From simple, healthy recipe hacks during lockdown to the power of healthy eating on the mind and body, we sat down with our resident nutritionist Henrietta Kennedy to discuss her go-to foods and what she typically eats in a day… Hi Henrietta, in a world with so many mixed messages about healthy diets, dieting, and superfoods can you tell us what a healthy diet means to you? For me, healthy eating isn’t glamorous, complicated, or restrictive. A healthy diet means eating in balance. I feel it's really important to cut out all the noise around fad diets and miracle fixes. Our bodies need a mix of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) from food to function optimally. The easiest way to get this balance is to eat a whole foods diet. Vegetables, fresh or dried fruit, dairy products without added sugar/flavourings, meat, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts & seeds, beans, pulses, most oils, herbs, spices, products with 5 or less recognisable ingredients, the more foods without food labels the better! There is no ‘one’ way to eat. How can adopting a healthy diet support us during the Corona Virus? When you eat a balanced diet focused on whole foods, you are by virtue eating in a way that will support your immune system. This is so important at the moment as by promoting a healthy immune system through nutrition, your body can respond more effectively to foreign invaders i.e. viruses. Some key foods to focus on for immune function are green vegetables, beans, and lentils, onions, mushrooms, berries of all kinds, nuts and seeds.
When we think of healthy eating we tend to focus on the physical benefits, but please could you explain to us how a healthy diet can also support our mental health and resilience to stress? There is a dramatic and powerful bi-directional relationship between your brain and your body. They constantly chat away through the blood (hormones, nutrients, immune cells), nerves (somatic/autonomic), and energy (blood flow). The thing that all healthy diets have in common is that they de-stress your body and brain through some key mechanisms that reduce biochemical stress. When we reduce biochemical stress, we support our mental health and wellbeing. So what we put in our mouths really matters to our mental health. Most of us are creating meals from limited ingredients right now, a lot of which are pantry foods. Please could you share with us some key staple ingredients that are high on your nutrition list? Pantry foods are really coming to the rescue at the moment. I would recommend stocking up on dried herbs and spices as they completely transform flavour without any extra effort and they have incredible health benefits. My favourites at the moment are zaatar, smoked paprika, cumin seeds, cinnamon, and fennel seeds. I find it helpful to split my pantry shopping list into sections; canned goods, dry ingredients, condiments/wet ingredients, sweeteners, herbs/spices; this way I know that I always have healthy supplies to cook with. Choose a selection from each section below! Dry Ingredients Quinoa Brown rice Soba/buckwheat noodles Mixed Nuts Mixed Seeds Gluten-free oats Brown rice pasta Red lentil pasta Puy lentils Cacao powder Canned Goods Black beans Cannellini beans Chickpeas Any other beans Lentils Coconut milk Chopped tomatoes Sardines Mackerel Condiments/Wet Ingredients Almond butter Apple cider vinegar Coconut oil Miso paste Olive oil Extra virgin olive oil Sesame oil Toasted sesame oil Sun-dried tomatoes Tahini Tamari Tomato puree Dried Herbs & Spices
Cayenne pepper Cinnamon (ground) Chilli flakes Coriander (ground) Cumin (ground) Ginger (ground) Mixed herbs Zaatar Allspice Curry powder Paprika Turmeric Vanilla pods Any others you fancy! Sweeteners Dates (ideally Medjool) Raw honey Maple syrup Dried fruit Dark chocolate With food availability looking different each week for many of us, do you have some tips for creating healthy meals during lockdown? At the moment cooking is all about flexibility and creativity. However, I completely understand how this can be daunting so I would recommend following my recipe framework to make sure you are getting a balance of nutrients. Try to build your meals to include three handfuls of non-starchy vegetables, a fist-sized portion of starchy carbohydrates, a thumb of oil or butter, a palm-size portion of healthy fat, and a palm-size portion of protein. Another tip would be to remember that you can rotate your favourite recipes and just sub out ingredients to make it taste completely different. For example I love stir fry because I can switch up the dressing, swap noodles for rice, salmon for tofu, and change up the veg, and without extra effort or thought I have a completely new recipe!
Could you share with us what a typical day of meals and snacks looks like for you?
I absolutely love porridge, it is so versatile. Today I made my porridge with whole rolled oats, milled flaxseeds, cacao powder, vega protein powder, blueberries and raspberries, cinnamon, and a spoon of almond butter. For lunch I sautéed some mushrooms, tomatoes and onion and had this on sourdough toast with some avocado. Dinner will be a soba noodle salmon stir fry with a mixture of veg (whatever is in the fridge), and I will make a quick tahini, olive oil, lemon and garlic dressing. Snacks always vary but at the moment I'm loving kiwi’s and oranges, hummus and seed crackers, and frozen Medjool dates stuffed with almond butter, dipped in dark chocolate. You can thank me later!
And lastly what’s been your favourite lockdown recipe so far?
Actually my favourite recipe so far came about completely by mistake. I had promised I would make a fish pie and had got the fish mix especially. Work overran and it got to 7.30pm and we were too hungry and tired to make a classic fish pie. Whilst I boiled some potatoes, I got the dish, put a full bag of spinach at the bottom, followed by a layer of frozen peas, next added a bunch of chopped fresh parsley, then the fish mix (uncooked), ½ cup of oat milk, squeezed a whole lemon over the top and added a couple of heaped tablespoons of wholegrain mustard, finished off with salt and pepper. Threw my mashed potato over the top and put it in the oven for 30 minutes. I thought it would be a disaster and it was a complete triumph. It tasted amazing, was so easy to prepare and was really healthy.
Take care and stay safe!