Long Year. New Hope. Better Health.
Long Year. New Hope. Better Health.
WHAT. A. YEAR!
As December draws 2020 to a close, we look back on a year like never before! A year of challenge, uncertainty and often downright fear. 2020 has seen us locked down in a global pandemic, isolated within the four walls of our homes, missing the support and close contact of family and friends.
A ‘new’ world?
Over the course of this year, we’ve been drawn into a ‘new world’ of unprecedented restrictions to fight the pandemic and preserve our physical health. But this has come at a huge price as lockdown has limited our social contact, forced separation from family and loved ones and thrown us into isolation from the outside world, leaving many millions of us struggling with our mental health.
This new world of face coverings, hand sanitisers and social distancing measures that has become our new ‘normal’ – a world never before experienced by humankind.
Trendy working practices like ‘working from home’ are no longer some quirky, ‘out there’ thing or a euphemism for taking a cheeky ‘sickie’. They’re the new normal for millions.
In an ever-more digitally and virtually ‘connected’ world, the sudden, unexpected and indeed prolonged disconnection from each other’s physicality has been hard to take.
A new hope!
Yes, indeed life is changing, and fast. And there is a flicker of hope at the end of this very long, dark tunnel with some really encouraging developments in the UK’s approval of a Covid vaccine shown to be 95% effective. We can only cross our fingers and toes that it will prove to be an effective solution.
BUT… I’ll say it again and again… nothing is more important than building resilience in our own body’s natural defences to external threats and infections. The age-old maxim “prevention is better than cure” has never rung truer – developing and maintaining a strong immune system is not just the best, but indeed it’s the ONLY way to protect and preserve our health for the long game.
“In food, good medicine can be found. And in food, bad medicine can be found.”
Big ‘H’ (the father of modern medicine) was right – there no longer any doubt that the food we eat (and as importantly how it’s produced, transported and prepared) is our first and our BEST medicine.
My book The Real Food Solution is dedicated to this principle (and to supporting the Real Food Campaign UK) and I can’t stress enough the importance of preparing and cooking real, whole, unprocessed food.
Step well away from the ubiquitous diet of convenient ready meals and processed, nutrient-poor and chemically laden fake foods.
Make no mistake, multiple strands of research is showing us how a diverse, well-sourced nutrient-dense diet, rich in animal foods and a plethora of colourful, seasonal and local vegetables will support your gut microbiome, while the processed and ultra-processed fake stuff will undermine it… together with your immune health!In an ever-more digitally and virtually ‘connected’ world, the sudden, unexpected and indeed prolonged disconnection from each other’s physicality has been hard to take. Click To Tweet
A brighter outlook for 2021
So as we look out to 2021, let’s make it a brighter more optimistic outlook and commit to maintaining the positive changes many of us have been making over the past year:
- Reconnecting with food –
The Covid lockdown has shown a massive re-engagement with food – the enforced ‘quarantine’ has seen home baking/cooking and getting our hands into the soil with vegetable growing and gardening come back into vogue. And, it has to be said, not a moment too soon!!
Despite all the bad news… we have the perfect opportunity to build on this momentum and to reconnect with REAL food – food grown or reared sustainably, ethically and in sympathy with the planet; seasonal food; local food; unprocessed food.
“Our health is rooted in the soil and created in the alchemy of our kitchens.”
- Focusing on mental health –
Mental health has also become a priority for many of us. Enduring months of fear-based media reporting has ignited (and re-ignited) a pandemic of trauma for millions.
And while food alone is not the answer to depression, anxiety, or stress committing to a nutrient-dense diet of real, whole foods in their natural and unprocessed states (as Nature intended!) offers the alchemy on our plate that will help support your mental health.
Research has shown us that diets rich in antioxidants, vitamins (e.g., B vitamins), minerals (e.g., zinc, magnesium), fibre, healthy fats (e.g., omega-3s), and other bioactive compounds (such as probiotics) are linked to better mental well-being.
Know that reducing stress and improving sleep are both CRITICAL keys to lowering inflammation, improving mood and our building mental resilience.
If nothing else, we have to thank COVID for allowing us the time and the opportunity to reconnect with Mother Nature. The healing power of nature’s soils, green spaces, lakes and mountains has never been more intuitively felt and or more thoroughly researched.
If we are wise, we will follow our instincts and prioritise our newly found relationship with nature every single day.
- Localism –
The pandemic shutdowns have given many of us a renewed appreciation of our local community, especially the food purveyors — grocery stores, farmers markets, and restaurants — who worked hard to keep food on our plates.
Going forward, there will surely be a growing and sustained interest in purchasing and consuming locally grown food. It supports the local economy, is fresher and has less of an environmental impact.
Return to tradition this festive season
There is no better time than Christmas to look towards a ‘return to tradition’. Christmas is perhaps the one time of year that sparks our taste memories and when we most crave delicious home cooking. No restaurant meal, however wonderful, can replicate the experience of food cooked with love and enjoyed with family.
And, with many restaurants, pubs and hotels likely to remain closed under the Covid restrictions, delicious home-cooked festive meals – no Michelin stars needed – can be a delicious (and for some, the only) option this crazy year.
And what could be simpler than a traditional Christmas lunch – good quality, organic meat (Roast Pork is my go-to) and a varied selection of organic vegetables?
A magnificent, bone-in Roast Shoulder of Pork, sitting proud on its platter, snug in its cloak of crispy, fragrant crackling.
Surrounding it? Dishes of golden, crunchy roast potatoes, baked apples with cinnamon and ginger stuffing, glistening Vichy carrots dotted with parsley. Mustard and maple glazed parsnips, sprouts bejewelled with redcurrants, hiding a surprise, savoury crunch.
Two gravy boats (because you can never have too much gravy!) brim-full and a bowl of freshly mixed English mustard stand at the ready.
In my free eBook Once Upon a Christmas, I’ve put together a selection of delicious, time-honoured dishes (from my own recipes and those from other cooks I admire) with a few twists here and there. I hope my selection inspires your taste buds!
Best of all, most (if not all) of the dishes can be prepared well in advance, so with a little planning and a diary notebook, you’ll be free to enjoy the fun of Christmas home-cooking and family time with zero stress.
Over the years, I’ve learned this: to enjoy the process of preparing, cooking and actually sitting down to eat with family and friends at Christmas you need to pare everything back to utter simplicity.
It really is a case of ‘less, done well, is far better.’
And on that note, from my family to yours…