Moving towards ‘wellness’ eating
I know the whole topic of healthy eating can get a bit thorny. And sometimes confusing. And even emotional. We have all these memories, habits, worries and good intentions tied up in what we eat. Especially when it involves eating well.
It’s why I sometimes avoid using the phrase ‘healthy eating’. Particularly as what we eat and the specifics of what makes each person feel good can be a little different. The part of healthy eating I’m most interested in is what I almost think of as wellness eating – or eating in a way that makes you (and me) feel good, happy and uplifted. And well!
For me, this means LOTS of vegetables, a bit of fruit (more in the summer than the winter), whole grains, including porridge for breakfast, a little sustainable seafood, a mix of seeds, rye bread, eggs, yoghurt, a bit of butter, full fat milk and cheese (all organic). Oh, and good quality dark chocolate, with a little bit of home baking thrown in from time to time. Healthy eating doesn’t mean food shouldn’t taste good or be pleasurable, so having a mix of normal wholesome foods with a few treats works well for me.
I thought you might also be interested in knowing a few ‘healthy’ foods I don’t eat a lot of. Over years of testing, trying and listening to my body, I’ve uncovered a few things that don’t make me feel good – even though they are all actually whole and good foods.
Pulses are at the top of that list; while I love lentils, chickpeas and beans, my stomach doesn’t love them and so I only ever have them in small amounts. For similar reasons I don’t eat a lot of sweet potato or pumpkin. Or even too much raw food, including lettuce. I have a bit of sourdough from time to time, but wheat is another personal stomach aggravator (particularly anything refined) so it’s something I view as a treat. I also stopped eating meat many years ago. Initially this was because it didn’t make me feel good, and then it became about environmental reasons too.
Finding your own balance
I’m not telling you this because I think you should follow this combination. But because I think it’s important to eat lots of food and explore the types of food that get you feeling your best.
I try and have balance in what I eat. I like to have a lot of variety, lots of colours and lots of aromas. I don’t eat a lot of processed foods, but I also try not to be too rigid! I’ll eat a few handfuls of crisps every now and then (my husband is a big fan of them) – and I love really well cooked chips and the odd fudgie brownie with a cup of coffee.
Like everyone else, I don’t always get it right. However I feel very lucky to be living at a time and in a country where I have access to so much abundance and information – and that I have built up my kitchen skills to make the most of this.
I think this is one of the reasons I feel a little sad that so many ‘diets’ focus on what you shouldn’t eat, rather than celebrating the many delicious ingredients that can be part of a nourishing way of eating. I personally think any diet that has a name attached and has a massive list of whole food groups you should exclude is something to avoid. And don’t even get me started on processed meal replacement shakes!
Eating well without feeling like you’re missing out
I’m just gonna put it out there and say that you shouldn’t have to adopt this sense of lack, or ‘meal replacement’ punishment, when it comes to eating healthily. There’s maybe a bit of a mindset shift to acknowledge that healthy can also be tasty. And that ‘healthy’ also applies to an approach to eating that doesn’t mean taking things to extremes.
One of the surest ways to eat well is to stock your kitchen well. If you fill it with lots of empty calories and processed stuff, that’s what you’ll reach for – especially when you’re tired or not feeling tip top. I’ve mentioned before that I get a weekly veggie box delivery, to which I also add a few other grocery items, so it means I have good food automatically coming to my house. You could do the same thing with an online grocery shop. Or if you prefer shopping in person, make a list before you go so you don’t end up just grabbing a load of random things – then get home and realise you don’t actually have food you can make meals from.
I try and have a few things that are always in my cupboard, like eggs or even tinned mackerel, that I can turn into easy meals. As much as I love food and cooking, during the week I keep things simple, but still full of flavour – and vegetables.
Cooking is an important part of eating well. Though I use the work cooking here in the loosest sense of the word. This could mean making a lovely bowl of porridge, creating an open rye sandwich piled with veggies or making something a bit more complex, like a spice-filled curry with brown basmati rice. Knowing what you’re putting in your food means you know what you’re putting in your body.
Of course from time to time, you might want to, for example, use a pre-made sauce, if it’s one that isn’t full of additives and sugar, or buy good quality ready made meals that contains mostly fresh ingredients. Or eat out! While it’s good to create your own meals, the aim is not to make you feel guilty if you aren’t cooking from scratch all the time (goodness knows we have enough other things that already to this). Even if you can commit to making one meal a day or a certain number a week, that’s great!
And eating well also means enjoying your food. Remember healthy food can taste good too. This is where flavours come into play – and having a few cooking skills under your belt. Sometimes it feels like food can taste good or do you good, but there is an in-between! And as I’ve said above, a balanced approach to eating doesn’t mean banning everything you love forever. Have a little every now and then of treat foods – and enjoy it, remembering to savour not scoff.
If you need a bit of flavour inspiration, why not come and join other food and flavour lovers in The Joy Of Eating Facebook group?