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Celebrity Health - Nadia Sawalha

TV presenter Nadia Sawalha chats to Liz Parry about her passion for cooking and how her family kept healthy during lockdown

Life during the recent lockdown was quite a challenge for many people, but TV presenter Nadia Sawalha and her family have been embracing their time together and entertaining fans with their YouTube reality TV show. Nadia, 55, and her husband Mark launched their YouTube channel in 2014 and it has grown to incorporate videos on cookery, gardening, family life and mental health. The couple’s two children, Maddie and Kiki, appear regularly along with other family members and pets. Nadia, who is a regular panellist on the ITV show Loose Women, is a keen cook who has published several cookery books and has her own show, Nadia’s Family Feasts.

Q You recently reached 100,000 subscribers to your YouTube channel. Congratulations! Are you pleased?

Nadia: Yes! We’re so excited! Most of the time we have an absolute hoot with it. We are very much warts and all across our channel. It’s about being us. We don’t plan anything; everything is just very organic.

We do a lot of live videos where we talk directly to our subscribers and we do Q&As on mental health and everything that’s been going on.

Q Were you able to stay positive and upbeat throughout the lockdown or was it a challenge?

Nadia: There have certainly been challenges and I think at the beginning it was much worse because it was so shocking for all of us. I think, like a lot of people, we were glued to the news 24/7 and that really isn’t healthy because you’re powerless over it. There’s nothing you can do. You have to be informed, of course, but certainly in the first few weeks I was watching the news too much. So, I gathered myself up after the first few weeks and thought: “Right, you’ve got to get back into a bit of a plan.” That meant healthier eating, exercise and getting back to all those things that we know help with mental health.

Q Do you try to keep fit and active as a family?

Nadia: We all get up and try to exercise before breakfast. My youngest does a full workout on YouTube and my other daughter does the same in a different room. My husband has been doing the Joe Wicks exercise plan for about six months and he does that five days a week. I do a mixture of things. There’s a really good woman on YouTube called Lucy Wyndham Read and she does anything from seven minutes to 20 minutes of exercise, so sometimes I do that. The best thing is if I get the time to stretch first thing in the morning. The other day I put aside five minutes, opened the back doors and did some stretching while listening to the birds singing. Oh my God, it sets you up for the day!

Q Do you like to follow a healthy diet?

Nadia: We mainly follow a Mediterranean diet. I’m mostly plant-based although I occasionally have a bit of chicken, salmon or feta cheese. All the scientific advice is there that the Mediterranean diet is the best for your health. So we have a little oily fish, a little meat, some raw olive oil and loads of colourful veg. I always say to my kids, “Where’s the rainbow? Where’s the colour on your plate?” For a long while I avoided dairy but now I have full-fat Greek yogurt because it has the highest protein content. I don’t eat any low-fat food. I try to get my fats from nuts, seeds and avocados. If I’m going to have a glass of wine I’ll have red because it’s better for you.

One of my favourite healthy puddings is to get a really soft Medjool date, stuff it with either almond butter or peanut butter and stick in a piece of dark chocolate. It’s so satisfying. It’s more satisfying than a Snickers!

Q What are some of your favourite healthy food recipes?

Nadia: One of my favourites at the moment is to fry up some grated garlic, ginger and a bit of chilli, then I add mushrooms and five spice. Then I’ll add some shredded cucumber and spring onions and I roll them up like you would do with pancakes and add hoisin sauce. It’s a lovely vegan treat. I like to add ingredients that help to support your immune system. I think about that every time I cook at the moment. I also like to make up buddha bowls. I get a really beautiful bowl and load it up with healthy food. I might have a couple of tablespoons of brown rice or quinoa, a couple of tablespoons of edamame beans, then either some beans or a small piece of salmon or chicken. I’ll then add in piles of greens like rocket, spinach, lamb’s lettuce, maybe a quarter of an avocado and some grated carrot. Then I top it with seeds and add a dressing made from soy sauce, ginger, garlic and sesame oil.

Q Has cooking always been a passion of yours?

Nadia: Yes. I grew up in a family of foodies. My mum is English and my dad is Arabic. My mum was a real Francophile so she used to cook a lot of bistro-style French food and we grew up cooking with her. The Middle Eastern side of my family would come over at the weekend and we would all cook together and make Arabic feasts. I always loved cooking but I never imagined that it would become part of my job. Since winning Celebrity MasterChef I went on to publish several cookery books and now I have my own cookery show. It’s a big part of my life.

Q Do you like to take a holistic approach to your health?

Nadia: Totally. If I ever feel ill, I ask myself what’s going on emotionally. I get eczema sometimes. At the beginning of the lockdown my eczema went crazy and I knew it was because I was suppressing all these feelings, so I used homeopathy. I’ve been using homeopathy for 40 years as a complementary therapy. I will always go to the doctor if I need to, but I like to take a natural approach to health.

Q What are your hopes for the coming year?

Nadia: It’s been so amazing seeing the planet getting the chance to breathe and people buying less stuff that they don’t need. I really hope that will continue, but I do worry about the future. I hope the country can recover and that the communities that have been built can strengthen and the neighbourhoods that have been pulling together can carry on pulling together.

For more tips and to watch Nadia’s family reality show, visit YouTube and look up The Sawalha-Adderleys: Family, Films & Fun. You can also catch Nadia on Loose Women, weekdays from 12:30pm on ITV.

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