Popular clinical nutritionist and health and wellness expert Jessica Sepel has just released her third book. Titled The 12 Step Mind-Body-Food Reset, her latest book shares 12 key pieces of practical advice for overcoming disordered eating, achieving weight balance and creating good habits for life. The 12 principles, Sepel says, “will help you clear the confusion, give up fad dieting and, at last, find balance with food and make peace with you body”.
Sepel opens the book by candidly sharing her past with negative body image and disordered eating, using her experience as a launch pad to help others suffering from the same issues.
In Each of the 12 chapters, she weaves personal anecdotes into her tips and advice for resting your body and mind. Throughout the book she also shares various recipes. They’re vibrant, heavy with fresh produce and simple to make, matching up with her statement that she doesn’t enjoy cooking and wants healthy food that’s quick to make and tastes good. Whiles she doesn’t limit food groups, she does exclude gluten – an ingredient that seems to be the no-go of the wellness world. What I liked about the recipes was how she takes a base recipe or idea and then provides various spicing or topping options, giving you ideas of how to turn the same dish into something that tastes completely new.
It’s an incredibly useful book, one that provides a good foundation to healthy living, and one that I can see being useful to those who are or who have struggled with self-image, weight or disordered eating. In fact, the wealth of information shared is useful to anyone interested in achieving better balance and a healthier life. She includes charts, lists and routines that you can easily take on and adapt to.
Topics include morning and evening routines, macronutrients, weight, mindset, stress and meal planning. Her tips and suggestions are not crazy, and most involve a mindset and routine change instead of changes that require buying expensive ingredients or products. Even her recipes are for the most part made up with ingredients that are accessible, and that is refreshing to see in a wellness book.
At the end of the book Sepel tackles the topic of orthorexia – a growing illness in which its sufferers become obsessed with eating foods that fall into their specific requirements. It’s clean living and health to the extreme and causes both physical and mental anguish. It goes beyond an obsession with clean eating, to being obsessed about exercise, routines and your idea of wellness.
I would caution those who know they are susceptible to that train of thought when reading this book. While it offers a balanced approach that is by no means extreme, Sepel does share various routines she keeps. These are ideal routines, that may not fit everyone’s lifestyle. It’s important when reading and learning from these books to take tips and advice and insert them into your life in a way that is helpful and manageable. In a way that makes you feel better about yourself and not inadequate. This may mean creating your own routines using her tips to fit your life instead of blindly following the ones she lays out.
One of the chapters tackles meal prep, something I often struggle with and don’t enjoy. With permission we’re sharing some of her meal prep tips that take away the stress of choosing what to eat during busy weeks.
Jessica Sepel’s Meal Prep Tips
“If you can commit just an hour week to prepping, you’ll set yourself up for a week of healthy choices and cooking.”
Begin by setting aside an hour or two over the weekend to prep everything you need for the week. This means that no matter how busy or unpredictable your week is, your meals are sorted.
1. Plan your meals and snacks for the week
Based on the list you can make a grocery list so that you have all the ingredients ready and won’t waste time or money during the week. The book has many simple, easy and healthy recipes that span breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and sweet treats.
2. Go grocery shopping
According to Sepel 15 minutes is all you need to do your grocery shopping. “Once you get the hang of cooking quick and easy meals, shopping will become easier and quicker. That’s because when you keep things simple and have a well-stocked pantry full of healthy staples, you know exactly what you need – and more importantly, what you don’t.”
She gives the popular tip of shopping around the grocery store – where the fresh produce is kept and limiting your visits to the middle aisles where processed foods are kept. It saves both time and money.
When shopping, Sepel always checks nutritional labels. “I follow one simple rule: A product’s ingredients appear in descending order from the main ingredient onwards. This means the first ingredient listed is what makes up the bulk of the product, so if you’re buying a peanut butter and notice peanuts is far down the list you know that it doesn’t contain a lot of peanuts.”
How to read nutritional labels
Nutritional panel – Look at this to see serving size so that you stick to that recommended size.
Fat content – especially saturated and trans fats. Avoid food with margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil as they’re highly processed and hard to metabolise.
Sugar content – avoid products which list sugar as the first ingredient and try only have those that have less than 3 grams of sugar per serving. Sugars to avoid are high fructose corn syrup which is a cheap, processed sweetener linked to obesity and diabetes.
Salt content – look for products with 250mg – 300mg of sodium per 100g
MSG – This is found typically in Asian cuisine, canned soups and processed meats. While it’s a safe flavour enhancer some people are sensitive to it. Symptoms of a MSG sensitivity includes headaches, fatigue, muscle tightness and tingling.
Artificial sweeteners – things like aspartame, sorbitol, mannitol and isomalt are often hidden in foods and should be avoided.
Her pantry staples (which you’ll notice make up many recipes in the book) include: good grains (oats, brown rice and quinoa), tinned food (lentils, beans, tuna and salmon), nut butters, pasta (she favours brown rice pasta or pulse pastas), spices, Dijon mustard, organic eggs, baking essentials (almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder), vinegars, healthy oils (extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil) and drinks like tea, coffee and water.
From the fresh food section, she likes to grab colourful fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs, Greek yogurt, organic cow’s milk, almond milk, coconut yogurt, mozzarella and ricotta.
When choosing organic, Jessica acknowledges that it is more expensive and not an option for many. As a general rule, she advises buying the thinner skin produce (especially those whose skin you eat) organic and buying the thick-skinned produce (where you’re removing the skin) regular. If you’re buying regular, Jessica suggests washing them in some water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to remove any residual pesticides.
As soon as you come home from grocery shopping, wash and chop your veggies and fruit. It takes 15 minutes, but it cuts down prep time during the week and makes it easy to whip up a salad, roast some veggies or create a stir-fry. Having everything prepped and ready also makes it less likely they’ll end up neglected at the bottom of the fridge.
Lastly, she says never shop hungry as you end up buying more than you need. It’s also perfectly fine to buy the pre-cut vegetables if you’re short on time.
3. Prepare food in bulk
If your meal plan includes any grains prepare those in bulk in the beginning of the week. Sepel preps brown rice, quinoa and cauliflower or broccoli rice in bulk; and says she loves them as bases for meals.
She also includes some prep ideas throughout the book. Like her overnight oats which you can pre-measure into little glass jars. Before you go to bed, add the liquid, mix, place in the fridge and you have breakfast in a jiffy.
Another idea is to prep some dressings that you can use over bowls, salads or roasted veggies to spice them up.
The following are the foods Sepel preps in advance and how long they last for:
Boiled eggs (2-3 days)
Brown rice and quinoa (2-3 days)
Grilled meat (2-3 days)
Roasted veggies (2-3 days)
Raw veggies, chopped (4-5 days)
Spiralized zucchini (3-4 days)
Salad mix, washed and dried (4-5 days)
4. Make your kitchen work for you
Arrange your kitchen in a way that works for you and that makes cooking easy and effortless.
Jessica’s top tips for doing this are:
Set up a “flavour tray” near your cooking station: This includes ingredients you use most to add flavour to food. Sepel’s station includes olive oil, coconut oil, tamari, garlic cloves, lemon, sesame seeds, nutritional yeast and her most used spices. This cuts down on time you spend hunting for these ingredients in your pantry.
Equip yourself: Before you start prepping, take out the things you need like roasting trays, blenders and knives so you can start without stopping. She also suggests investing in equipment that will make it easier and quicker to make food like a food processor or spiraliser.
Clear space: Before you start prepping make space on your counters to do the prep work. In addition, you may need to make space in your fridge to store the food.
Stock up on storage: Buy the best storage you can afford. Sepel recommends ones that are airtight and can go from the fridge or freezer into the microwave or oven. This means you can take food straight out from the fridge / freezer and pop it into the oven.
Use it or lose it: Take time during your meal prep to clear out your pantry and fridge. Toss food that has expired and move those that expire soon to the front, so you remember to use them.
If you can’t prep every meal on a Sunday, Sepel suggests breaking it up during the week:
If you have a few minutes in the morning, chop up some veggies for dinner.
Use your slow cooker to make your dinner while you work
Use cooking methods that are quick like stir-frying or grilling which cook food on high heat fast.
Enlist help, get your partner, friends or older children to help.
Lastly remember that there are no rules “The healthy life does not mean the perfect life”. To be healthy we need to be flexible and commit to balance.
Jessica Sepel’s new book The 12 Step Mind-Body-Food reset is now available at all good book stores or online here.
The 12 Step Mind-Body-Food Reset was given to us by Pan Macmillan. Opinions are our own.