Annabel Langbein: How my diet has changed for the better (+ recipes)
If you've noticed a bit of a healthy theme in the last few columns, it's partly because the arrival of spring has me craving fresher flavours and lighter meals, and also because I've been thinking a lot about what makes me feel healthy. It's made me realise how much my own style of eating has changed.
About three years ago, prompted by an unflattering comment from our teenage daughter regarding his middle-age spread, my husband Ted had a light-bulb moment and went into "my body is a temple" mode.
His new regime involved avoiding processed foods, or "barcodes", as he calls them, and eating mostly vegetables. Over a period of about 18 months he lost 15kg and his whole shape changed. His legs got skinny and his tummy disappeared. His body started to look younger. When we look back at photos of our parents and other men in the 1950s, he looked like them - lean and strong.
Slowly I started to take his cue. I'm not nearly as disciplined as my husband, and also I spend a lot of time in the kitchen trialling recipes and ideas, so I'm always tasting a huge variety of foods. But now that our fledglings have flown the nest and it's just the two of us at home, the way I cook has become much lighter. We eat a lot of vegetables, whether in salads, soups, stir-fries or stews, and often added into favourite recipes for an extra hit of vitamins, like the spinach and parsley I've added to my Green Goddess Hummus here.
This is no fad diet - we haven't cut out entire food groups - but we avoid overly processed foods and meat is portioned small and eaten maybe three or four times a week rather than every day. Yes, I've lost two or three kilos, but what I enjoy most is the energy that vegetables give me and knowing how many benefits they bring to health, not just in terms of vitamins and minerals and all those great phytochemicals, but also in terms of fibre.
Give your body the right fuel and you'll get the best performance. There's no sense of deprivation if you choose satisfying, tasty food that happens to be good for you, like the following recipes. I call it health by stealth.
Chickpeas and other cooked pulses make a great base for dips and spreads. With the addition of liquid, such as oil, water, lemon juice or yoghurt, they blend to a creamy texture. If you want to make this hummus even lighter, swap the olive oil for yoghurt. Get the recipe
Adding garlic and a little extra lemon to mayonnaise creates a rich, unctuous aioli, the perfect partner to a spring vegetable platter. Get the recipe
There's something wonderfully welcoming about shared platters. With all the fresh tastes of spring, this makes a fabulous shared starter, or you can turn it into a meal by adding hard-boiled eggs and/or some smoked salmon. Capsicum slices and halved cherry tomatoes also work well in summer. Get the recipe