The Mindful Cook Approach to Food and Well-being

The Mindful Cook Approach to Food and Well-being
Prioritise Well-Being Over Weight

Managing our weight has become a huge fascination for almost everyone and the diet and food manufacturing industries are doing very well out of it. Unfortunately, we have been led to believe that counting calories and consuming low-fat products is a ‘healthy’ approach to eating, and, that adopting a restrictive attitude towards food and eating is the way we should live.

I have learned that this is a very flawed view. You could get exactly the same amount of calories from a portion of chips as you would from a portion of vegetables but the benefits to your health are very different. It worries me that people are choosing processed desserts over a banana. Totally bonkers! Likewise, we all metabolise foods at different rates dependent upon different things like, activity levels, the time we eat and our individual genetics.  Eating should be a lifestyle, not an uncompromising diet. Very often, an unhealthy state of mind goes hand-in-hand with the restrictive nature of popular ‘weight-loss’ diets. They can cause a yo-yo effect of weight gain and loss, and a lifestyle of either being on or off a diet, which can also make us feel helpless and unhappy.

The focus needs to shift to living a fulfilling, happy and healthy life achieved through eating a nutritious, whole food diet and doing things that promote a healthy happy mind.

Whole and Colourful Foods

Forget all the latest fads, it really does go back to the age old advice of choosing nutrient dense foods. Having at least two different (not overcooked) vegetables with every meal, including as many different colours in what you eat as possible (I always say avoid ‘beige’ foods), always choose wholefoods (food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances), and experiment with different flavours and ingredients so that you don’t get bored and find flavours that you really enjoy. Check out my recipes for inspiration!

Avoiding Low Fat Foods

In the last couple of decades the health industry has had an obsession with the promotion of low fat products. I have read that this was all kicked off by an unreliable piece of research conducted in the US that set out to explore the relationship between saturated fat and coronary heart disease. When the outcome of the research did not match the hypothesis, they decided to ‘tweak’ the findings resulting in a large scale health campaign slating the presence of fat in diets and promoting low-fat products.

True or not, there’s very little good in low fat products. Very often they contain synthesised ingredients like hydrogenated fats, artificial sweeteners and are laden with sugar. If you are in any doubt about this, Google it.

Fats, including cholesterol, are vital to the functioning of our bodies and brains – the human brain is 60% fat! Omega 3 and 6 play a huge role in our health and well-being and should not be avoided! Honour your body and avoid loading it with artificial products. Quality fats can be found in fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, dark chocolate, and good quality dairy products (always full fat options). When it comes to the question of coconut oil, I use it in moderation. Mostly to make my healthy desserts hold together and taste good. When you put it in context, if  there are 5 tablespoons in a tart which makes 12 slices, you are only ever getting a moderate amount in any one serving.

Eat a Variety of Food

Try different things and make sure you are including fibre, proteins, carbohydrates and as many vitamins and minerals as possible. Diets that tell you to omit food groups are dangerous. We need carbohydrates for energy, just make sure you are getting them from the right sources like veggies, wholegrain products, beans and fruit. I also encourage you to spend time creating your own food, it is such a gift to your body! If you simply can’t find time, then make sure what you are consuming is top quality, home-made and nutritious.

Move More

Forget an exercise regimen. Just simply do the stuff you love and do it often enough to get colour in your cheeks and your endorphins going. Walk outdoors, do some yoga, dance, whatever it is, just make sure it is something you enjoy. I believe that the real benefits come from the stuff that makes you feel good both in your head and in your body.

Shift Your Mindset & Look After Your Mind

We have all been brought up to see food as many different things; A comforter, a reward, sometimes even a danger. The associations we place on food are learned and can be un-learned and replaced with new, healthier habits. Some basic psychological tools and a dose of mindfulness can be used to help us tackle any unwanted behaviour we might have around food, like emotional eating or eating too much or too little. If you feel that you need help with this take a look at my food and eating coaching programmes that can help you in this area.