Thursday, 6 January 2011

Comfort not cardboard

I very much enjoyed my lentil and sweet potato stew this evening but I know that this kind of 70s California hippy food isn’t for everyone and the real key to long-term success when it comes to sticking to a healthy diet is to make sure you are eating foods that you enjoy rather than 'health' foods that taste like cardboard. This is important regardless of whether you’re trying to lose weight or not – eating should be a pleasurable experience so finding foods that are both healthy and tasty is key.

For anyone on a diet high in salt, sugar and/or processed foods it may take some time for your taste buds to adapt, so a period of recasting where you make a disciplined effort to eat healthily may be required. However, even if you’re avoiding all the foods that I am for this two week period there is still plenty of tasty alternatives to your usual junk food. The key is to have your fridge and cupboard stocked full of healthy foods that you enjoy eating so that you don’t have to eat any bland or unpalatable food.

The first step is to go through the list of permissible foods from yesterday and stock up on any of those that you enjoy – ok so perhaps kidney beans don’t appeal to you but you enjoy hummous so keep some in the fridge for snacks, if you’re not a fan of tofu but like fish then stock your freezer with some salmon or cod.

Most people like the taste of at least a handful of different vegetables so think of your favourites and buy a supply for the week. Also think of which nuts you enjoy eating the most and buy a few bags to keep in your desk for snacks.

Next up think of your favourite meals and see how you can adapt them. You need to make sure the carbohydrates are gluten free and on the acceptable list, make sure you also have a healthy protein sauce, cut out the saturated fats and add some good fats and vegetables.

I love pasta, and thankfully with gluten free pasta I can still enjoy it – but instead of going for creamy sauces I serve mine with either a clean tomato sauce (Waitrose sells some good own brand clean tomato based sauces) or with some dairy free pesto (I use Meridian brand). I add some extra olive oil for fats (which adds moisture) or some sunflower seeds (which add crunch) and then add some kidney beans for protein (although you could equally add some tuna) and chopped up raw baby spinach for my greens. Even though it’s not macaroni cheese it’s still comforting and tasty. Another great pasta recipe is Jamie Oliver’s pasta peperonata to which you can again add pulses or fish (leave out the parmesan and crème fraiche to keep it diary free).

I’m obviously a bit of a carb monster as I’m also a big fan of the potato, particularly when there’s butter involved! However you can make a delicious mash with new potatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper and if you’re craving chips chop up some sweet potatoes into wedges add a little salt and olive oil (and some herbs if you fancy some extra flavour) and bake in the oven til brown. As for the oh so yummy (but very high GI baked potato) I use a sweet potato instead which is usually smaller and I find tastier – again served with a drizzle of olive oil and a small pinch of salt. All these make lovely sides to go with grilled salmon or poached cod, just add a vegetable side – fine green beans are good – and you’ve got yourself a tasty, super healthy, comforting alternative to fish and chips.

If you’re a red meat eater going without may be a trauma but you can make hearty red meat dishes bootcamp friendly pretty easily – for spaghetti bolognaise just substitute cooked lentils for the mince and for chilli con carne just use kidney beans – my flatmate made a lovely vegan chilli con carne adapting this Gordon Ramsey recipe by cutting out the mince and replacing with extra kidney beans (also leave out the sour cream) it was hearty and full of flavour – perfect for these cold evenings.

When it comes to sugary puddings I’m afraid bootcamp offers no sticky toffee pudding alternatives but after a few days off sugar your taste buds will start to adapt and you’ll enjoy the sweetness of a crisp fresh apple much more than you did before. And if you’re really in need of pud, I find some chopped up apple stewed with a little water and frozen berries and a sprinkling of cinnamon very satisfying.

For breakfast I’m quite happy with my brown rice porridge but for something more indulgent this weekend I’ll be making some French toast to feel like I’m having a treat. To do this toast some gluten free bread then blend 100g silken tofu with an equal volume of water. Dip the toasted bread into the tofu on both sides to make sure it’s covered and give it a couple of seconds to soak in some of the mix then in a medium-hot frying pan fry the bread for 3 minutes on each side (or til brown) in some coconut fat. In the meantime stew some berries (fresh or frozen) in a little water and then blend into a puree. When the French toast is ready put it on a plate, sprinkle it over with some cinnamon and then top with the berry puree.

If you prefer a savoury breakfast on the weekend then instead serve the French toast with a sprinkling of salt, some grilled tomatoes and mushrooms and some tofu scramble instead of eggs – even though the whole thing is gluten and dairy free and vegan it will still feel like you’re having a cooked breakfast.

Everyone enjoys a good cup of tea with their hot breakfast but even with caffeine and milk off the menu you don’t have to miss out – I’m a big fan of Rooibos tea either with organic soya milk (creamier) or with rice milk (more watery but sweeter). Yogi tea makes a lovely Chai style roobios called African Spice for a bit of variety. If I fancy a coffee I make up dandelion coffee (from the root rather than instant) and have either black or with soya milk and for an occasional treat on the run I’ll grab a decaf soya latte.

Bring on the weekend!

ps I forgot to include quinoa in my allowed carbohydrates list yesterday, probably because it’s not one of my favourites taste wise but if you enjoy it it’s a super healthy gluten free food.

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