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Me and my health: Jilly Dougan on her lifestyle


Garden fresh: Jilly Dougan is passionate about growing her own food
Garden fresh: Jilly Dougan is passionate about growing her own food
Garden fresh: Jilly Dougan is passionate about growing her own food

By Staff Reporter

The 49-year-old gardener, author and SuperValu's innovation ambassador, lives near Gilford with her husband, Simon, two dogs, Connie and Peachy, two hens, and three hives full of bees (about 150,000 bees in total). Jilly is passionate about growing her own food and about teaching children where their food comes from and how it has been produced to help them make smarter choices. She believes that introducing children to fresh fruits and vegetables at a young age is a fundamental first step towards developing healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime

Q: Do you take regular exercise and if so, what?

A: I realise the importance of exercise as part of staying healthy, but I'm usually time poor and don't get to do as much as I'd like to or should. However, I do a yoga class once a week with an excellent teacher and a great bunch of friends and otherwise I rely on gardening to keep me fit(ish). I am often outdoors though due to my passion for gardening, so that certainly helps.

Q: What's the worst illness you have had?

A: Nothing major thankfully, which is hopefully down to my healthy diet. I have had my appendix, tonsils and wisdom teeth out and two fractured ankles (separately). So it hasn't all been plain sailing.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: I'm passionate about growing my own food, so I reckon my diet is fairly healthy. I prefer all natural foods and I don't buy processed or ultra-processed foods. Lots of veg, greens, salad, real dairy products like butter, milk, cream. Real food, freshly cooked.

In our house for dinner from spring through to autumn we usually have a great big bowl of salad leaves with nuts, seeds, lots of soft herbs like fennel, parsley, chives, garlic chives, coriander, tomatoes, cucumber, raw sliced mange tout, beetroot etc. Basically whatever's growing or ripe.

We'll add some protein such as roasted chicken, pork belly, rib-eye steak, duck confit or good local cheese and mix it all up with a homemade dressing.

We love Asian flavours too, so the trinity of fresh garlic, ginger, chilli features a lot.

I still get really excited by the freshness and flavour that comes from something that's just been picked, that is something we can't buy. I would encourage everyone to grow a tiny bit of something they can eat. Whether that's herbs in pots, pea shoots, salad leaves, an apple tree in the garden or simply pots and tubs on window sills, we can all have our own little edible garden.

I see all the time that children who are deemed fussy eaters will definitely eat produce that they have tended, grown and picked.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: I love good dairy ice cream, though I'm not sure that it's a particularly bad habit. We have lots of fantastic local producers of ice cream - Glastry Farm, Drayne's Farm, Morellis, Mauds, Mullins, so sure I'm only helping the local dairy industry!

Also, my husband says I'm very untidy - but there are studies that suggest untidy people are very intelligent, so I don't mind the charge.

Q: Do you drink and/or smoke - if so, how much?

A: I used to smoke, but gave up over two years ago. I do enjoy a drink (wine or craft cider) but probably usually stay below my weekly unit allowance except on a big night out, which as I get older only happens four or five times a year.

Q: Do you take any health supplements?

A: Not regularly - Vitamin C if I feel a cold or flu coming on and Vitamin D in wintertime because I really miss the sun.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: Really well - I could sleep on a knife-edge.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: Not really - life's a journey and there's no point spending it worrying about it ending.

Q: What is your go-to product/habit that keeps you feeling healthy?

A: Gardening and being outside in nature generally. I think that people's mental and physical health are always improved by being in green spaces, especially children.

I'm a great believer in natural yoghurt and proper smelly cheese for gut health; natural raw honey in everything and Longmeadow cider vinegar, which is also great in salad dressings. I think that natural and clean foods fuel our bodies in the right way.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: Time out always seems like a rare commodity! If I'm at home I always seem to be poking about in the garden, where there are endless jobs to be done; I like to read, meet friends, have dinner, go on an odd holiday - somewhere warm with great food like Spain, Italy or France.

For more information on SuperValu's innovative work and to see Jilly's recipes, visit

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