Elisha: 'Lockdown has changed my relationship with food'
Name: Elisha Langridge
Weight lost: 2st 2lb
WW membership: Digital
I'm eating things that make me feel good physically and mentally
As a vegan, healthy eating isn’t new to me. But now we’re in lockdown, I’m interacting with food with more purpose – consciously thinking about every meal and how it’s nourishing me.
And I’m not just talking about nourishing in a nutritional sense. It’s also about making meals a focus for the day and treating them a bit like a special occasion – something to look forward to in stressful times.
Now more than ever, I want to eat things that make me feel good both physically and mentally – I guess that’s my way of processing what’s going on, and reducing my anxiety levels.
I've been getting creative in the kitchen
I’ve also become more creative with my cooking. I’ll plan ahead when it comes to the main ingredients, but the creativity comes through using up whatever’s in the cupboard.
So instead of buying a new spice, for example, I’ll try a combination of flavours I already have on the rack.
I love being vegan – it’s definitely helped both me and my partner feel healthier and more full of life. And I can still eat the dishes I loved before; I just adapt them. The other day I was cooking salmon skewers with chickpeas from the new WW Meals for One cookbook, and I just substituted tofu for the salmon.
People worry about making substitutions in that way – they think, ‘oh, I don’t know how long tofu takes to cook’ or whatever. But all I do is to look up another WW recipe featuring tofu, and that will show me what to do. Then, after you’ve used the ingredient a couple of times, you get a feel for it, and you’ll have the confidence to use it whenever you want.
My go-to ingredients? Definitely pulses and legumes. They’re versatile – you can chuck pulses into just about any dish. Plus, they’re filling, and packed with protein and fibre. When lockdown began, it was a nightmare because all the tins disappeared from the shelves and I couldn’t find tinned tomatoes anywhere! So I used up everything I already had on my shelves, and had to get a bit inventive, especially with condiments. I’ve been thinking outside the box - for example, using Dijon mustard to add flavour and creaminess to sauces.
Nutritional yeast is another of my must-have ingredients - I make a great creamy, cheesy sauce based on that and Dijon mustard. Marmite is another great addition to many dishes – I always add a teaspoon to tomato-based sauces. It just adds that extra bit of flavour. My top cooking tip is to be adventurous and just try things out. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?!
My top vegan lockdown meals
If there’s one dish that’s a real lockdown hero for me, it’s Smoky Aubergine Chilli – I recently showcased it on a live cookalong on Connect, WW's members-only online community. It’s simple, family-friendly, delicious…and you can batch cook it. Did you see that This Morning clip of John Torode from Masterchef cooking at home while his tea towel caught fire behind him? I thought that would be me during my live cook-along, but it went really well and was great fun.
Another great vegan lockdown dish is Lentil Bolognese and – as far as I’m concerned – anything Asian. I love Asian food, because it’s quite light and fresh. Satay stir fry is a particular favourite – it’s great for using up bits of veg that are left over in the fridge. And I have a great tip for Asian cooking, which is to use Alpro coconut milk instead of canned coconut milk. It works fantastically, and you can include around 120ml for just 1 SmartPoint.
Cooking gives me time to relax
For me, cooking is about so much more than fuelling my body. It’s my time to unwind and relax. I can focus on what I’m doing, put on some music or a podcast, and escape everything that’s going on in the world.
I also think treats are important at this time, so at the weekend, my partner and I will make something indulgent like a vegan cheesecake and really enjoy eating it. It’s a question of cooking and eating with more of a sense of purpose – really thinking about it. Meals have taken on more significance somehow: what you eat in the evening is a focus, something to plan, look forward to and enjoy. It’s little things like that that help us stay positive during lockdown.
Elisha’s lockdown tips
1. Plan ahead
Planning meals for the week is helpful in so many ways. It stops you over-buying, and helps focus when you have to go out shopping. It encourages you to try new recipes and ingredients, and is also strangely calming, because it gives you some sense of control back over your life.
2. Batch cook
Planning ahead naturally leads to batch cooking because you can plan for busy days by cooking twice as much the night before, and eating up the leftovers. I also use batch cooking for breakfasts and lunches, often cooking up a batch of breakfast muffins on a Sunday and eating them across the week, with some fresh fruit.
3. Establish a routine
In lockdown, structure can easily fade away, especially if you’re working from home. To combat that, I always do a 15-20 minute HIIT session first thing in the morning. That works for me because whatever else happens that day, I know I’ve done something productive.
4. Surround yourself with positivity
It’s so important to surround yourself with positive people, now more than ever. And WW is great because it gives you access to people who will make you feel good. It makes you realise you’re not on your own. Connect is a great place to find people who will be supportive and motivating and just won’t let you feel bad about yourself.
5. Remember that nobody’s perfect
If you spend a lot of time on Instagram like me, you’re exposed to lots of people who seem to be nailing lockdown – with pictures of them home schooling brilliantly and producing perfect bakes. But you must remember that nobody is really perfect. Everyone is stressed out and worried, and now really is not the right time to be beating yourself up about stuff. We’re all in the same boat, no matter what people’s Instagram feeds might look like.