • Keep some frozen vegetables handy – frozen chopped spinach is a really simple way of adding some leafy greens to other dishes, for example. Frozen berries are also a cost-effective option.
  • Try having a cup of green tea with a slice lemon.
  • Aim to have 2-3 portions of vegetables with each of your main meals. Colourful stir-fries and soups make this quite easy to achieve, or you could try things like mashed squash, carrots or cauliflower instead of potatoes, for example, to mix things up a bit.
  • Keep an eye out for seasonal or extra-colourful produce you don’t usually buy (such as purple carrots or potatoes). Signing up to a weekly fruit or vegetable delivery box can be a great way of getting out of a shopping rut and encourage us to try a few new things.
  • Lightly steam vegetables to help preserve the phytonutrients (which can be heat-sensitive). Drizzling them with a little olive oil before serving can also help absorption.
  • Try swapping white pasta for spelt, red lentil, pea or chickpea pasta and white rice for purple, brown, black or red rice.

Eating the Rainbow

Click on the links below for some lovely ideas on how to use all this colourful produce.

Photo by Pinar Mavi on Unsplash

Red

Apples, kidney beans, beetroot, red peppers, cranberries, cherries, red grapes, tomatoes, pomegranate, radishes, radicchio, strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, rhubarb, red rice, paprika, rooibos tea.

Orange

Apricots, orange peppers, cantaloupe melon, carrots, mango, nectarines, oranges / satsumas / clementine / mandarins, papaya, pumpkin / squash, sweet potato, turmeric.

Yellow

Banana, yellow peppers, corn, lemon, pineapple, potatoes, yellow courgettes, ginger.

Green

Artichoke, asparagus, avocado, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, celery, cucumber, green beans, peas, all sorts of leafy greens (spinach, chard, kale, lettuce, watercress, rocket etc.), limes, olives, courgettes, green tea.

Purple/black

Blueberries, mulberries, red cabbage, aubergine, figs, purple grapes, black olives, plums, black/wild rice.

White

Cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, garlic, chickpeas, cannellini beans, tahini.

Brown

Cocoa, coffee, dates, lentils, nuts, seeds, tea, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, whole grains (oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa, spelt, rye etc.).


For more ways to eat the rainbow, take a look at my article on Positive Nutrition and you can print off my free blank positive nutrition pyramid here.

SHOP THE EDIT

Riverford Organic Vegetable Box

I have been getting a Riverford box delivered for years, it still excites me every time it arrives. It encourages me to eat a far wider variety of vegetables than I either have access to in my local supermarket or would automatically pick-up when shopping and genuinely tastes better too. I love their ‘quick veg’ boxes.

SHOP

Paring knives

Eating the rainbow is so much about eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Make prep quick and easy with these super-sharp, dishwasher-safe knives. I have a few, so there’s always a clean one to hand.

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Mandoline slicer

Makes light work of vegetable prep. I use this daily (just make sure to use the hand protector).

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Serving platter

I have this large serving platter and it always makes a lovely centre piece for a beautiful salad or a tumble of roasted vegetables. It is one of the most used items in my kitchen.

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Green tea

Organic green tea from Clipper. This is my go-to choice for green tea, as I don’t find it too overpowering.

SHOP

Portobello Grey Pasta Bowl

These pasta bowls are a kitchen essential. They are a great size and come in a set of 6, perfect for your favourite pasta or salad dish.

SHOP

Please note, this article uses affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our online content free for everyone to access. Thank you.

References & Bibliography

van Breemen, R.B. and Pajkovic, N. (2008) ‘Multitargeted therapy of cancer by lycopene’, Cancer Letters, 269(2), pp. 339–351.

Khoo, H., Azlan, A., Tang, S. and Lim, S. (2017). Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food & Nutrition Research, 61(1), p.1361779.

Arumugam, A. and Razis, A. (2018). Apoptosis as a Mechanism of the Cancer Chemopreventive Activity of Glucosinolates: a Review. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, 19(6), pp.1439-1448.


Vitamin D

Vitamin D

May 2020

The following article is for information only and is no substitute for medical advice or your own research. Please be mindful of your needs and seek appropriate professional support as necessary.

I am a firm believer in a food-first approach to nutrition, particularly when giving generic advice to a large group of people (as I do through this website). There is, of course, a role for supplementation when individual deficiencies or absorption problems occur, but this is best tackled on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, I am often reticent to give specific advice on supplements or individual micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in this broader form.

However, Vitamin D is a slight exception to the rule. It is tricky to get enough vitamin D from food sources alone and although sunlight is our key alternative source, there may be a number of occasions when getting adequate sun exposure is difficult, particularly at the moment (during COVID-19 lockdown).

So I wanted to put together this summary on vitamin D, mostly to share the public health advice that the NHS has published. I cannot give specific advice on an individual basis, so if you have any queries, please direct these to your GP, local pharmacist or other healthcare provider. Nothing written here is a substitute for professional recommendations. However, perhaps it might help to raise awareness of this important nutrient and encourage safe supplementation practices. I have also linked out to resources for further information, should you find them helpful.

What is Vitamin D and who is at risk of deficiency?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (alongside vitamins A, E & K) and is important in the regulation of minerals like calcium and phosphate in our body.

In the UK, deficiency is thought to be relatively common (especially over winter). According to a 2016 report from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition report on Vitamin D, roughly a quarter of adult men and 22% of adult women had blood levels of vitamin D below the cut off for deficiency (defined as <25nmol/L on a blood test) (SACN, 2016). This level increased to almost 40% of adults in the winter months, although was only 8% in the summer (SACN, 2016).

Those at increased risk of deficiency may include pregnant and breastfeeding women, babies and young children under 5, older people over 65, people who are not exposed to much sun (especially if house-bound, or cover most of their skin when outside) and people who have darker skin tones (Department of Health, 2012).

Where does Vitamin D come from?

The main source of vitamin D is sunlight.

In the UK, however, the UV light required to cause vitamin D to be produced in our skin is only strong enough in the spring and summer months (roughly April to early October). The light is not strong enough over the winter to create vitamin D in our bodies. Therefore, safe sun exposure over the summer months is an important factor in keeping our vitamin D levels sufficient across the whole year.

See my article on Summer Health for advice on safe sun exposure. We make plenty of vitamin D in our skin long before burning or tanning and additional sun exposure beyond this may increase the risk of sun damage and ultimately, skin cancer. There’s a sensible balance to be found.

SAD

Dietary sources of vitamin D may include (NHS, 2017)

  • Oily fish (such as salmon, sardines, mackerel)
  • Egg yolks
  • Some fortified foods (such as breakfast cereals and infant formula). Note that vitamin D is not routinely fortified in dairy products in the UK, as it is elsewhere in the world.
  • UV-treated or sunlight-exposed mushrooms
  • Red meat / liver

However, only small quantities of vitamin D are found in food, so it is not recommended that we rely on food-forms alone. Sunlight and supplementation are also important.

Current UK Guidelines for vitamin D supplementation

The full NHS guidelines for vitamin D supplementation can be found here. This is a summary of those guidelines, taken directly from the NHS website.

10 micrograms = 400 International Units [IU] (the doses on supplement labels will usually state both, but it is helpful to know this conversion).

Please note: Some people have medical conditions that mean they cannot safely take this much vitamin D. If in doubt, you should consult your doctor. Likewise, some people may have been prescribed a different amount of vitamin D to the doses mentioned below by their doctor or other healthcare provider. You should, of course, follow any professional advice you’ve been given.

Be aware that some over-the-counter supplements contain other vitamins or ingredients. Having too much of some vitamins can be harmful. Keep to the dose recommended on the label, and be careful not to give your baby or child two supplements at the same time, unless otherwise recommended. Talk to your pharmacist about which supplement would be most suitable for you, your baby or your child to take.

Babies:

  • Breastfed babies from birth to 1 year should be given a daily supplement containing 8.5 – 10 micrograms of vitamin D. Tip: If you’re breastfeeding, you can put the appropriate dose (according to the label) onto your nipple before starting a feed.
  • Formula-fed babies having more than 500ml of infant formula per day do NOT need supplementing (as it is already in their milk).
  • Do speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP for more information and support.

Children:

  • Children aged 1-4 should be given a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.
  • Children aged 5+ should consider taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms vitamin D during autumn and winter.

Adults:

  • Everyone (including pregnant & breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms vitamin D during autumn and winter. Please note that many fertility and pregnancy supplements already contain vitamin D – so check the labels.
  • As it is possible to get enough vitamin D from sunlight and diet between April and early October, you may choose not to take a supplement during these months, especially if you spend time outdoors on a regular basis.
  • However, if you get very little sunshine (for example, are not often outdoors, or wear clothes that cover most of your skin when outdoors), or have a darker skin tone, you may wish to consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.
  • Coronavirus Update: The NHS website now suggests that we consider taking 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day during lockdown, including over the summer months, particularly if we are indoors most of the day.

Choosing a supplement

Taking too much vitamin D over a long period of time can cause excessive calcium build-up in the body, which may weaken bones and potentially damage the kidneys and heart. It is therefore important to be conscientious about the dose of vitamin D in your supplement, as it is possible to buy very large doses over-the-counter. More is not necessarily better.

  • If you are taking a multi-nutrient already, check the label as it may well already contain the full dose of vitamin D recommended. You do not need to take a separate vitamin D on top of this, unless advised otherwise.
  • Most vitamin D supplements are derived from lanolin, so if you are vegan, you will need to look out for a vegan-friendly option. This is often made from lichen, interestingly.
  • Look for vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) in your supplements.
  • You can find vitamin D in spray, drop, or tablet form. I tend to use a spray, as I am not very good at remembering to take tablets, and the spray is an easy habit to get into (especially if you keep it next to your toothpaste – many are already mint flavoured, too).

What I use

As I often get asked about the products I use or recommend, I have included a couple of them here. Please note that they might not necessarily be the best option for you personally.

These are the vitamin D drops I use for Willow (suitable from newborn).

This is the Vitamin D spray that I use (it says ‘junior’ on the label, but is also an adult-appropriate, peppermint-flavoured 400IU daily dose).

These vegan vitamin D3 drops provide 100 IU per drop, so 4 drops would give the full 400IU daily dose.

References & Bibliography

Department of Health, 2012. Manual Of Nutrition. 12th ed. The Stational Office.

NHS, 2017. Vitamins And Minerals – Vitamin D. [online] nhs.uk. Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/> [Accessed 21 May 2020].

Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, 2016. Vitamin D And Health. [online] Available at: <https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/537616/SACN_Vitamin_D_and_Health_report.pdf> [Accessed 21 May 2020].


6 tips for cooking during coronavirus

6 tips for cooking during coronavirus

May 2020

It’s a strange world we all exist in at the moment and although it might not feel quite so new anymore, it certainly is a big change from our old normal. I certainly recognize the ongoing gravity and sadness of the situation, but I don’t want this post to dwell on the negatives. Instead, I want to focus on the things we can still do. That we still need to do. And one of those is cooking.

I’ve always found that there is something soothing and grounding about the ritualistic nature of simple, everyday activities. Of tying on my apron (I love these cheery printed ones from Thornback & Peel), turning on the radio (music only for me currently, preferably something upbeat) and pondering the eclectic assortment of ingredients I have lurking in the fridge or cupboard. I know that I might not be able to craft the most elaborate dish ever created (setting expectations at a sensible level is a necessity), but I can usually throw something relatively nourishing and tasty into a pan and have it on the table pretty promptly.

But given the ongoing challenges of food shopping and the radical shake-up of our normal routines and habits, I wanted to use this post to extend an encouraging hand to anyone who might be feeling a little overwhelmed or tired from feeding the family every meal day-in, day-out for weeks on end. And is it just me, or does it sometimes feel like we are cooking 178 meals a day, rather than 3?!

Anyway, here are a few shopping & cooking tips to help reassure and empower anyone who might just need a boost. I wrote them for myself as much as anyone else. And a quick reminder; this website is packed full of free, nutritious recipes. Have a browse if you need some inspiration.

1. let go of perfection

In times like these, flexibility and adaptability is key. Perfection is always impossible (coronavirus pandemic or not) and is simply a recipe for disappointment and self-criticism. Instead, foster an attitude of good enough.

For example, you might aim to eat a mostly whole foods diet or include as much fresh (or frozen / tinned) fruit & veg as reasonably possible given inevitable constraints, or perhaps try to include some sort of protein in at least two meals of the day. Pick a few things that matter to you – that you know help you to feel good and let go of the rest. Drink enough water, as hydration is important and it’s free. Don’t, however, worry about the details, or not doing things exactly as you normally would. This time shall pass.

2. get creative

Rest assured that most recipes can handle a few ingredient swaps (or omissions), perhaps with the exception of baking, where culinary alchemy is often a little more precise. Although even that I’ve found recently is more forgiving than we might be led to believe. Limitation, afterall, often encourages creativity and originality. Some of the best dishes ever created were happy accidents. So rather than worrying about not having the exact list of ingredients that a recipe suggests, be confident to use what you do have and you may well be pleasantly surprised. Make notes on your recipe books (yes, it’s ok to write on the pages!). It’s really helpful when you’ve tried a successful adaptation of a recipe to record what worked for future reference.

3. use sensible substitutions

If you already have a copy, there is a comprehensive section of ingredient substitutions in Simply Good For You but here is a synopsis of a few commonly asked-about swaps. Obviously, the quantity and appropriateness of each swap will depend on the recipe you’re trying to make, so you’ll need to be a bit creative and use your intuition.

  • Flour: It’s been really hard to get hold of flour recently, so try buckwheat flour, ground almonds, oat flour (whizz oats until fine), gram flour, fine polenta, GF flour or even ground linseeds instead of standard flour. Cornflour works well if you’re making a white sauce. You’ll need to be inventive according to the recipe, as proportions and other ingredients may also change – especially when baking. Add 1 sifted teaspoon of baking powder per 120g plain flour to make self-raising.
  • Nuts: Different nuts, seeds, nut butters, ground nuts, or even chickpeas / other pulses can work in savoury recipes. You may also be able to omit the nuts altogether in many recipes.
    Tip: For cost-effective bulk nuts and seeds, I’ve used Real Food Source (available through Amazon) a few times recently and have been impressed with their speedy delivery and value for money, especially when it can be a bit harder to get to the shops.
  • Fruits: Many fruits can be substituted for each other in recipes, although it’s a good idea to stick within texture / taste categories where possible. i.e. Apples & pears / Lemon, oranges or limes / Stone fruits or berries / Bananas, mango & pineapple etc. Check out frozen fruit / tinned (in juice not syrup) as an alternative source.
  • Vegetables: The same general taste / texture category guidelines also apply to vegetables. I.e. Broccoli & cauliflower / Aubergines & courgettes / green leaves / carrot, squash & beetroot / Peas, beans, broad beans, soya beans). Again, the frozen section might be a good hunting ground.
  • Fresh herbs: Use roughly ½ teaspoon dried herb per tbsp. fresh. You can also substitute basil, parsley, coriander, rocket for each other according to taste.
  • Onions: Leeks, shallots, spring onions, red onions (or get a couple of packets of frozen chopped onions to make things even easier)

4. batch cook

I am a big advocate for batch cooking at the best of times, but I’ll recommend it again here. Lots of us are juggling like mad at the moment, so knowing you’ve cooked enough for two meals at once is both efficient and reassuring. And that moment when you remember you’ve already got lunch / supper sorted is definitely worth the little extra effort! You can either eat leftovers for lunch the next day (as we do most days) or freeze for another week. You’ll find lots and lots of ideas for batch cooking recipes here and in my books.

I love these sort of clip-top Pyrex (heat and freezer safe) containers – I use them to safely store all my leftovers in the fridge. As they’re clear, it’s really easy to see / remember what you have, too. And they can go in the dishwasher. Ikea also does a similar version. Highly recommended if you haven’t invested already.

5. comfort food

Eating well is, of course, important for our physical health, but is also important for our emotional health. There is nothing wrong with cooking meals that are specifically for comfort or joy. What we eat occasionally is far less important than what we eat everyday, so embrace a weekly baking session, or Saturday night homemade pizza party, or Sunday morning pancake feast if that would bring you or your family real happiness. Sensible moderation, as always, is key. And do remember that sometimes, comfort food can also be wonderfully healthy. I love a big bowl of dahl, for example, when I am feeling particularly overwhelmed or low.

One idea that a member of my team has been enjoying, is to pick a recipe book (one you already own, or perhaps one you’ve had your eye on for a while), and choose one night each week to try out a few of the recipes. She chooses Friday evenings for this, as a way to mark the transition into the weekend. It’s been a great way to try new dishes and to have a little event to look forward to each week. It’s a lovely idea and I might start doing the same.

6. meal planning

Especially at a time when access to food supplies is erratic, meal planning can be a really useful tool. It means we only buy what we need (and what we know we’ll use up), reduces food waste (now more important than ever), and helps us ‘budget’ ingredients so we don’t end up eating everything in the first few days after a shopping trip to find we’re scraping the proverbial barrel at the end. There’s lots of advice on how to do this, and a free printable meal planner, here.

Sending courage, strength and culinary magic to you all.

 

Amelia x

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My 8 most-used pieces of kitchen kit

My 8 most-used pieces of kitchen kit

With so many of us now cooking all our meals at home and perhaps taking lockdown as an opportunity to finally clear out the back of our kitchen cupboards and have a bit of a spring clean, I thought I’d share my all-time favourite kitchen kit with you.

Photo Susan Bell

These are the items that I use day-in, day-out in my kitchen. The old friends that are reliable, useful and most importantly, highly effective. I totally understand our desires for the latest gadgets and fancy culinary toys, but I can’t overstate the importance of having really good basics, that actually do what they are supposed to do (I’m looking at you, rusty, broken peelers and blunt knives).

There is a real pleasure that comes from something practical that is perfect for its job. Particularly if it also makes our lives that bit easier and more enjoyable. All of the following meet those criteria for me.

 

Happy cooking!

1. Wooden chopping board

A good, wooden chopping board makes a huge difference to how quickly you can do your preparation. Wood absorbs the shock of the knife and stops the food slipping around, helping to make chopping faster and safer. Place a damp dishcloth underneath the board for more stability. Simply wash it in hot, soapy water and allow to air dry (which is also very hygienic), and your board will last for years. Mine is like an old friend now, with the marks of many thousands of meals prepared etched into its surface.

2. Sharp, dishwasher-safe knives

These cheap, brilliant knives are my secret kitchen weapon. They make light work of all vegetable prep and are completely dishwasher safe. Beware though – they are extremely sharp – so be careful of your fingers and definitely keep out of reach of little ones.

3. Stacking steamer saucepan

Invest in a steamer saucepan and you’ll wonder how you ever did without one. Steaming is a great way of preserving the nutritional value of foods and is an incredibly quick and easy way of adding a couple of vegetable sides to a main meal. Plus, all it really needs is a quick swill out afterwards, so barely any washing up either.

4. Lemon squeezer

For the quickest of dressings over steamed vegetables, to an extra zing in a G & T, this lemon squeezer is the simplest way to juice a lemon – with minimal washing up and no annoying pips. I love it.

5. Microplane fine grater

By far the fastest way to zest a lemon, grate ginger, or sprinkle some fresh parmesan, one of these sharp, hand-held graters is a real kitchen bonus. It’s one of those things you think you’ll never use, that is, until you have one. Then you’ll find you use it all the time.

6. Speed peeler

Peelers need to do one thing: peel. If yours doesn’t, or is a pain to use, or the handle is falling off, do yourself a favour and throw under £5 at a new one. It’s a game changer.

7. Stainless steel tray

I use this for everything – roasting, baking, heating, grilling – basically, for anything that needs to go in the oven. It can be properly scrubbed clean (as no non-stick coating), and is fantastically versatile.

8. Kitchen tongs

Simply an extension of your hands for hot things. Brilliant, and essential.

Psst! Here’s a little tip-off…

If you are after some new cast iron pans or dishes, Procook does them for a steal. Not an ad, I was just really impressed with their value for money.

 

*Please note, this article contains affiliate links, so while the cost to you is the same, we may earn a small commission if you buy through these links, which helps to cover our costs to provide ongoing free content to you.


How to enjoy cooking for one

How to enjoy cooking for one

A theme that has popped up a number of times from this lovely community is the challenge (and possibly also the opportunity) of shopping, cooking and eating for one.

First, I want to extend a validating hug to anyone struggling with the potential loneliness of cooking and eating alone, especially if this is a new experience, or you are finding it hard to adjust to a quiet house when in the past it has been a bubbling, chaotic and chatty time of your day. The connection that comes from sharing a meal is something that can be sorely missed when mealtimes become a more silent affair.

So please know that it’s OK to find this a rocky transition to make. Just like it is OK if finding the motivation to shop and nourish yourself properly is sometimes difficult. You are absolutely NOT alone. I get many messages from people struggling with these exact worries every week.

But, bear with me here. It is not all doom-and-gloom, I promise! I cooked and ate alone for many years. I think we might therefore have an opportunity here, to re-frame the challenge into a chance to practice mindful self-compassion and self-care. Cooking and eating alone could even be seen as a blessing.

Why? Because you don’t need to cater for other people’s moods, whims, tastes or meal timings. You can eat what you love, when you want, and do so whilst dancing madly around the kitchen listening to slightly-too-loud jazz, if you so wish. There is a freedom in cooking for one that can be something to relish. A chance to practice being your own best friend. To make mealtimes a moment of joy in your day.

This starts by accepting that you, alone, are absolutely worthy of the time and (often minimal) effort it takes to eat proper meals. Even if that is just a couple of times a week to begin with. And then perhaps try to get into the habit of properly laying the table for yourself. Complete with your best china, candles and a sneaky glass of wine if you wish. You’re having dinner with the most important person in your world, afterall.

And if you’d like a little more inspiration or ideas, do take a look at the tips below. I’ve also included an example shopping list and a handful of meal ideas (there are hundreds of recipes available online for each of these meals, if a recipe is needed at all) using the ingredients. It’s not a meal plan to follow, but rather a selection of ways to make simple meals for one, without endless leftovers, and a few ideas that flowed from my imagination to hopefully inspire yours.

Here are a few extra suggestions

1. Don’t cook in silence, if you don’t like it.

Find an engaging podcast series, put the radio on, play some great music or download some cheery audiobooks. You could even use hands-free or video calling to chat to a loved one while you potter about the kitchen. You don’t have to be having a constant conversation, but it means you can cook ‘together’, apart if you’d like.

2. Similarly, don’t always eat alone, if you don’t like it.

Start a supper club (I love the idea of a soup club – you simply take it in turns to provide soup, bread and cheese, so the cost and preparation is minimal, leaving everyone free to focus on the conversation), eat with your friends once a week, eat lunch with your co-workers, find local meet-ups, or simply eat in a café or restaurant occasionally (there is something rather romantic about a table for one, I’ve always felt). If you have housemates, arrange to take it in turns to cook once a week for everyone. If this is tricky for any reason, then perhaps arrange a group video call, so you can enjoy a virtual dinner party once in a while.

3. Meal planning

I’m a big fan of meal planning. It helps reduce food waste (as your plan can also include leftovers), makes shopping easier (you know exactly what you need, buying ingredients for actual meals, rather than a motley collection of ‘things that were on offer / looked nice’) and reduces the mental dialogue of ‘should I bother to cook tonight, or just have cheese on toast again?’, because there is a clear plan to follow. Try it for a week with this free printable planner.

4. Get a small freezer, if at all possible

Minimising food waste and making speedy meals is much easier with a small freezer and some nifty containers. Frozen fruit and veg is no less nutritious than fresh, and means you can use exactly the right amount for one portion at a time. It’s also a good idea to keep an odds-and-ends tub of leftover vegetables. Once your tub gets filled, defrost it, add some decent stock and make it into a thick soup. You can then use this as a base for stews, sauces and casseroles as well as a hearty soup. You could do the same with fruit, and turn it into a delicious mixed-fruit compote.

5. Buy meat, fish or cheese from independent shops, or the counter

That way, you can get single portions (as packaged produce always seem to come in multiple quantities), saving both money and potential waste.

6. Don’t worry about eating simply

Good, nutritious food doesn’t have to be fancy. A simple omelette with some mushrooms, tomatoes and a side salad is wonderfully filling and nutrient dense. Steamed fish, grains and greens is both delicious and speedy. Also try my ‘Hero Toppings’ section in Simply Good For You for a whole load of ideas on ways to transform basic toast into a more nourishing meal.

7. Set goals

Have a think about what you feel your ‘baseline’ nutrition or self-care goals might be each day. Perhaps that might be cooking one proper meal a day from scratch, having three portions of vegetables, or always having a portion of protein with breakfast. It could also be non-foodie, such as getting outside for 10 minutes, having a conversation with a friend, or doing 5 press-ups.

It doesn’t really matter exactly what these goals are, so long as they are sensible and achievable, but they offer us a framework to ensure we are taking proper care of ourselves, without worrying about being ‘perfect’.

Illustrations by Ryn Frank

EXAMPLE WEEKLY SHOPPING LIST FOR 1:
  • 6 eggs
  • Milk of choice
  • Yoghurt of choice
  • 1 fillet salmon (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 chicken thighs / chicken breasts
  • 1 – 2 bags washed salad / spinach
  • 1 small head broccoli
  • 1 punnet tomatoes
  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 punnet mushrooms
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch bananas (peel & freeze any ripe leftovers for smoothies / banana ice cream)
  • 1 bag apples
  • 1 bag new potatoes
  • 1 bag carrots
  • Onions / garlic
  • Great quality bread – sliced, and frozen (toasting straight from frozen as required)
  • Oats
  • Mixed seeds
  • Almonds
  • Red lentil / chickpea pasta
  • 2 tins chickpeas / cannellini beans
  • 2 jars chopped tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Tahini
  • Frozen peas or beans

*This total basket cost (calculated using an online supermarket delivery), came to approximately £45, with some leftover dried goods for another week.


Illustrations by Ryn Frank

A FEW MEAL IDEAS TO USE UP THESE INGREDIENTS:

Breakfast ideas

  • Porridge with seeds
  • Yoghurt with fruit & almonds
  • Bircher muesli (oats, yoghurt, seeds & grated apple mixed and left to soak overnight in fridge)
  • Fritatta with mushrooms & spinach / tomatoes & grated courgettes (good for lunch and/or supper too).
  • Mashed banana and tahini on toast (nicer than it sounds!)
  • Poached / scrambled / boiled egg on toast with spinach
  • Smoothie of banana, soaked almonds, spinach and milk.

Lunch ideas

  • Vegetable soup with roasted chickpea croutons and/or toast
  • Simple salad with chickpea croutons, olive oil and seeds
  • Salad with leftover cold chicken / salmon and new potatoes
  • Pea & chickpea hummus, toast, cherry tomatoes & salad
  • Leftover pasta in tomato sauce with extra salad and olive oil
  • Tomato & cannellini bean soup (there’s a great ‘instant’ recipe for this in Simply Good For You)

Supper ideas

  • Salmon, new potatoes, broccoli & peas / beans, tahini dressing
  • Chicken with sautéed courgettes, onion & garlic, and new potatoes.
  • Lentil pasta with homemade tomato sauce
  • Lentil pasta with mushrooms, peas, onions and wilted spinach
  • Chicken with leftover tomato sauce, broccoli & new potatoes
  • Simple ratatouille with peppers, courgettes, onions, garlic and chopped tomatoes, served with chicken, or made into an omelette, or spooned over pasta.
  • Chickpea & vegetable stew, served with a dollop of yoghurt
  • Chicken, tomato & pepper stew with new potatoes


How to build a healthy plate

How to 'Build' a Healthy Plate

how to build a
healthy plate

If you, like many of us (myself included!), struggle for inspiration on how to plan or put together a healthly, nutritionally balanced meal from scratch using fresh ingredients, this simple guide will hopefully lend some help.

salmon soba noodles salad used here as an illustration of how to build a nutritionally balanced meal

This guide is not an absolute, rather a little visual tool that I hope some may find helpful. I tend to use this when I am assembly cooking, rather than making a complete recipe. For example, I might bake a chicken breast (protein) steam some broccoli & green beans then drizzle in olive oil (vegetables & healthy fats) and add a few new potatoes in to cook (complex carbohydrates). It’s not a supper than needs a recipe, but this plate-based guideline can help me to ensure I have each category covered.

how to portion the plate

1. Start with VEGETABLES (include a rainbow of colours)
2. Include a portion of PROTEIN
3. Add some HEALTHY FAT (e.g. a good drizzle of oil or a sprinkle of seeds/nuts)
4.
Add COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES or minimally processed wholegrain if you’re feeling hungry or have higher energy demands

Sometimes a single food will cross multiple categories:

i) Nuts, for example, could be both our protein and healthy fats.
ii) Leek & potato soup might contain olive oil (healthy fats), vegetables (leeks) and carbohydrates (potatoes) so would need some protein to be added.

Note: If you aren’t sure what counts as a protein or complex carb etc., see my article on Food Category Reminders.

Here are some simple examples of how to build your plate –
combine ideas from each of the four groups in the proportions laid out above:

Vegetables
(or Fruit)

Rocket leaves & tomatoes
Steamed broccoli & Green beans
Carrot & Turmeric Soup
Baby spinach
Beetroot, cucumber & watercress
Ratatouille
Raspberries & blueberries

Protein

Cooked chicken
Baked Fish
Cashews (in soup)
Poached eggs
Feta
Cannelini beans
Natural yoghurt
Homemade Hummus
Simple Dahl

Healthy Fat

Tahini dressing
Drizzle of olive oil
Sprinkle of seeds
Avocado
Olive oil dressing
Drizzle of olive oil
Almond butter
Small handful of nuts

Complex carbohydrates (optional)

Rye bread toast
Steamed new potatoes
Oatcakes
Sourdough toast
Rice cakes
Baked potato
Buckwheat pancakes

Salmon Soba Noodle Salad by Amelia Freer

A note on plates….

There are some interesting studies that suggest that the type of plate we choose can impact our eating habits. Choosing a larger plate can lead to us serve bigger portion sizes, whereas choosing a smaller plate inclines us to smaller portions. Also, choosing a plate colour that highly contrasts with the food may be helpful to reduce over-serving and vice versa. 1

Having said this, the effects are quite small. So don’t think you need to rush out and buy a whole new dinner service! I just think it’s an interesting observation.

References:

Van Ittersum, K. and Wansink, B. (2012). Plate Size and Color Suggestibility: The Delboeuf Illusion’s Bias on Serving and Eating Behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(2), pp.215-228.