At The Foodie Bugle we read and follow the common sense teachings of Britain’s most acclaimed nutritionist and dietician, Jane Clarke. As a trained Cordon Bleu Chef she understands clearly the importance of providing sensible advice about what people can eat and enjoy across every stage of life, rather than just lecturing them about what to avoid. She lives by the holistic premise that food is there to nourish your whole life and not just the body. Since the publication of her new book “Nourish” published by Anova Books, we wanted to ask her how she came to write this work and to understand her nutrition and lifestyle philosophies better. The book is packed with really useful guidance across the challenges of all our lives, from fussy children who will not eat and teenagers that constantly graze, to the problems of the female menopause and old age: osteoporosis, heart disease, arthritis, dementia and cancer. We were really moved by her work, so we sent her a series of questions, and this is what she told us.
Question: Jane, when you first embarked on the “Nourish” book, what was the seminal idea which inspired you and what were you trying to put across to people? Why did you feel, after writing so many books and articles, that the ideas in the book were important, new and fresh?
Answer: The orginal idea which sparked the concept for the book came from realising that we are generally very poor in this country when it comes to nourishing people and looking after people when they’re not very well and older. For instance, if you are recovering from an operation or generally feeling below par and out of sorts, let alone when more serious conditions hit us, such as cancer and dementia, you need very specific and health enhancing nutrition. This is what I wanted to change. There is so much we can do to help anyone who is struggling with their health and to be able to provide an informative and beautiful book which inspires people is wonderful.
Q: We have seen great changes in the health of the nation: obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes are now more common than ever. If you could provide readers with advice on very small changes they could make to their everyday life in order to enjoy better health and lifestyles, what would you advise and why?
A: The first thing would be to ask ourselves why are we eating something, before we do so, as this provides us with so much insight into whether we’re eating because we are hungry and know this particular food will nourish us, or whether we are eating something for the sake of fulfilling an emotional need. The latter isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the more we focus in on eating when we are hungry and eating well, then the less likely we are to run into problems. I would also say look out for things which are labelled and sold as low fat, as so often they contain so much sugar which isn’t a good thing, and it’s generally the fat element of something which makes it satiating. A little of the good fat can be good for us and also the mentality behind eating something which is low fat can make us want to eat even more of it!
Always taste food before you add a little salt, if it’s needed and choose good sea salt, like Maldon – this is my favourite.
Try and live in the moment – it’s good to plan a little with food, to have nourishing things in the fridge, but try and concentrate, savour and enjoy your food as this all helps you to feel satiated and good.
Q: When you are at home with your daughter Maya how do you ensure you have a healthy diet when all around us are multi-media and advertising businesses promoting snack, sugary foods and drinks, salty foods etc to children?
A: I just ensure that we have a plentiful supply of things in, which we take with us if needs be. I’m also pretty adamant that we don’t nibble on things for the sake of it or just because others do. This is hard, but it’s important to hold your ground as much as you can as becoming overweight and unhealthy is not something we want for our children. I teach Maya about food and where its provenance, so that she knows what’s good for her. I do give her the odd treat so that she doesn’t feel isolated and left out from the other children. This is important too.
Q: Do you think that the fact that very few schools and very few parents teach the sourcing, preparation, cookery and growing of food are some of the reasons why the nation’s health has declined so dramatically in the last twenty years?
A: This is most definitely at the core of the problem and the more I can do to change this trend, the better! I think we’re heading for huge problems with our next adult generation if we don’t get food, cooking and eating in the home back on an even keel. The reason why so many young people struggle with obesity, eating disorders, anxiety over body image and mood swings, is that so many homes have become ready-meal reheating places rather than those where we sit together and communicate.
Q: Where do you shop for your food? When you are working in London and at home in Rutland are there particular farm shops, farmers’ markets and family owned businesses that you like to support?
A: I do a combination of an online supermarket delivery for my staples, so that I can then enjoy some home delivery companies such as Daylesford Organic and Natoora, as well as supporting our local farm shops and individual suppliers in the area. I’m also very lucky to grow the majority of our vegetables ourselves, which is the best of all and during the summer and autumn we also have a plentiful supply of apples and pears from our old fruit trees, which last well into the winter as we lay them down in the stores. We also have our own hens, so the supply of eggs is almost limitless and Maya adores them as her pets too!
Q: The organic debate rages on: we would all love to buy only organic food, but this recession has caused widespread financial insecurity and everyone is cutting back on food expenditure. What is your view, and do you think that as long as food is local and grown well it does not need a “label” to make it healthy?
A: I am a big supporter of the organic movement and think that if you’re buying something like a chicken, if you buy an organic one, the bird will cook much better and also last longer to make good left over dishes, so in the end it works out just as economical as the non-organic bird. I much prefer to support the organic poultry market too. I also feel that if you can generally source well, as locally and as fresh as possible, this is a great way to nourish yourself and keep within a comfortable budget.
Q: In middle age the problems start appearing; for women the menopause, cancer and osteoporosis are the main worries. Is there any nutritional and lifestyle advice that you can give to help our readers who find themselves at 40-45, and feel helpless?
A: I really would encourage everyone who is worried about their middle years to read the chapter in my book, as there is so much you can do to help protect your bones. I would recommend that you halt the weight creep and generally get your body into as good a place as possible, before the full on menopause hits.
Q: You look the pinnacle of good health and beauty, you clearly are the best advertisement for your writing. Your approach is very holistic, it does not just focus on diet, it also addresses simplicity, relaxation, the pleasure of food and enjoyment.
A: That is very kind of you to say that, but I’m by no means perfect. I’m just lucky that I love what I do and I have a gorgeous daughter who is well and incredibly loving, so the two of us nurture each other. Living in Rutland is perfect and a little peaceful haven for us. We should all take time to stop, look after our physical and mental health, think more about what and how we are eating and enjoy delicious food, sourced well and cooked with enjoyment. While searching for the words to introduce this, my eighth book, I came across two quotes which sum up my beliefs:
“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity” Voltaire
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Leonardo da Vinci.
Taking the time to enjoy a nutritious meal should be one of the most rewarding aspects of our later years. One of my favourite restaurants in Paris is Le Train Bleu, which is the most beautiful, ornate train restaurant at La Gare de Lyon. Elegant, mature Parisien women sit there in their finery, eating a small herb omelette accompanied by a green salad and a glass of wine. To me this epitomises how elegant life and eating can be if we know what our bodies need, treasure the ingredients and know how to find and prepare them. Every stage of life can embrace this philosophy, and I look forward to moving on to the next phase, knowing that I will still be able to enjoy food, and therefore, life.
Jane Clarke’s website: www.janeclarke.com
“Nourish” is published by Anova Books: www.anovabooks.com and is photographed by Howard Sooley.