Over the last few years healthy eating has really grown in popularity, which has been wonderful to watch! It’s given me such a thrill to see people realise how good they feel when they eat foods that nourish their bodies. The best part of it all, though, is that everyone’s started to see how incredibly delicious healthy living can be.
Eating well is not about labels, guilt or enforcing a certain way of eating on yourself or anyone else. It’s so important to remember this, especially when you’re introducing your friends and family to this kind of food, as you don’t want them to feel to overwhelmed and daunted by the concept.
The way we eat is so personal to us, and we are all different. We have different bodies, different medical histories, different genes, different lifestyles and different tastes. I do believe that everyone is better off - both physically and mentally - with a diet full of fruit, veg, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, healthy grains, and less refined sugar and processed food… but, after that, you have to make your own decisions, and it’s OK if these are different to the choices made by your friends and family. Only you know what’s practical, enjoyable and sustainable for your lifestyle and, as with anything in life, the way you eat doesn’t fall into a one-size-fits-all bucket.
Healthy eating is about finding a way of eating that makes you happy. It’s about eating meals that make you feel your best - that might mean a crumbly blueberry square for breakfast, a lemony potato and butter bean salad for lunch… and then a pizza with wine for dinner with friends - and that’s totally OK. It’s your body and your life. Yes I want to encourage everyone to show their bodies some love and take good care of them, but I never ever want anyone to feel guilty because they’re not eating ‘perfectly’ all the time. Plus, there is no such thing as perfect – perfect is simply finding a balance that is right for you.
Putting yourself in a certain box with a certain label can be quite restrictive. You just shouldn’t feel that you’re not healthy if you’re not specifically raw, plant-based, paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, wheat-free or any of the rest of it. You can absolutely be a bit of everything, you just have to be honest with yourself and work out what makes you feel best… and that might be a happy mix of everything. Of course it can also mean following a certain concept, but please don’t feel as though it’s wrong if you don’t. Likewise, you shouldn’t expect anyone else you know and love to categorise themselves either. Don’t forget that healthy eating should never be prescriptive or restricting!
There's more sensible advice from Ella in Clean Eating: The Dirty Truth, with Dr Giles Yeo - watch it here or on SBS On Demand:
If you’re new to healthy eating, or trying to get friends and family involved, don’t be afraid to adapt any of my recipes to make them more accessible for your audience. If adding chicken, fish, cheese or eggs makes your friends and family more likely to try something new, then add them in by all means; if it makes them more receptive and allows them to enjoy the meal more, then that’s a great thing. It also means their plate will look more familiar, which I find is the best approach.
You don’t have to overhaul your diet overnight. There’s no rush or deadline for changing your lifestyle, it’s about finding an enjoyable, sustainable way of life that makes you happy and it really doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there! Start by focusing on positives and adding goodness in, rather than taking everything away. Add in new veggie dishes throughout the week, but don’t feel you have to remove the old favourites at the same time; just let the two coexist for a while as you get used to new ways of eating and cooking. Allow yourself and the people around you however long you and they need to start loving the new ingredients, textures and tastes.
When I first starting eating this way, about five years ago, my friends and family thought I was mad. They supported me with my diet change as I was so ill and they were willing to be enthusiastic about anything that I thought would help, but they had no idea what I would eat and they all thought it would be a pretty depressing culinary experience! I’m happy to say that I proved them wrong though: they all began to love it quite quickly and now these foods play a big part in their lives, too. There’s something very special about creating beautiful dishes for the people you love and enjoying them together.
This is an edited extract from Deliciously Ella With Friends by Ella Mills (Hachette Australia, $29.99). Ella Mills (Woodward) is the creator food blog Delicously Ella.
Cook with Ella
Whether you're whipping up something to share with a friend or just looking for a quick dinner, this recipe from Ella's new book will do the trick. This is a simplified version of the classic pho, which means you can have dinner on the table in around twenty minutes rather than leaving it to simmer for hours!
Perfect for cooler weather - eat from bowls on the sofa, while you cuddle under a blanket and watch a movie!
My favourite post-yoga or -gym dinner, quick to make and so energising after a big workout; the mix of quinoa, almond butter and hazelnuts is really filling, so you’ll feel replenished and satisfied.
Indulgent bites with an ever-so-slightly chewy texture inside and a crunchy outside.
From Ella's first book, Deliciously Ella. "This double-layered carrot cake with a creamy caramel-like icing is pretty special. One of the really nice things about it is that the sponge is very light so you feel incredibly energised after enjoying it," she says.