One of the UK’s leading nutritionist therapists, Amelia Freer has worked with everyone from Sam Smith to Victoria Beckham on their diets – chances are, you might have one of her cookbooks on your shelves, too. Rather than the punishing approach so often touted by specialists in the food sphere, Freer’s onus is on “positive nutrition” – she seeks to nourish clients’ bodies, minds and souls and helps them find the joy in eating a balanced diet.
With many of us – especially during this pandemic-filled year – succumbing to stress-eating, Freer acknowledges that how we feel has a huge impact on the quality of our diets: “Food can be a very emotional topic,” she says. “As it’s so intricately linked with memories, family, culture, identity and more. Therefore, consistently treating ourselves with patience and kindness around food and other lifestyle practices is crucial to enabling new healthy habits to get off the ground. Nobody is perfect, and indeed, perfection is not something to aim for.”
Naturally, appointments with Freer are hard to come by, not least during lockdown. Thankfully, she has recently created a 30-part online course (with Create Academy) which offers snappy ten minute videos covering everything she feels is important to create a diet that is nutritious and balanced, without having to spend hours in the kitchen.
For a taste of Freer’s course, here, she shares her five key bits of advice for a healthy diet.
1. Focus first on increasing nutrient-dense whole foods
“If there is one change that is likely to make the biggest difference to our overall health and wellbeing, it is to increase the amount of nutrient-dense whole foods we eat (such as fruits and vegetables, high-quality sources of protein, healthy fats, whole grains, nuts and seeds and water). Basing the majority of our meals on these sorts of foods is often the most important step in building a healthy diet.”
2. Think about balance
“I have a very basic “rule of thumb” when it comes to assembling a tasty meal, that helps us to cover all the important food groups, and therefore to provide our bodies with the varied nourishment we need each day.
I almost always start with a couple of portions of vegetables (or perhaps a portion of fresh fruit at breakfast), then add a source of protein (such as meat, fish, eggs, natural yoghurt, pulses, nuts or seeds etc.) and some healthy fats (such as a little olive oil or avocado). If I’m feeling hungry or have been active, I’ll include some minimally processed carbohydrates too (such as new potatoes, sweet potatoes, or whole grains like brown rice or oats). Then, I’ll add a pop of flavour – often chilli flakes, lemon zest and juice, black pepper, or other spices.”
3. We eat for our social and emotional health as well as our physical health
“Joy really matters when it comes to healthy eating, and indeed, healthy living in general. I feel that food is one of the most important simple pleasures in our lives, and is often incredibly important to our social and emotional health.
A really important part of the journey to finding a consistently healthy diet is therefore to find what we actually enjoy cooking and eating. Life’s too short to feel restricted or to ‘white knuckle’ our way through each day around food. Finding this joy requires a little experimentation and playfulness, trying new ingredients, new recipes and new ways of cooking and eating, until we find the way that works for us.”
4. It’s not always about the food
“Eating doesn’t happen in isolation. It is intimately linked to almost all other aspects of our lives and health, from work and family to sleep and activity. So sometimes, we need to focus on these other aspects first to enable us to work on our nutrition. And likewise, we want to avoid focusing so much on our food than we lose sight of the bigger picture, too.”
5. Think about seasonality and sustainability
“Our own health is inescapably linked to the health of our planet, food systems and soils. Increasingly, the importance of our food buying decisions and their impact on the environment are becoming clear. While this is a complex and multi-faceted topic, awareness is the first step to making conscious decisions. I therefore love to encourage seasonal eating, not only because it helps us to connect with the cycles of farming and growing, but it also enables us to buy more locally and to enjoy a greater variety of foods throughout the course of the year.”
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