It’s at this time of year we start looking ahead to new starts and to banishing the ghosts of the over-indulgences many of us succumb to over the festive period. Too much rich food, not enough exercise, not enough fruit and veg and definitely not enough fiber. We start thinking about going back to the gym, dusting-off that bike from the shed, running in the sleet and rain and detoxing our bodies. Meal planners are drawn up, menus for the week are written, the house is purged of alcohol and the fridge loaded with fruit and veg. All very virtuous but are they all realistically actionable? Remember the old phrase “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”?
January is bleak and dreary enough: it comes off the back of festivity and time spent with family and loved ones usually involving delicious food; it’s cold and wet and grey; it’s back to work with a bump. So instead of making the month even harder to bear by giving up many of the things we love and enjoy, let’s look at realistic changes, which are good for you but not a chore to stick to.
For me, after years and years of failed resolutions and abandoned lifestyle changes, I now realise the answer is much more simple. Small realistic changes which you stick to for the rest of the year are more likely to affect your life positively than the shock treatment of drinking alfafa and spinach juice and eating nothing but raw veg for that long and dull month.
Exercise a side the other biggest area we can look at is diet. Less processed foods, more vegetables and more healthy grains is an excellent start. Some of my favourites are:
- Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah)
- Wholegrain rice
- Pearl barley
- Bulgur wheat
They are robust, hearty ingredients loaded with goodness. They soak up flavours like they were sponges, are easy to cook and are inexpensive (and easy to get hold of). Full of fiber, they can lower cholesterol, they are filling, the list goes on.
Cooking with grains
If you’ve not cooked with these ingredients before I would say you are in for a real treat. The easiest way to incorporate these into your diet is to first get to grips with the individual characteristics of the various grains and then start to experiment.
Try to add them to as many dishes and meals as possible. Use them to bulk up stews, casseroles and soups; try using them instead of other grains – ie try a spelt risotto or an oven baked risotto using wholegrain basmati; they are perfect as a side dish to your evening meal and equally make perfect packed lunches!
Quick and easy lunches
There is something incredibly satisfying about taking in a delicious, healthy, filling lunch. You feel virtuous for not eating a shop bought sandwich full of mayo and butter. You save yourself a fortune over the long run and you are in complete control of what you are eating.
Try a bowl of cooked quinoa or wholegrain rice and stir though a teaspoon of olive oil, some lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir through a tablespoon of chopped fresh coriander and parsley. There you have a lovely, simple rice salad which can now be built on.
From lunch to dinner
Add a steamed or grilled chicken breast with some chopped celery and cubed feta and you have a full meal. Serve the same dish hot as an easy midweek supper and it’s an entirely different experience. Substitute the fish for salmon, the celery for cherry tomatoes, the quinoa for wholegrain rice, the….. well, you get my point.
In summary, it’s incredibly easy to chop and change a few ingredients to give you a whole array of fabulous dishes and way of incorporating these fantastic grains into your eating repertoire. Easier than running to work, more realistic that that cruditarian diet you have been reading about and a great deal tastier!!
You can find more recipes and inspiration here