CLOVE food co. is an outlet for my edible activities – my food is simple but really tasty. It is not about diets, detoxes, cleanses or fads. It’s about taking it back from the concrete streets to the grassy fields and eating wholesome, plant-based goodness to nourish your body from the inside out. I do it because I love it – and because it makes my mind and body feel so much better.
HOW I DO EAT
I can’t really put a label on what I am – I am not a vegetarian, pescetarian, vegan, meat eater or coeliac. I am an eater. I eat.
99% of the time my food consists of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds. I also believe that fish and other seafood possess incredible nutritional value; and if I know who caught it, from where and when, then let’s slather it in herbs and lemon zest and enjoy it straight out of the sea!
THINGS I EAT A LOT OF…
- Good fats – avocados, nuts and seeds, olive and coconut oil. All are fantastic for our bodies and vital for running a smooth and healthy ship. Our bodies need fats and these guys are some of the best.
- I load my plate with leafy greens for an abundance of vitamins and minerals including magnesium, calcium and iron. Some of my favourites are kale, watercress, spinach, broccoli, cabbage and shedloads of herbs.
- I aid my digestion with lots of beans, unrefined grains and legumes; being full of fibre, these help to cleanse the gut while aiding the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Puy lentils, brown rice, pearl barley, whole spelt, quinoa and butterbeans are all great examples, which also provide an excellent source of protein.
- I eat a fair amount of fruit (not piles of the stuff but at least a little bit every day) – mostly berries in porridge or mangoes and bananas in smoothies.
- I love root vegetables. Roast squash; grated celeriac in salads; creamy gratins of beetroot and butternut. We all need carbohydrates and root vegetables are an excellent source.
Because I love to cook, I am always making new things and experimenting with different ingredients. This provides my body with much needed variation and thus a really balanced diet – to me, that is what it is all about, really.
HOW I DON’T EAT
I will say with conviction and from the outset that there are two types of food that I do avoid, and I would suggest that everyone steers clear of these two critters wherever possible too:
- Refined sugar
- Processed food
All of the recipes that I post on CLOVE food co. are low in – or void of – the ingredients below. One thing I will say, however, is that I am not dictatorial about cutting them out entirely. I have found that it just does not work to do this, and being flexible makes for a much easier and more enjoyable life. I just like to limit them because I think that their abundance in the Western diet is tipping the scales off-balance somewhat and is consequently having a poor effect on our health. I also limit these foods because I know what effect they can have on me personally if I eat them a lot.
THINGS I DON’T EAT MUCH OF…
- Cow’s dairy – I was intolerant when I was younger. As a result, my body does not really want to go there, so I listen and tend to avoid it entirely now. The fact that the idea of drinking a glass of milk makes me feel seriously ill is a big sign to me! In my view, our bodies are simply not designed to process and digest the amounts of cow’s dairy and lactose that we currently consume in the Western world. I like to opt for sheep and goat’s dairy instead as they are much easier for our bodies to break down; i.e. feta, halloumi, pecorino, etc. I also enjoy lots of plant-based milks too, and sheep or coconut yoghurt.
- Gluten – I won’t lie, I do eat bread every now and then. I am not a coeliac so my body can deal with a little bit of gluten. However, I tend to avoid cooking with high-gluten flours. Spelt flour makes for a fantastic alternative and has a much lower gluten content. Rye flour and gluten- free flour blends are also amazing these days – try Doves Organic for a really good brand.
- Meat – I used to eat a fair bit of meat, but growing up on a farm in Scotland the meat we used to have access to was ludicrously amazing beef, lamb and game – free range and organic as can be. Nowadays, meat is pumped with hormones and goodness knows what and it is so sad that so much of farming has come to this. One day I just sort of happened to stop eating meat, by accident, really. Sometimes I have a bit of venison, but largely meat has disappeared from my plate. Again, I think it was my body just telling me that it can function better without it; again, I listened. I would say that if you do want to eat meat, then most of us should really cut down on the amount that we are eating. Some people are eating it at virtually every meal and that is a lot for our bodies to deal with. Try to see if you can have it 2-3 times a week and make sure it is good quality and organic if possible. I know it can be expensive, but turning a blind eye to what goes into a non-organic option is not the best route. Trust me.
GENERAL THOUGHTS ON NUTRITION
My view is that I think underneath it all, we know what foods are good for us. We get a little feeling when we think about how good or bad that food makes us feel and ultimately, it all comes down to listening to YOU and your own body. I also think that everyone is different and we all actually need different things from our diets. I remember having a conversation with the amazing Dale Pinnock, or “The Medicinal Chef”. He told me that he had been a vegetarian for 14 years, because his many years of studying nutrition had pointed to the fact that vegetarianism was the healthiest way to live. However, after 14 years he was not feeling good, so he went to have his blood tested, only to find that his body was not in a good state at all. Yet he had been eating nothing but plant-based, superfood goodness – chia seeds and all! How could this be? So he decided to test things out a little and at that point he went back to eating meat – a few years of meat eating later and he has never felt better or been in better condition! His body just happens to need meat to function at its best. On the other hand, I know so many people who have turned vegetarian (myself included – I am not strictly a vegetarian but I very rarely eat meat) to find that this has improved their own health no end. Digestive problems have been fixed and energy levels drastically improved.
Aside from too much refined sugar and overly-processed foods, I do not think that there is a right or a wrong way to eat. I do, however, think that all of the ingredients listed in the ‘HOW I DO EAT’ section above should feature heavily in every diet and that food should be natural, natural, natural. We all enter the world under such different circumstances and these circumstances can have a huge effect on the development of our bodies, our gut and our digestive system. Some of us will need things that others won’t, while some of us will be severely intolerant to things that others are not.
MY ANSWERS TO COMMON QUESTIONS
What tips would you give for taking the first steps to improving the way you eat?
- Well, I would say first of all, don’t be daunted and take it one step at a time. It can be hard to go all the way to the other extreme in one go – in fact, it often means that you will fail and go back to your old habits. Start slow – perhaps start by eating a good breakfast that is full of energy, low in fructose and refined sugar-free. You can then build up from there, moving on to good, healthy snacks and main dishes dense in greens.
- Allow yourself downtime and moments when you can indulge in the things you love – a life without treats is, well, just boring!
- Keep your fridge well stocked – or stocked. Even if it is just a pot of hummus and some carrots, it just means when you get home and are feeling tired you don’t head straight for the biscuit tin!
- Drink LOTS OF WATER!! We all know we should.