Lee Holmes says to eat clean, green and vegetarian

Karen Hardy
Balance: Lee Holmes says well-being is all about the gut.
Balance: Lee Holmes says well-being is all about the gut. 

When Lee Holmes was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia in 2006 she decided to take matters into her own hands. After spending three months in hospital on a range of drugs without much success she decided to use food to heal herself.

Now she holds an advanced certificate in nutrition and is a certified holistic health coach, she's a yoga teacher and author of several best-selling cookbooks. And, most importantly, her own health is back on track.

New direction: Lee Holmes' new book, "Supercharged Food: Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian.
New direction: Lee Holmes' new book, "Supercharged Food: Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian. 

Her first book Supercharged Food: Eat your way to good health addressed her philosophy that it's crucial to take responsibility for your own wellness.

"I see a lot of people every day who are stuck in a diet rut," she says.

"I think once you make that mental shift and decide that it's not about weight loss and it's more about optimum health, your body will respond naturally."

Now she's written Supercharged Food: Eat clean, green and vegetarian, championing the role of the humble vegetable.

"I'm not a vegetarian, I tried that," Holmes said, "but I found my body needed iron, needed meat, that balance was important for me.

"I classify myself as a flexitarian, meaning that while I eat a lot of vegetables and enjoy a plant-based diet, I also eat small quantities of sustainably produced meat, as I find it lessens the symptoms of my autoimmune disease."

Holmes says we should embrace vegetables, make them the hero of the meal.

"Years ago vegetables were thought to be really boring, we didn't know how to cook them, they were over-boiled and grey, and fell apart on your plate.

"Now we're consuming vegetables for breakfast, lunch, dinner, even dessert."

Holmes talks about her cauliflower and raspberry cheesecake and a spinach ice cream that tastes like choc-mint - "they're both surprisingly delicious and you'd never be able to pick what vegetables are in them."

She admits she's not a fan of fad diets but she's been following the 5:2 diet for the past year, fasting two days a week. 

"I've found it enormously helpful for my health and energy levels.

"I believe your gut is paramount to your health, especially if you have any kind of inflammatory or autoimmune problems, and fasting gives the digestive system a break, by limiting calories you're enabling the gut to reset itself.

"And the great thing about fasting days is that you can consume a delicious array of vegetables in good quantities and they not only fill you up, but provide you with many necessary vitamins and minerals to make you feel fantastic."

Holmes says there are many ways to incorporate more vegetables into your diet.

She suggests pre-preparing them so they are at hand and are easy for meals or snacks; try drinking them in smoothies or swap wraps and breads for lettuce leaves.

She says getting a seasonal box of vegetables delivered is a good way to get more creative in the kitchen, or try adding vegetables to meals you already love such as pizzas or pasta.

As well as more than 120 recipes, this latest book has lots of information about the nutritional benefits of vegetables, their healing powers, a seasonal guide, and how to source and store them. There are also tips on how to veganise the recipes, and a meal planner to get you through a week.

When a day includes Indian-spiced vegetable porridge, quinoa san choy bow, a caramelised onion tart and fresh blueberry fudge for dessert, it doesn't sound too bad.

"I think it's a great time to embrace vegetables," Holmes says.

"More and more people are thinking about what they're eating, checking labels, aware of marketing terms such as 'low fat' and 'all natural'.

"Most importantly more and more people are buying fresh produce and cooking from scratch.

"The best foods for us don't even have labels."

* Supercharged Food: Eat clean, green and vegetarian, by Lee Holmes. (Murdoch Books, $35.)