on Wednesday, 22 January 2014.

‘Common Sense Is Calculation Applied To Life’ Henri Frederic Amiel

We are now more than half way through January, so I have no intentions of suggesting unrealistic detox, diet plans or New Year Resolutions which simply can’t be kept.


I have always wondered why it is generally assumed that the festive period is a time for over indulging in food and alcohol.  Does it mean that we haven't had the 'best Christmas ever' unless we have consumed an excess of fatty foods and alcohol, thrown ourselves in front of the telly thereafter, like 'big lumps' and gorged on salty snacks and foil wrapped sweets?  I think many of us would beg to differ.

However, it is a new year, a clean page, a fresh start and I personally, feel  gifted with that renewed, ‘ anything is possible’ feeling. It is an opportunity  to make good choices for 2014 which are realistic, practical and achievable.

When it comes to food however, making ‘good choices’ is becoming more difficult. We know much more about the science behind what we eat than fifty years ago. However, nowadays, much of our food is highly processed.  It contains too much fat, sugar, salt and ‘numerous synthetic and chemical enhancers’. 

Personally, I believe ‘good choices’ with regards to the food we eat is not so much ‘everything in moderation’, as COMMON SENSE.

A few ideas which may help you on your way;






It is cheaper and healthier.  We can control the amount of fat sugar and salt that we put into our food and importantly, we can control the portion size.  It also introduces our children to good eating practices and will improve their knowledge of nutrition. Keep it simple, particularly during weekdays.  A fresh omelette with salad or freshly grilled fish and spring greens will always beat a processed meal heated in the microwave.



It is wiser to have a small number of reliable books that you actually cook from many times over (the type where certain pages are rather sticky and marked from use) than numerous unopened hardbacks which might look good on the shelf but are no earthly use.

I would not be without Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course.  It is full of easy to follow tasty recipes which actually work. I have cooked my way through Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes more than once or twice and I adore Giorgio Locatelli’s ‘Made In Italy’. ( Follow his technique for risotto and you will never go wrong again.) Michel Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche Cookbook will serve you well for weekend treats or entertaining. Ruth Watson’s ‘Fat Girl Slim’ written with common sense and great humour is a find if you are counting the calories.

I also enjoy foodie magazines such as GoodFood with ‘tried and tested’ recipes.  ( I can vouch for James Martin’s easy ‘Friday Night Feast’, page 74 of Feb issue) or Delicious who, like GF, reflect a belief in eating and cooking seasonally.  As an added bonus, their magazine is published on the same month as the date of the cover!



Read the labels on packaged foods and be careful of hidden saturated fats, sugars and salt.  Read the ingredients list as well as the nutritional information.  The ingredients are listed in descending order of their weight which can be helpful in recognising that whilst a product may be declared ‘low fat’, it is high in sugar.



-  Eat seasonal fresh food where possible.

-  Try to eat  a minimum of 5 varied fruit and vegetables each day. ( Potatoes however do not count as they largely contribute starch to the diet)                  

-  Make the extra time to eat a nourishing breakfast in the morning.

-  Ensure you drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.

-  Eat less refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and rice and replace them with brown wholegrain equivalents.  

-  Think about your food intake. Consuming a few too many calories every day will build up quite quickly over a short period of time

- if you are non-vegetarian try having a couple of nights ‘meat free’ every week.  As well as being good for your health, this may also allow you to spend a little more on meat from animals which have been responsibly reared. (Isabel Oakeshott has written a compelling article in The Sunday Times, 19th January, ‘Farmageddon, addressing the issues of ‘ intensification’ of farming.)  

- Monitor alcohol content and be HONEST with yourself.

-  Stay active.



There is no need to miss out on your favourite meals, just think about how you prepare them.  Make a conscious effort to use less oil and experiment with reducing the amount of sugar when baking. Reduce salt and replace with other flavour enhancers such as herbs and spices.  Chilli fllakes will spice up a stir fry or try star anise with pork or beef.  Avoid peeling vegetables if you don’t have to as this will prevent the loss of water soluble vitamins as well as fibre.


‘Things can be so different when we choose to support our body, rather than harm or stress it……'

Evita Ochel



It is a challenge to adapt our eating habits, but it is most definitely worthwhile. Make ‘Common Sense Choices’ your new habit for 2014 and reap the benefits for many years to come.  Think of it as an early Christmas present to yourself!