Week 26 – Nutrition and a better you
Hello, and welcome back to Giving Tuesday.
Did you have a look at last week’s piece on adopting a plant-based diet, and did you have a go? We really like the plant-based alternatives you can get at Tesco, especially their Plant Chef range (to quote the BBC, “other plant-based food ranges are, of course, available”).
Carrying on with the theme of diet and mental health, we’re really excited this week to introduce another of our supporters, Sarah Scotland. Sarah is a Community Nutritionist, helping people in the community learn more about nutrition and how a healthy diet makes for a healthy mind and a healthy body.
Here is what Sarah has to say about the importance of nutrition and mental health, and she’s even included some recipes for you to try…
Ready Steady Cook!
Understanding a bit about nutrition and the importance of a healthy diet can really help with your overall wellness and mental health.
Healthy food is often seen as expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Cheap, nutritious meals can easily be made using just a few staple ingredients. You probably have enough in your cupboard at home!
Ideally, you should be eating a diet rich in fruit and veg, accompanied by protein, fibre, and carbohydrates. Protein is found in eggs, meat and pulses. Bread, pasta, rice and potatoes make up the carbohydrate family. By eating the skins of some fruits and vegetables, as well as wholegrain bread and foods such as lentils and beans, you incorporate a great supply of fibre in the diet which is vital for your gut health.
Keeping your body hydrated is crucial because your body is around 65% water! Dehydration can cause headaches and fatigue, so it’s important to keep those water levels replenished. Fruit and veg are full of water as well as foods such as pasta, rice, and couscous. Remember to drink water too. It tastes great, it doesn’t have any calories and best of all it’s free!
By eating a varied diet you will provide your body with the minerals and vitamins that the body needs to function at optimum levels. This will help you feel amazing!
Try to stay away from processed foods such as jars and ready meals and limit the take-aways. Not only are they expensive, but they are also full of fats, sugars and salt that the body does not need. Eating too many of these foods contributes to weight gain and clogged up arteries.
How can you plan a balanced diet?
Fitting all of these foods into your diet might seem impossible, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it will probably be cheaper than buying ready meals!
Let’s think about how you can be clever with a selection of foods and what you can cook. For example, in your cupboard, you might have…
- A tin of tomatoes
- A bag of lentils
- A variety of frozen vegetables
- Lasagne sheets
- A bag of flour
- A large packet of eggs
With this small list of essentials, you’ll have all you need for a balanced diet (and these are things that you may already have stocked in your kitchen).
You might be wondering why I’ve added frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables are so versatile! You can find a whole selection of frozen vegetables in your local supermarket, so you can choose which ones you like most and use them in different meals. They are cheaper than buying fresh vegetables, and because you keep them in the freezer there’s less chance of them going off and being thrown away. The best part is that the frozen vegetables don’t lose any nutritional benefits.
This list of food might not seem very inspiring… but let me prove you wrong. There are endless meal possibilities you have to make with just these few ingredients.
What can you cook?
- Use your flour to make some pizza bases.
- Create a tomato base for your pizza using the tin of tomatoes and onions.
- Defrost your veggies for a healthy pizza topping and add some cheese on top.
- Make a delicious veggie lasagne using a tin of lentils.
- Add the tomatoes, frozen vegetables and lentils and simmer altogether on the hob until the lentils are soft.
- Using a little bit of butter, flour and milk make a white sauce.
- Use the lasagna sheets to layer your lasagne with the tomato sauce and white sauce each time.
- Grate some cheese on top and bake in the oven.
- Make tortillas for a healthy lunch. These are made from just flour and water and fried in a frying pan.
- Fill them with whatever you like. Maybe you could use some sauce leftover from the lasagne?
- Omelette is another great idea for breakfast or lunch. Eggs are full of protein and you can add whichever vegetables you like to the middle. Some great vegetables to have in an omelette are mushrooms, spinach, and peppers.
- Combine the eggs with some milk to make the omelette. Fry the mixture in a pan and then add defrosted vegetables and cheese to the middle.
- If you would like some extra flavour, heat up the tin of tomatoes and pour over the top.
- Make vegetable patties using your tin of lentils.
- Cook your lentil and vegetables together until soft. Add an egg to bind the patties together, roll them into balls and coat them in flour, and fry in hot oil until golden.
- You can also make a simple afternoon tea with these ingredients.
- All you need to make scones is flour, butter, and milk, and it only takes ten minutes! You can add cheese and vegetables to your scones for some extra flavour.
- You can make your own shortcut pastry really easily with just flour, butter, and some water.
- Combine some defrosted vegetables, onions, tomatoes and a couple of eggs and milk to make the mixture for a quiche.
- If you’re preparing an afternoon tea, why not make some mini quiches cooked in fairy cake tins?
With only a handful of ingredients, I’ve shown how you can make 7 different recipes, which have all the nutritional benefits you need for one meal. These are only a few examples. Imagine how you could diversify your meals with rice and potatoes in your cupboard as well as pasta, or perhaps some meat to go with your vegetables?
For a healthy balanced diet, all you need are some basic ingredients, a bit of planning, and some creativity! Try something new and explore new options, but most of all – have fun.
Going sober for October
Thanks for that Sarah, some really great information about nutrition and recipes to get our teeth stuck into!
And, while we’re on the subject of healthy eating, what about healthy drinking?
People all over the world use alcohol to change their mood: we drink to celebrate, we drink to cheer ourselves up, we drink to relieve stress. The key thing is to not drink to excess, as too much alcohol on a regular basis decreases the levels of serotonin in the brain. In effect: drinking too much makes you depressed.
How many of us have found that a glass of something potent has helped us get through the lockdown? (It’s OK, you don’t have to put your hand up, but you might smile ruefully, and nod a bit!). Finding the right balance between mood-enhancer and mental health problem can be tricky.
This autumn, Macmillan Cancer Support is running “Sober October”, challenging their supporters to give up alcohol for the month and do some fundraising for the charity while they’re at it.
Not sure you could manage a whole month? Why not try for a “Sober-ish October” by reducing your alcohol consumption, and donate the difference to a good cause?
It couldn’t be simpler to take part. Just go to Virgin Money Giving to set up a fundraising page and decide whether you’re going to set your challenge for the whole month, 3 weeks or a fortnight. We can send you helpful step-by-step instructions if you’ve never done it before! Just drop us an email and we’ll send them straight to your inbox.
When October starts, cut back your alcohol consumption (how about making certain days “dry days”?) then ask friends and family to donate to your Virgin Money page (by sharing it with them on social media), all while helping to support Home-Start and feel good about feeling healthy. And, you’ll have accountability too!