Over the past year we have all had to think carefully about eating well and living a healthier lifestyle. Medical research has made it clear the food we eat doesn’t just affect our weight it also affects how likely we are to get certain diseases, including COVID-19.
Here are some of the most important things we can do to improve our diet and health without necessarily focussing solely on weight loss.
Professor Tim Spector at King’s College, London, says that many of us are only eating around 5 different plants a week. He advises eating 30. This may sound a lot but if you start making a list it is easier than you think. Plant foods include oats, rye flour, beans, oranges, apples, bananas, cauliflower, peas, walnuts, pumpkin seeds etc. One way of increasing the diversity of the plants in your diet is to try a new fruit, vegetable, nut pulse or type of seed each week. Eating a diverse range of colourful plant foods provides a nutrient rich diet full of dietary fibre and phytonutrients which help the immune system fight infection and keep the organs of the body working well [more].
We are all creatures of habit and can get in a rut buying the same foods week after week. Use till receipts from previous shopping trips to review the food you buy to see if you can make some improvements to your diet.
For example, can you replace;
Learning new cookery skills helps you prepare food quickly and skilfully. Good cooks can make a sumptuous meal out of ingredients others would overlook. Learning to cook well is a good way to invest in your health and learn more about the food you eat.
Fermented foods have been changed by the activity of living microorganisms. They include, live yogurts, kimchi, fresh sauerkraut, kombucha, unpasteurised artisan cheese and kefir. These foods have been shown by scientists to be good for many aspects of our health.
Cooking from scratch means you are in control of the nutritional quality of the ingredients that go into your food and makes you less reliant on ready meals and take away food. But cooking from scratch takes time.
One way round this is to cook double portions so you can freeze the extra portions for another day’s meal. Examples of nutritious dishes that can be made in bulk and freeze well are: fish pie, chicken casseroles, chilli con carne, fish cakes, dals and curries, vegetarian lasagne, cottage pies.
Food can be grown in pots on window ledges, front gardens as well as in back gardens, allotments and community spaces. Salad leaves such as rocket, cress and lettuce are quick and easy to grow even if you do not have much space. Peas and beans grow vertically and can produce magnificent crops of fresh produce from mid-summer through to autumn. Growing plants connects you to the food you eat and helps you to develop a healthy relationship with food. It also has positive effects on mental health.
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