How to eat more consciously in 2021

Concerned about meat consumption? Your health? The health of the planet? These cookbooks might provide some direction, says Ella Walker.
How to eat more consciously in 2021

Annie Bell. Picture: Nassimer Rothacker/PA.

JANUARY gets a bad rep. A month of enforced abstinence, chocolate avoidance and down-to-the-bone cold, compare it to May or August – months of sunshine and Bank Holidays, asparagus and strawberries – and you might as well strike out the first 31 days of the year entirely.

And yet, January 2021 carries with it a sliver of hopefulness, a soupçon of positivity (please let it not be crushed…). So while most of what’s going on is largely out of our hands, it is within our power to approach the new year with pragmatism, optimism, and an arsenal of cookbooks to nourish us beyond just dinner.

So, scrap the food denial, and consider tackling your concerns around your meat consumption, health, or impact on the planet, and get reading one (or all) of these. Here are three cookbooks to peruse and cook from if in 2021 you want to be… 

More conscious of the planet…

Eat To Save The Planet by Annie Bell (One Boat)

Who is Annie Bell?

Annie Bell is a chef, food writer and nutritionist. The former Vogue columnist has written a slew of cookbooks following her “modern rustic feel”.

Eat To Save The Planet by Annie Bell. 
Eat To Save The Planet by Annie Bell. 

What’s the book hoping to help you achieve?

With a title like Eat To Save The Planet, the aim is straightforward, bold, and admittedly a little overwhelming. However, as Bell quickly makes clear, the aim is not to terrify, but to help us all tool up in the fight to protect the environment, in a way that involves us eating healthily and sustainably.

Her answer is the Planetary Health Diet, which recommends “how much of each food group we should eat”. She calls it a way of eating that goes “beyond good nutrition, that treats our health and the environment as a common agenda. It tells us how we should eat not only to maximise our own good health, but also to halt the steady degradation of the planet at the same time.”

What are the recipes like?

While plants make up the bulk of the collection (there are strong Mediterranean diet vibes), this is not a veggie/vegan cookbook.

Instead, writes Bell, “meat, fish and poultry are to be savoured as a treat, a luxury to be spun out with other ingredients.”

Cutting food waste and making the most of everything we have in the fridge is also paramount, she explains, hence her ‘riches from the rubble soup’ which will clear out any leftovers. She dedicates a whole chapter to ‘one egg’ dishes (the Planetary Health Diet suggests a 13g serving of egg per week, per person), like leek and Emmental scrambled eggs, while there’s many a stew and curry to linger over (scallop tikka sounds particularly good) and all-in-one roasts and pies (the Irish stew pie is very intriguing).

The Fitness Chef: Still Tasty by Graeme Tomlinson (Ebury Press, 16.99).
The Fitness Chef: Still Tasty by Graeme Tomlinson (Ebury Press, 16.99).

More conscious of your health…

The Fitness Chef: Still Tasty by Graeme Tomlinson (Edbury Press)

Who is Graeme Tomlinson?

Otherwise known as The Fitness Chef, Graeme Tomlinson is famed on Instagram for his “myth-busting nutrition infographics”.

What’s the book hoping to help you achieve?

It’s trying to steer us away from traditional, “confusing” and “forbidding” diet books, in favour of education, finding nutritional balance, and reducing the numbers of calories in your favourite foods so you can eat them regularly but still reach your weight, fitness and health targets.

What are the recipes like?

Surprisingly fun for a cookbook called Still Tasty. There are full-on fry-ups, a towering sausage and bacon breakfast roll, and salted caramel porridge for breakfast, myriad cheese toasties for mains, alongside a coronation chicken baked potato, and pizzas galore, as well as cheesecake and tiramisu for dessert. It’s all rather decadent, despite being slimmed down on the calorie front.

 Niki Webster. Picture: Andrew Smart/PA
 Niki Webster. Picture: Andrew Smart/PA

More conscious of your animal product consumption… 

Be More Vegan by Niki Webster (Welbeck Publishing)

Who is Niki Webster?

Niki Webster – who has never really liked meat – is a plant-based food writer and author, who has been sharing recipes on her blog Rebel Recipes since 2015.

What’s the book hoping to help you achieve?

There’s nothing militant about Webster, Be More Vegan is presented as a gentle guide to help ease you into a life of veganism is increasingly of interest to you – even if going vegan just one day a week is something you’re considering.

“Remember, nobody’s perfect and you don’t need to be completely vegan to make a change, but if you’re thinking about it, why not start by trying out some of my easy vegan favourites?” she writes genially.

Be More Vegan: The Young Person's Guide to Going (a Bit More) Plant-Based! by Niki Webster (Welbeck Children). 
Be More Vegan: The Young Person's Guide to Going (a Bit More) Plant-Based! by Niki Webster (Welbeck Children). 

She also addresses many of the concerns around veganism (questions on ethics, the environment, and the health impacts), but maintains a fun, approachable and encouraging tone that’s quite uplifting in a cookbook.

What are the recipes like?

Really rather yummy sounding. Going big on recognisable veg, and keeping it fairly light on meat substitutes, Webster’s food is super colourful and enticing, and pretty indulgent too (take the gooey chocolate cake with Biscoff frosting, and the slab of Millionaire’s shortbread, laced with dates). We could also eat the bean chilli nacho platter and summer rolls all day.

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