words by Sadie MacLeod
I have been lucky enough to grow up loving healthy food. This is largely down to my mother who would get to our local Waitrose as early in the day as possible to make sure that she was able to buy the organic produce before it ran out. This sort of behaviour may seem ridiculously unnecessary to most but to my mum buying and eating good organic food was the best possible thing she could do for herself and her children. Back then, Waitrose only had about four or five products that were organic. Needless to say meal times were a tad on the repetitive side at times. What she wasn’t able to source from Waitrose, she’d get from health food stores and my Aunt who grew organic vegetables at her home. Somewhere along the line, although I am sure I protested at first, all this enthusiasm for being healthy sunk in.
Being healthy and craving food that is good for you does not come so easily to many. We joke that my sister, Saskia, Food Editor of Hip & Healthy and who wrote most of the recipes in this cookbook, only lived on smiley potato faces and fish fingers, much to my motherís complete horror, for the early part of her life. But, as Saskia’s horizons broadened and it became obvious that she was going to commit her life to ballet, she too got bitten by the health food bug. Now, nearly everything she eats serves an awesome nutritional purpose, whether it be to promote healing, endure long hours on the stage or to build her strength, she has completely shifted her mindset. She has even gone vegan.
For the past few years now, the more we have all learned about the role nutrition plays in every aspect of our lives the more we want to learn and embrace it all. We have witnessed the extreme positive effects healthy food can have on health and the healing process. A friend of mine’s mother helped cure herself of breast cancer by adjusting her nutrition and juice fasting – my friend subsequently started her own juice cleanse company. Other side effects of a healthy diet include more energy, clearer skin, reduced risk of heart disease, improved digestion, happiness, the list is endless.
Another example where I have witnessed the positive effects of paying attention to ones diet is with myself. For many years as a late teen I suffered eczema, excruciating stomach cramps, spots, bloatedness and tiredness (not a sexy combination). I thought these were completely normal for any growing teenager apart from the tummy aches, which I just accepted as normal to me. However, when I started university everything got a little bit worse and a mild form of insomnia also crept in, just to add to the barrel of complaints. I was finding that I was going home every other weekend as that seemed to be the only way to feel better. My tummy aches would stop, I’d fall to sleep instantly and my energy was completely renewed. But because my symptoms prevailed the rest of the time I eventually went to my family doctor who told me I had been lactose intolerant as a baby and perhaps it had come back as that often happens in adults. At this point I was willing to do anything and so I cut out dairy completely. My mother had already declared herself a dairy-free zone, so she was able to teach me how to replace the dairy in my diet with lots of wonderful non-dairy alternatives.
What happened afterwards was nothing short of a miracle, all my symptoms cleared up, I lost a stone in weight (that I have never put back on), the tummy aches subsided, sleep was now back on the agenda and my skin cleared up. I quickly realised that I had, indeed, like so many others, become lactose intolerant again. And the reason my symptoms cleared up when I was at home was because there was no dairy at home.
Saskia, too, had eczema since she was born and for many years it caused her horrible discomfort – as soon as she embraced a non-dairy diet her eczema completely cleared. For those who are not familiar with this horrid skin condition, eczema is a chronic skin problem that causes dry, cracked and itchy skin. It is often found behind knees, near elbows and in the creases of arms. In my sister’s case, it was all over her neck. She once described it as her snood of eczema.
Dairy is often found as a common culprit when it comes to inflamed skin conditions such as this. I, and many others, also hold it responsible for a host of other ailments; tiredness, spots, an over- production of mucus, lowered immune system, IBS and even ageing. No other animal in the world drinks another animalís milk. So when people tell you dairy is a perfect food, you can say yes – if you’re a calf. In fact about 75% of the worldís population is unable to digest the sugar found only in milk products, lactose. This is called being lactose intolerant and you have a one in four chance that you are. Dairy creates inflammation in the body, clogs arteries and suffocates hearts. You will not find it in our kitchen or in this book. Dairy is officially off the menu.
But dairy is certainly not the only offender. The possible worst assassins are processed foods and sugar, all of which play a big part in making us sicker and sadder as a nation on the whole. First, lets address the processed food debacle. If it is boxed, bagged, canned, jarred and has an endless list of ingredients (many of which you have no idea what they are) you can almost be certain it is processed. You have got to be a little bit mad nowadays to eat a diet high in processed foods. Not only are they full of sugar and salt (to mask the taste of all those e-numbers and crappy ingredients) but they are also increasingly being linked to major life threatening diseases such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and many, many more. This is the same for sugar.
Until fairly recently it was thought that fat was responsible for making the population fat. But we are increasingly becoming aware of the evils of sugar. It has become a widely available drug that we get hooked on from birth, and is found in everything, hidden, disguised but ensuring that you come back for more and more, and making you fat, tired, and ill in the process. There are numerous studies available proving the terrible effect that sugar is having on us as all. As I write this, just this week two pieces of research have been published that illustrate sugarís effect on our weight-gaining nation. I am behind anyone that says that sugar should be taxed, monitored and, in some cases, banned altogether. But, as optimistic as I am, that is unlikely to happen any time soon, which is why we have to take our health into our own hands.
Which leads me to explaining a little bit about this cookbook. I wholeheartedly believe that healthy eating neednít be difficult. In fact there really never has been an easier time to embrace a healthy lifestyle. The recent emergence of healthy food sources is plentiful and frequent. Any food store that doesnít have at least a small range of organic foods or dairy- or gluten-free alternatives is now pretty rare. The excuses have run out – healthy eating is easier now than ever.
This cookbook is the culmination of the tried and tested recipes of my sister and I. We have been experimenting with wonderful healthy ingredients for years and through our diets and active lifestyles we have never been happier, healthier or even hipper than we are now. Although, we have a few friends that might argue the hipper element.
Lets get one thing straight, we certainly don’t make ourselves out to be culinary wizards – these dishes will not earn Michelin stars, however they will have you and your dinner companions gawping and amazed at how deliciously healthy they are. And, like many chefs, they are part of our lifeís work created for two purposes; to taste amazing and make you feel amazing. They are quick, easy and often involve an uncomplicated list of ingredients that you have heard of. Where there are ingredients that are a bit more obscure (but none the less easy to get hold of) we explain what they are and why we use them. Saskia and I lead busy lives. Suffice to say we wrote this cookbook whilst I was working full time at a magazine, editing Hip & Healthy, trying to maintain my fitness and still make time for friends and family. Whilst Saskia is on the road to becoming a professional ballerina where she trains for up to 8 hours a day! We know that healthy eating must be easy and effortless otherwise you wouldnít be able to do it. We know this because we wouldn’t be able to either.
Through “In the Hip & Healthy Kitchen” we are asking you to do something for you. You totally deserve it. Maybe you’ve downloaded this book, as you have no idea where to start when it comes to healthy eating. Maybe you are a vegan, wellness-warrior who canít remember what sugar tastes like and your looking for some fresh new ideas. This book caters for both. Our hope is that no matter what your nutritional background, ìIn The Hip & Healthy Kitchenî will inspire you to take charge of your nutritional future. After all – there really is no time like the present.