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What should we be eating right now?

We find ourselves in trying times, that aren’t going to end anytime soon. I’ve been asked to write a short piece about how we can use the components of diet to help boost our immune system. I’ve also included one of my favourite batch-cook recipes to get you started!
I’m not going to be telling you about any special ‘superfoods’ because there really aren’t any single products that will, on their own, protect us. There is a lot we can do by adopting a balanced and planned diet, along with using the right ingredients to help boost our immune system in the coming weeks.

A real problem for many people over the coming weeks with both social isolation and many exercise classes, social sports etc. being cancelled may be unwanted weight gain. It doesn’t have to be this way; we can take the time to enjoy cooking and keep our weight in control at the same time. Try to schedule meal and break times just like you would at work and have some nuts, fruit or a small home-made smoothie at break times.

1. Wholefoods are your ‘superfoods’. Wholefoods, means simply that, the whole food; whole fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, eggs, meat, fish and any ingredients that are found in nature. These will have all the nutrients you need, once we start to process or take parts of the food away, such as in white bread, where we use only the endosperm rather than the whole grain, we are then removing many vitamins, minerals, fibre and other health benefiting chemicals such as phytonutrients. Plus, these foods keep us fuller for longer.

2. Many people who will be working from home will find themselves just as busy, maybe even working longer hours. It is vital to allow time to eat properly, also, to use your time to cook properly. Using ingredients to cook from scratch means you can double or triple up the quantities and make meals to be frozen or refrigerated for other days, thus saving time, money and stress.

3. Don’t Stock up on ready meals, they will just fill your fridge or freezer unnecessarily; buying raw whole ingredients means the food will go further and we won’t be consuming extra salt, sugars and unhealthy fats. But always, think about the week ahead before going shopping, this means you buy what you need and helps to avoid buying highly processed foods.

4. Learn to add lots of herbs and spices in your cooking rather than added salt, the food will taste great, plus, herbs and spices have many health benefits to our immune system and are packed full with nutrients.

5. Use lentils and dried or tinned beans such as Cannellini or haricot beans to pad-out batch cooked meals such as stews, casseroles, pasta sauces, curries etc. this will make the meal go further and give it a massive health boost. Lentils and dried beans are a powerhouse of nutrients such as potassium, iron, protein, folic acid, fibre, calcium, magnesium, selenium and contain NO saturated fat. These are good for heart health, your immune system, digestive health and regulating our blood sugar levels.

Here is my favourite batch cook tomato base recipe, if you make a big batch you can freeze it in portions, it’s brilliant, quick to use and super healthy too; this can be used as a pasta sauce base, base for a chilli, bolognaise, casserole or a soup base either with or without some mascarpone, crème fraiche or soured cream added. I always have lots of this in my freezer.

6-8 tins of chopped tomatoes or equivalent weight in passata
5 onions
bag of carrots
3 garlic cloves
Lots of herbs or spices, whatever you like, I tend to add lots of herbs from my garden or just mixed dried herbs, turmeric, chilli or paprika if you want a little heat and a good shake of black pepper

Grate all the carrots and chop the onions into a large saucepan, add plenty of olive oil, stick a lid on and cook on a low heat for around 45 minutes. The slow cooking of the onions and carrots will bring out the natural sweetness without having to add sugar. After 45 minutes, add the tomatoes, garlic, herbs, spices, black pepper and leave cooking with a lid on, again on a low heat for another 45 minutes. This is a great recipe because it allows you to get on with work or other jobs whilst its cooking. If I have other vegetables such as peppers, I may add these at the same time as the onions and carrots. Once cooked, you can decide the consistency, I tend to use a stick blender to make it a little smoother for my fussy kids. Sometimes I will add some red wine too at the same time as the tomatoes. I then batch it up and freeze.

Wishing you all love and luck in the weeks ahead! x

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