What should I eat? What shall I cook? These are a couple of the two most common questions I am asked, along with, I don’t have time to plan and I am not a great cook (or I don’t like to cook). And what happens if you do plan, but your day doesn’t go to plan?
In today’s world, with busy lives, especially in dual income (or single parent) families with work and childcare responsibilities around the clock, food preparation and the enjoyment of eating and nourishment seems to take a back seat in favour of quick refuelling and ‘grabbing a bite’. I also understand that many people don’t have time to plan, let alone the time it often takes to cook many dishes from recipe books, especially on starting when you find you need 3 hours for marinating or you are missing 3 of the key ingredients.
My apron says I am ‘kitchen goddess’ in our house, which translates to the fact that it is my responsibility to feed the household – a big 6’5” man in training for a 500 mile bike ride in 6 weeks and 2 growing boys of 8 and 10 who play at least 2 hours of sport daily. They need good food, nutrients and proper nourishment to keep them healthy as do I to ensure that I am at my best for them, my work, my responsibilities and life too. And I don’t have 3 hours a day to plan and prep food either.
So, from one busy ‘kitchen goddess’ to all other kitchen gods and goddesses out there, here are my answers to the questions above. If I answer the first two – What should I eat? What shall I cook? – then I find the answers to the second are also answered too.
What should I eat?
Bio-individuality is a concept which allows for everybody’s body to be different and this is no exception when it comes to food. Why do you think there are so many dietary theories and books out there, all conflicting each other and going in and out of fashion? One diet worked for one person, but it didn’t for someone else, so they wrote another… and so on.
‘What should I eat?’ is simply answered by saying, eat what works for your body and makes you feel full of energy and vitality, strong, powerful, nourished and satiated. That usually isn’t a diet of fizzy drinks, pastry goods and beige food!
It takes time to understand and listen to your body through experimenting and trial and error with food. In my 40’s now, I now know that I can’t drink more than one glass of wine without being ill, that bread makes my stomach bloat, I need good carbohydrates as well as animal protein in my diet to give me the energy to work out and exercise, I get headaches if I don’t drink enough water in the day, I can eat full fat dairy in small portions and that I can’t sleep if I have caffeine after midday. I have become an expert in my own body. And I would advise that you do to, simply by being aware of your body, its functions and how you function when something is in your diet and when it isn’t.
So where do you start? As Health Coach with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, I recommend starting with the ‘good plate’ guidelines as follows:
- 20-25% protein – the best lean, organic, grass fed animal protein or plant based
- 25-30% wholegrains – brown rice, quinoa, farro
- 50% of your plate loaded with leafy green and /or colourful vegetables and fruits
- In moderation, good fats – avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil
- Lots of water throughout the day, either cold, hot or in herbal teas.
In order to monitor portion control, start with the protein; this should be the equivalent size to the palm of your hand (thickness and size). This determines what 20-25% looks like and therefore baselines the size of the rest of the portions for your plate. This means my portion varies different to my husband and to that of my children.
That is your starting point. Once you start listening to your body, you may find you may need more or less of some food group. For example, I added in probiotic full fat yoghurt and my husband with his training, needs more wholegrains and low GI starchy vegetables.
We eat this way 80-90% of the time. 10-20% of the time, we enjoy a glass of wine (or two), an ice cream on the beach, a slice of birthday cake guilt free.
Another important point to note in this section is not only the WHAT but the WHEN should I eat. In order for your digestive system to do it’s job properly and then also to recover to be it’s best the next day, the ideal time to eat is during a 12 hour window and to fast for the remaining 12. For example, if the first bite you take or first coffee / tea you drink is at 7am, the last morsel of food or drink (other than water or herbal tea) ideally should be at 7pm at night. This not only helps your digestion, but it is fantastic for IBS sufferers and also for anyone trying to manage their weight.
What shall I cook?
When you have the guidelines above, you have the ‘recipe’ for a good wholesome meal. But I also understand that plain and simple food can get ‘boring’ and therefore, the stress associated with cooking and planning interesting meals.
We can take those guidelines even further with some of my top tips to keep meals interesting and relatively stress free:
- In our house variety is key; a variety of different vegetables, wholegrains, proteins, a variety of cooking methods (roast, fry, barbecue, steam etc), a variety of simple dressings and marinades and sauces.
- Experiment once or twice a week with new recipes – either on the weekend or a day in the week when you have the time; these then may become staple recipes for days when I don’t have the time to think or plan
- Meet Free Mondays & Fishy Fridays are a wonderful way to experiment with new foods and recipes as well as variety; we now love a chickpea curry and fish burgers!
- Batch cooking; wherever appropriate I will cook additional portions and either keep them for lunch the next day or freeze for the days when historically, take-away or ready meals would have been our only option.
- Spring Clean your freezer, fridge and pantry; get rid of out of date food and fill your shelves with good, wholesome food and know you have all the ingredients available for a nutritious and delicious meal.
- Set up home shopping; this has been a lifesaver for me – from a task that would take over an hour to walk the aisles, load, unload, reload, unload and put away to a 5 minute putaway job only. You can use the same basic list each week and add in or takeaway whatever else you need. I then only need to top up from the local market when I need to for the odd things.
- Bulk buy and freeze; I keep my freezer stocked with anything that can freeze – from meat and fish, to fruit and juices. I take out what I need in the morning and leave in the sink to defrost during the day.
To help anyone still stuck in a rut and not sure what to buy or where to start, I have listed the fresh items I would typically buy each week as well as staple foods I have in stock in the freezer or pantry. I have also included a couple of simple marinades and dressings and my favourite recipe books to experiment from.
If you need further inspiration, I keep my Instagram page updated with my experimenting in the kitchen and include what works and what hasn’t!
In the meantime, keep cooking and keep eating as though you love yourself! BON APPETIT!
- Vegetables – Lots of greens
- Broccoli – long stem /purple sprouting
- Cabbage – savoy / purple / white
- Kale – curly / flat
- Swiss Chard
- Beans – French / runner
- Cauliflower – romanesco / white
- Lettuce – all varieties
- Herbs – all varieties
- Vegetables – Lots of colour
- Sweet potato
- Red Onions
- Bananas – some to freeze, some to eat fresh
- Berries – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries
- Apples – green & red
- Protein – I bulk buy and freeze
- Salmon fillets
- Tuna steaks
- Pork Tenderloin
- Beef steaks (whatever cut you prefer)
- Chicken – thighs and breast fillets, thigh mince
- Turkey mince
- Eggs (organic, free range)
- Full Fat, probiotic Greek yoghurt
- Full fat cheese – cottage cheese, feta, mozzarella
- Full fat butter
- Brown rice
- Wholegrain pasta / gluten free pasta
- Whole grain mix
- Lentils – red and green
- Chopped tomatos – organic preferably
- Cococnut milk / cream
- Miso paste
- Oils – EV olive oil, EV coconut oil, local rapeseed oil
- Vinegar – raw organic apple cider vinegar, balsamic, red wine
- Mixed raw nuts
- Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, chia, hemp, sesame
- Raw coconut
- Spices – turmeric, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, paprika, chilli powder, chill flakes, curry powder, ground ginger, ground coriander, fennel seeds, carroway seeds
- Ground almonds
- Maple syrup
- Raw honey
- Light tahini
- Gluten free soy / tamari
- Nut butters – almond, cashew
Simple dressing 1:
This is delicious on any grains or tossed through any salad:
- Juice of one lemon
- Small clove of garlic crushed
- 1 tsp maple syrup or honey
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Put all the ingredients in to a little jar (a recycled mustard jar is great for this), put on the lid and shake hard. Keeps in the fridge for a week.
This is delicious over a hot salad of roasted beetroot & squash;
- 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- Parsley finely chopped
A couple of Simple Marinades / rubs
- For tuna steaks; smear miso paste over each side and edge and then coat in sesame seeds and shallow fry in coconut oil.
- For chicken thighs or bashed breasts; juice of a lemon, a lime and olive oil, salt and pepper and lots of fresh herbs. If you can do this at for at least 30 minutes, a whole day if you can. Griddle or BBQ.
- For pork tenderloin; rub all over the top of one tenderloin zest of one lemon, fennel seeds, s&P and olive oil and then place another on top of it and tie together with string. Amazing on the bbq or roasted. (or cut one tenderloin in half and put on top of the other half)
- A good steak should only need salt, pepper and a little oil to stop it sticking
My current favourite recipe books:
- Madeleine shaw – A year of Beautiful Eating & Get the glow
- Ella – Deliciously Ella & Deliciously Ella with Friends
- Gwyneth Paltrow – It’s all Good
- Jamie Oliver – Every day Superfood & Five Ingredients
- Joe Wicks – Lean in 15 series
- Naomi Devlin – Food for a happy gut
- Dr Rupy Aujla – The Doctor’s Kitchen
#healthyeating #recipes #whatshouldieat #whatshouldicook #whatshouldibuy #busyparents #toobusytocook #eatwell #livewell #bioindividuality #iinsession #loveyourself #healyourselfhappy
5 thoughts on “What should I eat? What shall I cook?”
I saw a great quote on another blog I follow (My Urban Homestead) that fits with your approach: “You are the author of the owner’s manual for your own body.”
I love that – so true! Only you know how your body reacts… 👏🏼
Great tips, although I confess that I tire of leftovers so batch cooking, other than meatballs, doesn’t appeal to me. My favourite go-to cookbooks are anything Canadian Living. Their recipes are truly tested until perfect. I haven’t had one that didn’t work out.
Thank you for your comments! I find that by experimenting in the kitchen, leftovers continue to change .. adding different sides for example .. but – bio individuality means we are all different!
I haven’t heard of Canadian Living – I am in the UK – do they have a website?
You are right. I need to think outside of the box. I figured you were. Yes: http://www.canadianliving.com