Pete Evans / Words
Want to improve your mood, quality of sleep and energy levels, and enjoy sharper brain function? What if you could do this simply through the ingredients you choose to cook with? Yep, putting food on your plate that’s designed to help you function at your very best is one of the key things you can do to support sustainable, long-term health for you and your family. That’s why
I believe it’s beneficial to embrace a low-carbohydrate lifestyle when it comes to the meals you prepare daily. While I’ve personally experienced the awesome benefits of this approach to eating, the latest nutritional research is also confirming that the food we choose can be instrumental in protecting against the onset and development of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Carbohydrates and you
By ditching the “bad guys” (sugary and starchy carbohydrates), replacing them with the “good guys” (low-carb plant based foods), a moderate amount of high-quality protein, enough healthy fat to satiate and some fermented foods, you start to train your body to stop relying on fast-burning glucose and instead use fat as its fuel.
Given that the human body and brain thrive on healthy fat, when you remove sugar and starchy carbohydrates from the equation you are actually helping your brain to understand that “the hunting is good”. In other words, food is plentiful. By doing this, you can basically “turn off” the emotional, carb-craving monster you may have become and instead “turn on” your body’s natural ability to be clean, lean and resistant to disease.
Delicious low-carb alternatives
Living a low-carb lifestyle isn’t about ditching the foods you love. Instead, it’s about cooking with healthier alternatives and getting creative in the kitchen. For example, you can use leafy greens, fibrous vegetables and below-ground vegies (such as carrot and pumpkin) as healthy, low-carb replacements for the traditional staples of pasta and rice. The cool thing about these vegies is you can spiralise them, turning them into healthy noodles that pack a far bigger nutritional punch than anything grain-based ever could and that I promise will be a hit with the kids.
Greens and other vegetables grown above the ground are high in fibre, contain very little sugar or starch and are full of antioxidants and phytonutrients. These are the kind of carbohydrates you need to fuel your body multiple times a day because they give you a slow, sustained energy release, leaving you feeling fuller for longer. There are also some very good vegies grown below the ground: think sweet potato, radishes and beetroot.
Fresh and organic
By choosing fresh, organic vegetables (or, better still, growing your own), you are selecting produce that is higher in nutrients while minimising your exposure to GMOs and pesticides. I try to eat at least one serving of these vegies with every meal and aim for as many servings a day as I can muster.
When following a low-carb lifestyle, there are a few vegetables that shouldn’t feature on your plate. The high starch content of certain vegetables such as potatoes is rapidly converted to sugar in the bloodstream, which is why eating them often can cause insulin spikes, weight gain and other issues.
That’s why learning to cook low-carb is about embracing ingredients that support sustainable health. It’s also about reinterpreting your family favourites.
When you’re living a low-carb lifestyle, it’s also really important to supercharge your meals with lots of healthy fats. These help you to feel full because they provide a slower, more sustained source of fuel for the brain and body. The fats I’m loving right now are coconut oil (a near-perfect source of healthy fat), avocados, macadamia nuts, eggs and fat from grass-fed animals.
I hope you’ll be as inspired as I am to get experimenting in the kitchen with low-carb living. After all, don’t you want to feel like the best version of you?
Spaghetti With Prawns, Pesto & Pistachios
4 tbsp. coconut oil
700g raw king prawns, shelled & deveined, tails intact
4 –5 zucchini, spiralised into thin noodles
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large handful basil leaves, plus extra to serve
1 large handful mint leaves
60g pine nuts, toasted
120mL olive oil
1½ tbsp.. lemon juice
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
80g pistachio nuts (activated if possible), toasted & roughly chopped
To make the pesto, place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until the herbs and nuts are finely chopped. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Melt 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium–high heat. Season the prawns with salt and pepper, then cook, in batches, for 1 min on each side until just cooked through. Remove the prawns from the pan and set aside, covered to keep warm.
Wipe the pan clean and place over medium heat. Add the remaining coconut oil and zucchini spaghetti and sauté for 2 mins until the zucchini is almost cooked through. Season with a little salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, add the cooked prawns and pesto and toss to combine.
Transfer the spaghetti mix to a large platter or serving plates, drizzle on some extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle over the pistachios, add a squeeze of lemon juice and scatter on some basil leaves and a few chilli flakes, if desired.
Pan-Fried Fish with Pico de Gallo Salsa
4 × 180g white-fleshed fish fillets of your choice (eg snapper, barramundi, cod, sea bass, coral trout), skin on
2 tbsp. coconut oil or other good-quality fats
Pico de Gallo Salsa
2 large plum tomatoes, deseeded & finely diced
⅓ cup chopped coriander
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
1 small fresh green jalapeno, seeded
& finely chopped (keep the seeds if you like it hotter)
1 tbsp. lemon or lime juice (plus extra to serve)
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
To make the salsa, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper and add some more lemon juice or jalapenos, if desired.
To prepare the fish fillets, season the fillets with salt and pepper and rub them on both sides with the coconut oil. Heat a large, non-stick frying pan over medium– high heat. Put them skin-side up on the pan and cook until golden brown for 3 mins, then flip the fillets with a spatula. Cook the fish until completely opaque throughout, for a further 5 mins. Remove the fillets from the pan, place them on plates and serve topped with the Pico de Gallo Salsa and lemon.
Butter Chicken with Cauliflower Rice
4 tbsp. coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. paprika
1–2 pinches cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp ground turmeric
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp. lemon juice
400mL tin coconut cream
700g chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite-sized pieces
Coriander leaves, to serve
1 cauliflower, florets & stalk, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. coconut oil
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Place the cauliflower in a food processor and pulse into tiny, fine pieces that look like rice. Alternatively, grate it to fine grains. Place the coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and lightly cook for 4–6 mins or until softened. Season with salt and pepper to serve.
Heat 4 tablespoons of the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4 mins until translucent. Turn the heat down to low and stir in the garlic and spices. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 min. Add the salt, lemon juice and coconut cream and mix well.
Turn the heat up to medium and bring the sauce to a simmer. Add the chicken and stir until well coated with the sauce. Cover the pan with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20–25 mins, or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
Garnish with the coriander and serve with cauliflower rice.
Chicken San Choy Bau
1 tbsp. coconut oil, tallow, duck fat or other good-quality fat
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 shallots, chopped
2 tsp. peeled & grated fresh ginger
600g free-range chicken mince
120g shiitake mushrooms, chopped
2 tbsp. wheat-free tamari or coconut aminos
1 tbsp. fish sauce, plus more to serve
1 tbsp. raw honey (optional)
225g tin water chestnuts, drained & finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely chopped
1– 2 fresh long red chillies, deseeded & chopped
100g bean sprouts
8 iceberg lettuce leaves, washed & dried
Fresh coriander leaves, torn, to serve
Lime wedges, to serve
Heat a wok or large frying pan over medium–high heat. When hot, add the coconut oil and swirl around the wok. Add the garlic, shallots and ginger and cook for 1 min. Then add the chicken and mushrooms and cook for a further 4–5 mins, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and browned.
Add the tamari, fish sauce and honey, if using, and toss to mix. Next, add the water chestnuts, spring onions and chilli and keep stirring until the mixture is well combined. Cook until heated through (2–3 mins). Remove mixture from heat, mix in the bean sprouts and check seasoning, adding more fish sauce or sea salt if needed.
To serve, place the lettuce cups on a large communal serving platter or four plates. Top each leaf with some of the chicken mixture and garnish with coriander leaves and lime wedges.