Easy recipes to improve your health – without giving up your favourite food

By Staff 10 Min Read

A team of experts have created a cookbook, revealing their 100 most popular recipes to help you get back to basics, choose real food and cook from scratch – and be healthier

NHS-backed healthy eating plan Second Nature has helped thousands achieve successful, sustained weight loss.

Now the team behind the programme has created a recipe book packed with satisfying, tasty meals to make in minutes. The idea of being healthy often triggers images of restriction, dieting, calorie counting, tough exercise regimes, and general doom and gloom.

However, years of research have shown the road to achieving good health doesn’t need to be hard, boring, or restrictive. Rewiring unhealthy eating habits and replacing them with good ones was the inspiration for Second Nature, set up in 2016 by two former NHS advisers, Mike Gibbs and Chris Edson, to tackle Britain’s obesity epidemic and rising rates of type 2 diabetes.

Now the team has created a cookbook, revealing their 100 most popular recipes to help you get back to basics, choose real food and cook from scratch. Best of all, the dishes are quick and simple, and developed by registered nutritionists and dieticians.

Despite every new fad promising us otherwise, there will never be one magic diet that helps everyone lose weight, stay disease-free and live to a ripe old age. However, after almost a decade of working with thousands of people to change their diet and lifestyle, Second Nature determined a few tried and tested principles that can be applied to any pattern of eating:

  • Reduce UPFs (ultra-processed foods) , refined carbohydrates and added sugar
  • Eat more whole foods, in particular more vegetables and protein
  • Don’t be afraid of fats that come from whole foods

Working with these principles has been proven to help people lose weight, lower their risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, and improve their relationship with food. They’re also sustainable to follow for the long run. Being on a health journey shouldn’t seem like an uphill battle or bring about feelings of guilt, shame, or restriction.

Healthy can still be simple, indulgent, filling, easy and sustainable for you and your family. When we count calories, it’s easy to reduce the foods we’re eating to numbers alone. But if we compare the following two food options based on calories, which is a better choice?

  • McDonald’s Cheeseburger – 263 calories
  • 1/2 avocado and a boiled egg on a slice of sourdough bread –301 calories

If we make a judgment based on calories, we’d choose the cheeseburger. However, if we judge based on the nutrients they’ll provide, the avocado and egg on toast is easily the better choice. It’s unprocessed, made from whole foods, and provides all the key macronutrients.

It’s true that consistently coming in under our daily calorie target will result in weight loss. But it becomes much easier to lose weight and keep it off if we’re focusing instead on the quality of our food choices. This is because eating 2,000 calories from whole foods will have a very different impact on our body compared to eating the same amount from ultra-processed foods.

When we base our diet on whole foods our blood sugar levels remain more stable throughout the day. This results in fewer mood swings, more energy and reduced food cravings. Whole foods are also more filling compared to UPFs, meaning we’re less likely to feel hungry between meals.

All of these factors combined make it much easier for us to continue making healthy choices. In essence, our willpower doesn’t get as much of a workout as it would if we’re battling hunger, cravings, low energy, and mood swings.

Fat has been the centre of debate within the field of nutrition science for many years. But we now know that fats are not only |OK to eat, they’re vital. Dietary fat is used in our body for a wide range of processes, such as building the walls of our cells, allowing our brain and nervous system to function, and producing a variety of hormones. As well as this, fats add flavour to food which increases our enjoyment and satisfaction after a meal.

Unsaturated fats are found in foods such as extra virgin olive oil, olives, rapeseed oil, avocados, oily fish, and nuts including almonds, brazil nuts, and walnuts. Saturated fats are primarily found in animal sources like meat, eggs, and dairy, but can also be found in some plant foods such as coconut oil. They have been the focus of debate for some time as it was previously thought that increasing saturated fat in the diet would raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

However, we now know that the relationship between saturated fat and heart disease isn’t clear cut and that saturated fats from whole or minimally processed foods like meat, eggs, yoghurt, butter, coconut oil, and cream form a healthy part of a balanced diet.

The overall quality of our diet is a better predictor of health compared to looking at a single nutrient, like fat. Eating a diet containing whole food sources of saturated and unsaturated fat won’t directly cause weight gain or negative health outcomes. However, overeating any type of food will.

Additionally, UPFs that are high in saturated fat, like pastries, cakes, crisps and fast foods are associated with negative health outcomes and have been engineered to override our brains’ satiety signals, making them easy to overeat.

Fat does have more energy per gram compared to carbohydrates and protein (9kcal/g vs 4kcal/g), but this is not necessarily the best way of evaluating nutrients, because not all calories are equal. Dietary fats are digested slowly, which means adding fats to your meals can help you feel fuller and more satisfied for longer.

Studies have also found low-fat diets don’t result in any more weight loss, or sustained weight loss, when compared to other eating plans because restricting fat in the diet is unsustainable in the long run. Besides, fat isn’t something we should be afraid of. Instead, it can form an ­important part of a healthy, balanced diet – when you know how to use it.

  • Make It Second Nature: 100 simple and indulgent recipes that will change the way you think about healthy food, is out now priced at £14.99 (shop.secondnature.io)

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