Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year, New You (and me)

New year, new you. It’s a familiar mantra at this time of year, and like the rest of the population, I find myself getting sucked into the idea of making changes and my head gets filled with all the things I should be doing.

However, this January, I’m swapping ‘should’ for ‘want to’. (My husband would argue that I have been doing this for quite some time already. What does he know?)

Anyone who knows me knows that I am mildly incredibly obsessed by health, nutrition and fitness. I run races with myself for God’s sake. I avidly read all the latest health research. I take photographs of virtually every shake, salad and veggie dish I concoct and post them shamelessly on Instagram as if I am Deliciously Ella. I even trick my daughters into eating gluten free cakes while pretending I have run out of spelt flour. Sick, I know.

Many people from all over the world contact me to talk about nutrition so it feels like a natural progression that this blog, which I started in 2008, should morph into a food/health/fitness story. I can share all the tasty recipes I have spent hours creating, as well as any other amazing discoveries that I want to tell the world about, be they health spas, exciting new ingredients, books or just all round great products which make you look good and feel even better. After all, we all need a helping hand and some encouragement to be the very best we can be (okay I’m stopping with the therapy speak now.)

Living in the South of France is like being based in the middle of a beautiful open air gym - it simply abounds with hiking and running trails (even if they are all hilly), beautiful coves where you can swim or paddle board year-round, and of course the local ski resorts (sadly sparsely covered in fake snow at the moment but that should change soon.)

It’s easy to be healthy here with so much locally grown fresh fruit, vegetables and Mediterranean peche du jour freely available…but it’s also very tempting to stray into Pain, Vin et Boursin territory too. I should know, I have spent the last three weeks swigging Champagne and Prosecco at pre and post Xmas parties and eating my own bodyweight in delicious, saucy, fattening home made pasta dishes and over ripe cheeses in glorious Italia (when in Rome etc, except I was in Tuscany.)

So while I have no intention of going all holier than thou on you and permanently giving up the marvellous Provence rose, fabulous Seniz Champagne (how could I, when the Seniz family thoughtfully vacated their chateau up north to relocate a 10-minute drive from my house) scrummy moules frites or my guilty pleasure, a plate of fully loaded nachos, I will be sharing some hopefully cool new ideas on how to make 2016 the best and healthiest year of your life so far. A big boast, let’s see if I can live up to it.

As I write this, I am midway through a five-day Happy New Year detox with two UK friends who very sweetly asked me to act as their guru. So far, so good, we’re all a bit hungry (nothing wrong with that) but we are making each other laugh on Messenger and have already lost the Noel bloat (Christmas, not Edmonds, although he might want to join us) and are feeling energised and full of beans. I think the lentils and chick peas obviously help here.

So, my top tips for a healthy start to 2016 are:

• Begin each day with a large mug of hot (not boiling) water, fresh lemon juice and a dash of cayenne. It’s brushing your teeth for your stomach, as my lovely nutritionist Simone always told me.
• Start reading Guilia Enders’ brilliant bestseller Gut, for an up close and no holds barred look at the workings of perhaps our most versatile organ.
• I happen to like exercise but no-one needs to sweat it out for an hour or two at the gym. Half an hour of brisk walking five days a week or seven (days, not minutes) is better. Walk the dog, swim, do some yoga, whatever floats your boat.
• If you want shiny hair, clearer skin and more energy, drink a super greens smoothie or juice every day.
• Take turmeric tablets. I have been adding turmeric to soups, curries and casseroles for years but the capsules are even easier. It’s a known anti-inflammatory and one of the true superfood ingredients.
• Add fresh herbs to as many dishes as possible. Make mint tea with fresh mint leaves, not a tea bag.
• Swap your morning coffee or English Breakfast tea for green tea. In fact, if you do just one thing on this list, make it this one.

It’s great to have you on this journey. I’m off to demolish a bowl of curried parsnip soup….the recipe is below.

Curried Parsnip Soup

Three parsnips, peeled and chopped into batons
Two garlic cloves, chopped
1 litre organic vegetable stock 
I heaped teaspoon curry powder
I heaped teaspoon turmeric (or fresh chopped turmeric root)
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley to serve

Place the parsnips in the stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in the spices and leave to cook for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, then blitz in the blender and reheat gently adding seasoning to taste and chopped parsley.