Easy eating tips and recipes for Easter

  • 8 Apr 2020
  • Reading time 10 mins
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One of the phrases that we have heard again and again in the news during this pandemic is ‘underlying health issues’. I’ve worked for years sharing nutritional knowledge about how what we eat impacts on our health. A healthy diet can help reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease and stop you gaining weight, reducing your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. Here are a few of my key tips along with some healthy recipes for Easter from my cookbook 10 Secrets of 100% Health.

 

5 Key Healthy Eating Tips

1. Always eat protein with carbs. 

Combining protein with carbohydrate works because protein, being made of amino acids, makes the digestive environment more acidic, and this slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates. So, the food spends more time in your stomach, making you feel fuller for longer.

2. Add lemon juice and vinegar. 

If you increase the acid level of your food by adding lemon juice (citric acid) or vinegar (acetic acid) you get a similar effect. In a study on diabetics two tablespoons of vinegar to a meal lowered its glycaemic load (as measured by plotting the rise and fall in blood sugar levels after the meal) by 20%. The vinegar resulted in less high blood sugar spikes. This study provides some scientific basis for the old wives’ tale about cider vinegar and weight loss. In practical terms, this might mean eating a salad with a vinegary salad dressing, drinking a citron pressé (minus the sugar) with food, or adding balsamic vinegar for flavour to a meal. For example, try ‘steam-frying’ Brussels sprouts and adding a little balsamic vinegar in the last few minutes of cooking. Research has also found that adding lemon juice or vinegar reduces the formation of ‘anti-glycation end-products’ (AGEs), the harmful oxidant compounds that are formed when food is cooked.

3. Load up on soluble fibre. 

Soluble fibre, for example the variety found in oats, barley and chia, really fills you up and lowers the GL of a meal. A study conducted by Dr Joseph Keenan of the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, showed that eating barley makes you feel less hungry. So make the most of the colder weather to eat lots of porridge or make a warming dish such as my Mushroom and Barley Risotto (see recipe below). One of my favourites when I have guests staying is Chia Pancakes with Pear Compote (see recipe below). Also, have a teaspoon of Carboslow (glucomannan) fibre or three capsules, with a glass of water before a meal. Carboslow is also now included in Get Up & Go.

4. Wait 20 minutes before dessert. 

This allows your ‘appestat’ (your internal appetite gauge) to kick in. Even better, go for a stroll after your main meal, then have your dessert afterwards, which also helps stabilise blood sugar levels. If you eat immediately after exercise your body burns it off faster.

5. Drink ‘dry’ and limit juice. 

More and more evidence is linking regular consumption of both sweetened soft drinks and even ‘natural’ fruit juices with increased weight gain and diabetes risk. The same increase in diabetes risk was not observed in those drinking grapefruit juice, which has a low GL, or orange juice. Even so, you need to be careful not to overdo the orange juice.

The best fruit to eat, and drink, are those high in a type of sugar called xylose, which means berries, cherries and plums. So, if you need to use a juice, maybe in a dessert recipe, use Cherry Active. For example, have a Plum Crumble, sweetened with a little Cherry Active (which you can buy online at www.holfordirect.com 

For alcohol, choose the driest drinks – for example, a dry red or white wine or Champagne or a neat spirit such as whisky.

Easter Menu - that’s a bit different

Breakfast:

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and avocado or Get Up an Go

Main meal:

Venison and chocolate stew - page 132

Braised kale with almonds as an accompaniment - page 176

Chia pancakes with pear compote - page 90

From The Ten Secrets of Health Cookbook

The Recipes

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and avocado

Easy to put together on a busy morning, this filling breakfast is low GL but full of fats to fuel the brain. Serves 1. 2 eggs Butter or olive oil 1 slice smoked salmon Half a sliced avocado 1 rough oatcake Whisk the eggs, season and scramble over a medium heat with the butter and oil. Serve with the remaining ingredients. 2 FUs, 2 GLs

Or

Get Up and Go® - with low carb milk and berries

1 tbsp Get Up & Go®

2 cups (480ml/1 pint) unsweetened soya or almond milk, or full fat cow’s milk

Handful of blueberries, strawberries or raspberries

Here, Carboslow made from glucomannan, derived from Konjac Root, works in synergy with the popular multivitamin and mineral breakfast powder – Get Up and Go. This new version, combining the two and has a fantastically low 4GL. Once mixed with berries and no or low carb milk it provides a healthy, nutritious and filling start to the day. Blitz all of the ingredients in a blender.

Notes: Add a teaspoon of chia seeds for extra protein, omega-3s and fibre. Make the shake watery, not too thick, and consume immediately after making. The glucomannan in CarboSlow absorbs liquid rapidly, and ideally this should happen inside you, as it will keep you feeling full for longer. 

Venison and Chocolate Stew

Chocolate complements gamey venison, and by using cacao (raw chocolate) or dark, high cocoa-solid chocolate, you can substantially increase the ORAC value. Serve with spring greens cabbage with Chestnuts or Kale reciped below. 

Serves 4

75g (3oz) streaky bacon, diced, or smoked bacon lardons (optional)

600g (1lb 5oz) diced venison stewing steak (haunch, neck or shoulder)

2 tbsp seasoned plain flour mild or medium (not extra virgin) olive oil, or virgin rapeseed oil, for frying 150g (51⁄2oz) shallots, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, sliced 1 celery stick, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 thyme sprigs

2 rosemary sprigs

1 glass red wine, about 250ml (9floz)

2 tbsp tomato purée 300ml (10floz/1⁄2pint) hot chicken, beef or vegetable stock

30g/11⁄4oz dried wild mushrooms, soaked for 20 minutes or according to pack instructions

2 bay leaves sprinkle of sea or rock salt freshly ground black pepper

20g/3⁄4oz cacao or dark decent chocolate

A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°f/Gas 3. fry the bacon, if using, in a frying pan, then remove from the pan. Clean the pan if it was sticking. 

2. Put the venison and seasoned flour into a clean plastic food bag or freezer bag and shake to coat. Remove any excess oil. 

3. Add some oil for frying to the pan, add the meat and brown (in batches if necessary).

4. Remove the meat and add the shallots and garlic to the pan. Fry for 2 minutes then add the celery, carrots and herbs. Cook for a further 5 minutes. 

5. Return the meat and bacon to the pan and add the wine to deglaze. 

6. Add the tomato purée, stock, mushrooms, bay leaves and seasoning. Bring to the boil then cook in the preheated oven for 11⁄2–2 hours or until the meat is meltingly tender. Remove the herb sprigs and bay leaves and stir in the cacao or chocolate, plus parsley.

Check the seasoning before serving. 

Cook’s Notes: Allergy suitability: gluten/wheat/dairy free (depending on stock)

Can be made in advance • suitable for freezing

Braised Kale with Almonds

Kale never sounds desperately exciting, but this dish has converted me completely. Braising it in bouillon makes it wonderfully soft and well flavoured, with the almonds providing a little crunch. Kale is, of course, a cruciferous vegetable and its dark green colour shows how rich it is in antioxidants.

Serves 2

50g (2oz) flaked almonds

1 tbsp butter or dairy-free spread suitable for cooking, or coconut oil (see Cook’s notes)

1 garlic clove, crushed 115g (4oz) curly kale, stems removed, sliced 4 tbsp hot vegetable bouillon freshly ground black pepper

1. Toast the almonds in a dry frying pan over a low heat for a few minutes or until lightly browned, taking care not to let them burn. 

2. Add the butter, spread or oil and swirl it about the pan to coat (take the pan off the heat temporarily to stop it burning), then throw in the garlic and stir. 

3. Add the kale and bouillon to the pan, stir, then cover and allow to steam-fry for about 2 minutes or until the kale is tender. If the pan runs dry, throw in a little more stock or water. Season with black pepper, then serve. 

Cook’s Notes Butter gives the best flavour to this dish by far.

Allergy suitability: gluten/wheat/dairy/yeast free (depending on butter and bouillon) V • Can be made in advance.

Chia Pancakes with Pear Compote

These little pancakes make an interesting alternative to a traditional pancake or drop scone, replacing processed white flour with milled oats and chia seeds. They are just as moreish but wheat-free, low GL and high in antioxidants. If you cannot get hold of chia seeds. Substitute ground almonds or flax seeds, or simply use double the quantity of oats instead. This recipe makes enough for four people, but the pancakes keep well for a couple of days in the fridge or can be frozen. Serves 4 (makes 8 pancakes)

For the pear compote 2 large pears, cored and diced dash of water

1 tsp ground mixed spice or cinnamon, or to taste xylitol (or brown sugar), to taste (optional)

45g (11⁄2oz) oats

45g (11⁄2oz) milled chia seeds 35g (11⁄4oz) xylitol (or sugar)

1 free-range or organic egg 225ml (8oz) milk or non-dairy milk Virgin rapeseed oil for frying

1. To make the pear compote, first stew your pears by putting them in a small pan with a tiny dash of water and the spice. Bring to a simmer, cover and leave to cook for 5 minutes, or until just softened. Taste and add more spice if you like. You could sweeten the mixture with xylitol or brown sugar if you feel it needs it. Set aside, with the lid on, while you make the pancakes.

2. Grind the oats with the chia into as fine a flour as you can. If your food processor leaves the mixture coarse, try a hand blender to achieve a smoother finish. 

3. Mix the xylitol into the flour. 

4. Whisk the egg and milk together and stir into the flour mixture to form a smooth batter. The chia absorbs liquid, so it will thicken more than a standard pancake batter. 

5. Heat 1–2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan, then spoon in tablespoonfuls of the batter, spreading each out into a rough circle and taking care not to let them touch. Do this in batches and cook each pancake for 1–2 minutes per side, or until golden and firm. Press down in the pan to flatten the cooked pancakes. Cover with a tea towel to keep warm while you work. Serve with the stewed fruit. 

Cook’s Notes: Allergy suitability: wheat/dairy/yeast free (if using non-dairy milk) • V • Can be frozen Health scores per serving.

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