Body & Fitness

Fresh wholefoods

If you’re anything like me, you keep promising yourself you’ll change your diet to include healthier food. But after a while, you find yourself slipping back into your bad old habits because you simply run out of ideas. Now, a Kiwi couple who have spent years developing delicious recipes using nutritious ingredients have put together a cookbook to help the rest of us get our acts together.


You know you should be eating lots of leafy green veges like spinach. You’ve read about how good lentils and cannellini beans are for you. You’d love to be able to tuck in to meals made with brown rice and bok choy and really enjoy them. But really, how are you meant to cook all these healthy foods? And aren’t they actually quite boring and bland?

Anna Wilde would beg to differ – in  fact, the Nelson mum-of-one argues quite vehemently that fresh, unprocessed foods can be so delicious that once you’ve tried them you won’t want to go back to eating processed meals. Not only will you feel much better as a result, you’ll really enjoy the taste of your food, she says. “It’s really just a matter of knowing what to do with healthy ingredients.”

That kind of knowledge is the specialty of Anna and her husband Roger. When the two got together seven years ago, they began what Anna describes as a “series of nutritional adventures”, which included adopting vegan and vegetarian diets for a while and learning to prepare foods in different ways. For example, they use a dehydrator to make tart cases from dried fruit and nuts. The filling is made of fruit and the topping is creamy puréed cashew nuts. The couple – who have a toddler son named Gabriel and are expecting their second child soon – both have a longstanding interest in food. Roger spent four years living in a Japanese Zen temple, where he worked in the kitchen.

Being unable to simply pop out to the supermarket meant he had to learn to be creative with the food grown in the temple garden. “He knows things like 50 ways to use Chinese cabbage,” laughs Anna. He later trained as a chef and worked in conventional restaurants. Now he’s employed as a private chef for a wealthy family in their home and on their yacht.

Anna has been a restaurant manager, whole foods cook, winemaker’s assistant and shiatsu practitioner. She learned to cook as a youngster and in her twenties became interested in the links between food and health. For a while she and Roger ran a healthy cooking school and, four years ago, the pair set up a website called www.wildhealthfood.com, which contains nutritional information as well as recipes. Now they’ve written a book called Real Fresh Food, which has lots of recipes using the health foods many of us know we should eat but don’t know how to  use.

“We want to just provide people with a bit of inspiration and give them recipes that are easy to follow and tasty. People get bored eating the same thing all the time but they don’t want to have to spend hours in the kitchen.”

The recipes are designed to be quick and easy, says Anna. “I’m totally about making things fast. I don’t like to be at the kitchen bench for more than 20 minutes.”

The key to not having to spend hours over a hot stove is being organised, she says. She plans meals for the week ahead – not necessarily deciding what will be eaten each day, but at least choosing the seven main meals she is going to serve throughout the week.

Anna often cooks big portions so there will be leftovers for the next day’s lunch and when she’s making dishes like pesto or hummus, she’ll make enough to freeze. She has found as well as making it easier to eat healthily, planning your meals saves money because you don’t buy “just in case” foods that may end up not being used.

“our shopping bill has gone down by at least $50 a week,” says Anna, who used to pride herself on being a spontaneous cook who could whip up a delicious meal from whatever happened to be in the fridge or pantry.

“Now that I’m a mum, I find it easier to be prepared.”

As well as including recipes such as balsamic roasted beetroot with goat’s cheese and rocket, braised soy ginger chicken and Greek lamb stew with quinoa, the book has lots of healthy tips, such as:

Freshly ground pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds are also good for breakfast – sprinkle on porridge or grains.

Slow-fermented sourdough bread is a good choice for sandwiches because it is easy to digest and helps your body to absorb vital minerals.

Eat good quality protein at every meal. It will give you sustained energy and help you to feel full.

Soak whole grains for several hours or overnight. They’ll be quicker to cook and will have a creamier texture.

Avoid using high temperatures to cook meat as charring meat on a barbecue or in a hot frying pan creates carcinogenic compounds. Use gentle cooking methods such as braising or stewing instead.

Try to eat more lean game  meats such as venison.

At breakfast time, moist foods such as Bircher muesli, fruit smoothies or soft -boiled eggs are ideal for easy digestion.

Use lots of spices like coriander and ginger. They taste great and are also very good for you. Coriander is a powerful detoxifier, acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps control blood sugar levels, while ginger improves digestion and circulation.

Another useful spice is cinnamon. Easily added to baking and desserts, it reduces cholesterol and triglyceride levels, making it good for the heart.

Use Xylitol, a low-calorie sweetener refined from vegetables, instead of sugar. It has a very low glycaemic rating and is good for your teeth because it inhibits the growth of decay-causing bacteria.

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