Belfast Telegraph

The man who's breaking down the barriers to healthy eating

Nutritional chef Dale Pinnock shares his faff-free tips with Ella Walker

There are always nights, no matter how good or bad a cook you are, that you think, "Sod it, I'll order a pizza". Tackling the day-to-day hurdles that a lot of families come up against when they try to eat better, and providing a framework to do so is key to nutritional chef Dale Pinnock's latest cookbook and accompanying ITV series, Eat Shop Save.

"People want to eat better, but a lot have similar sticking points," he explains.

"They might be under very tight financial constraints, or they might work every hour that God sends and not get a chance to cook a family meal. Others may not have confidence in the kitchen or they might have fussy eaters at home."

Pinnock, known as the Medicinal Chef, became interested in nutrition as an acne-inflicted teen and is adamant that clarity is crucial if we're to turn around our eating habits and health concerns as a nation.

"The two big things I think should be taught in schools are the basics of nutrition and personal healthcare, and money management and wealth accumulation," he says.

"Those are the areas where people struggle the most; everyone's skint and everyone's overweight and feeling unwell - we need information."

He believes that nutrition is now an area that's become entangled with fashion and Instagram, leading to a worrying amount of "misinformation, contradiction, faddism and nonsense" - yet the facts are quite simple.

For instance, he says that, except for a tiny percentage which might be genetic in origin, type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease are essentially lifestyle conditions, which we can exert control over as individuals if we have the know-how to do it.

"There's always something you can do, whatever your situation, to actually improve eating habits," promises Pinnock.

Pinnock revealed his easy top tips for making small changes that'll have a positive impact on your health and your wallet...

Trade white for brown

Swap white bread for brown bread, white rice for brown rice, etc. You'll be bringing blood sugar down a lot, you're really reducing the potential dangers for cardiovascular health, you're improving digestive health, you're feeling fuller for longer, so you're feeling less inclined to snack and you've got more B-vitamins. You're ticking a lot of boxes with one simple thing.

Be aware of the type of oil you use

I always encourage people not to use vegetable oil and margarines. Keep away from them because they're very high in omega 6 fatty acids, which can cause problems when you look at patterns of cardiovascular disease. Instead, just use a little olive oil.

Find an opportunity at each meal to include something fresh

It doesn't mean you have to cook every single meal from scratch, but if you are eating a shop bought meal, have a big dense side salad with it. Maybe snack on some fresh fruit between meals, have some fresh berries with your breakfast - the fresh foods are where you find micronutrients, fibre and antioxidants.

Batch cook and bulk buy

If people are really, really pressed for time, if they have one day a week where they could do maybe three or four hours in the kitchen, we get them to cook some of their family favourites, but cook five or six times as much and then freeze in individual portions. It's there waiting for them when they get home from work and bulk buying dry ingredients can often work out a lot cheaper.

Shop around

A lot of people always shop at the same place and often their shopping list will be the same week in, week out. They might shop at a supermarket, but there could be an amazing market in their town. At markets, you can often buy carrier bags of fresh fruit and vegetables for a fragment of what you would at the supermarket.

Buy frozen

Frozen veg is great - nutritionally it's very good, and it's often frozen at source, so it's not being kept in storage for a long time. It tends to have a higher micronutrient density and it's also pre-cut, so that's less prep time. You can take out what you need and keep the rest for another day, cutting waste too.

Eat Shop Save by Dale Pinnock is published by Mitchell Beazley, priced £14.99

Nutty lemongrass chicken

Ingredients (serves 4):

1 red onion, sliced

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 sticks of lemon grass, bashed

1 green chilli, finely chopped

Olive oil

2 x 400ml cans of coconut milk

2 heaped tbsp peanut butter

1 tsp ground turmeric

4 chicken breasts, diced

2 large handfuls of baby spinach

Juice of 1 lime

Salt, to taste

Method:

1. In a pan, saute the onion, garlic, lemon grass and chilli in a little olive oil, along with a good pinch of salt, until the onion has softened.

2. Add the coconut milk, stir in the peanut butter and turmeric and simmer for around 10 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken and the flavour of the lemon grass really begins to penetrate the dish.

3. Add the diced chicken and continue to simmer for around 15 minutes until cooked through.

4. Add the spinach and allow it to wilt before squeezing in the lime juice. Serve.

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