As my mother so eloquently said it this afternoon when I was complaining of muscle soreness, I’ve never been super unhealthy, but I’ve definitely stepped up my health game since moving to Sydney in July 2014. She’s not wrong. In 18 months I’ve gone from someone who scoffed at the suggestion of squats and protein shakes to someone who in fact actively encourages both of those on a regular basis. The truth is, and I’m sure many of you will agree with me, that I feel better when I’m taking care of myself. This sounds vaguely reminiscent of a TV ad, and for that I’m sorry, but if the shoe (read: Nike) fits.
In 2013, the Australians health and weight-loss industry was worth around $6.6 billion; three years on, I can only assume that figure has remained constant or increased. (I highly doubt it has decreased, but please correct me if I’m wrong.) The first stage in any health kick is to feel cripplingly intimidated by #fitspo accounts on Instagram, and if you can overcome this to progress to the second stage, you will be tackling the veritable minefield that is the health and weight-loss industry. You’ll be looking for help and guidance from an industry that thrives on making people (sadly, mostly women) live in a constant state of unhappiness within themselves. There’s always something wrong with you, and there’s always a new diet or pill or meal replacement to help you become a better version of yourself.
It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. I feel overwhelmed on an almost daily basis. I am, however, working my way through the information glut and I’ve found some brilliant resources that have changed my life along the way. I have a select few apps and online resources that I love, but my favourite resources are, surprise, books. Here are my favourite six. (And no, I don’t know why I picked six.)
Deliciously Ella by Ella Woodward. Ella was one of the first #fitspo accounts I followed on Instagram, and her focus has always been on food that is full of goodness and nourishment. Her first cookbook was a must-buy for me, not only for its easy and tasty recipes but also for its stunning photography. On the odd occasion some of the ingredients are hard to locate (Ella is based in the UK), but for the most part the food is hearty and, for lack of a better word, delicious.
Go-to recipes: Creamy coconut porridge (p57), Almond and chia balls (p72), Chickpea and coconut curry (120).
That Sugar Book by Damon Gameau. I’m evangelical about this book and the corresponding documentary, That Sugar Film. Last March I was fortunate enough to see the film at a Q&A event with Damon, and I’ve been hooked on a reduced-sugar lifestyle ever since. I don’t know if I’ll ever cut sugar our entirely, but Damon’s recipes are so full of protein and good carbs that reducing sugar doesn’t feel like deprivation at all. Along with recipes, the book also expands on the content covered in the documentary. I simply adore this book.
Go-to recipes: Vegetarian omelette with basil pesto (p162), Egg cupcakes (p180), Pumpkin and chickpea coconut curry (p196), The naked shepherd (p206).
The Healthy Life by Jessica Sepel. This is the first of the books on this list that goes beyond recipes and anti-sugar science to look at lifestyle elements other than food that help to make up good health. Jessica, a nutritionist and health blogger, goes into beauty secrets, exercise tips, and her advice for dealing with stress and health ailments. Her fridge and pantry essentials checklist (pp122-127) is an invaluable resource and is incredibly comprehensive. She also includes cheat sheets to make your own staple recipes like smoothies (p132), pancakes (p142), porridge (p150), and stir-fry (p210), so you can be creative with ingredients and choose flavours that you enjoy.
Go-to recipes: Bircher muesli (p146), Herb-crusted roast chicken (p189), Cauliflower pizza (p203), Chocolate cinnamon thickshake (p302).
The Healthy Cookbook by Lola Berry. I love both of Lola’s older books (this and The 20:20 Cookbook), but I find this one slightly more useful. Plus, it’s a visually stunning book! Lola adds healthy lifestyle advice between big groups of recipes, but the focus is most definitely on the food here. Fun fact: the zucchini pasta recipe listed below has, with a couple of slight tweaks, become one of my weekly staples. I don’t remember life without this recipe in it, and quite frankly I don’t want to.
Go-to recipes: Mint and green apple pancakes (p39), Cookie dough cake batter smoothie (p57), Sweet potato gnocchi (p106), Zucchini pasta with chicken and pesto (p148).
You Beauty! by Tiffiny Hall. I’m a huge fan of Tiffiny’s, and this book is my favourite of hers. It couples a beautifully designed lifestyle section that covers a range of topics including self-esteem makeovers, stress, sleep, exercise, and nutrition, before leading into a brilliant recipe section with easy to prepare and deadset delicious meals. If your lifestyle needs a complete overhaul, this is the perfect book. I genuinely wish it had been written five years ago; it would have saved me a lot of grief!
Go-to recipes: Mushrooms and coriander on toast (p95), Roasted vegetable and couscous salad — the best salad ever (p103), Asian noodle and veggie soup (p109), Beef pies with sweet potato topping (p110), Apple and rhubarb crumble (p115).
Delicious Feel Good Food by Valli Little. After a major personal health scare, Valli overhauled her diet entirely to adopt a far healthier lifestyle. With Valli’s background in food, her aim with this cookbook was to create healthier versions of meals people love, and it’s a fantastic resource. Some of the meals are more time-consuming than recipes in other books I’ve mentioned, but the food is very tasty and the recipes are written in such a way that more often than not there are leftovers (perfect for lunch the next day).
Go-to recipes: Avocado toast five ways (p34), Quinoa-crumbed chicken schnitzel (p95), Thai prawn and noodle soup (p98), Moroccan lentil soup (p102), Thai red curry (p115).