Please Food, Love Me Back!
The dilemma of all food lovers: why are so many of the things I love to eat so bad for me? Or at least, bad for me in the quantities I would love to eat? I love pasta, and the occasional pasta meal is nothing I’ll worry about, but most experts seem to agree that eating half a kilo of macaroni cheese smothered in ketchup at 11pm is just not a healthy way to live. Not that I’ve ever done that. That was just a completely random example. But the struggle between being a food lover and eating healthily is very real.
This is not a wellness blog, I am not a health expert, and I’m damn sure not here to tell you how to live. I’m just going to tell you the ways in which I delight in food and don’t feel bad afterwards. Believe me when I say that I do plenty of delighting that does come with guilt attached (saying no to things that taste good does NOT come easily to me) – but feeling guilty about food is just awful. We need food! And food can be so wonderful! But eating five mince pies for breakfast in October (again, not something I’ve done, just plucked that one from out of the blue) just isn’t really the way to enter into a mutually loving relationship with food.
All relationships require work to succeed and a relationship with good food is no different. Eating well takes time, commitment and energy – and I’m sure I’m not the only person who has struggled with having enough to spare of any of those things. Good food and I have been through rough patches – dark times of many UberEats, two minute noodles, cinnamon donuts from the supermarket and nowhere near enough green things. But we always come through it, generally with a big bowl of vegetables, either roasted with spices and garlic, or stir-fried with soy and honey, or cooked into a fresh and colourful ratatouille. My mum always used to tell us that a trick to healthy eating was trying to have as many different colours on your plate as possible. Natural colours of course, as explained to my brother during a furious argument about the nutritional value of a rainbow paddlepop (he really thought he’d found a fabulous loophole). I love this – a gorgeous plate of fresh fruit and vegetables makes me feel virtuous AND, if they’re cooked and seasoned right, I enjoy every mouthful.
The other trick to keeping your relationship with food fun and fresh? Variety, of course! Staleness can be the downfall of any coupling. Making sure you + good food remain solid and faithful to each other is a question of spicing things up, quite literally. Try new recipes! New flavours! Find a vegetable or herb you’ve never heard of before and cook something with it! (Unless that herb is coriander/cilantro, in which case PUT IT DOWN and be thankful you have not had the utter trauma and misfortune of encountering it before).
The battle between my hedonistic ways and my desire to live the healthiest life possible is a constant one. The concept of dieting doesn’t really work for me – I have no wish to restrict myself from a flavour-filled life, and when I’m hungry I am just an awful person to be around (if we’re ever together, and I’m being unaccountably snarky or impatient, just hand me a banana and wait about 15 minutes). So I just try to vary my diet, eat as much fresh fruit and veg as I can get my hands on, keep my carbohydrates complex when I can and avoid added sugar as much as possible (SO much easier said than done, but for some good inspiration I highly recommend watching That Sugar Film and reading Sweet Poison by David Gillespie). I should also definitely drink less, which would be easier if wine wasn’t so delicious, but I’m working on it. As long as I’m not indulging in naughtiness every day, I refuse to feel bad about having a good dessert in a nice restaurant, or a cookie that I’ve baked myself.
Life is short and good food is a joy and a luxury that I am grateful to have – I don’t want to waste time, money or calories on terrible food. There will be times that call for a sneaky Maccas, don’t get me wrong (after a big night celebrating an important event, or at 4.45am in the airport perhaps), but I think the key to a loving and HEALTHY relationship with food is respecting it, appreciating it for its complexities and taking the time to get to know it properly. Because if you really love food, it will love you back, no questions asked.
Now, a proper rainbow health-filled dish – ginger and lime veggie stir-fry!
GINGER AND LIME VEGGIE STIR-FRY WITH NOODS
I made this for my friend Greta and myself, feeling inspired after a recent trip to the Melbourne Night Noodle Market – where, we noted, actual noodles were a bit thin on the ground. We were not satisfied, so decided to whip up our own noods, and I was very pleased with the results. You can add whatever veggies you feel like – as always, I just picked ones that I like.
2 x red onions
4 x cloves garlic
thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger (the only time you’ll ever want one of those, am I right? Sorry, sorry. I really ought to stop making jokes like that – there’s a high chance one of my grandparents is reading this)
1 x zucchini
2 x carrots
2 x handfuls sugar snap peas
1 x bunch Chinese broccoli
3 x handfuls mushrooms
3 x capsicum, red, green and yellow (one of each, not three of each. Be sensible)
1 x bunch fresh basil
1 x fresh and juicy lime
1 x packet of soba noodles
3 x tbsp vegetable oil
2 x tbsp soy sauce
1 x tbsp honey
1 x tbsp sesame oil
- Put water on to boil for the nooooods. Peel and chop everything into whatever shapes you want to eat – personally I like to have different shapes, so I cut some things into sticks, leave some round – go wild!
- When the water is boiling, chuck the noodles in and cook for THREE MINUTES ONLY. Then drain in a colander and run under cold water until completely cold. Set aside.
- Heat the vegetable and sesame oil in a wok on a high heat and pop in the onions, followed by the grated/finely diced ginger and garlic. Then add the vegetables in order from the most dense to the least: carrot, zucchini, mushrooms, capsicum, Chinese broccoli. When the veggies look pretty much cooked, add the noodles, soy sauce and honey and toss/stir well. The whole thing should take about 8 minutes start to finish.
- Take off the heat and squeeze the fresh lime juice over, and add two big handfuls of torn basil leaves before one final stir-through.
- Serve with an extra lime wedge on the side and enjoy your big bowl of colourful goodness!!