Having a healthy diet can have a big impact on our wellbeing, especially in these difficult times when our eating habits may have been affected by the coronavirus lockdown. We catch up with Lisa Fearn, TV cook and owner of Y Sied and Pumpkin Patch Cookery School, to see how a healthy diet can impact physical and mental health.
How important is a healthy diet for your physical health?
I live a busy life so it’s essential for me to stay fit and healthy. Food and exercise plays an important role in this. I eat most things in moderation. What we eat affects how we look and feel. We all need a range of different foods in our diet if we want be healthy and have good skin, strong bones and bright, healthy eyes.
I often tell people to ‘eat a rainbow of colours’; it’s a simple way to ensure that you have a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet, which will get you the vitamins and minerals you need.
Can healthy eating also affect your mental health?
I try to make sure I have a good amount of fruit and vegetables every day. If you feel good about your diet, it can often put you in a happy mood, so food can play a very important role.
It’s now known that certain foods affect our mental health. “A very large body of evidence now exists that suggests diet is as important to mental health as it is to physical health,” says Felice Jacka, president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research. “A healthy diet is protective and an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression and anxiety.”
What advice do you have for people looking to change their diets and want to do it without spending too much money?
Start with simple things such as changing from white bread to brown or wholemeal bread. Use brown, unprocessed foods whenever you can; for example, try using brown rice and pasta, and add lots of fruit and vegetables into your meals.
It’s okay to use frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables, they contain just as much goodness as the fresh equivalents. It’s important to avoid sweet and sugary snacks like cakes and sweets, so try snacking on healthier wholegrain bars. Remember that just because it has a healthy looking packet, it can also contain lots of sugar and fat!
Here’s an exclusive recipe from Lisa which is healthy and easy to prepare!
• 100g smoked lardons or bacon pieces
• 2 carrots, roughly chopped • 2 sticks celery, sliced
• 1 onion, roughly chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, crushed
• 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
• 1 tsp dried thyme
• 1 tbsp tomato purée
• 400g can chopped plum tomatoes
• 1 litre chicken stock 50g
• Spaghetti or other pasta (short lengths)
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 25g parmesan or similar hard cheese, grated
Put a frying pan over a low heat, add the bacon and cook for 10 minutes. Transfer onto a plate. Tip the carrots, celery and onion into the bacon fat and fry for two minutes before adding the garlic, herbs and tomato purée. Cook for a minute, add the tomatoes and most of the stock. Bring to the boil. Cover with the lid, then cook until the vegetables are tender. Stir the beans and pasta into the soup, adding the rest of the stock if it looks too thick. Cook for 20 minutes until the pasta is tender. Season to taste with salt and black pepper and add your parmesan.