Keeping Healthy While Working In Food
Six years ago when I was an exchange student living in Los Angeles I wrote a blog post entitled ‘How I Am Not The Size Of A House: My Food & Eating Philosophy‘, and while I still agree with everything I wrote, now I’m in my mid twenties (read: I’m a full time recipe developer living in London, not a student in Southern California where the food is light and I walked everywhere because I did not have a car!) I thought it was time for another discussion about the little things I incorporate into my everyday life to stay healthy while working in the food industry.
First things first, an important admission: while once I made it through my early teenage years I stopped being one of those girls who is always bothered by her weight, but then again it was easy for me to say back then; I dropped a dress size when I stopped eating boarding school food and cooking for myself, and almost another once I’d been living in L.A. for a few months down to the vegetable-centric, health conscious Californian diet.
I was really upset on Valentines Day last year – the first Valentines Day I’d ever had someone to spend the evening with when getting dressed to go and gorge ourselves on risotto and focaccia at Cafe Murano I realised my favourite gold, American size 2 Alice + Olivia skirt was too tight to eat in. I know this seems like I was stressing about nothing, but I’m naturally tiny – sometimes even an extra small is too big on my shoulders, and – girl talk – I can’t shop most lingerie designers as my rib cage is smaller than the 32 most sizes start at.
Sometimes now in pictures and in mirrors I now notice that my clothes don’t fit me as well as they used to; I know your body changes as you get older, but I also know that my blasé attitude towards fitness and my diet – while mostly free from additives and preservatives – just was not cutting it anymore for older me. I’m also pretty sure I never quite lost the noticeable amount of weight I put on when I was testing and photographing recipes for my book. Everything in there is either very or at least moderately healthy, but things got a bit skewed where I had do to things like make the chocolate cake about 8 times to get it just right!
So, how do I, in 2019 manage to not be the size of a house when I’m constantly trying and reviewing new restaurants, developing new recipes and being pretty partial to an aperitif in the evenings?
Establishing an exercise routine
While I do still try and walk absolutely everywhere where I can, I really do need to exercise every day. And do you know what? I feel so much happier after my daily session, that I’d keep going even if it was not the healthy thing to do. I’m always going to hate running and jogging, team sports were never really my thing, I can never focus and motivate myself in the gym, and I care for my joints too much to go back to regular rowing – besides I’m unused to rowing somewhere with a tide, and I’ve heard too many people who have died rowing solo on the Thames to want to venture out myself!
I love walking, so that is what I have been doing, not a leisurely stroll, but an intense power walk circuit every day around my neighbourhood with a water bottle in one hand when it is warm, and my iPhone full of podcasts or my Discover Daily Spotify playlists to listen to on the way round in the other. I’m getting faster and adding more routes to my walks; when I’m in France I take a circuit around the forest and another down some rather hilly country lanes through the valley, and in Kent I have a short loop for busy days, and another more intense hour walk down the roads that cut through land the MOD use for training exercises – now that one is a workout!
Cutting down on the alcohol
I’ve never had any problems cutting it out, but I really do like my wine, gin and cocktails. Unless I’ve got people over for dinner, I’ve gone out or I’ve had a particularly frazzling day (you have no idea the wonders a glass of bubbly and some loud music while I’m making dinner does for boosting my mood!) I only drink at home on Friday night or over the weekend, or when I’m unwell (you also have no idea how much better a sherry or two makes me feel instead of popping pills!) Not only is it much better for us, I’ve found that it has made opening that bottle of red or pouring a little glass of the peach wine I made over the summer (rather rough but still delicious) all that more special – it has also saved us a fair bit of money!
Switching up my sides
As we have already established, I naturally gravitate towards healthier food. The idea of a delicious dinner for me is a Chipotle Salmon Bowl, a Beef, Tomato & Pepper Casserole with Black Olives, or an accidentally vegan Charred Tenderstem & Cherry Tomato Rice Bowl with Romesco Sauce. However, while I naturally prefer brown rice anyway, and you’ll never pry my white pasta away from me, there have been other areas I’ve been able to keep things healthier on the side of things I love. I think cauliflower rice is amazing anyway so I’ve tried eating that instead wherever possible, I’ve tried going for a more interesting side salad instead of a small green salad and a handful of air-fryer chips, and unless a dish 100% needs it to sing, having two veggie sides instead of some veg and a beautiful, unctuous pile of homemade mashed potato and polenta, heavy with butter and cream.
Not keeping treats in the house / stocking up on healthy snacks
While when I’ve had a proper breakfast (I’m terrible at this) or lunch I’m not a big snacker, when working on recipes and shooting has knocked me out of sync, I’m get to the point where I just can’t stop nibbling on things. Also, when I recorded everything I ate in a week for this blog post, I discovered that I usually need a little something around 5pm every day to keep me going through to dinner. Now, if I keep masses of chocolate, crisps and Tunnocks Caramel Wafers in the house I’m going to eat them, so first things first I do my best not to buy them, instead trying to make my own homemade treats where I can control the amount of refined sugar. However, I don’t always have the time, so I do my best to make sure there is fresh fruit or healthier snack bars (I get these mostly from Whole Foods, and I always read the packet and nutritional information as most ‘healthy’ snacks are anything but!)
Planning healthy menus so it is okay to
I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘cheating’ when it comes to a healthy diet, but when you do treat yourself (I’m looking at you, sharing box of McNuggets with barbecue sauce that go against everything I believe in but taste so damn good) you want to not be worrying about it. So, when I plan me weekly shop, I try to keep things as healthy as possible always so those times that things don’t work out are okay – like on Sunday night when the chicken I was supposed to be using for air fryer chicken nuggets had gone bad before the use by date (is it just me, or is this a thing that happens to other people with Ocado?) so we ended up ordering a curry instead.
Do any of you have any tips and tricks for staying healthy as a food lover who is eating all the time that does not involve switching to a potentially unhealthy special diet, or going to the gym? I’d love to hear them!