Gizzi Erskine – the author of best-selling cookery books ‘Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts’ and ‘Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite

In the third and final part of our summer food series with chef Gizzi Erskine, she gives her tips for simple culinary changes which make a big difference

There are many shortcuts available, so people clearly need to save time – but it is frustrating, as a cook, to see ready-chopped vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower for sale. They take five seconds to cut up – and prepared vegetables really do lose nutrients. Use a mandolin to help you chop more quickly and with uniformity.

* Pack your fridge drawer with garlic, chillies, fresh herbs and citrus fruits so you have all your flavour easily to hand; they keep well. Include Asian flavours such as lemongrass, ginger and turmeric to pep up veggie dishes.

* Ham, sausages and bacon often contain sulphates, one of the biggest causes of colon cancer. Use sparingly.

* Invest in a spiralizer as a great way to cut back on carbs and eat more fresh veg. It’s not just for “courgetti” pasta, there’s a great Asian ribbon salad in my book. A hand-held vegetable ribboner will do the same thing, building up muscles in the process.

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A Spiralizer

* Shake up your carbohydrates. I use Japanese noodles a lot. They’re delicious and are often made from brown rice, so healthy too. Also try quinoa, or make rice from cauliflower, which is very much “of the moment”.

* The three things I believe we should invest money in are quality eggs, dairy products and meat. This is better for the animal, will have much better flavour and is also better for the environment. Buy meat from a butcher wherever possible, one that uses small producers who rear animals ethically. This is my only mega-snobbery and it’s also about animal welfare and the environment.

* Cooking with a non-stick pan means you need less oil, so they are essential if you’re trying to cook with less fat – go for a really heavy-based one.

* If you go into a supermarket or a market and there is a vegetable that you don’t know, buy it, Google it and make something with it. It is good for the soul to try one new thing every week.

* If you are going to give up dairy make sure that you get calcium from other sources. Avoid soya milk because a lot of it is made from GM crops, is highly processed and not very tasty. Instead try cold-pressed almond milks, macadamia or  hazelnut  milks.

* Scales are essential to make sure you’re not eating too much – make it a habit to weigh everything, especially carbohydrates.

* Experiment with Japanese flavours. Use miso to boost flavour for stock, but also use in dressings and marinades. Dried mushrooms are cheaper than fresh and great for risotto. Seaweed is good for you and I use it lots in soup. It’s a good way of getting nutritional value into your food.

* Refined sugar is the biggest problem with food today. Although there are great-tasting unrefined sugars available, not many work in the same way that refined sugar does in cooking. My recipes mostly use golden caster sugar for meringues, cakes or brownies.

* Buy British salt flakes, such as Maldon. I also like pink salt from the Himalayas– the most mineral rich salt in the world. It has a slightly different flavour.

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Profusion Himalayan Rose Pink Salt Coarse 500g

* Make sure around 50 per cent of your daily food is vegetables. They are packed with nutrients and contain more when raw, so eat plenty of raw veg, fruits and salads.

* Good vegetable oils, such as olive, rapeseed, avocado, and fish oils, contain a mixture of omega fatty acids and vitamin E. Now we also have coconut oil, which is a saturated fat but brilliant at metabolising fat.

* Cut down on added sugars and salts by making dishes you eat regularly instead of using shop-bought products – burgers, kievs, pizzas, ice creams and much more.

* Make your own muesli by mixing different flakes – oat, wheat, rye, quinoa:  you can order online or buy in health-food shops. It  will store for a year in good quality plastic boxes.

* Always use fresh stock. Make your own with leftover chicken. Bone broth or stock is full of calcium and collagen and is  also hydrating and anti-inflammatory. Why make fresh food then stick a salt-laden stock cube in it?

* Alternative sweeteners are coconut blossom nectar, coconut sugar and agave nectar. Honey is better for you than refined sugar as it has some nutritional value.

* Make mayonnaise fresh. It’s the cheapest thing to do, it saves a fortune and is much better for you. This is the same with fresh chilli sauce.

* Live by the 80:20 rule. If you are good most of the time you can eat what you want the rest of the time, as long as the food’s made with fresh ingredients. Or have 20 per cent less food on your plate, eat 20 per cent fewer carbohydrates and eat 20 per cent more vegetables. This will allow you to eat pretty much what you want, but you will be eating 300-400 fewer calories a day. It’s a simple but good rule to stick to.

‘Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite’, is published by Octopus, £25

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