I eat a pretty good, healthy and balanced diet most of the time so rarely get into dieting as such. However, along with many other people come January, I’m feeling a little in need of losing some weight and gaining some energy after an indulgent Christmas period and eating my way through six months of food blogging! As I wrote in my recent post about Sally Beare’s book, The Live-Longer Diet, ‘dieting’ should really be about adopting a way of eating for life rather than a unsustainable crash diet; a diet that balances sensible eating with occasional indulgences. No one wants a diet that stops you having fun eating – especially a Single Gourmet Traveller! – but I often quote The Food Doctor, Ian Marber’s advice in his book, Everyday Diet, that if you aim for 80% of sensible eating and allow 20% for indulging in less ‘healthy’ foods then it’s better for your health in the long run.
So where does ‘healthy eating’ and ‘gourmet’ come together? you may ask, having logged on to this blog. Well, don’t go away yet! Appreciation and enjoyment of great food doesn’t haven’t to be about tucking into calorie-laden, fat-filled dishes – sensational food can be very healthy indeed. I wrote recently about Yotam Ottolenghi’s wonderful programme, Jerusalem on a Plate, and as I said then, I defy anyone who enjoys great food to walk past Ottolenghi’s restaurant window full of amazing plates of salads and healthy foods without wanting to go inside: this is cooking at its best. And the importance of all this for the gourmet is that those of us who enjoy our food need to look after our bodies; I want to be an old lady tucking into great food not one who has to watch her diet and avoid lots of things I love.
With all this in mind and a list of foods rich in antioxidants on my fridge door, I’ve got into making wonderful salads for lunch. Salad to many people conjures up boring lettuce, tomato and cucumber, but salads can contain all kinds of raw food (and raw foods are very good for us as they have more nutrients and also enzymes for helping us digest food well). Most fruits and vegetables can be eaten raw, even though we often think we need to cook them. You just need to fill your fridge with some good ingredients and come lunchtime, it only takes about five minutes to produce a wonderful, delicious – and healthy – meal!
Sensational Antioxidant Salad
This salad includes some of the foods that are the best sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants fight ageing and disease-causing free radicals – and we all need a lot of them. There are a couple of easy things to remember when buying these foods: buy fruits and vegetables of different colours; and all red, orange and yellow fruit and vegetables are high sources of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant.
It’s hard to give measurements but try to choose a mix of different colours and prepare just enough to be eaten straight away; don’t prepare in advance or keep for long as nutrients are lost quickly once the vegetables are chopped and grated.
For my salad today, I grated some celeriac, beetroot and carrot. I added it to some chopped kale. I sliced some yellow pepper, fennel, avocado and tomato. Then I sprinkled over some za’atar (a wonderful spice mix that I learnt of from Ottolenghi’s programme) which contains sesame seeds (an excellent source of minerals and essential fatty acids). I made a dressing from some extra virgin olive oil and cider vinegar, poured it over the vegetables and gently mixed it all together before serving on a plate – and eating immediately! It was a fabulous mix of tastes with a nice crunchy texture, making a delicious, almost instant, lunch.
Other good things to include are raisins, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, spinach and artichokes.