Balancing long working hours with making time to see friends and family, to exercise and to do the things we love means that food often becomes something we just eat when we can.
And food we can eat quickly and readily often arrives on our plate in ready-meal, takeaway or deep-fried form. Which can make it hard to make sure we’re getting the nutrients we need to feel fit and healthy.
We spoke to lifestyle blogger, Claire Wainwright of The Green Eyed Girl, and asked for her top tips for eating well whilst juggling all of life’s pressures, and two of her favourite feel good recipes:
1) Cook from scratch
Not only does this eliminate a lot of the harmful substances found in ready-made food, but I appreciate my meals so much more knowing my own effort went in to them. It’s also a great opportunity to add more veggies to every meal.
2) Preparation is key
I find when I prepare my meals ahead of time, I’m 1000x more likely to eat well. For me, this means preparing breakfast in advance and making a batch of porridge and sautéed fruit that I can heat up each morning. I also prepare my lunch the night before to take to work with me.
3) Don’t cut anything out
I know as soon as I cut something out, I will want it more! So having a little of what I fancy means I don’t end up bingeing on something less healthy.
4) Think about nutrition, not low fat
I try to eat for my health and nutrition, and not to lose weight. This means delicious hearty meals instead of boring salads - which I enjoy eating so much more. And I knowing that it’s doing me good makes me enjoy it even more.
I love cooking meals from scratch and for me, it’s my daily therapy.
There’s nothing that helps me unwind more after a day at work than cooking up something delicious to enjoy. There’s something to be said of the process of chopping veg, stirring, seasoning, tasting – it’s my version of mindfulness, with delicious results!
I’ve shared two of my favourite recipes below to help you make sure you’re on your way to getting your five a day.
Claire’s hearty fish pie with celeriac
In the winter I love eating bowls of warming foods that are comforting and filling. The ultimate comfort food for me is fish pie - but that doesn’t mean it can’t be nutritious too. I sneak in extra vegetables, so I can tick off a few of my five a day without even realising it!
Prep time: 45 mins
Cooking time: 30-40 mins
Serves: 4-6 people
For the topping
- 1 celeriac, skinned and chopped
- 1kg potatoes
- Splash of olive oil
- Handful of grated mature cheddar cheese
For the filling
- 500ml/1 pint milk - 50g/2oz butter
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tbsp of flour
- 1 bag of raw king prawns (defrosted at room temperature if frozen)
- 250g fillets of oak smoked salmon
- 250g white fish such as haddock or cod
- 2 leeks, rinsed and sliced
- 50g frozen petit pois
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.
2. Peel your potatoes and halve or quarter depending on the size. Put them in a pan of cold water with a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes - 20 minutes until you can easily slide a fork in.
3. At the same time, peel the celeriac and chop into chunks - about thumb-sized. When there’s ten minutes left for your potatoes, add the celeriac into the boiling water to boil together for the last 10 minutes.
4. Once the potatoes and celeriac are ready, drain and allow to dry out for a few minutes before mashing well, adding a dash of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
5. Gently sautée the sliced leeks in a deep frying pan with a dash of olive oil and a splash of water. When softened, scoop them out of the pan and set aside for later.
6. In the same pan, add in the white fish, bay leaves and milk. Bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for five minutes until the fish is just cooked.
7. Gently scoop out the fish and discard the bay leaves. You’ll use the milk for the sauce, so you may want to transfer it to a jug.
8. In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour until it comes together to create a paste. Cook for a few seconds, then gradually add the infused milk, stirring constantly. Once all your milk has been added bring to the boil and simmer over a medium heat for three or four minutes until the sauce is smooth and thick. Keep a close eye on it and keep stirring regularly as it can burn quickly. Season with salt and pepper.
9. Place an oven-proof dish on a baking tray and start layering up your pie. Start with the fish, spreading the white fish and salmon evenly over the bottom. Add your prawns and then add over the leeks and frozen peas. Top with the sauce and when that has started to sink through the layers, add on the mash. Use a fork to spread the mash evenly over the top, sealing the edges and creating some spikes across the top.
10. Sprinkle over the cheese and place in the oven for about 30 minutes or until it is golden-brown and bubbling.
11. Serve and enjoy! You can add additional vegetables like carrots and broccoli as a side, helping you reach your five a day.
This dish is perfect to make up on the weekend, and it’ll last into the week too. I also think it makes a great dish if you’re entertaining - it looks and smells delicious, and will no doubt be a crowd pleaser.
On-the-go smoothie pouches
It’s during the week that I find it the hardest to stick to a healthy diet. I can find myself rushing from one thing to the next during the working day, with little time to prepare food. So for me, the more I prepare in advance, the better.
These smoothie pouches are perfect if you’re on-the-go from the moment you wake up and don’t have time to start slicing-up fruit before you leave the house in the morning.
You can have a healthy breakfast or snack that has about three or four of your five a day in it in moments, leaving you feeling great, and on the right foot to tackle the rest of the day.
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 1-2 mins
Serves: Depends on quantity of fruit used
- Good quality zip lock freezer bags
- Any of your favourite fruit and vegetables. I particularly like these combinations:
- Carrot, orange, apple and ginger
- Mango, pineapple and strawberry
- Pineapple, kiwi, lime and spinach
- Banana, mango and strawberry
(My only tip would be: avoid mixing red/orange with green - this will result in a brown-looking smoothie that, whilst it will still taste good, won’t look so appetizing!)
1. First up, peel, core and chop your chosen fruit and veg. For hard veg such as carrots, chop into smaller pieces. Divide your ingredients up and layer them into your freezer bags. You’ll need a good handful of fruit/veg per bag per person.
2. Once you’ve got your chosen mixture in, seal up the bag and lay flat in the freezer so the ingredients don’t all freeze into one chunk.
3. Each day, grab one of your bags and give it a good bang on a hard surface to loosen all the ingredients. Add them still frozen to a blender (I use a NutriBullet and really recommend them) with either water or fruit juice - or a mixture of both - and blend until smooth.
4. Pour into a take-away container and you’re ready to go!
The fruit will last a couple of months in the freezer, so you can either make a large batch or keep adding to your supplies whenever there are good deals on your favourite fruits and veg.
I truly believe you are what you eat. And I know that when I eat well, I feel well. When you find the right balance of eating well, listening to your body and allowing yourself to enjoy some of the ‘bad’ stuff too, I know I’ve found that I’m more likely to stick at the ‘good’ stuff for longer so it becomes a way of life, rather than a diet.
You can find more tips to help you make sure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs in our Vitamins 101 guide from nutritionist Claire Fudge.