Wholesome, well-balanced food – that is as appealing on the plate as it is to the palate – is key to Jo’s recipe writing

 

I’ve always been interested in nutrition. I trained as a home economist before I went into food writing, but I considered becoming a dietitian.

My friends inspired my cooking. Listening to them talk about their health conditions, such as IBS, made me even more eager to create good-for-you recipes. Being able to pick up healthy ingredients at the supermarket helped, too. I have a rule – if it isn’t available in Leicestershire, where my parents live, I won’t cook with it.

You can eat well without being virtuous and cutting out certain foods. Instead of telling my husband I’m cooking a healthy meal, I’ll make meatballs but swap half the meat for quinoa. I don’t tell guests that dinner will be healthy, either, but they always go home feeling satisfied, not sluggish. It’s about balance, though. I was brought up in Melton Mowbray, so there’s always a pork pie at Christmas!

The little swaps add up. Crisps are my guilty pleasure, but I usually snack on seeds and nuts instead, as they contain good fats. I’ve cut down on added sugar, too, by using apple purée in baking –
try it in muffins as their texture is denser and more forgiving if you use less sugar. I make my own peanut butter and pumpkin seed croutons for soups, and I grow sprouts (not the Brussels kind, but micro salad cress and alfalfa). It’s easy and they’re full of goodness.

Kitchen kit can make a difference. A stack steamer pan is inexpensive and easy to use, and helps veg to retain more nutrients, flavour and colour than they do if boiled. You can make a whole meal in it, if you like – I cook fish and veg parcels in the top and rice or noodles in the water below. I do own a Nutribullet, but only make a smoothie when I’m in a rush (I prefer to eat a proper meal or solid snack, such as an apple or bowl of salad). It’s great for grinding coffee beans, though!

I don’t have time for the gym. I factor exercise into my day by going for a swim or walking to and from the supermarket – and running after my two young children (aged six and eight) certainly keeps me fit.

Family time is important, so we all eat together two or three times a week. But I make sure I sit at the table with my children at dinnertime every evening.

Foods I love

Chia Great for making my favourite crunchy topping for salmon: mix with other seeds such as sesame, flax or hemp. Spread a thin layer of wasabi on top of the fish fillet, then sprinkle on the seeds and bake in the oven.

Tahini My storecupboard go-to. Spread thinly on a toasted bagel and top with sliced avocado and a poached egg.

Cashew nuts Soak a cupful overnight, then drain and blitz in a processor. Stir in a fresh cup of water for a lovely alternative to thick cream. Just add more water if you want a pouring consistency.

*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.