Just as it’s important to build strong foundations to create a healthy business, so we need to build strong foundations, or pillars, for our personal health.
These health pillars relate to our physical health in both mind and body, and can also relate to spiritual and financial health.
Eating a diet rich in organic fruit and vegetables is great, but if at the same time you’re living unhealthy practices in mental health, spiralling into debt or stuck in a toxic relationship, then you aren’t going to achieve the vibrant health and vitality you dream of.
Food is not the enemy, but equally it isn’t the saviour. Clean food won’t instantly transform your life nor make the fat, inflammation or disease formed from years of destructive self talk disappear over night.
It’s time to think about food as just one part of a happy, energetic, harmonious life.
I’ve long held the mantra (and the hashtag) ‘Eat More Plants’, in fact, it was even the title of my very first recipe e-book back in 2015 as well as the name of the cooking class I taught at a local college.
To me, the essence of eating more plant-based foods revolves around nourishing your body at a cellular level, being more connected to nature and the seasons and filling your plate with a rainbow of foods created the way nature intended.
A whole food, plant based lifestyle means that we naturally consume far less processed and man-made foods (including junk food and snacks) as well as less sugar, less salt and less saturated fat than the standard British or American diet.
Eating this way means that you have to get back in the kitchen to wash, prepare and cook ingredients – which for many people is the one thing that sends them running straight back to the supermarket for ready meals or sauces in jars.
But one of the most important things I’ve realised over the years is that once you slow down and make time for home cooking, the more connected you feel to the food you eat and the greater the satisfaction in eating. This connection is heightened by more family meals around the table, children helping you cook and prepare food or even going foraging together or creating your own veggie patch in the garden.
It’s like a positive version of a catch 22. The more you slow down, the more relaxed and happy you feel and the lower the chance of stress eating, bingeing or grabbing that chocolate bar or bag of crisps from the petrol station or corner shop.
You’ve switched from running around at warp speed, unsuccessfully multi-tasking in every aspect of your life (we all know that when you try to spin too many plates they invariably fall and smash spectacularly at your feet), to slowing down to a pace where you have time to breathe.
To stop and smell the metaphorical roses.
To just be in the present moment.
To take that evening walk. To visit the friend. To take grandma out for Sunday tea.
After a few months, your body catches up with your mind. You realise your sleep is better; no more staring at the ceiling at 3am or waking up with a feeling of dread hanging over you. Your body moves more freely; you sign up to the gym or a local exercise class or dip your toes in the sea. Your skin is brighter with less need for a mask of heavy make up – freeing up more time in the morning for reading, writing or creative passions. Your clothes fit better and you feel a sense of confidence return; perhaps you will join the dance class or dating site after all….
Eating (and enjoying) a plant-based lifestyle isn’t just about you though. It evokes a wider sense of community: a desire to meet other people following the same path, to share information and recipes or to swap home grown produce.
Helping the planet reverse the impact of catastrophic climate change is another crucial benefit of eating more plant based food and less meat, fish and dairy. If you’re interested in the statistics, just ask Google (or Ecosia – the eco-friendly search engine which plants trees as you search).
While switching your diet overnight is generally pretty difficult (particularly if you have a partner and children eating in the same house), there are many simple ways you can tip the balance in favour of plants.
Here are some of my favourite top tips to help you to Eat More Plants:
- Switch the balance of your current family favourites in favour of plants. Take out half the mince and add a can of brown lentils to a lasagne, shepherd’s pie or bolognese. Take out half the chicken or fish from a curry or stir fry and add more vegetables. Try courgette noodles instead of pasta with a home made tomato sauce blended with roasted vegetables (try carrots, onion, garlic, red pepper and tomatoes with fresh basil). Swap cheese sprinkled on hot dishes for toasted pine nuts or broken pieces of cashew nuts.
- Try eating meat free one day a week. Or one meal a day every day. There are probably lots of meals you already enjoy that are either vegetarian or could be easily switched to plant based. Easy choices are pasta with tomato sauce, lentil or chick pea curry, mushroom risotto and bean chilli with potato wedges. There’s a global movement based around meat-free or meatless Monday – simply search for the hashtag across social media.
- Learn something new. Learning is a huge part of human life. We’re constantly learning, growing and evolving in relationships, work, sport and creative pursuits. Learning how to cook, trying new recipes, joining an evening cooking class, watching a documentary, listening to podcasts, buying a book…. there are billions of bite sized pieces of information out there created by passionate, knowledgeable and artistic people.
- Share information and resources. Once you’ve learnt something new, share it. Lend a book, write a blog, share a meal, comment on a social media post. If you have friends already embracing a plant-based (or vegan) lifestyle, ask them a few questions, invite them to eat with you, share their information with others if they’re running a plant-based food business or website.
- Use Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration and creating your own collections of recipes to try. You can find me over at Bowls of Soul (IG) and The Soulful Word (Pinterest).
- As Brené Brown would probably say, ‘dare greatly’. Be confident and courageous and try something new in the kitchen. What’s the worst that could happen? If the food tastes really bad or you burn it it’ll end up in the bin and you’ll eat something else. But chances are, it’ll be edible – and better than that, it could be totally delicious! Explore, experiment and enjoy your new food adventures.
If you’d like to buy my two original plant-based recipe e-books, click here for more details.