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Valentine Warner: The UK Is Alive With Healthy Food, Without Needing To Call It ‘Healthy’

Publisher - Great British Food Awards
published by

Great British Food

Mar 27, 2018
7 minutes to read

What does healthy eating really mean? For our columnist, it’s all about consuming locally, seasonally and in moderation!

Eating healthily: it’s common sense, not science! Healthy eating need not involve the quinoa botherers or avocado evangelists; they’re enjoying themselves anyway, so I’ll leave them to it. Why does the idea of ‘eating healthily’ seem to inflict brain strain and a kitchen creativity crisis as if we were required to suddenly cook a whole new way? Without any requirement for Peruvian asparagus or pomegranates, the UK is alive with healthy food, without even needing to call it ‘healthy’.

What healthy eating trends tend to do is divert our eyes from what’s right under our nose. Of course, all countries have seasonal produce, but we are remarkably unaware of our own even though we are spoilt for choice, come early spring. The best place to start: brassicas, potatoes, onions, purple sprouting broccoli, Jerusalem artichokes, shellfish, fish and venison to name a few. The seasons are a guide simply because they provide a menu to match the weather. Yet, year round we get distracted by vanity-driven desires and some odd idea that most healthy eating is a coupling of mainly foreign ingredients and an enlightened thin person. Weird!

Winter is cold and March is barely out of winter. I for one will eat far more fat and dairy at this time of year than in high summer. So be it – it’s hardly ‘unhealthy.’ Stop the guilt NOW! Eat the cheese. I should also remind you that healthy eating should not be mistaken for dieting. Know the difference. Do I really need to tell you to eat more
veg, less meat etc.? Is ‘healthy eating’ any different from ‘eating normally’ and eating with respect for the environment and oneself? We eat far more than we used to, waste more, and most of us move far less in our day-to-day lives. Just eating less in itself would be healthy for the individual and the collective.

To be fair though, food is my currency; I understand ingredients and the need for my diet to be varied and also how to avoid boredom when seasonal gluts require regular use of a particular ingredient. Healthy, seasonal, whatever – eating requires actual cooking, I’d add. By cooking you learn and understand ingredients in a way that ready prepared health pots will never provide.

So listen here. Make a great salad with lettuce, bacon, eggs, stale bread croutons, or perhaps a leeks vinaigrette. Steam open a large pan of mussels, spring onions and diced potato with cider. Try pinhead oat porridge for breakfast with apple compote, muscovado sugar and a slash of cream or baked apple. Buy wild venison online and eat it with buttered kale. Melt some blue cheese onto roasted Jerusalem artichokes. Poach a chicken with leeks and swede and serve it up with its broth and horseradish sauce. Fry some anchovies, garlic and chilli in butter and toss them with purple sprouting broccoli. Boil up dried seaweed and dress it in Dijon mustard, shoyu [a Japanese soy sauce], sugar and vinegar. Eat battered fish and mushy peas every now and then. Cook a nettle soup and sprinkle it with toasted oats and bacon. Make a mustardy cabbage remoulade for some sliced ham. Bake a potato and fill it with butter, capers, smoked cod’s roe and a lemony celery salad. Anyone who eats a varied diet in sensible amounts and who gets off their backside to take a walk is eating healthily. Moderation not extremism. End of.

About Val Warner
Our monthly columnist is an acclaimed chef, TV presenter and author. Find out more at valentinewarner.com
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