Meet the British Martha Stewart
London's Jennifer Irvine is a farm girl turned healthy food entrepreneur who's giving the reigning queen a run for her money.
Jennifer Irvine is often referred to as the UK’s answer to Martha Stewart, and here, in part, is why: She was raised on a self-sustaining farm in West Cork, Ireland and then went on to study in both Reading and New York before founding The Pure Package from her own kitchen in 2003. Besides running London’s most successful healthy-eating food delivery service (where she counts A-listers such as Hugh Jackman, Florence Welch and supermodel Erin O’Conner as clients), she is also raising three young daughters, grows her own fruit and vegetables, keeps bees and chickens and has written a very successful cookbook entitled The Diet for Food Lovers. So yes, we’d agree that she belongs in the same superwoman category as the indomitable Martha. We sat down with her over a cuppa at London’s Berkley Hotel to find out how she does it.The most important lesson her parents taught her about food:
"A real respect for your ingredients. That if you use really good ingredients you can cook incredibly simply. We were also taught a huge amount of respect for animals."
"1. Portion control. I love my food, but I eat in proportion to my body. I follow the rule of palm, which is eating meals that equal a palm-size portion of protein, a palm-size portion of a complex carbohydrate and two palm sizes of fruit and vegetables.
2. A cross section of colors. I like to eat a rainbow because the nutrients in foods are actually represented by this rainbow of colors.
3. Flavor as fulfillment. If you are eating food that is lacking in va-va voom then you are not going to feel satisfied no matter how much you have. If you use a quality ingredient you only have to use a tiny bit and it goes so much further.
"Convenience. The shelf life of many foods is incredibly long and there is not much nutritional value left. You don’t stand a chance of eating healthy if you eat on the run."
How to break the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting:
"There are so many issues when it comes to food that there is no one answer. There are people who are dieting because they want to get their life back in control and that’s what they are doing when they are dieting. You have to stop seeing diet as this temporary thing. 'Diet' actually means the food that you consume every day. You have to think about what you want to change and what is realistic ongoing. It’s not one size fits all when it comes to diet or exercise, and you have to find what you enjoy. And then work out your portion control from there."
"You have to really get to know food. That old saying about teach a man to fish and he’ll fish from then on, it’s the same thing with healthy diets. People have to understand the principles and then they will be able to apply them. When you understand that an apple is in the same category as a pear, then you don’t have to worry about the nutritional breakdown."
"You can grow your own herbs on a windowsill; they have such amazing nutritional content. You’ll find things that are very dense in flavor are also the most nutritious. If you have a fire escape or rooftop area you could easily keep bees. Urban beekeeping is on the grow and honeybees are not aggressive — they are very, very friendly. And honey has so many fantastic healing properties."
Tips for navigating a cake and cookie-filled office around the holidays:
"Half a piece of chocolate cake is half as many calories. And if it is not really that nice, don’t finish it. However, if it is a really fine piece of baking, have a one-inch piece instead of a three-inch piece. But sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and say 'no'. Try it, you’ll feel really smug."
On keeping fit:
"I love chasing my kids and doing activities with them, but I go through different phases. At the moment, I’m training for this big trek in Costa Rica. I also love cycling and who doesn’t like to dance? It is really important to find a space that you really like to workout in. You don’t just join the cheapest gym, but one that you want to spend a reasonable amount of your life in and work out with like-minded people."
If she hadn’t founded The Pure Package:
"I started the business just before I started having kids, but if it were the other way around I probably would have just stuck to being a homemaker. It’s incredibly rewarding and it’s a very good life especially if you are into your garden and into your cooking. But I have always been very entrepreneurial so who knows what other kind of project I would have set up."
What's next on the drawing board:
"I’ve just launched the Balance Box, which officially becomes available in January. It is a perfectly balanced diet, but different to The Pure Package because it is all about weight loss. I have also just handed in the manuscript for my second cookbook. I need to start thinking about my bees too."
Get Jennifer's recipe for Spiced Butternut and Couscous Salad here.