Teenage skin problems sparked diet changes – and an interest in nutrition – for the Medicinal Chef
I was a cheeseburger-holic before I started eating healthily. I moved to a wholefoods diet over 24 years ago, aged 15, to eradicate my acne, and never looked back.
It was a book called Fit For Life (a faddy 1980s diet classic!) that made me realise how we can engage in our own healthcare through diet. I read over 1,000 books before I finally went to university to study nutrition. To say I was obsessed would be an understatement.
Be realistic about your diet. Rather than force yourself into a diet you’re not happy with, improve on what you enjoy. Healthy eating plans often fail because of unrealistic changes. If you enjoy spaghetti bolognese, curries and pizza and you switch to flax crackers and sprouted salads, it’s not going to work. Instead, give foods you like a rethink – swap white spaghetti for wholewheat, replace half the meat in your ragù for lentils and add finely chopped veg.
I don’t believe in excuses for not eating healthily. There are plenty of myths about the cost, complexity and blandness. But I’ve proved you can eat good, tasty food on a budget. Once you learn a few tricks on how to accentuate flavours you’ll always enjoy your food. If you think healthy means complicated, look at ways to make it easier, such as freezing, batch cooking or using a slow cooker. Ingredients you’ll always find in my fridge are cavolo nero, salmon, eggs, butter, red onions and garlic.
I’m now working with new online grocer Bearfaced Groceries, as it focuses on stocking quality, healthy foods. You don’t have to spend time figuring out which are the healthiest options, plus it features only the best independent artisan producers.
I don’t think we’ll ever find the perfect diet. Yet we know the ways in which the modern, western, processed diet is killing us. In my new book, The Power of Three, I’ve created three focal points, which, when followed, remove many of the problematic factors of the modern diet. It’s about the type of carbs we choose, the types of fats we use, and ensuring the exceptional nutritional density of our food.
We live in a culture where certain foods, such as meat, dairy and gluten, are vilified. This is just hype and nonsense based on no sound science at all! If you’re coeliac, you need to keep away from gluten. If you’re lactose or casein intolerant, then a milkshake or a cheese sandwich is a bad idea. These are real clinical reasons for avoidance. If you think ditching these is a miraculous shortcut to super health, then prepare to be disappointed.
Three things I love
FOREIGN CUISINE Healthy Asian and Mediterranean cooking influence me hugely. I love great quality sushi with all those omega-3s, the broad spectrum of phytochemicals in a Thai green curry and the variety of beautiful vegetables of the Med.
PURÉES I’ve recently been playing around with different blends, such as purple sweet potato gnocchi with squash purée and walnut pesto. It’s really colourful!
DINNER FOR ONE My favourite solo dish is salmon with miso aubergine and gingered greens… Or maybe a vegetable curry.
Related article: How I stay healthy: Jenni Falconer