Back to Basics

While 2020 has forced many unexpected experiences upon us all, I am finally starting to feel like I might be ready to think about moving forward – slowly and cautiously.

For the last three months I feel like I have been in survival mode, but with the passing of the initial shocks and resultant anxiety, I am ready to think about returning to more recognisable habits.

The place I want to start is my health. Since I still don’t know what the future will hold I want to stay healthy by eating well but need to think about a sustainable ‘back to basics’ approach. I still have little energy, time or money to spare but healthy eating is important for my medium and longer term health.

In general, I have no patience for health fads or superfoods, mostly because the claims have no real merit, but also because they are fussy and expensive.

The main barriers to healthy eating are often our busy lifestyles and the perceived cost of healthy foods, but we do not need to cook everything from scratch or buy expensive ingredients. Processed foods are often identified as unhealthy, but a large range of foods are processed in different ways and I choose processed foods like canned pulses and frozen vegetables that are healthy choices which can contribute to balanced meals.

Considering a ‘Back to Basics’ approach has helped me to plan healthier meals while saving time and money:

Canned food

I use canned food as the base of a meal or an addition to a meal. Canned pulses, like chickpeas, beans and lentils provide protein, fibre and various nutrients. Canned vegetables are useful for curries, stews and pasta sauces.

Choose value brands

Value or economy brands are great value and provide similar nutrients to branded versions of foods – think pasta, passata, rice and canned vegetables, potatoes or fruit (just look out for added salt and sugar).

Frozen food

Frozen fruit and vegetables tend to be cheaper than fresh and are equally nutritious, given that the freezing process preserves nutrients. Pre-cut fruit and vegetables are convenient because they can be quickly added to a meal in whatever quantities I prefer. Also, frozen food doesn’t go bad, so my money isn’t wasted and there is less food waste overall.


Swapping to wholegrain pasta and rice for more fibre contributes to better health for little or no extra cost.

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All set for the week ahead

With a store cupboard full of canned food and frozen foods in the freezer, it is much easier to feel prepared for the week ahead and confident that I will have healthy food to hand when further 2020-induced anxieties arise.

Adapted from an article in OM Yoga magazine

Choose Good Food for Good Health

New Year, Same Diet

Many New Year posts contain ‘New You’ suggestions – I have seen suggestions for bettering any and all parts of my life and my body, from improving my bank balance to sculpting my arms. And yes, of course, suggestions for better health via a ‘super’ diet and (much) more activity.

However, this year I have actively avoided diet and activity suggestions because I have spent the last few months (probably longer) trying a variety of foods and have already decided on the foods that I like, are easy to prepare and will benefit my health. I would say that my food is home-made because I make it at home, just as I would make a sandwich at home. However, I do not cook meals ‘from scratch’ at all because it is time consuming and often expensive. I would prefer to spend my time walking or reading books.

My food choices suit me and my lifestyle so I am quite happy to continue with the same eating patterns into the new year and in the months ahead. I am vegetarian mainly because I don’t like meat, but also for environmental and sustainability reasons. I eat similar things every day to reduce decision fatigue and because it is convenient to be able to stock my cupboards with my ‘everyday’ foods.

So, going into 2020 my typical eating and activity patterns are:

7am – coffee

8am – banana and a glass of milk

8.30am – an hour of yoga

10am – overnight oats made with chia seeds and chocolate soya milk – also served with two tablespoons of flaxseeds and two tablespoons of ground almonds – coffee

12.00pm – go for a walk

1pm – lunch is a tub of something like quark yoghurt, soya yoghurt, homous, baba ghanoush, guacamole or cottage cheese – usually eaten from the tub with a spoon – fruit juice, decaf coffee – I try not to have caffeine after midday because I think it disturbs my sleep at night

5pm – a vegetarian meal – usually beans and rice, soup with added lentils, eggs or tofu with vegetables, water

7pm – herbal tea

Most of these foods are easy to prepare because I use tinned foods (beans and lentils) or ready-to-eat foods (yoghurt and homous). These foods are all commonly found at the supermarket and are generally inexpensive. These foods are able to provide me with vitamins, minerals and fibre, as well as sufficient protein. Since I am vegetarian I take a low dose vitamin and mineral supplement as a backup. My activity involves yoga at home (I look for You Tube videos), a daily walk in the local park or to the supermarket and longer walks every weekend.

I would like to encourage you to find foods, eating patterns and activity that work for you. It may take a bit of time and effort, but I enjoyed experimenting with different foods and eating them at different times (which is why I ended up having overnight oats mid-morning).

Ideally foods should provide you with the nutrients you need. Perhaps you can start with a nutritious food that you enjoy…Peanut butter? Baked beans? There is so much choice available to us which makes it possible to have simple, inexpensive everyday foods that will benefit our health in some way…and that we won’t feel compelled to change in the New Year.

Let me know what foods you choose and how they have benefitted your health.

Note: Good Health includes factors like a healthy blood pressure, healthy blood sugar levels, healthy cholesterol levels…as well as improved fitness and reduced stress

Enjoy Good Food for Good Health

©SD Wheelock

Fad Diets: A waste of time & effort

FAD: an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived.

As the decade draws to a close I was wondering about the longevity of the ‘fad’ diets that have been introduced to us in the last 10 years or so.

A quick trawl of the internet gave me the names of some ‘eating plans’ that sounded familiar but I was hard-pressed to remember many details about any of them.

Do you remember these diets?

  • The Master Cleanse (popularised by Beyoncé)
  • The Superfood Diet
  • Whole 30
  • The Alkaline Diet
  • The Food Combining Diet
  • The Zone Diet (eaten by Jennifer Aniston)
  • The South Beach Diet
  • The Keto Diet
  • Fruitarianism
  • The Raw Food Diet
  • The Blood Type Diet
  • The Special K Diet
  • The Macrobiotic Diet
  • 5:2 Diet (or Intermittent Fasting)
  • The Apple Cider Vinegar Diet
  • Juicing
  • The Baby Food Diet
  • Clean Eating
  • The Goop Detox Diet (thanks Gwyneth)
  • The Paleo Diet

Did you try any of these diets? Did any of them make a difference for you?

For me, this list of diets illustrates the overall ridiculous nature of the ‘diet industry’ – from this list I can see that this ‘industry’ is only interested in taking our money, though it steals away our time and energy too.

Most of these diets claimed to be the ‘ultimate weight loss’ plan, however they were unsustainable and failed to deliver on their promises in the long term. Some of them may have helped with weight loss in the short term since it is likely that having food rules restricted our overall calorie intake. Some of us probably tried diet-after-diet, always looking for something that suited our lifestyle a bit better (or tasted better). Some of these diets linger in various iterations, such as Intermittent Fasting. Some will probably return in a slightly different guise.

For those who want to avoid another decade of dietary fads, choose a few tried and tested healthy habits. Having some guidelines can be helpful, but stick to the simple stuff. Eat and enjoy a variety of foods for maximum nutrient intake. Drink a bit more water. Avoid the ‘treats’ more often – for me, that means less cheese and fewer cakes. Do a bit more activity – a walk will do (a walk up a little hill is even better).

Do not give any more of your money, time or effort to the fad diets or the diet industry.

Enjoy Good Food for Good Health

©SD Wheelock