‘…food was all around me, and now my belly shows.’ This Christmas was a particularly epic one on the food front for Peter and me, and now it’s time to look into smartening up our act and shrinkening down our Christmas bellies.
I’m not going to follow any particular diet as counting calories makes me feel miserable, obsessive and deprived, and turns my reasonably healthy relationship with food into something neurotic and unpleasant. I think a lot of people feel the same way while dieting, which explains the staggeringly huge failure rate of diets. It’s one of the boring but unavoidable realities of life that if we’re overweight or unhealthy, we really need to face up to long-term lifestyle change. Crash diets and ‘cleanses and detoxes‘ (medically meaningless and worthless procedures) will not do us any good. There is no better advice out there than Michael Pollan’s from this seminal New York Times essay: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The only thing you need to add to that is: do some exercise.
So with that in mind, I’m going to try to cut right down on sweet things, crisps, anything creamy or greasy, and pints. Good grief, that sounds so boring. The thing that should save me from complete misery is doing a good bit of home cooking and making sure that whatever I cook is very spicy and flavoursome. Chilli, ginger, lime, garlic and lemon are all magical ingredients that are delicious AND good for you, and they will feature heavily over the next month or two.
What are your favourite healthy home cooked meals? I have a few nutritious staples that I regularly cook, such as fajitas (which can be healthy if you replace the sour cream with yogurt and leave off the cheese) and chickpea and spinach curry (below). It’s also time to add some new dishes to the repertoire, so I’ll be scouring cookbooks, food blogs and the dozens of old copies of the Observer Food Monthly that I’ve hoarded.
Tell us your favourite healthy recipes in the comments below, and we’ll share them here on the blog.
Chickpea and Spinach Curry
Chickpea and spinach go really well together, and this curry can be accompanied by an Indian side dish such as roasted spiced broccoli and cauliflower. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the spices, even just the curry powder and the cumin will do in a pinch.
Ingredients (to serve 4)
- 400g tinned chickpeas
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 4 blocks frozen spinach
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 piece ginger, finely chopped or grated
- 1 chilli (red or green), finely chopped
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- Olive oil
- Heat the oil and add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Cook gently for 3-5 mins.
- Add the other spices and the tomatoes. Throw in a squirt of tomato puree if you have it. Cook at a high heat for about 5 mins, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 mins to thicken the sauce.
- Add in the frozen spinach and cook for about 10 mins, stirring frequently to break the spinach up.
- Finally, add the tinned chickpeas and cook for about 4 more minutes until they are warmed through.
You can use dried chickpeas instead of tinned – you’ll just need to soak them overnight and add them to the sauce at stage 2, add some vegetable stock or hot water and let the sauce simmer for a good bit longer.