There are always nights, no matter how good or bad a cook you are, that you think, “Sod it, I’ll order a pizza.”
Tackling “the general day-to-day hurdles that a lot of families come up against to eating better,” and providing a framework to do so, is key to nutritional chef Dale Pinnock’s cookbook series and accompanying ITV series, Eat Shop Save.
“People want to eat better, but a lot have similar sticking points,” he explains. “They might be under very tight financial constraints, they might work every hour that god sends and not get a chance to cook a family meal. Others may not have confidence in the kitchen, or they might have fussy eaters at home.”
Pinnock, known as the Medicinal Chef, became interested in nutrition as an acne-inflicted teen, and is adamant that clarity is crucial if we’re to turn around our eating habits and health concerns as a nation.
“The two big things I think should be taught in schools are, the basics of nutrition and personal healthcare, and money management and wealth accumulation,” he says. “Those are the areas where people struggle the most; everyone’s skint and everyone’s overweight and feeling unwell – we need information.”
He believes that currently, nutrition is an area that’s become ‘entangled’ with fashion (and Instagram), leading to a worrying amount of “misinformation, contradiction, faddism and nonsense,” when the facts, says Pinnock, are in fact quite simple. For instance, type-2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease are – in all but a tiny, tiny percentage which might be genetic in origin – essentially lifestyle conditions he says, which we can exert control over as individuals if we have the know-how to do it.
“There’s always something you can do, whatever your situation, to actually improve eating habits,” promises Pinnock.
Savvy shopping tips for eating healthier
Pinnock’s easy top tips for making small changes that’ll have a positive impact on your health and your wallet…
Trade white for brown
Swap white bread for brown bread; white rice for brown rice, etc. You’ll be bringing blood sugar down a lot, you’re really reducing the potential dangers for cardiovascular health, you’re improving digestive health, you’re feeling fuller for longer, so you’re feeling less inclined to snack and you’ve got more B-vitamins. You’re ticking a lot of boxes with one simple thing.
Be aware of the type of oil you use
I always encourage people not to use vegetable oil and margarines. Keep away from them because they’re very high in omega 6-fatty acids, which can cause problems when you look at patterns of cardiovascular disease. Instead, just use a little olive oil.
Find an opportunity at each meal to get something fresh in
It doesn’t mean you have to cook every single meal from scratch, but if you are eating a shop bought meal, have a big dense side salad with it. Maybe snack on some fresh fruit between meals, have some fresh berries with your breakfast – within the fresh foods is where you find micronutrients, fibre and antioxidants.
Batch cook and bulk buy
If people are really, really pressed for time, if they have one day a week where they could do maybe three or four hours in the kitchen, we get them to cook some of their family favourites, but cook five or six times as much and then freeze in individual portions. It’s there waiting for them when they get home from work and bulk buying dry ingredients can often work out a lot cheaper.
A lot of people always shop at the same place, and often their shopping list will be the same week in, week out. They might shop at a supermarket, but there could be an amazing market in their town. At markets, you can often buy carrier bags of fresh fruit and vegetables for a fragment of what you would at the supermarket.
Frozen veg is great – nutritionally it’s very, very good, often it’s frozen at source, so it’s not being kept in storage for a long time, and it tends to have a higher micronutrient density. It’s also pre-cut, so it’s less prep time. You can take out what you need and keep the rest for another day, cutting waste too.
Eat Shop Save by Dale Pinnock is published by Mitchell Beazley. Photography by Faith Mason.
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