Why do we decide, at the start of every New Year, to try and desperately keep up over-ambitious and unrealistic resolutions? Is it actually necessary to attempt to drastically improve upon the person we were in 2014?
This year, lets keep it simple. As we’re a couple of weeks into 2015, you’ve had just enough time to recover from the Christmas-binge season, and you’re probably about ready to start gradually thinking about getting the good stuff back in and ridding yourself of the party-toxins.
So, here is a solution: four incredibly easy and accessible ways to incorporate a healthier approach to eating and drinking into your student lifestyle.
Forget the fad diets, cutting out carbs, trying to concoct a complicated new juice of green gunk every morning. This isn’t Gwenyth-style clean eating: it is not about strict rules or inducing severe food guilt. Binging is still allowed.
We’re focusing on wholesome and nutritional ingredients, most of which you probably already throw into your basket in your weekly Tesco shop. We’re just saying which you should have more of and how to make the most of them in delicious and creative ways.
These are four “resolutions” we intend to stick to.
Eat more (leafy) greens
Cut down on sugar
Eat a more filling breakfast
Eat more Vitamin C
As beautiful as this Smoothie Bowl looks (click here for the recipe if you’re feeling highly adventurous), we don’t have home-made dairy-free milk, bee pollen, cacao nibs or buckwheat groats lying around the house .. and our loans certainly won’t thank us for stocking up on coconut water or almond butter. As students, we want a simple (and cheap) way in to the healthy eating club.
Why should you eat them? Leafy greens provide you with energy, stopping you from feeling lazy and drowsy throughout the day. They are rich in iron and will keep you hydrated as well, ensuring your skin glows and hair stays shiny.
What to buy? Kale, Spinach, Broccoli, Cabbage. All these greens make delicious sides to any meat or fish dish. I like to steam them, then gently sautee in garlic and olive oil, with some chilli flakes for an extra kick.
This is a beautifully simple pasta dish, it is something you can make with things you have lying around in your cupboard or left over in the fridge. Broccoli sauces are very common in Italy, traditionally eaten on a Friday. I’m a big believer in everyone learning how to make at least one simple and healthy pasta sauce, one that doesn’t involve a classic tomato or cheese base. This one is a winner.
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 large cups of penne or rigatoni
1 1/2 large broccoli heads
2 cloves of garlic
1 small red chilli, chopped
3 tbsp of lemon juice
2 tbsp lemon zest
6 tbsp olive oil
A handful of pine nuts
A sprinkling of fresh parsley
1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
Cracked black pepper
Start by washing the broccoli, then pulling the florets into small heads.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, then par-boil your broccoli for 6–8 minutes until tender. Spoon out with a ladle, and drain in a colander.
Bring the same pan of water to the boil. Add your pasta, cook until a minute or 2 less than the recommended time to ensure it is al-dente (for rigatoni, this will normally be about 9 minutes).
In the meantime, heat a large skillet with the olive oil. Add your crushed garlic and chopped chilli to the oil, and gently fry on a very low heat for five minutes, stirring gently. Be careful to ensure the garlic doesn’t burn, or it will become pretty much inedible.
Add your broccoli to the oil, tossing well while bashing into little pieces, ensuring all the broccoli is covered. At this point, add in your pine nuts as well. Pour over 3 tbsp of lemon juice, and mix it all in.
Cover, and cook again on a low heat for five minutes. Season with salt accordingly.
Once your pasta is ready, pour a little cooking water into a separate bowl, then drain the pasta in a colander.
After turning off the heat, add your pasta to the large skillet and toss with the broccoli.
Serve with grated parmesan, a little fresh chopped chilli, cracked black pepper and a sprinkling of extra pine nuts. I like to squeeze a little extra lemon over the top, with a drizzle of olive oil.
Why should you keep your sugar intake down? Refined sugar really is, unfortunately, a sweet sweet poison. Sugar cravings are completely natural, but consuming too much of it will cause weight gain, damage tooth enamel, make you break out and bring on unpleasant mood swings. Cutting sugar out altogether is unrealistic, as much as I would love to do so. Keep your intake to a minimum, however, and you will be able to keep your teeth in check and your skin lovely and clear.
What should you avoid? Try and cut down on juices, coffees with syrupy additions and, the main offender, fizzy drinks. You should probably go easy on the sweet chilli sauce as well. The biggest enemy in terms of refined sugar is ready meals (stop relying on frozen pizza when you can’t be bothered to cook!) and cereals. Some are ok, but I would steer completely clear of: Kellogg’s Frosties, Tescos Chocosnaps, Kellogg’s Crunchynut Cornflakes, Kellogg’s Cocopops. Oh, and don’t go near the fruit loops!
What to buy? If you’re needing to snack throughout the day I would stick to plain nuts. Where you’ll have to make the biggest changes, however, is pre-drinks. Dry wines and beers, particularly red wine, have the lowest sugar content. If it’s spirits you’re after, stick to gin and tonic or vodka with mixer alternatives to lemonade and coke, such as 100% juice with no added sugar.
These muffins contain no added sugar whatsoever, they get their sweet touch from the the apple and parsnip, and the spices provide that extra kick of flavour. This baked treat is actually verging on healthy, as blueberries are a strong antioxidant containing catechins that activate fat burning and aid weight loss. These muffins are the perfect way to sneak in a little treat without breaking your New Years detox. I enjoy mine at breakfast, (with a little yoghurt, honey and extra berries on the side), or with a cup of tea for an afternoon break.
Ingredients (Makes 16 mini muffins)
250g plain or wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
1tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
2 apples, peeled and grated
1 parsnip, peeled and grated
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan oven).
Start by peeling and then grating your parsnip and apples, then combining them in a bowl and putting them to the side,
Sift your flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add your parsnip and apple, then combine with a wooden spoon.
Melt your butter (place in a microwavable bowl in the oven for 2 minutes, stirring half way through) and beat your eggs with a dash of milk.
Add your melted butter and beaten eggs to the flour mixture, kneading into a dough with your hands.
Fold through your blueberries.
Line your muffin trays (I grease them with tissue dipped in oil) and evenly distribute your dough into the muffin moulds. My mixture made about 16 mini muffins.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden.
Instead of heading straight for the juice and fizzy drink aisle in a last-minute rushed attempt to find something to drink for the evening, go to the fruit and veg aisle first to find some inspiration. Stock up on citrus fruit (lemons, limes, even oranges and grape fruits), get those herbs in (mint is a winner, or get creative with thyme and basil) and cucumber can be very versatile.
My favourites are:
Vodka lime soda made with fresh limes and a little bit of basil.
Classic G&T with cucumber, mint and a bit of elderflower cordial if you need a little sweetness.
Gin-Orange fizz with tonic, fresh oranges and a squeeze of lemon.
Why should you do it? If you stock up in the morning, you will kick-start your metabolism early on, so any fat intake throughout the day will get burnt up quicker. A filling breakfast is also essential to avoid unhealthy snacking throughout the day.
What should you buy? Eggs, Eggs, Eggs! Throw in a little avocado, it’s incredibly versatile. Porridge oats will always lead to a healthy start to the morning, make sure you have fruit and nuts to spice them up and keep things exciting and varied.
This is a classic brunch dish, inspired by many trips to The Breakfast Club in Clapham. However, unlike at The Breakfast Club where they give you about three avocados and make it difficult to move for the rest of the morning, I think just one is enough.
1 egg (or 2 depending how hungry you are)
1 tbsp natural yoghurt
A dash of lime juce
A sprinkling of chopped chili (or 1 tsp chilli oil)
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Start with your avocado. Slice it in half along the middle, separate the two halves and spoon out the insides with a spoon into a bowl.
Attack your avocado with a fork, roughly crushing it. Add the greek yoghurt to make the texture even more creamy, and spoon in a little fresh chilli (or chilli oil). Mix it up with the fork, seasoning with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Give the lime a good squeeze, and mix it all together.
When your avocado is nicely crushed, pop a couple of slices of ciabatta in the toaster.
Now its time for the tricky bit: the poached egg. Everyone has their different method of doing them, I do it my dad’s way and it works perfectly (nearly) every time.
Start by breaking your egg into a bowl, so it is all ready to go. Bring half a litre of water to boil in a pot on the hob. Stir in the white wine vinegar, which will stop the egg from separating. Using a large wooden spoon, stir the water for about thirty seconds until it is swirling in its own little whirlpool. Slide in your egg and turn down the flame to low. Allow to cook for no more than a minute. Using a large ladle, spoon your egg out of the water, tipping the ladle against the side of the pot to tip out excess water. (Note: if you can’t be bothered with this, just soft boil the egg instead)
When your ciabatta is toasted, top with the avocado and then gently place your egg on top. I like to slice mine open, allowing the yolk to flow – it is delicious all mixed in with the avocado.
Ingredients (Serves 1)
A dash of milk
Half a small chilli, chopped
2 bell peppers, in a variety of colours (I like red and green), chopped thinly
A handful of fresh parsley, chopped
A handful of shredded ham hock (If you can’t find shredded ham hock, buy a thickly-sliced ham from Tesco and tear roughly)
An english muffin, halved and toasted
Half a vine of tomatoes, and a couple of mushrooms (if desired)
This is incredibly easy to do, it is essentially an omelette, but the eggs are scrambled.
I like to serve mine with grilled tomatoes and onions, so I start by drizzling them with oil and a little fresh thyme and placing them under the grill. They should take about ten mins.
Heat oil in a pan, then gently soften your peppers over a low flame for 5–10 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk your eggs and milk then season with salt and pepper. Add your chopped chilli and ham, and a sprinkling of parsley into the mix.
When the peppers have started to soften, pour over the egg mixture and stir continuously.
Pop your muffins in the toaster, then serve with fresh parsley and chilli.
Porridge is a winter favourite of mine to warm up those chilly January mornings. It is really versatile, quick to make (ready-to-eat oats take 2 1/2 mins in the microwave with milk), and will keep you energised throughout the morning.
My two favourite porridge specialities are:
Banana, pecan and cinnamon with oats, milk and a little natural greek yoghurt for extra creaminess. Stir in 1 tsp of ground cinnamon, and 1 tsp of honey. Toast your pecans for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle on top with chopped banana.
Apple, cinnamon and toasted almond with a hint of rhubarb with your base ingredients of oats, milk and natural Greek yoghurt. Once again, stir in your cinnamon and honey. This time, I like to add a handful of raisins because they complement the apple. Toast your almonds over a gentle heat for a minute or so, then stir into the porridge. Top with thinly sliced apple, flaked almonds and a little rhubarb compote if you’re making a special effort.
One of my favourite healthy eating bloggers, Deliciously Ella, is a fellow porridge-fan. Personally I like to stick to good old-fashioned childhood favourite milk and honey, but she does hers with a base of mashed banana and almond milk. Click here for the recipe and more inspiration on how to make porridge your favourite meal of the day.
Why should you eat it? Vitamin C has endless health benefits, but I incorporate it into my diet because it is great for radiant skin, and helps to heal blemishes properly as it is a super antioxidant.
What to buy? Sweet potato, yellow bell peppers and salmon, which is also high in omega 3. Their high Vitamin C content is yet another reason to eat leafy greens, as cabbage actually provides more Vitamin C than oranges!
Stuffed sweet potatoes are nothing new; they are probably a regular fixture in your weeknight dinners. However, just sayin’ – keep doing it, because sweet potatoes are packed with Vitamin C (along with other nutrients such as Vitamin A, and potassium to cure those hangovers). I like to keep mine simple, usually with a tomatoey-based sauce and some form of veg. Here is the easiest way to do a baked sweet potato, and a couple of ideas for fillings.
A sweet potato (obviously…)
1 tsp olive oil
Choices of toppings: passata or chopped tomatoes, aubergine, onions, peppers, some form of cheese (I prefer mozzarella, feta or parmesan but it really depends what I have in the fridge!), some greens to top it off (parsley or coriander work best).
The best way to do your sweet potato, if you have the time, is to drizzle it with olive oil, balsamic glaze and rub the skin with a little sea salt then wack it in the oven for forty minutes. However, particularly if it is a lunch time, forty minutes is actually a pretty long time.
To speed things up, pre-heat your oven to 190 degrees then put your potato in the microwave for approx. 4 minutes first. Take it out, follow the same method with the salt, oil and balsamic. Stab it all over with a fork, then put in the oven for about 10 minutes.
In the mean time, throw together your sauce. For the recipe pictured, I went for a Sicilian-style sauce. I gently fried my onions in oil, then turned the heat right down poured over half a cup of passata. I threw in the olives and capers at the last minute. The rest is pretty self-explanatory: when the potato is done, take it out, gently pull open and squidge in your topping. Grate over the cheese and top with greens of choice!
If you’re into the whole juice-and-smoothie thing, I would recommend you start making them packed with berries (I like to freeze my berries first because it makes the smoothie an even more refreshing way to start the morning) and either a little kiwi or papaya, two slightly more exotic fruits packed with the vitamin. If you want an extra bit of protein to keep you going throughout the day, add some creamy avocado into the mix, or sneak in some spinach for extra superfood Vitamin C power. The method is fairly obvious – throw all your ingredients into a blender, I like mine with mashed banana, milk and natural yoghurt.
This incredibly simple Martha Stewart recipe is packed with goodness, and takes no longer than twenty minutes in total. I don’t need to ramble on any more about the benefits of these leafy greens, but it is worth mentioning that salmon is the ultimate brain food to get you going with your essays at the start of term.
Ingredients (Serves 1)
Salmon fillet, boneless
Half a savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
Half a bag of British Curly Kale, thinly sliced
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp chilli oil
A handful of fresh dill
Cracked black pepper
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees.
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper (if you don’t have any, then grease the pan generously with cooking oil).
Line the pan with the kale and cabbage, then toss with olive oil. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes.
Season the salmon with salt, pepper and 1 tbsp of lemon juice. Bake in the oven for about 10 mins, I like mine slightly softer in the middle.
Meanwhile mix the lemon zest, 2 tbsp of lemon juice, chilli oil and zest together in a bowl.
Serve the salmon on a bed of kale and cabbage, then dress with the lemony-mustard-dill sauce.
So, hopefully you’re reminded that resolutions don’t have to be about completely changing the way you eat. Think of it more as making some simple adjustments. Happy New Year!