I always used to enjoy cooking; trying new things out and producing a properly presented and tasty meal, but going on Weightwatchers (or Slimming World - pick your poison) killed that for me over time. Most recipes from normal books worked out too heavy on points to be allowed or even contemplated. The recipes suggested on those plans were, for the most part, underwhelming in some fashion - either they were tiny portions, or tasted artificial because of the substitutions made, or just tasted flat and empty because there was no fat in them. And then of course there was the fact that, over time, vegetables and even fruit came to seem like a punishment because they were basically all I could eat when I'd gone off plan and had to restrict heavily to feel like I was in control still.
At first, when I started a new plan, it felt like an adventure trying to figure out how to make normal recipes work but, after several years, it just felt like a burden.
For the first 2 years after giving up on dieting, I ate whatever I wanted. I ate macaroni cheese, takeaway, pizza - just reacquainting myself with everything that had been forbidden whilst I was away dieting. I also put on, at times on and off, about a stone during that time - just to be real with you about what leaving dieting and getting to grips with my emotional eating meant.
Finally, in 2017, I felt ready to start reintroducing healthy food on a regular basis and I started looking round for inspiration. I wanted simple meals, loads of flavour, balanced nutritionally, accessible.
I've found a few books that have been instrumental in finding my balance as well as joy in the kitchen again, and thought I'd share:
Lean in 15 by Joe Wicks- any of them. Hear me out on this! Yes - technically, these are part of an eating plan, but I do not follow that plan. I do however cook from these on a very regular basis as they are actually brilliant. Most meals are ready within 15-20 mins. The ingredients list is varied but also accessible - lots of reliance on store cupboard essentials and spices, lots of variety in the proteins used and a mix of traditional carbs (pasta, rice, potatoes, quinoa) and lower carb meals that are still highly satisfying and keep you full. The instructions are clear, the pictures are bright and the results are good - I've only found one or two I wasn't personally keen on. Also - most of the portions given are for one or two people, so you can easily scale up, but don't have to do the annoying calculations to try and scale down that often occur. I have the red and blue books, plus The Fat Loss Plan and will definitely be buying the others at some point.
I also dip in and out of Gizzi's Kitchen Magic by Gizzi Erskine and pretty much anything Mary Berry, as well as referencing BBC Good Food site often.
The thing these books all have in common is that they aren't overly "clean eating" - they're not vegan, or even specifically veggie, but they are all about making your food from scratch at home and knowing what's in it. I often batch cook now and started taking leftovers for lunches. I even make snacks to take to work with me, including energy balls, home-made hummus and little yoghurt pots. And I got comfortable with the idea of using protein powders to add oomph to my breakfasts which has massively helped break my snacking / sweet food addiction cycle.
Everything pictured here is something I've loved eating in the last 12 months and regularly cook again and again.
How do you feel about cooking?? Love it or hate it?