We all talk a good game about how to eat, what to eat, and the importance of preparing our own food from quality ingredients. The truth is that everyone faces the same dilemmas from time to time. Whether it's travel, working late, business lunches, social outings, or simply not being interested in cooking, there are many reasons that eating that home cooked meal may not always be possible.
I've decided to pose a series of questions to our members on a weekly basis on what gets them through these situations. You might be surprised at some of the answers and others might be exactly what you expected — either way, I'm hopeful that this will help you navigate your way through the myriad of awkward, inconvenient, or simply lazy situations you find yourself in.
John Briffa from London, UK
CA: Do you put much thought into where you eat out? Or do you simply go anywhere and try to make do with what's on the menu?
JB: A bit of both. I don't think it's especially hard to find quite-decent and nutritious food wherever I am and whatever's on offer. There's very few places where it's not possible to get a meal based on meat, fish and vegetables and/or salad.
When I am making more conscious choice, it's usually when I'm thinking about what would be nice for my dining companions.
And just occasionally, I'll throw caution to the wind and go for 100 percent indulgence. I don't think too much about 'healthy eating' when there's something to celebrate, to be honest.
CA: Most memorable restaurant meal in (or near) London?
JB: It was at a restaurant on the South Bank. It was the first proper date with my partner, Sandra. The weather was lovely (late June) and we sat outside. I don't recall the name of the restaurant nor what either of us ate. But, for other reasons, it was the most memorable meal I've had in my home town.
CA: Most memorable restaurant meal outside of London?
JB: Some years back, my wife treated me to a birthday lunch at a place called Vila Joya in the Algarve, Portugal. The setting and weather were lovely, and we had the most amazing tasting menu which went on for ages. Everything was an absolute delight.
Can I slip in a second? Another birthday meal that lives long in my memory was had at The Treby Arms in Devon. Quite wonderful food, again, and a lot of fun too.
CA: For people with special diets, how do you suggest they talk with restaurant staff in order to get what they need?
JB: I'd generally avoid using the term 'intolerance'. There is still some cynicism around about this concept, and I think quite a lot of people do believe 'intolerances' are not real or not as common as some think they are. 'Allergy' is a more useful word, generally. It can conjure up images of people going into anaphylactic shock, and nobody wants that in their eating establishment (including the waiting staff).
Politeness goes a long way too, I think. As does some gratitude once the waiting staff or kitchen have gone the extra yard to accommodate someone's needs.
CA: Do you prepare an emergency meal when you travel? If so, what do you include?
JB: No, I don't carry 'meals' around with me. I don't find the need. There are generally great options to be found on the high street and even in airports, these days. One 'rule' I have is to avoid allowing myself to get too hungry. Because once appetite runs out of control, it can be difficult to make the best choices regarding what to eat and how much to eat of it! A handful or two of nuts usually does the job, and I usually have some of these about my person when I'm 'on the road'.
CA: Your favorite quick meal to prepare at home?
JB: My partner does not eat lamb, but I love it. So, if she's not around I have been known to fry a lamb steak or some chops to have with some salad or veg. It's a 10-minute meal.
CA: Do you consume alcohol? Explain why you think it is or isn’t a good idea.
JB: First of all, I have no moral judgment about alcohol. But I've realised over the years that it's effects (on me, and many others) can be quite pernicious. One effect concerns weight (I do find that alcohol can 'pack on the pounds'). But, also, alcohol does tend to disrupt the quality of sleep, particularly in the second half of the night. For many, including myself, even moderate drinking can have them feeling significantly less well-rested in the morning than when they don't think. Mainly for this reason, these days I hardly drink.
CA: In terms of food, what is your guilty pleasure?
JB: Pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts). I think they're to die for (literally!).
Dr John Briffa is a practising doctor, author and international speaker. He is prize-winning graduate of University College London School of Medicine, where he also gained a BSc degree in Biomedical Sciences. Dr Briffa is a leading authority on the impact of nutrition and other lifestyle factors on health and illness. He is dedicated to providing individuals with information and advice they can use to take control of their health and optimise their energy and vitality.
Dr Briffa is a former columnist for the Daily Mail and the Observer, and former contributing editor for Men’s Health magazine. He has contributed to over 50 newspaper and magazine titles internationally, and is a previous recipient of the Health Journalist of the Year award in the UK.
Dr Briffa has authored nine books on the subject of nutrition and self-help health.
In addition to his work in clinical practice and writing, for the last 18 years Dr Briffa has regularly delivered talks, workshops and health programmes geared towards the optimisation of energy, effectiveness and sustainability in individuals within organisations. Clients include Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Reuters, IBM, Bank of England, Morgan Stanley, Baker and Mackenzie, Bovis Lendlease, Danone, Clifford Chance, Eversheds, GE Money, GE Capital, BP, Skandia, Endless LLP, SSL International and Norton Rose.