Actor and food-blogger Jodie Barchha Lang shares her quick tips for preparing healthy food, and explains why healthy eating is as vital as any acting skill.
As an actor, my eating habits in the past have been somewhat questionable. I would often get on and off trains and grab a packet of crisps, a pizza or a bag of chips.
I put on a lot of weight. I used food as a coping mechanism for nerves and stress, which in turn made everything else much worse. The overload of processed and unhealthy food was not fuelling my system with the energy it needed to go from one job to another.
I decided to develop my food blog as a sort of guide, I suppose – a visual reminder of how good and easy to make healthy food can be. I started cooking healthy meals and freezing them for when times were busy, which was much better than running to the takeaway.
I prepared healthy snacks for on the go, and started to really pay attention to self-care. What was supposed to be a hobby grew into something I never could have imagined, and although not at my ideal weight yet, I am on a better path and have improved not only my own wellbeing, but that of others too.
Make Better Choices – Feed Your Body the Fuel it Needs
A great inspiration for me was the legendary director, teacher, and mentor David Crowley of ActUpNorth. I remember telling him how down I felt about being so focused on exercise, sleep and food and that I hadn’t applied to any auditions that week.
He told me that taking care of ourselves was as crucial as learning our craft, because the body we are in is all we have. We cannot be the best version of ourselves if we’re not taking care of ourselves. He made me realise that all those things I’d been focusing on that week were actually counting towards my acting goal, and that was a real turning point for me. If we are learning lines, developing character, or simply focusing on our health, these are all factors in moving us forward.
Now I see wellbeing as a puzzle; if a piece is missing then it can’t be completed. If we’re taking care of our relaxation but eating constant junk food, or eating well but not taking care of our mental health, the puzzle can’t ever be complete.
Often, the way we talk to and treat ourselves can be at the heart of the problem. This can also be down to our expectations of ourselves. We expect vegans to be thin, gurus and meditation teachers to have life all mapped out, teachers to be perfect. But the reality is that none of us are perfect, we are all learning as we go and we mustn’t be so hard on ourselves.
Sometimes it can help to re-write your narrative. If, previously, you were living on a takeaway three days a week, and you’ve reduced that to one day, then that’s a positive step in the right direction. However, a constant regime can also be unhealthy, so it’s also good to utilise the 80/20 principle. If we look after ourselves in the best way possible80% of the time, then it’s okay for us to have a little of what we enjoy for the other 20%. In order for our bodies to run efficiently, we must give them the best chance we can for the majority of the time. If we had a car and filled it with cheap lemonade, and only gave it some proper fuel on the odd occasion, then we couldn’t expect it to take us on a long journey. Our bodies are our tool, and that includes our minds. Healthy body, healthy mind – the two go hand in hand!
A Few Tips for Eating on the Go…
- If you’re lucky enough to get plenty of notice of when your work is, and know where you’re going and what utensils you will have, spend a few hours on a Sunday prepping food to freeze – to grab and go for the week.
- If you’re busy self-taping or running around, a firm favourite of mine is something I call pan lob. This is basically as many veggies as I have in the house lobbed in a pan with some pulses and some sauce or stock. It often gives me eight portions to freeze. People say it’s boring eating the same thing over and over, but things like pan lob can be so versatile.
- Add noodles to a pan lob to make a stir fry. Pan lob can also be loaded into a baked potato, added to some pasta, blended into a soup, made into a stew by adding in some cooked potatoes, or made into a cold veggie salad. Sprinkle on some seeds for some extra nutrition.
- Try and make something that can be eaten either hot or cold, so if there are cooking resources and it can be reheated, it’s a bonus! Great breakfasts that can be taken cold on the go are overnight oats or a smoothie. A great lunch that can be eaten hot or cold is a mixed bean and veggie bowl with a flatbread or wrap. Add in olives, falafels seeds, or chickpeas for an extra protein punch.
- Pasta is really cheap, and you can throw in any seasonal, cheap veggies, mixed pulses and a sauce you like. A healthier sauce can be to mix some hummus with a drop of hot water or a few squeezes of lemon juice to loosen it up.
- Take healthy snacks, like dates stuffed with peanut butter, nuts, fruits, or veggie sticks. They’re all good to grab in a hurry, as are falafels or energy balls (dates blended with oats and some dried fruit).
- Planning in advance can not only save you time and money, but also allows you to choose what’s going into your body and gives you more scope to eat healthier on the go. Eating more home-prepared food is more budget friendly and avoids the temptation to eat lots of unhealthy food.
- Preparing breakfast in advance gives you more time to prep lines and ready yourself in the morning.
- Keep things in stock such as fruit, veggies, nuts and other staples that can easily be adapted into a quick lunch, breakfast or snack in an emergency. This gives you one less thing to think about.
- Have a refillable water bottle so you don’t need to buy bottled water on the go.
Of course, now and again, I slip back into unhealthy habits and feel sluggish, tired and not filled with vitality. Our bodies tell us what we need, and when it doesn’t feel good, that’s a sure sign it’s not getting the right fuel.
Jodie Barchha Lang started her food blog in 2019 following some health issues, with the aim to make healthy cooking easy and budget friendly for the masses. She has since used her journey to help and inspire others to do the same. She was featured in Simply Vegan magazine and has gone on to coach, take part in vlog kitchen collaborations, run workshops, and give talks. In January, she ran a wellness series on Instagram live, interviewing and sharing tips for health and wellbeing with guests such as Sandi Thom and Matt Pritchard. She can be found on Instagram at @greenvegan1.
Headshot by Kate McDonald
Main image by Phil Lang