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A home-cooked meal is a labor of love.

What nourishes you, food-wise, depends much more on you than on what's written in the papers!

When I started out on my own dietary journey, back in 2008, my then partner supported me by joining me on my dietary adventure. While I started to recover, he slowly started developing health issues. What works for one person, does not necessarily work for someone else: this is bio-individuality.

It all comes down to eating the foods that work for you, that nourish you. That a large part of your diet should consist of fruit and veg, is a well-known fact. But whether you prefer adding meat, or not, that depends on how it makes you feel. Needless to say that the more whole your food choices are, the better your overall health will be.

I love Michael Pollan's quote on this, although, nowadays, not everything that was made in a plant is actually bad...

"If it came from a plant, eat it;

if it was made in a plant, don't."

I get a lot of questions about what I eat and about how I manage to 'do' home cooking. Here are a few:

1. Do you cook everything from scratch?

No, I don't. I often buy canned beans, canned tomatoes, crackers, vegan spreads, etc., at the supermarket or the health food store. It saves time and energy, and I am kind of a lazy chef… However, I do pay attention to the ingredients, and try to avoid anything with added sugar. In addition, I stay away from fortified foods (with added vitamins, less fat, etc.): they often have a higher sodium, fat, and sugar content.

2. How do you find the time to do it?

My job makes it impossible for me to always have the time to cook, as I often see clients in the after-work hours. When I was living by myself, I learned to batch cook. And I still do from time to time. I buy loads of fresh fruit and veg, and turn them into pasta sauces, curries, chilis, soups, and other casseroles. I then divide them into portions, label them, and put them in the freezer. This saves both time and money.

Nowadays, I'm fortunate to have a partner who is a chef and who loves to cook. His food choices do differ from mine, but there is a lot of common ground. When he cooks, I adapt, and vice versa. Furthermore, putting a nourishing meal together is possible in under half an hour: there are lots of stir-fried dishes, salads, soups, etc., that don't take a lot of time to prepare.

It comes down to being organized in the kitchen. And, I find cooking to be a very relaxing and mindful thing to do: a labor of love, self-love.

3. Healthy food choices are expensive, aren't they?

They can be, yes, but they don't have to be.

Not every meal you put on the table has to be a marvelous three-course Ottolenghi creation. (For the record: I'm a huge fan of Yotam Ottolenghi, but I only dive into his cookbooks when we are having friends over.) In other words: keep it simple! Simple food made with good ingredients can be amazing! And if you buy local and seasonal ingredients, it doesn't even have to be expensive. (Batch-cooking helps as well.)

If you choose a plant-based lifestyle, you'll also see that not eating animal protein will make grocery shopping cheaper. Even though plant-based milks, etc., can be expensive. However, if you want to add meat to your diet, eat less of it and go for better quality meats.

Use as much of the vegetables as you can: keep onion peels and other raw veg leftovers in the freezer for vegetable stock, put the stem of the broccoli in your stir-fry, etc.

Last but not least, do not buy what you cannot consume: make a weekly menu and stick to it! (In other words: use a grocery shopping list.)

4. Do you still enjoy your meals?

I do. More than ever! Once you find a diet that suits your lifestyle, you haven't given up on joy. It's not about what I cannot eat; it's all about eating what makes me feel good. And when I eat what makes me feel good, I am a better version of myself. 

I've discovered vegetables that I didn't even know existed before I went plant-based. My choice to add on very moderate amounts of meat again, is because I did not feel as good without it. It also did not decrease my fruit and veg intake.

As a Belgian, two of my favorite things in life are our succulent chocolates and our flavorsome beers (what can I say...), and I haven't given up on those either, but I do make better choices on that level, and enjoy them with moderation. In fact, consuming less chocolate and beer, have only made me enjoy them more. They have become treats. Making healthy food choices has in no way decreased my joy in life. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite happened!

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