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Celebrity Health – Lilly Higgins

Lilly Higgins is a TV chef, food and wine writer, and food photographer. She writes a weekly recipe column for the Irish Times and appears regularly on RTÉ’s The Today Show. She was the winner of the best cookery writing award at The Irish Food Writing Awards in 2021. She lives in Cobh with her husband and three children.

What exercise do you do to keep in shape?

I have tried every kind of exercise over the years, but they didn’t always suit me. I found running for example very hard. Now I have found something I love – Reformer Pilates. It is fantastic for core strength and you get a full body workout in 50 minutes. I do it in a Pilates studio in Midleton and the teacher is great. I find that the machine pushes you and I can feel it from my shoulders to my toes the next day.

We live in the countryside in Cobh near woods, so I go for lots of walks with the children who are aged 10 and under. We walk as much as we can to avoid using the car. We also like to go for family trips to cycle on the Greenway in Waterford.

What sort of foods do you eat to stay healthy?

I used to be very strictly plant based and eat as much raw food as possible. It involved a lot of juicing and was very time consuming. Now that I have three children I find it’s more difficult to keep this up, and my job involves writing about all kinds of foods, so I have relaxed it a bit.

We are a very vegetable focused house and I order veg boxes from Green Organics, a family farm in Galway – it’s a great way to have a lot of vegetables in the house. Sometimes I would buy a fruit box and some pantry ingredients from them too. I try to wash and spin salads and peel and chop vegetables straight away and keep them in water, then I am more likely to use them in cooking as they are good to go. I try to eat protein with every meal. For breakfast I might have a smoothie with hemp, bananas and peanut butter, or cook eggs. For lunch I like my own home made humous and vegetables, or I might eat something like a bagel and fried egg. I love bananas. Dinner usually consists of a carbohydrate such as potatoes, rice or udon noodles with chicken, beef, lamb or fish. I like to barbecue food all year round. I am constantly trying out new things and I cook at least two meals per week that are vegetarian.

Do you take any supplements?

I used to take zinc and B vitamins but I am trying to get everything from food at the moment. I do take a probiotic from Alflorex which is made in Cork. And the children take one too.

Do you go to health stores?

I love health stores – they are my sanctuary. I always feel better leaving with a bag full of quality food and other products. I go to Well and Good in Midleton and Natural Choice in Cork city. I have been going to health stores to find ingredients I couldn’t anywhere else for years. These include miso, nuts and seeds, psyllium husk, goji berries, hibiscus flowers for making kombucha, maca, raw cacao powder, green and herbal teas, coconut flour, rye flour and organic flour for making sourdough bread. The list is endless! I also look for essential oils and organic treats for the kids. I love to spend money on quality ingredients rather than clothes!

Tell me about your new book Lilly

The Homemade Year is a book for adults to do with children, for everyday creativity. It’s all about slowing down and touching base. I think that since lockdown we have a greater appreciation of home and being together at home. On a rainy day like today myself and my children will be pickling vegetables and making sauerkraut, using what we have. When we go for walks the children gather stuff, they might pick up leaves or on the beach they collect sea shells. We might take them home and make a mobile. It’s all about making something beautiful from what’s around us. I find I don’t appreciate the seasons as much as I used to when I was growing up in the countryside. Connecting with nature makes you feel more grounded. It’s as much about doing it as the finished product. There are over 70 ideas for things to make, do and eat in the book including knitting, baking, cooking or even making a jewellery tree from branches collected on a walk.

Do you have any tips for rude health readers?

Try to incorporate fermented foods into your diet. A big jar of kimchi is great to keep in the fridge – just spoon some into a stir fry to give it a flavour boost.

Get outdoors as much as you can, and bring the outside in.

Make things from scratch – fill your fridge with vegetables and other raw ingredients. Prepare as much as possible in advance.

Take time out to do fun projects at home.

The Homemade Year by Lilly Higgins is published by Gill Books. Cover imagery by Gillian Carney and Lilly Higgins.


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