We all love tucking into our favourite grub – whether you’re a fiend for the ambience of eating at a restaurant or prefer to stay faithful to your local takeaway menu you now know off by heart. Juicy chicken pitta from Nando’s (don’t forget the peri-naise), deep pan stuffed crust from Pizza Hut, and authentic Indian dishes from the local curry house all come out on top when it comes to Brits and their food.
Besides the fact that our favourite restaurant and takeaway pics are mouth-wateringly delicious, you might be surprised about the other ways the food we eat affects us. Here’s some food for thought – did you know it’s been scientifically proven that about 95% of your mood-regulating hormone, serotonin, is produced in your gastrointestinal tract? So it makes sense that the food we eat can affect our mood, which explains why we might feel worse after a greasy takeaway than we would after a healthy, home-cooked meal.
To celebrate Mental Health Awareness week, we’re working with AO.com and Rethink to look at healthier, cheaper alternatives to restaurant favourites you can cook up in your very own kitchen. These recipes certainly pack a punch – they’re bursting with flavour, irresistibly affordable, and full of ingredients that’ll leave you feeling healthy and happy. Plus, find out how you can raise even more money for Rethink when you shop at AO.com this week.
Whether you’re team extra hot or prefer the fruity flavours of mango and lime, it’s fair to say that we, as a nation, are in the grips of a peri peri chicken frenzy. Recreating your favourite Nando’s order at home is easier, healthier and cheaper than you might think. Not to mention the fact that lean protein sources like chicken are a proven serotonin booster, according to Psychology Today. We’re loving this DIY recipe from Cafe Delites, which uses ordinary cupboard essentials to recreate that iconic Nando’s sauce flavour.
Pizza Hut or Domino’s
There’s nothing better than sinking your teeth into a mozzarella-laden, deep pan pizza on a Friday night after a long week at work – who’s with us? But if you don’t have the budget to splurge on an Italian feast or simply want to cut back on the calories, there are tons of ways you can make your pizza more gut-healthy.
Why not make a change and load your pizza with veggies? Swapping your favourite toppings for spinach, peppers and mushrooms is an easy way to fast track your veg intake. Spinach is a brain-friendly food high in folate – an essential vitamin that promotes blood circulation in your brain. The folks over at the NHS say that eating just one daily serving of spinach can slow down cognitive decline thanks to its high vitamin K levels. This leafy green can also have an impact on your serotonin levels – result!
Check out this eggs florentine pizza recipe from BBC Good Food for a super simple way to incorporate brain-boosting spinach and protein-rich egg into your pizza fix. You could even substitute the flour used in the traditional dough for whole wheat to increase your fibre intake too.
KFC or fried chicken
There’s something special about the colonel’s top secret fried chicken coating that leaves our taste buds wanting more every time. But seeing as your favourite fried chicken is, well, deep fried in oil, it’s not exactly the best option for a healthy mind or waistline.
Take inspiration from the colonel and create your very own Kentucky ‘fried’ chicken at home for a delicious meal that’s much healthier but doesn’t compromise on flavour. When you haven’t got money to splurge on a boneless bucket, save money and try out Kevin is Cooking’s recipe which bakes instead of fries the chicken.
It’s a well-known fact that baked foods are a whole lot healthier than fried, so this healthy swap will leave you feeling happy inside and out. And while the iconic KFC spice mix is strictly under wraps, this recipe comes scarily close, meaning you can get your fried chicken fix whenever you like!
McDonalds or Burger King
You don’t need to head to your local Maccies to get your irresistible burger fix. Getting your burger on from the comfort of your own kitchen is a fantastically healthy way to enjoy this delicious classic for less. This quick, fuss-free recipe from SuperValu includes immune-boosting ingredients like garlic and onion, and swaps processed patties for burgers made using fresh ground beef – a fantastic source of mood-boosting lean protein.
Try swapping the traditional burger bap for a healthier wholegrain roll for extra vitamins and fibre. Ditch the french fries in favour of a healthy side salad. Don’t forget to include your favourite mood-boosting ingredients such as lentils, spinach, bell peppers, and carrots for the ultimate brain food.
Your go-to dishes from the local Chinese, as delicious as they are, are chock full of sodium and saturated fat. Creating authentic Chinese food at home is easier now more than ever – even your favourites like egg fried rice, sweet and sour chicken and spring rolls.
The guys over at Slimming Eats have compiled a list of healthy recipes for traditional Chinese takeaway picks. From succulent slow-cooked Asian style beef to crunchy chicken chow mein, there’s not a classic dish you won’t find. They’re all under 500 calories, and you can bet they’re fresher and cheaper than digging out the takeaway menu too. Round up your folks and indulge in an authentic Chinese feast together for a wholesome, happy meal time.
Curry and Indian Food
We all love digging into a saucy curry on the sofa in front of the telly. This time around, why not leave the takeaway menu in the drawer and create your very own fragrant, filling curry from scratch? Get marinating your meat the night before to ramp up the flavour and pack in heaps of heart-healthy veggies like butternut squash, spinach, onion, mushrooms and peppers. Don’t skimp on the turmeric either, this little wonder spice has been proven to boost our mood.
Try out BBC Good Food’s vegan aloo gobi packed with super healthy roasted cauliflower and potato. Or why not give the simple lamb dopiaza a go if you’re feeling adventurous? Some of the rice is substituted for a low calorie broccoli rice for a healthy take on an Indian classic.
Fish and chips
Everyone knows the amazing benefits of oily fish such as cod and salmon. Not only are they a great source of protein, but they’re super rich in omega 3 fatty acids – which has been scientifically proven to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Why not switch up traditional battered fish from the chippy for a homemade, healthy option that’s good for the body and mind?
Take a look at this healthier fish and chips recipe from Delicious magazine for a lighter version of the British favourite that doesn’t sacrifice flavour or texture. This take from Sainsbury’s swaps traditional chips for carrot and celeriac fries – coming in at a meagre 417 calories per meal. Plus, at just £1.16 per portion, you can bet it’s a whole lot cheaper than a trip to the chippy!
Cook at home with AO.com and raise extra donations for Rethink
Get your homemade cooking adventure off to a fantastic start with AO.com’s range of large kitchen appliances. Plus, every time you use an AO.com deal during Mental Health Awareness week (Monday 13th to Sunday 19th May), an extra 2% of your purchase will be donated directly to mental health charity Rethink. Give yourself a headstart with our exclusive £30 off large kitchen appliance orders over £399 offer, valid until Monday 20th May. Here are some of our staff favourite picks that’ll make you want to prep, cook, roast and bake like there’s no tomorrow.