I don’t think there are too many people who would challenge the notion of watching what we eat come January. Just the memory of that cheeseboard or opening the second box of orange Matchmakers in a row is enough to get me reaching for the kale. But at the same time, there aren’t too many people who can argue that the thought of a healthier diet is an exciting one. Especially during the month that, and I think we can all agree on this, is the longest, darkest one of the year. So how can we both beat those January blues and look after ourselves a little more?
Here are my tops tips for increasing your chances of getting a decent tasting and yes, healthy meal, inside you this month:
One of the many advantages of cold weather is the excuse it gives me to enjoy this very versatile dish several times and week, and as we all know, soups can be delicious AND healthy. I start to shiver at the mere thought of eating a salad in the winter, but thankfully making a tasty soup is an even better method of increasing my vegetable intake.
One of the easiest ways you can prepare one whilst using up all the items in your store cupboard is by creating a bean and pasta soup. Fry some chopped onion and garlic, then add a tin of tomatoes and approximately 500ml of vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer a little before adding some Italian herbs, some tinned pulses and your chosen pasta (or even some broken bits of dried spaghetti). Cook them through and make sure it’s got enough seasoning before serving.
For those who have a few chicken carcasses sitting in the freezer, make up some stock then add it to some fried leeks and carrots. Once simmering, add some diced potato and you’ll have a filling soup that will make you feel so much better if you’re under the weather. Which I think you’ll agree is most of us throughout January.
I never ever thought I’d be singing the praises of wholemeal bread, believe me. Not because I don’t think it’s good for you, but because I was fed it exclusively throughout my childhood and consequently as soon as I left home I gorged on sliced white until the cows came home. This is because the wholemeal bread I was given was usually the basic supermarket sliced stuff and I don’t think there’s any scenario where this actually tastes good in any way, shape or form.
There are two ways to ensure you enjoy your wholemeal bread – buy good quality stuff that actually tastes amazing and celebrates the fact that it’s wholemeal rather than trying to hide it, and use it appropriately. Even the best stuff doesn’t work in every bread scenario, but I think wholemeal bread shines with soup (sorry to harp on about it) and toasted with the right topping (hello peanut butter and jam). When I’ve substituted my white for wholemeal in the past, it really has made such a difference – I feel less bloated and am much less likely to crave snacks.
The thing about fruit in January is that I buy it with all the best intentions, but then it gets left to languish in the bowl or fridge and I just ignore it because I feel so guilty. I just don’t really feel like eating the stuff in the winter. Sorry. Perhaps the one exception is oranges because I associate the smell with Christmas and cold weather, but tucking into a punnet of grapes is very much a summer activity for me. To avoid making fruit feel like a chore in January, my one piece of advice is stewing. Chop up what’s left in your fruit bowl and heat it up with a bit of sugar (not exactly a healthy addition but whatever). You still get all the goodness of the fruit without feeling like you’ve got a chill.