[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] A[/dropcap] few weeks ago I had a little ‘rant’ about my view on natural sweeteners. It generated some great discussion in the comments which I loved.
It also made me really think about the term healthy eating and what it means to me.
But before I get to that…
I have to tell you about this weeks recipe. It’s really a keeper! Citrus and fennel is a match made in heaven. Trust me, you need to try this one.
Anyway back to ‘healthy’.
The biggest lesson I’ve had from teaching people from around the world in my online cooking classes over the last 6 years is that there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
We all have our individual biochemical quirks.
For example some people, like me, have poor insulin sensitivity so having lots of carbs causes big problems with blood sugar. Whereas someone else may have excellent blood sugar control and can happily eat carbs without gaining weight or becoming diabetic.
It’s super important to experiment and find out what works best for you.
So with that in mind, I thought I’d share what works in my world…
What ‘healthy’ means to me
– Low carb / high fat
– Real food (NOT processed / packaged)
– Full fat dairy, meat fish & eggs
– Lots of vegetables
– Mostly savoury
While I eat like this most of the time, I’m a huge believer in the concept of ‘never say never’. So when I’m at an amazing restaurant, I forget all about health and just go for pure indulgence.
If there’s a food I really love, I can always find space for it at some point.
Although that being said, I find the more healthy food I eat, the less I crave treats or the ‘treats’ that I crave actually fall into my definition of healthy. It’s a beautiful thing.
Now over to you…
What does healthy mean to you?
I’d love to hear in the comments below…
Need some help with eating more healthfully?
Well you’re in luck!
Registration for my online cooking program ‘The Healthy Meal Method’ is still open for a few days.
It’s a 6 week online training program that teaches simple healthy cooking habits.
It arms you with simple tools and strategies to help you make real lasting changes to your life so you can ‘eat well, be well’ with minimal effort.
For more details go to:
Note: Registration closes 19 August 2016.
Citrus Roast Chicken & Fennel
Inspired by the Citrus Braised Fennel in the Cornersmith Cookbook. I love that their recipe said ‘make this one!’ And was so glad I followed their advice. I’ve added chicken to make it a complete meal and swapped to cooking in the oven instead of the stove top so it’s less labour intensive but still just as delicious!
enough for: 2
takes: 60 minutes
1 large bulb sliced 1cm (1/2in) thick
juice & zest 1 lemon
juice & zest 1 orange
6 chicken drumsticks
green salad, to serve
1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Place fennel in a baking tray, preferably so it sits flat in one layer but don’t stress if you need to overlap a bit. Sprinkle over zest and juice of your lemon and orange and top with chicken. Add 1/2 cup water and drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with a big pinch of salt.
2. Cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes.
3. Uncover and turn chicken. Roast for another 20-30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and fennel is tender.
4. Taste cooking juices and add more salt if needed. Serve with green salad on the side.
porky – replace chicken with thick pork sausages. Or cook fennel on its own with the citrus and serve with BBQ or grilled pork chops.
vegetarian – replace chicken with a drained can of chickpeas tossed in for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serve with roasted almonds or pine nuts.
other chicken – use breasts or thigh fillets and remove when cooked (will take 30 mins or less) or serve fennel as a side to a classic roast chook.
herby – toss in a few springs of thyme.
carb lovers / more substantial – toss in cooked rice, quinoa or couscous to soak up the citrusy goodness.
other citrus / lower carb – try lime instead of the orange.
ps. Not sure if The Healthy Meal Method can help you?
Here’s what Martha and Cynthia said about their experience…
“HMM has really given me the tools to eat healthier and cook for myself at home more.”
Martha, Healthy Meal Method Student.
“After doing HMM I’m starting to simplify, I now realize we don’t have to have 4 dishes for dinner during the week. If I can get a veg and a protein into a simple and healthy dish, that’s all it takes! I didn’t realize that cooking with so few ingredients could be so tasty…and it’s so easy.”
Cynthia, Healthy Meal Method Student.
pps. Here’s the link again:
Note: 2016 registration closes 19 August. No exceptions.
Hi Jules……Healthy for me pretty much resembles your list. I am following the ketogenic diet
I hope you have some healthy tips for the high fat/low carb diet………Thank-you so very much! Heather
Planning on writing about LCHF more Heather – glad you’re interested
My husband and I are in our early 60s. I learned to cook at home when I was 9 or 10. My ideas of healthy have changed over those intervening years and are now pretty much the same as yours, with the exception of foods with tyrosine in them (all citrus, chocolate, most nuts, aged cheeses, red wines made in the US, etc.) which give me severe migraines. Smoothies made with avocado, yogurt, greens, blueberries, and protein powder are a favorite occasional breakfast. When I’m dining out at a great restaurant, if they have creme brulee, I usually opt for some. I (mostly) enjoy cooking at home, making my own spice mixes, growing my own herbs, using organic when it’s available in our rural area, and I’m pretty good at whipping up a quick healthy dinner. Always looking for new recipes and adapting them to our dietary needs. I have never cooked with fennel bulbs…
Thx for sharing Gayle! Fennel is a wonderful vegetable :)
Healthy food is food which is closest to its natural form and the lest processed. To be in a healthy states means to me that you do not have any disease which are caused by lifestyle- high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, IBS…..
Healthy means exactly that in my book – ie absolutely NO aches/pains/energy problems/etc = nothing wrong at all. Healthy diet (which I think is vital to being healthy) means having the most natural possible diet – ie food that is only food (no chemicals etc), grown organically, no chemicals, no meat I would say. I do the best I can with what is available to me. Horrified to read earlier today that most British people believe they are looking after their health. In that case – most British people are pretty good at self-delusion – because, for a start off, 75% of them stated they dont have “5 a day” (never mind the recent replacement of that idea with even more fruit/vegetables a day).
Thx for sharing Ceridwen!
My version of healthy pretty much resembles your version! Right now I am working on getting back on track. Mainly just trying to cut down the carbs again (rice, corn, etc) even though I love corn tortillas for tacos! I am allergic to wheat, so I want my fix of carbs somehow since I can’t have traditional breads. Though carbs are not good for my thighs and belly. ;-)
Thank you for all you do and your inspiration to cook/eat better!
You’re welcome Raelynn!
I would say that healthy to me is pretty close to your version. I’m 46 and have been interested in diet and health for at least 30 years now. It’s sort of my hobby and I read a lot of books and articles.
What I’ve thought of as healthy has changed over the decades. For awhile, I was running a lot and eating a low-fat, mostly vegetarian diet (as prescribed by the USDA). That was fine when I was running half marathons, not so much anymore.
For me, I personally have a hard time eliminating foods. I don’t really need to – I’m not gluten intolerant. I don’t have problems with dairy. I’m not allergic to anything.
I’ve definitely drifted towards “lower carb”. (Not low carb.) I lost the 2nd baby weight using a plan called “21 Day Fix” which uses color coded containers. That was a wake-up call, because I could only have 2 carbs a day (i.e., a slice of whole grain bread and 1/2 cup of brown rice. Or 1/2 cup of beans and 1/2 cup of sweet potato.)
It took quite awhile before I was successful because I was resistant to cutting down to 2 carbs, because the USDA tells you 6-11!. In the midst of all that, I read “Death by Food Pyramid” by Denise Minger, which directed me to “What to Eat” by Luise Light.
Luise Light was responsible for creating the Food Pyramid in the late 80s. She quit before it was released because it was getting edited. Her team’s recommendations were essentially to limit grains to 1-3 servings per day, and whole grains only. Wow, can you imagine knowing that 18 years ago? Game changer.
Like Minger, my problem with various food philsophies is the elimination. Vegans are often low-fat, and they are missing nutrients. Paleos eliminate grains and dairy and beans. I would say that the 3 books that have affected my belief of what is “healthy” are “What to Eat” by Luise Light, “Death by Food Pyramid” by Denise Minger, and “The Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner. (Which is why your way of eating, or Dr. Mark Hyman’s ‘Pegan’ diet, come closest.)
That said, you really have to experiment. What worked for me in my 30s does not work in my 40s anymore, hence the reduction in carbs. I eat more fat to replace the carbs and keep me full (it has had the added benefit of making me more fertile, hence the 2nd baby at 42). I try to reduce my animal protein (meat) a bit due to the environment and cost – which is one reason why I tend to eat more fat. (Generally reduction diets these days *still* involve a lot of lean meat.)
I’m not anti-grain, but I do try to limit it to 1-2 servings per day. Same with sugar – limit to once a week. I also try to limit my wine to special occasions – a glass or two a week. Special occasion weeks might double that. (Grains, sugar, wine…they are all sugar.) I have friends who have gone gluten free because they cannot handle the gluten. I have friends who are diabetic who really have to watch the carbs.
Lots of fruits and veg, good fats, protein. Beans and some grains sprinkled in there too.
Thx for the book recommendations Marcia! And congrats on baby no 2 :)
I’ve come to the point where healthy includes balance and reason. I try to stay with foods prepared from scratch (still okay to use things like canned tomatoes), and stay away from sweets like cakes and cookies. It is also important to enjoy what I eat. As a person in my 70s, I have to watch my calorie intake more closely, so I try to choose foods that give me the most nutrition and pleasure for the calorie content. I will probably always have room for dark chocolate, but other than that I tend to not want sweets, something I’m very pleased about. I’ve gotten to a point where I can look at something sweet and feel what my blood sugar would do if I ate it – an excellent deterrent to taking in too much sugar. Unfortunately, I won’t be trying this chicken and fennel – neither my husband nor I like fennel.
Susan! Not like fennel?! You night like the chicken with the citrus though?
And you’re right I should have said delicious as my number 1. criteria!
I am totally on board with you. Carbs wreak havoc on my system. I won’t go into the details, but it ain’t pretty. Grains, or starches, including rice, are not my friends. I’m trying very hard to eat a whole food 80% plant based diet. The other 20% is from meat and fat. I do not eat low fat. I eat full fat, just less of it. Healthy eating to me means I’m getting the nutrients my body needs, without any disturbing side effects. It leaves me feeling good.
My definition of “healthy” food is pretty much aligned with you. I struggle with this version and a vegetarian Ayurvedic definition. I am a practicing yogi and I struggle with the vegetarian aspect. My family has followed the traditional cooking from Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon for years. This best aligned with my family which consists of two growing teenage boys. They love meat, yet crave the bread. They have been struggling with their weight, and I have been trying to push the meat, fat and veggies. The veggies part is tough, so they tend to eat a lot of meat! I believe in only eating local, grass fed meat and eggs. I buy bulk grains, flours and beans. I try to avoid packaged foods, but the boys love their tortilla chips. I am planting a fall garden, where hopefully I can have fresh veggies throughout the winter. Thanks for your recipes and posts. I love the simplicity of them.
You’re welcome Blythe!
I am with you, “never say never”. The thing I most appreciate since going organic though is, I do not have the constant hunger and therefore “cravings” I used to. I’ve shared what I suspect, but many dispute it so I won’t go into it here. In any case, that’s been my help. I really “have had it” with most all diets so that’s where I’m at. I eat less and still enjoy treats once in a while. That’s why I love real food recipes no matter what they are, just try to make them with organic ingredients.
You’ve got me intrigued Rusti! And happy to hear that real organic food / not dieting is working for you.
I always thought I ate healthy, eating as close to nature as I could and being vegetarian however I have had to Hospital stays in one month with severe Diverticulitis. I am at a loss as to how to really control it and the threat of surgery and a bag is terrifying me … any help would be great from anyone who may be in the same boat.
Sorry Jeni… I’m not familiar with Diverticulitis but you might want to check out the FODMAPS diet which is helpful for people with gut problems. Jx
Definitely on the same wavelength but i would add fermented foods and drinks and some raw milk kefir to help build a strong immune system. And I like to be free to choose less than super healthy once in a while for the sheer pleasure eating brings!
I can’t believe I forgot fermented foods Margaret! Thanks for the reminder Jx
I am still trying to figure out what healthy is to me. I have mental health difficulties, so that makes it difficult. I’ve been trying my best to eat three times a day. Sadly, breakfast is usually just a protein bar or granola bar, as I am not very coherent or hungry (is it the hot weather lately?) right after I wake up. Carbs seem to be the big debate right now. Studies are rather conflicting with carbs and mental illness: some insisting that low carb meals make them much worse, other studies saying that really low carb diets (once you get over the grumpy hump) make them much better. I hope better studies will soon come out, but right now I’m currently trying to stick with just a lower than normal, but not too low amount. I try to eat grains that are whole grain. I’ve been trying to increase my veges, and make most dinners from real food. Your meal plans have been amazing for that. My anxious brain shuts down when it has too many possibilities (say….all the recipes on the internet) so having a specific thing to cook on a specific day, and knowing it is quick and easy, is extremely helpful and reassuring. My husband is a meat person, so I tend to give him more of the meat, and me more of the veges. It’s probably silly to mention, but I’ve also been trying my best to take my multivitamins (with fish oil) nightly.
The carb thing with mental health is conflicting.. My brother has depression and I know when he has tried eating really low carb he struggled. If I were you I’d do exactly what you’re doing :)
As far as I know there’s evidence for a link between gluten and depression. So that might be worth exploring.
And keep taking those fish oils.. There’s good evidence that they help too!
So glad you’re finding the meal plans helpful!
Jules – a very articulate post! Like many here, your version of healthy is close to mine.
It reminds me of the 80/20 rule (a kind of moderation practice?). That said, I’m realising that moderation, and constant adaptation, is one of the more challenging goals in daily life! It means paying attention when sometimes all I want is autopilot. Hopefully moderation can become a habit :) Thanks
Glad you liked it Cass :)
Having been a diabetic for over 35 years, I think its dangerous to make comments like the following “excellent blood sugar control and can happily eat carbs without gaining weight or becoming diabetic”. Eating carbs doesnt make you a diabetic and not eating carbs doesnt prevent you from getting diabetes. While agree wholeheartedly with your approach to healthy eating, lifestyle, lack of exercise & even ethenticity have more to do with becoming diabetic than eating carbs!
All good points Kerry… The more I learn about diabetes the more I realise how complex it is. Thanks for the reminder Jx
My list is similar but I know I shouldn’t have the indulgences that I do. Because I work at a bar/night club, sometimes I eat crap. Diner food that even when it’s very good, it’s got grains and gluten and my digestive track pays for it the next day.
It doesn’t help that my circadian rhythm is different/off. Or that an hour or two before my shift is done I am unbelievably hungry. Whether I’ve had alcohol or not.
Yes night work is tough on the system Jacob! My only advice would be to try and plan for the hunger and see if you can figure out a better choice. Even if you’re eating diner food, there has to be something that doesn’t contain gluten at least so you can avoid that problem.
Nuts are always a great thing to have on hand..
Don’t give up hope!
Sounds like those who read your blog have their diet pretty well sorted, Jules! Avoid processed if poss, at least 5 fruit/veg a day (although I admit I sometimes struggle with this), and enjoy the occasional treat.
Not sure the high fat would suit me, though. Was reading something (anecdotal, not pure research) that coconut oil by the spoon can be linked to increased blood pressure.
I agree about my readers Sue!
Weird to link coconut oil off a spoon with blood pressure… I wonder what would happen if I ate if off a fork?!
I am 100% with your description of healthy! My motto is ‘Travel the middle road’. I like to avoid all processed foods. I restore the emotional imbalances related to food choices using high quality essential oils as a daily routine as I feel emotions drive how we perceive food.
Thanks for raising this Rebecca… The emotional eating thing is huge… Jx
To me, eating healthy is eating what was created for food, as close to the original form possible, and not letting food, or any one food, control me. There is freedom in eating like this – when I follow it! I slip into bad habits often and have to reorient myself. Thanks for asking this question. It made me think!
Glad I made you think BobbiJo!
I agree that our relationship with food is just as important as what we eat. I’m a huge believer these days in the importance of not associating guilt or other negative emotions with what we eat.
If there are times when we eat something that isn’t ideal is an opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t… And not something to beat ourselves up about.
Healthy to me can be reduced to Michael Pollan’s slogan ‘eat real food, mostly plants, not too much’. His book ‘In defense of food’ really resonated with me because I have been following these principles (with the exception of too much meat) to some extent my entire life and have always been blessedly healthy and in a good weight range. Growing up in Europe on ‘real’ bread and milk, cooked vegetables and potatoes (and meat), I have always found that a diet rich in ‘good’ carbs just works for me. Too much fat or protein, even from healthy sources, upsets my stomach and leaves me uncomfortable. I have lately upped my fruit and veg consumption and have turned to plant-based protein sources because I became an almost-vegetarian. So healthy to me now means:
– Complex carbs as the basis of every meal (brown rice, potatoes, whole-weat pasta or noodles or bread)
– 2-3 pieces of fruit a day
– Consciously adding more veg to every supper
– Eating and cooking ‘real food’ (can be processed, but minimally and traditionally like bread, cheese, yoghurt, canned tomatoes …)
– Adding traditional plant-based proteins (beans and nuts but also tofu and cheese) / no 20 ingredient meat substitutes
It remains a work in progress though and I don’t think I’ll ever completely abstain from refined sugary snacks (and hope I won’t have to, like you!).
Thanks for sharing what works for you Liesbeth! You know if I ate like that my blood sugar would be off the charts.. Funny isn’t it Jx
Healthy eating to me means minimal processed food and controlling the urge for sugary drinks and snacks.
I ‘ll have a detox every 2 weeks where I’ll be eating only raw nuts, raw veg, and fruits for a whole day. I find that it really helps the bowel movement and I tend to be clearer headed during this day when my body doesn’t get bogged down by digestion.
I’ll plan my meal weekly so that I get to enjoy stuff that I love without guilt, in moderation of course. For example, I do enjoy white rice, but I’ll only have it twice a week.
But ultimately, an active lifestyle is the way to go.
Thx for sharing Erica!
My old ideas have just been turned on their head with recent illness. All the things I ate a lot of such as raw spinach, cocoa, berries, quinoa, most seeds and all nuts and wholegrains are either off-limits or extremely limited due to their high oxalate content. Sodium and protein must be kept low and only white rice is allowed, with a small amount of ‘quick’ oats or white wheat flour. But I feel so much better without all that stuff and I feel slightly sheepish that I was nuking my kidneys for years with my spinach, chia seed, almond and cacao smoothies!
Also no soya and more dairy!
I agree with the no soy Jackie! Jx
Thanks for sharing Jackie… A great reminder that just because something is raw it isn’t necessarily doing you good. And also the power of eating a varied diet! Jx
This dish is so delish. Made on a whim and the flavours are exquisite. Adding to my list and best of all – simple.
Looking forward to your project LCHF.
So glad you liked it! Claire
Healthy in my book is not eating processed food. Even though I dislike veges a lot – I live with a pescatarian (spelling?) – he easts everything except for meat and chicken – and so I eat a bit of what I cook for him. We do not have a single tin or packet of food in our house (bottle of tomatoes is as processed as we get). I like the look of your recipes a lot! Simple but wholesome. I keep telling myself to force myself to like veg, but just cannot do it. Any suggestions welcome. :-)
It can take 8 tastes of a new food before you start to like it. So just keep trying. The other thing is to try different preparation methods. I hated my mums boiled brussels sprouts as a child (and still hate boiled sprouts) but I love them roasted or pan fried.
He even eats – not easts!
My husband and I have just changed our diet due to 8 trips to the Emergency Room for my husband with exhaustion spells, finally we found a homeopathic doctor who changed our diet to no wheat, no sugar, no caffeine, and no alcohol – within days his health started to return and now 3 months later he has his health back and lost 20 pounds without going to the gym. The overall health has been amazing with just changing out eating habit, so we would love to help test your recipes.
Wonderful to hear. Good for you Laura!