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A Week of Healthy Eating for Salad-dodgers!

You want to eat healthy. You set yourself some wondrous plan for the week where you eat nothing but salads and a good breakfast. You may even actually succeed in going to the gym or exercising every day. It comes to eating your salad and for the first one you’re like “okay, yes, I can do this! Look at me: a picture of health. S A L A D. Green Goddess” Yet by mid-week you can’t stand the site of another leaf, let alone eat one. Before you know it, your week of healthy eating has plummeted, you feel bad about yourself, binge eat and then promise yourself the cycle will start again next week.

We have ALL been there.

I don’t know what it is but I hate salads. It’s not the taste - I can make a pretty banging salad that’s colourful and pretty but when I’m eating it I just don’t enjoy it. Now, obviously there are salads out there that are just divine: Chicken Caesar, Waldorf, anything drenched in honey mustard. These are not the type of salads you want to be eating to lose weight or be healthy. They’re covered in a rich dressing or cheese and have bacon in them, which is why they are lush. Fact.

So how do we get around this little pickle?

Being healthy or on a diet DOES NOT mean you have to eat a salad every day. This is something which took me a while to process when I was trying to lose some weight but it really works and I still stick to it now. One of the best books and TV series I ever saw using this principle was The Hairy Biker’s: Hairy Dieters. They pointed out something, which you are told in school in all your science lessons as a child about healthy eating and weight loss, so it’s nothing new, trust me I taught all my students the same lesson when I was teaching.

To maintain your weight, the energy you transfer in (eating & drinking) must equal the energy you transfer out (exercise, heat, sweat). To lose weight you must put out more than you take in. You will gain weight if you take in more than you put out. IT’S THAT SIMPLE.

By this logic you could eat anything you want as long as you burn it off in exercise. I’m not saying to do that but it is possible to eat cake and pizza and still maintain the weight you’re searching for. This isn’t a good idea due to the nutritional value of some food but you CAN eat your favourite foods and still maintain or lose weight.

Home cooked foods, minimising the fat content and using healthy swaps are the best source of nutrition you can have. You can clearly see the ingredients going into them, cook them in a healthier way and know exactly where your food has come from. If you don’t do any exercise at all (walking counts!) then of course you are going to gain weight. If you are exercising or walking around, you will lose some weight or stay the same depending on what you eat. It’s the most sustainable way of eating for the simple fact that it is not a diet: it’s an easy-to-stick-to lifestyle choice.

This way of eating isn’t new to me and is something I do everyday whilst in the normal working world. Right now, our “normal” world has been massively altered by Covid-19 and a lot of you may have found yourself in a deep, dark, Netflix hole surrounded by crisps and ice cream of late. Even if you have managed to get up to join Joe Wicks in the morning, by tea time you’re back to a phone-staring, sofa-dwelling gremlin. GUILTY!!

So the past week I decided to get back into the swing of a more balanced and healthier way of eating in a bid to lift my mood and feel refreshed. Let me tell you, it worked wonders! I felt energised. I felt great. I got to try new recipes and meals I hadn’t eaten yet; and, there wasn’t a salad in sight! So I just wanted to share what I ate with you for some inspiration and hopefully get even just one of you reading this to give it a go and realise that you don’t have to eat rabbit food to feel healthy or good about your eating!

My goal for the week was to eat more fish, try seasonal foods and pack more veggies into my meals. It’s currently Radish, Watercress, Jersey Royal and Asparagus season, amongst other foods, which all make for tasty, healthy, summer meals. Asparagus is out of season on the 16th June however, so do be quick to make these meals as most suppliers stop selling asparagus after this date. Heads up: click the grey links in the text to be taken to the recipe.

I started my week with some Zesty Salmon Parcels. This is a pretty simple and classic way to cook fish. It stays nice and tender by cooking it in a parcel and the huge amount of lemon gives the meal a big refreshing hit. I also ate the exact same meal the next day, but swapped salmon for sea bream. You can swap the type of fish for any you prefer and could even swap the type of vegetables you use. Green veg has the most nutrients however and it’s great to try ones that are in season for the best flavour.

The parcels themselves were quite filling but I accompanied them with some Greek-Style Roast Potatoes to bulk out the meal. Whilst these potatoes aren’t the most healthy (300 calories per portion), the feta and olives are a good source of fat to have in your meal. As you can see by the pictures there is a teensy bit of salad on the plate. This is literally a handful of watercress to make the dish look pretty, feel free to leave it out, it’s there for decoration...but, hey, if you do end up eating a tiny bit it’s not bad, eh?

One of the great healthy alternatives to this dish is using a Muller Light yoghurt instead of creme fraiche. Per 100g creme fraiche has almost double the calories and fat of a Muller Light Greek Style Yoghurt. The lemon flavour and sweeteners, rather than sugars, in the yoghurt make the dressing seem rich and luxurious when it’s actually super healthy. It also means that the sweet and acidic flavours to balance out your dressing have pretty much been made for you without much effort on your part.

The next fish dish on the menu included one of my greatest loves: spice! Aji de leche is cod which has been poached in milk, chilli and coriander - the remaining liquid is blitzed up into a sauce. I always use skimmed milk which is much lower in fat than whole or semi-skimmed. You can use brown rice too for added nutrition instead of white. Pan-roasting broccoli until it gets a slight char really brings out a different flavour which I think is amazing. If you’ve ever had broccoli on a pizza you will know where I’m coming from and I recommend just cooking it like this to have as a side dish on your next meal too!

So after eating fish for 3 days in a row I thought it was time to go back to a firm healthy favourite: chicken. There are so many hidden vegetables packed into my Chicken & Green Barley recipe. I think this is one of the best ways to boost your vitamin and vegetable intake - by cleverly disguising them in your sauce or meal without noticing! I’m always a bit apprehensive about adding spinach into meals as it can easily be overcooked and overpower the meal, but the range of flavours in this dish make it work so well. The barley almost tastes like pesto and pan-frying chicken in a little spray oil adds a huge flavour.

As mentioned in my recipe blog for this meal, barley is massively underrated. It has a lot of calcium, fibre and protein whilst being filling and having a lot less calories than rice and other carbohydrates. I enjoy it because it’s got that slightly stodgy texture of carbs which make you feel as if you’re eating comfort food, rather than something healthy. Plus it can be eaten all-year round, feeling like both a summery and filling-winter dish. It does take a while to cook but it’s definitely worth it. Other than pan-frying the chicken, this dish is all cooked in one pot, yet another reason to give it a try!

In my attempt to eat seasonal food, one meal this week really hit the brief: Smoked Haddock & Asparagus Potato salad. This is not really a salad, it’s a potato salad, so it’s nice and filling. There’s also a lot more than meets the eye going on here. This is a warm, flaky fish and potato salad, with asparagus, pancetta and sauteed red onions, as well as another seasonal green: watercress. This is probably the least healthy of the meals I ate this week, due to the pancetta and sauteed onions - which you could leave out if you like but this dish still only comes to around 600 calories per portion, which is great. Again I used a Muller Light yoghurt for the dressing.

I also made a big batch of Ribollita, from Waitrose Food mag, which served as lunch most of the week. I doubled the recipe found on their website, here, to make enough for 2 of us for the week. This is SO HEALTHY and filling, one cereal bowl size seemed like too much to have for lunch, so I ended up stretching this all week and freezing some.

Finally, for a little decadence and a treat at the end of the week, I ate steak with watercress sauce. This was served with the Greek-Style Potatoes and was delightful. I rarely eat steak at home due to the quality and cut of the meat in the supermarket (meaning it's easy to cook wrong or the meat is tense) but I went to a local butcher for this meal. Watercress sauce isn’t my go-to sauce for steak, I would usually have the creamier, peppercorn sauce or garlic butter but I would definitely choose this now if eating out because it was so much tastier than I was expecting! To make it simply sweat down 1 large shallot, add a dash of white wine, reduce then add a splash of cream (literally a dash), a pack of water cress and blend.

So that’s my healthy and seasonal week of eating! I can’t recommend it enough. Most of these dishes are also able to be made in bulk or used as the perfect week of meal-prep lunches, making them ideal for a busy week. I genuinely feel more energised for eating these but also feel like I’ve eaten incredible, feel-good food without being “bad” or having a “cheat day”.

As a disclaimer: I ate toast or cereal for breakfast, with a coffee and a fruit juice. I did also do half an hour of exercise each day - 3 lots of Joe Wicks and 3 half hour walks to work and back - but nothing too strenuous. I would also like to point out that I am not a dietitian or a personal trainer, I’m just offering my advice from my own experiences. Lastly, please do not think that this is a post all about how to get skinny. This is a blog to make you feel good about what you eat and know that you do not need to have a chaotic, yo-yo relationship with food. I truly believe that a home-cooked meal is the best form of energy and mood-booster you can get.

I hope this has helped some of you feel a little differently about food and shed some light on my own personal eating habits, please ask any questions you like and I will answer them!

And remember, anyone can cook!


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