Yes, I’ll admit it – I was one of those insufferable people who went on a bit of a health-kick in the month of January. But – and these two qualifiers are crucial – I didn’t refer to or think of my new eating plan as a detox (nature has given me kidneys and a liver for that purpose – phew!); and somehow I managed to carry my new eating plan through into February without even realising it.
I thought I’d share some of my favourite virtuous, health-kick meals here: they’re meat-free, grain-free, “whole-food” dishes with interesting textures and big, brash flavours.
The pictures below are mine, but the ones on the original sites are obviously much better (not having been snapped on a cellphone by a non-food-professional in the last desperate minutes before eating and then edited using the AUTO setting on a free photo app).
Click on the links to the blog posts and websites in the picture captions for the recipes.
[Scroll down for reasons I chose the meals below and for more ramblings about eating.]
Some notes on how I chose these dishes:
- Vegetarian: I tend not to eat meat at all during the week anyway, so my January meals had to abide by a no-meat clause. Healthy eating seems fairly easy to do if you include lean meat – fish and veg; chicken and veg; grass-fed steak and veg; et cetera. But the majority of the vegan and vegetarian recipes I see online are for things that are not far above fat-and-carb-laden junk food, really – pasta bakes, quesadillas, soy-sausage hot dogs, pizzas, nachos and wraps. I wanted to put the emphasis on fresh vegetables and nuts/seeds or legumes for protein.
- Whole food: Because cheese is delicious, I was okay with including it, but part of the health kick was about eating whole foods – definitely no soy or quorn meat-alternatives (I made an exception once, for tofu, when I was getting really sick of lentils) – and so I tried to use cheese sparingly, and actually ended up eating vegan about half the time without really meaning to.
- “Low-carb”: I also wanted to cut the carbs out of dinner. But I didn’t go so far as to count legumes, pulses or orange vegetables as “carbs” because their protein components and high levels of vitamin A, for example, mean their health benefits far outweigh the fact that they are made up of starch, to my mind. Essentially, I cut out grains (including bread, pasta, rice and – *gasp* – wraps), sugar and potatoes from my evening meal. Where a recipe called to be served on rice or couscous, I used sweet potato mash (including the skin, with no butter, milk or cream added), because, yum.
- Cheap: It being January, I didn’t want to have to spend a fortune on exotic pastes and spices, so the recipes I needed to find had to be fairly cheap, familiar, and with easily accessible ingredients.
- Satisfying: I have a huge appetite, think about food almost constantly, and my stomach will not be fobbed off with grilled vegetables night after night (or even for one night, come to think of it) – so I needed to find interesting, appealing, tasty recipes that relied on spices and texture for flavour (rather than loads of salt, cheese and/or croutons).
- Quick: I can only really start cooking after 7pm every night, so I couldn’t afford to tackle anything elaborate or time-consuming.
- A note to parents reading this: hardly any of the recipes I found were toddler-friendly – well, not when it comes to my toddler, in any case. They’re either not palatable to her because she’s not super-keen on munching her way through a bowl of raw vegetables, or because she can’t handle spicy curries; nuts are a choking hazard (and if you leave them off some of these meals, they don’t have enough healthy fats to satisfy a toddler’s nutrition requirements); and tofu isn’t something I want to put into her body just yet. The one recipe I found that satisfied all of my requirements as well as Lil A’s tastebuds was the lentil and mushroom bourguignon on TreeHugger. (I didn’t get a photo of my version it because I was too hungry.) I halved the amount of wine it called for to make sure I wasn’t plying my child with booze (this dish doesn’t spend long enough on the stove for enough of the alcohol to be cooked off – not for a toddler to be eating, anyway). I made a big batch of this a couple of times (with trusty sweet potato mash), froze it in portions, and Lil A is still getting it for lunch a couple of times a week.
In the process of revamping my eating plan, I discovered some really good taste-centric, health-focused food blogs in the process. But if you have any recipes to share that will fit this eating style (or even if they don’t, but are still delicious and healthy, and especially if they’re also toddler-friendly), please share them with me – after six weeks of eating like this, I’m definitely open to new ideas.