Amelia Freer was a recent discovery for me, but I am totally drinking her kook-aid (or green smoothie…). I love Amelia because she just talks so much sense and makes eating well much more attainable. Both her blog and book are packed with great advice and lots of recipes, loads of which I’ve made already. And I can report that they are all very YUMMY. And, as a bonus, most of the ingredients she uses are ones I already have in my cupboards/fridge. It’s always a plus when you don’t have to go out and completely restock to make a new dish.
Amelia recently did a talk in collaboration with Get The Gloss at Whole Foods in Kensington. She shared lots of good advice for ways to kick-start a healthy lifestyle. My mum and I went along, and I thought I’d share some of the nuggets I learnt (with my own spin of course):
1. Make cooking a priority. I’m lucky enough to work from home, so I always cook an evening meal. But even when I worked in an office and got home at 7 or 8 at night, I still cooked dinner everyday. I do, however, always look for recipes that take a maximum of 30 minutes to from start to finish, or something I can prep super fast and throw in the oven. Cooking from scratch with quality ingredients means that you can make sure you are getting the right balance of nutrition, with less of the additives found in ready meals. Also practice makes perfect – the more you cook, the more efficient you get at it.
2. Eat more veggies (but not more fruit). Vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals, and are lower in sugar than their sweeter siblings. I’m aiming for around 8 to 10 portions of different coloured fruits and veg a day (2 portions of fruit is enough, the rest should be veg). It might sound like a lot, but a salad for lunch made up of lettuce leaves, tomatoes, avocado and cucumber already gives you four portions. A green smoothie for breakfast, and steak with a sweet potatoes and greens for dinner and you’re easily covered.
3. Keep it balanced. Make sure you get good quality proteins and healthy fats into each meal too. Protein contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of our cells. And the good fats found in coconut oil, avocado and nuts etc, contain fatty acids, which are also a vital part of our diets. Amelia doesn’t advocate a high protein or high fat diet, just a healthy balance of these key food groups.
4. Eat the rainbow. This is a great tip to help you pack in those veggies. The British diet is very beige, so instead, try to eat all different coloured foods – red tomatoes, purple beetroot, green salad, yellow peppers, you get the idea. Mix it up!
5. Eat real food. Avoid anything that’s ver-processed – processed meats, cheeses etc. Eat foods in as natural a stae as possible. Choose organic and locally reared if you can. Try to buy the best quality local produce, but do what you can. It’s better to eat non-organic carrots than to forgo veggies altogether if you can’t find or afford organic.
6. See a nutritionist. Nutrition is personal to everyone, so Amelia recommends seeing a professional for tailored advice and support. In the UK, you can visit bant.org.uk, the main governing body for nutritional therapists, to find a qualified practitioner.
7. Take supplements (or don’t). Supplements can be great, but different people need different supplements. Just because something is featured in a magazine doesn’t mean it’s right for you. A nutritional therapist will tell you which you need to be taking, and your GP can run blood tests to see if you have any deficiencies. Three supplements that might be worth considering are: Probiotics, Fish Oils and Vitamin D (especially in winter). But it’s always worth consulting a doctor, because sometimes it can be harmful to overdo it with certain vitamins.
8. Look after your gut. In Chinese medicine the gut is considered the second brain and the majority of your immune system resides there too so it can have a huge effect on how you think and feel. Take a good quality probiotic and try to get prebiotic foods like apples and femented foods (think kimchi, sauerkraut) into your diet.
9. Beware of caffeine, dairy, alcohol, gluten and sugar. These are the food groups to approach with caution. Caffeine and Alcohol are best enjoyed in moderation: a cup or organic black coffee a day or a glass of red wine on occasion is all good. It’s quite refreshing that Amelia doesn’t advocate cutting out food groups completely, but she does say that if you think you suffer from any food intolerances, it is worth cutting out certain foods and seeing how you body responds (again this is best done with the help of a nutritionist). For example, some people are intolerant to dairy, some aren’t. If you find that you are, avoid, but if not, try to go organic so you don’t take in all the antibiotics and chemicals. Butter is good apparently! (Not marg).
10. Sugar is Evil. Cut out refined sugar, but also lower your daily intake of all sugar. Sugar makes us fat, increases our risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes and contributes to premature aging. It is IMPOSSIBLE not to eat any sugar – all carbohydrates turn to sugar in our bloodstream – but the aim is to reduce our intake. One of the first things we can do it cut out the daily chocolate bars, sugary cereals, cakes etc. More on this from Amelia, here.
11. Stop snacking. Amelia doesn’t advocate snacking throughout the day, which can cause repeated spikes in your blood sugar level. Instead she suggests eating three meals a day, spaced at five hour intervals. The key is to make sure those meals include a portion of protein and a little fat, to help the energy release slowly and keep you fuller between meals.
12. Move more. Do some form of exercise you enjoy daily, or at least a few times a week.
Phew that’s a lot of nuggets! To help us put all of these tips into practice, these last two bits of advice are invaluable:
13. Start small – make one change at a time. This seems really obvious, but it’s such good advice. When we decide to embark on a lifestyle change, we are often tempted to jump in at the deep end, throw out all of our old ways and start from scratch. Although Amelia does suggest a fridge and cupboard detox, she also suggests making one change at a time, whether that’s giving up refined sugar, or adding more portions of veg to our meals.
14. Aim for consistency, not perfection. This is my favourite piece of advice (I actually mentioned it in a previous post). Aiming for perfection is dangerous for so many reasons: 1 you’re liable never to actually start because you can’t do it 100% 2 you’re setting yourself up for failure 3 it’s not sustainable. I’m not starting with the resolution that I’m never going to eat ben and jerrys or a cheeseburger again (that would be awful), I’m just shifting the scales more and more in favour of a healthier lifestyle.
All in all, an evening packed with loads of valuable information. Plus, delicious food and a goody bag to boot!
(and my mum even got her book signed by Amelia!)