Feel like you’ve made a million meals over the past few months? Me too.
Having to cook three times a day, seven days a week is exhausting and relentless and often ends up with us ordering takeaways or heating up ready meals.
They’re loaded with fat, sugar and carbs and make us feel exhausted, bloated and lethargic — the last thing we need right now.
The key to keeping up a healthy eating regime is to prep — batch-cook meals and freeze them.
My recipes are easy and if you get ahead you won’t be tempted to stray. Not only will you be eating food with mood-boosting benefits, you will feel more in control and have more free time (HIIT class anyone?!)
Joe Wicks provides his tips on how to keep to a healthy eating regime along with a series of recipes
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Block out time to meal-plan. This will give you a longer-term view of what you’re eating, helping you to mix things up. Eating too much meat? Add a few veggie meals.
- Be inspired. Escape a recipe rut by flicking through cookery books. My new book, 30 Day Kick Start Plan, is packed with great ingredients like pak choi, quinoa and pomegranate molasses. If your local shop doesn’t stock something, find it online. See this as a chance to broaden your horizons (and break the monotony of lockdown.)
- Get the whole family involved. Enlisting the kids not only takes the pressure off you to come up with ideas, it helps them develop a healthy relationship with food.
- Plan as far ahead as you can. There is a 30-day meal planner in my book, to help you to stop serving the same thing every seven days. Variety is key to any healthy eating regime.
- Cut corners. If you find cooking multiple entire meals too much, think about the basics of recipes that you can cook, freeze then add to later. A tomato sauce, for example, could be used for cacciatore chicken or turkey meatballs with harissa spaghetti.
- Try a family cook-a-long. Choose a time to cook, get the kids off their screens and in their aprons. Get one peeling veg, another in charge of chopping. Make it fun, stick some upbeat music on and dance around the kitchen!
- Organise your freezer. Once they’re cooked and cooled, portion the meals up. Avoid freezer chaos by labelling things clearly — invest in some coloured tubs using red for meat dishes, green for veggie and blue for fish.
- Grab and go. Now all you have to do is decide which meals are best for which day based on that day’s exercise plan. Remember — low-carb if you’re not working out, higher-carb if you are. Pop them in the fridge to defrost overnight and enjoy a relaxed night’s sleep.
Curried cottage pie
- 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 2 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Knob fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp medium curry powder
- 1 x 400g tin green lentils, drained
- 1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
Melt 20g of the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Once melted, add the leek, carrots and celery plus a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes until the veg is soft.
Meanwhile, bring a kettle of water to the boil. Put the vegetable stock cube in a jug, pour in 150ml boiling water and whisk with a fork to dissolve.
Return to the saucepan and add the garlic and ginger. Cook for 1 minute more, sprinkle in the curry powder and cumin seeds, and spoon in the tomato puree. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes more, then tip in the drained green lentils and the vegetable stock.
Bring the pie mix to a simmer, turn down the heat to low and leave to gently bubble as you make the mash.
Pour the remaining water from the kettle into a saucepan and re-boil. Salt the water and drop in the cauliflower florets. Cook for 10 minutes until completely tender. Drain in a sieve and leave to steam for a while — this will prevent the mash from being watery.
Preheat the grill to high.
Tip the cauliflower into a food processor, add the remaining butter, season and blitz to a smooth mash. You can also use a stick blender.
Come back to your pie mix. Add the frozen peas and season to taste.
Once the peas have defrosted, spoon the filling into an ovenproof dish. Spread the mash on top, then grate over the cheese. Slide under the grill for 5 minutes or until bubbling and golden with a crispy top. Serve.
Prawn, lemongrass and coconut curry with mangetout
- 1 lemongrass stalk, tender white part only, roughly chopped
- 1 red chilli, halved — remove the seeds if you don’t like it hot
- Small piece ginger, peeled
Bring a kettle of water to the boil. Cut the coriander stalks away from the leaves. Put the stalks into a small food processor along with the lemongrass, garlic, chilli, ginger and 1 tablespoon of water.
Swap the prawns for firm tofu, cut into cubes, and dropped into curry with the mangetout.
Blitz to a finely chopped curry paste. Add a little more water if you need it.
Now, grab a jug, pour in 100ml boiling water then carefully drop in the creamed coconut.
Use a fork to whisk the two together into a coconut milk. Don’t worry if there are a few lumps remaining — they will dissolve in the saucepan.
Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over a high heat. Add the curry paste.
Cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes, then lower the heat and pour in the coconut milk. Bring to a simmer then drop in the mangetout and king prawns. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
The raw grey colour of the prawns will turn pink, which shows you they are cooked.
Take the pan off the heat. Squeeze in the lime juice and season with soy sauce to taste. Spoon the curry into a bowl and tear over the coriander leaves to serve.
Swap the prawns for firm tofu, cut into cubes, and dropped into the curry with the mangetout.
Black bean, quinoa and sweet potato chilli
- 1 tbsp chipotle paste, plus a little extra to serve
- 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
- 2 x 400g tins black beans, drained and rinsed
- 4 spoonfuls low-fat natural yoghurt
- Handful of coriander leaves
Chop 1½ red onions, finely slice the remaining half. Place the sliced half in a bowl for later.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into small chunks and finely chop the garlic.
Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan over a medium to high heat. Add the chopped onions along with a pinch of salt.
Cook, stirring regularly, for 5-6 minutes until soft. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute more then sprinkle in the ground cumin and oregano. Give everything a good mix, then drop in the sweet potato chunks. Spoon in the chipotle paste and stir.
Now tip in the chopped tomatoes, black beans and quinoa. Fill both of the cans from the chopped tomatoes with water and pour that in, too.
Bring the chilli to a boil, season well with salt and pepper then lower the heat to medium.
Leave to bubble away for 35 minutes, or until the sweet potato is soft, quinoa cooked and chilli thick.
Meanwhile, squeeze half a lime over the sliced red onion, sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Use your hands to scrunch the onion with the lime juice — this will encourage it to soften.
Leave to lightly pickle. Once you are happy with the chilli, serve up into bowls. Top each with a dollop of yoghurt and, for some extra heat, if you like, swirl through a little more chipotle paste.
Scatter over the quick-pickled red onions and tear over some coriander leaves.
Serve with the remaining lime, cut into wedges, for squeezing.
Cacciatore chicken with mixed olives and feta
- 200g skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into large, bite-sized pieces
- 2 roasted red peppers from a jar, drained
- Big splash balsamic vinegar
Place a frying pan over a high heat. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Pour the oil into the hot pan and add the chicken pieces. Fry for 4 minutes, turning occasionally until browned.
Meanwhile, finely slice the garlic and roughly chop the olives and red peppers. Return to the pan, lower the heat, add the sliced garlic and rosemary sprig. Cook for 1 minute, then pour in the red wine.
Bubble away for a couple of minutes, or until the wine has reduced by half, then pour in the passata and balsamic vinegar.
Add the sliced olives and peppers, give everything
A good mix then place a lid on the pan. Cook for about 6 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly and the chicken is cooked through.
Check by slicing into one of the larger pieces — the knife should cut through easily and the meat will have turned from pink to a whitish brown.
Pile the chicken cacciatore into a bowl and crumble over the feta to finish.
Beef cobbler with chive and horseradish dumplings
- 800g beef braising steak, cut into medium chunks
- 4 medium carrots, cut into large chunks
- 4 celery sticks, cut into large chunks
- 2 tbsp self-raising flour, plus 120g for the dumplings
- 1x 400g tin plum tomatoes
- 60g cold butter, cut into cubes
- 2 tbsp creamed horseradish
- Mash, to serve — optional
Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4.
Melt the coconut oil in a large shallow casserole dish or heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium to high heat. Season the meat all over with salt and pepper and fry in two batches until browned, then tip it all back into the pan.
Add the shallots, carrots, celery, garlic and bay leaves. Sprinkle over 2 tablespoons of self-raising flour and give everything a good mix.
Cook for 1-2 minutes, then tip in the ale, 400ml water and the tin of plum tomatoes.
Use the back of your wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes. Season everything with a generous pinch of salt and pepper, bring the stew to a boil.
Once boiling, place a lid on the pan and put in the oven. Cook for 2 hours, until the meat is pretty much falling apart.
Check by trying to shred a piece with two forks. Meanwhile, make the dumplings. Tip the remaining 120g of self-raising flour into a bowl. Dump in the cold butter,
then use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until it resembles sand. Using scissors, snip in the chives, spoon in the creamed horseradish and season with salt and pepper.
Pour in 2-4 tablespoons of water and mix together with a wooden spoon to create a thick dough. Add a little more water if you need it. Keep the dough, covered, in the fridge to rest for a while.
When the meat in the stew is nearly tender, flour your hands then roll the dumpling dough into 12 small balls.
Crank up the oven heat to 200c/fan 180c/gas 6. Place the dumplings on top of the stew, and return to the oven for 20 minutes, uncovered, until the dumplings are puffed up and golden.
I like to eat this with mash — proper comfort food.
Exercises to make you feel like a winner
Do each exercise for 40 seconds, rest for 20 then move on to the next. Do 3 rounds in total
A good HIIT session will get the heart-pumping, the happy hormones flowing and make you feel like a winner, so that’s what we’re doing today.
This is a fantastic 15-minute workout on its own or add tomorrow’s exercises to really push yourself.
It’s a bit more advanced and, if it’s too much, just reduce the number of rounds you do.
So kick the kids out of the lounge — or get them involved, too.
Remember exercise is more fun when you do it together — fancy dress optional on dress-up Fridays.
1. Squat jumps
Place your feet in a comfortable position that will allow you to squat down while keeping them firmly flat on the ground.
Sit low and drive through the heels to jump up. Repeat.
Place your feet in a comfortable position that will allow you to squat down and then jump
2. Lunge jumps
Start with both feet together, then step forward with one foot and bend both knees into a lunge.
Drive through your feet to jump straight into a lunge on the other side. Keep your back straight as you jump into each lunge.
Keep your back straight as you step forward with one foot and bend both knees into a lunge
Start standing, then place your hands on the floor in front of you. Quickly kick back your legs into a high plank, then lower your chest to the ground.
Push up, jump feet forward and leap into a standing position. Repeat as fast as you can.
Place both your hands on the floor in front of you and quickly kick back your legs into a high plank
Lower your chest to the ground and then push up off the ground, leaping into a standing position
4. Mountain climbers
Start in a high plank position. Look down towards your hands and keep your back flat.
Then drive your knees towards your chest as fast as possible one at a time.
Start in a high plank position and then drive your knees towards your chest as fast as possible one at a time
5. Up down plank
Start by holding yourself up in the push-up position and lower your body, one elbow at a time.
Then push yourself up to the start position with one hand at a time. Repeat as many times as you can.
Start this exercise by holding yourself up in the push-up position and lower your body
Push yourself up to the start position with one hand at a time and repeat the move as many times as you can
Power up your zzzzs
Poor-quality sleep or not enough sleep will affect your motivation to set goals, prepare healthy food and exercise.
I know how that feels. When my wife Rosie had Marley, our second baby, I truly felt the negative effects of sleep deprivation on my physical health for the first time.
In those early weeks I found it hard to train regularly and with the same intensity to remain lean, fit and emotionally strong. I always made the effort to do something, though, even if this was just a 20-minute power walk.
It’s no surprise that 90 per cent of people who suffer from depression also sleep badly. The link between sleep, exercise and depression is clear, which means it’s important to work on sleeping well in addition to fitness.
A good night’s sleep means you wake up refreshed, energised, and able to exercise effectively. You will also have the energy to prepare your own food so you don’t have to rely on processed meals.
Your mood will improve, you will be more patient and understanding — and more productive at work. Sleep really is the magic ingredient, after which all the other good stuff will follow.
Get into a good night-time routine. Turning off devices and winding down earlier in the evening can make a huge difference.
Explore apps which dim your phone or laptop screen at certain times in the evening to minimise blue light, give your eyes a rest and help you prepare for sleep.
Think about your sleeping environment too. Is it peaceful, relaxing and clutter free? Listening to guided meditations can help you drop off, too. Sweet dreams!
Extracted from 30 Day Kick Start Plan by Joe Wicks (Bluebird £18.99). © 2020 Joe Wicks. To order a copy for £14.81 go to www.mailshop. co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £15. Promotional price valid until 05/02/2021