A Proper Meal

Wholefood nutrition with Jude Blereau

Wholefood nutrition with Jude Blereau

Way back in February (my goodness that seems like a lifetime ago) I promised to carry on about the concept of a "proper meal" this year, and it's taken me until now. But it's important, very important. So what exactly is a proper meal?

First, a proper meal should satisfy the primary fuel needs of your cells - it must be nutrient dense, and secondly, a proper meal should satisfy your soul - it must be delicious. It must meet your need to stop and relax, to find a space of joy in the day.

One without the other is not going to nourish. This is the important bit - if you want to achieve all the things you want to do, build, create, or be the kind of full glowing person you wish for yourself, you will need to be nourished. If you want to be less tired and able to cope a bit more you will need to be nourished.

In our very busy lives it is very tempting and easy to take shortcuts, but I promise you, you will pay for it at some point. Snacking doesn't cut it. A snack should be something that keeps us going between good, nutrient dense meals - namely, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Many people exist on snacking - and coffee. Like children going nuts and crazy, it's going to end up in tears at some point (that's when you pay for it).

But, while it's so important to put some thought into every meal, I truly know how, when the going gets tough and one's head gets a tad fried, things like that fly out the door. So, we need, at the very least, to make sure we have a proper meal at the end of the day.

Imagine these two scenarios - coming home after a busy day (either from working, or with children) and taking a frozen commercial meal from the freezer and eating it, or having a home cooked meal that tastes delicious. Very different things and in imagining yourself in those scenarios, I bet you could feel the difference. That frozen commercial meal will fill you up, certainly. But does it leave you nourished? Feeling good in body and soul? It may well have some nutritional value - some nutrients are improved by freezing, some diminished. I can't tell you how many people (women especially) I see who exist on these frozen commercial meals.

If you can manage, please try and create a simple eating plan for yourself and your family over the week and, where possible, try and eat food as fresh as possible over frozen. Not that I'm against frozen homemade food, just not everyday. From an Ayurvedic point of view, frozen food has no lifeforce and I do notice a big difference in myself and my clients when they eat less frozen food.

It matters also what that meal is; there is certainly a place for a simple pasta meal, but that proper meal, on average, is going to be more than a couple of food groups. It can also include dessert - shock horror - and, indeed, I think we need to consider a proper meal is more than what is presented on just one plate - it may actually run over two to three courses. A typical French meal consists of a few courses, including a salad, and dessert (and often cheese), as does many an Italian meal.

There is something very satisfying about having a range of foods as part of the whole meal; this may simply be a main and a wholesome dessert, or soup/ bread and stew. Dessert isn't mandatory, but consider that for many, a little bit of something delicious does meet a need. I see many clients who deny that aspect of life on the premise that dessert is not healthy (or they will get fat) and then hit chocolate later in the night, or cheese, or yoghurt. I can assure you, it is not the dessert (or fat) that is going to make you fat, but an overall eating pattern. Hence a whole book written on French women who don't get fat.

Please don't think I'm suggesting you spend hours in the kitchen either - but realistically, it's not going to be quite the 30 minutes that Jamie Oliver manages it in. But often, the cooking part doesn't require much of your actual time, and they are the meals to go for - those dishes where you get them started, then leave them to do their thing. What I am suggesting though, and encouraging, is that you spend a small amount of time planning your evening meals for the week. Choose something that excites you and you look forward to sitting down and eating and feeling satisfied. Allow yourself to have a small amount of dessert if you'd like.

This fish pie is wonderful served with a salad, and a great proper meal. It's one of the easiest and quickest of meals to put together - yes, a little rich, but it's getting cooler, so this is the time for it. And dessert for the starving masses? I'd head to my favourite Apple Brown Betty.

Read Jude Blereau's recipe for Fish Pie in our Recipes archive.