Jo Hill, aka @pullupsandpeanutbutter, is a self-confessed chocolate addict, which is problematic for fitness fanatics like her.
But rather than deny herself her favourite indulgence, Jo uses her culinary cunning to craft carb-conscious dietary compromises. Yip, she’s the master of baking your cake and eating it!
For a closer look at Jo’s approach and the better-for-you ingredients she uses in the delectable recipes she shares on Instagram, we tagged along on a recent shopping excursion.
How would you describe your nutritional approach?
In one word, balanced. I’m a firm believer in finding a way of eating food you love! I was the queen of yo-yo dieting and after many unsuccessful years (and a very disordered relationship with food). I realised that diets don’t work for me.
You need to create a healthy lifestyle without restriction and feelings of deprivation. I used to label food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and believed I was only allowed those foods in the ‘good’ category.
I don’t believe in this polarised ‘good and bad’ concept of food. Some foods are merely better for you than others. I think it is important to eat a variety of foods in your diet, and that includes certain ‘bad’ foods. All foods have their place in a balanced diet.
I think it is very important to base your diet around fresh whole foods. These foods are packed with vitamins and nutrients, and none of the nasties. I think it is important that we have full control over what we put into our body, which we can achieve by eating foods that don’t come with a barcode.
In saying that, I eat packaged foods every day as part of my balanced approach to eating. I think that 80 % of my meals are from fresh, whole foods and 20 % come from packaged foods. In an ideal world, it would be great to only consume fresh foods, but practically, I don’t think its always possible (or sustainable).
What’s your usual shopping routine?
I shop twice a week. I do my weekly grocery shop on a Saturday morning, where I buy everything necessary for meal prep. I do that on a Sunday to prepare everything we need for the week ahead. I shop again on a Wednesday to stock up on fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables.
I also love online shopping. Once a month, I buy our monthly supplement stack, and also shop online monthly for cleaning products. I have found that spending a few hours shopping over the weekend means that I can spend hours of quality time with my loved ones when I finish work during the week, which is priceless.
Jo’s basic weekly shopping list:
- Low-fat gourmet Greek yoghurt
- Unsweetened almond milk
- Lactose-free milk
- Fat-free cottage cheese
- Slimmer’s Choice mozzarella cheese
- Chicken breasts
- Ostrich mince
- Chicken mince
- Tinned tuna
- Fresh fish
- Baby marrow
- Baby spinach
- Green beans
- Stir fry mix
- Bell peppers
- Granny Smith apples
- Frozen berries
- Basmati rice
- Rolled oats
- Instant oats
- Oat cakes
- Corn cakes
- Sugar free jelly
- Zero custard
- Protein bars
- Sugar-free chocolate
- Sugar-free cookies
- Chia seeds
- Raw nuts
- Popcorn seeds
- Peanut butter
- Coconut oil
- Light mayonnaise
- Sugar-free tomato sauce
- Sugar-free chutney
- Nando’s sauce
Where are your preferred shopping destinations?
Food Lover’s Market: I buy our meat from the butchery as they sell in bulk. I also buy a lot of our tinned foods from here as they have an awesome selection of legumes and imported tinned items.
Spar: I buy eggs, Greek yoghurt and other pantry essentials.
Woolworths: Fresh produce because it lasts a bit longer so it’s worth the extra money. Woolies also has an incredible selection of food in their Slimmer’s choice range.
Dis-Chem and Wellness Warehouse: Great for my healthy baking ingredients and healthy treats.
What are your must-have ingredients in any healthy pantry cupboard?
My pantry is always filled with things I can use to bake. This includes oats (oat flour is my favourite flour to use), coconut flour, ground flaxseed, raw nuts, pitted dates, nut butter, chia seeds, mixed seeds, tinned chickpeas, tinned lentils, tinned black beans, honey, stevia/xylitol/sweetener of choice, cocoa powder, protein powder, spices such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and mixed spice, and unsweetened almond milk.
What are a few of your rules for wholesome and healthful eating?
As a flexible dieter, I try to have a very relaxed and balanced approach to my nutrition. But I try to educate my followers about how they can create a way of eating that they love and will, therefore, stick to.
Another important rule is to plan ahead. I’m a firm believer in meal prep, because when you fail to plan, plan to fail!
I suggest spending some time over the weekend determining your main meals for the following week, namely breakfast, lunch and dinner. These meals should be comprise whole, fresh, nutrient-dense foods as far as possible. You can then think about the treats and snacks you would want to include.
I love trying to ‘healthify’ my favourite treats and you can find these recipes on my platforms, or in my recipe book. Ultimately, I would love more people to realise that healthy eating doesn’t need to be boring, or complicated. There are so many ways to create delicious and nutritious meals. You may just need to be creative.
What are your preferred cooking methods?
I bake my chicken breasts so that I can cook them in bulk. I pan fry my ostrich mince, using a non-stick pan. I don’t cook with much oil as I would rather add the fat to my meal separately. I am obsessed with my air fryer and don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have one. I air fry most of my veggies, or I steam them. I generally don’t boil my food because I fear that I will lose nutrients during the cooking process.
Can you give us a peek inside your fridge and freezer?
Our fridge and freezer are always jam packed with goodies. I have a container of chicken breasts that I use for salads, or I add them to other meals. I also always have a container of basmati rice, as well as some roasted veg. You’ll also find salad ingredients and fresh fruit and veggies in the fridge.
My sweet tooth is also out of this world, so we always have a tray of protein brownies or blondies in the fridge – they last over a week when stored in an airtight container.
In the freezer, you’ll find meals pre-made meals that I’ve frozen (my husband can’t cook to save his life so this is generally for him). You’ll also find frozen berries, alongside vegetables that I worry will go off (I steam these vegetables and then puree and freeze them for smoothies or soups). We always have bread in the freezer, certain nuts and coconuts (they won’t freeze properly and this can prevent them from going rancid). And, of course, there are always frozen treats in the freezer. My current obsession is my protein crispies, so I have literally always got a stash of them in the freezer.
What’s your top food prep tip?
Invest in quality containers. This may seem like a silly tip, but if you have a cupboard filled with mismatched containers with missing lids, food prep can become frustrating. Your food will also spoil a lot faster if the lid doesn’t fit your container properly. I suggest using containers that are freezer friendly. I typically keep food and meals in the fridge for three days and then freeze the leftovers.
Got any on-the-go snack recommendations?
I like to have protein with every meal, which obviously includes snacks. I always have a shake with me as its so easy to make while on the go. I also often have a few protein brownies or protein truffles with me, depending on what I’ve prepped in advance.
If I am out and haven’t got my ‘Mary Poppins’ bag with me, I normally grab a protein bar.
I love the My Smart high protein chocolate or the Grenade Birthday cake bars. I also love the Youthful Living protein nougat and Futurelife Protein Lite bars. I am obsessed with Trigz popped corn chips – they are a delish carb source. I also love grabbing a Steri Stumpie Lite as they are quite high in protein.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt about healthful eating and food prep?
Sustainability is key. If you don’t love your diet or way of eating, you won’t stick to it. I’ve found that the Jo who is meal prepping on a Sunday making grilled chicken and basmati rice, is different to Thursday’s Jo during a crazy week.
That’s why I like to prep delicious yet healthy foods. Keeping food simple while prepping is also important. For instance, I will bake my chicken breasts using simple spices and then season or add different sauces to the cooked chicken on different days so the chicken doesn’t always taste the same.
My South African sticky chicken marinade has been a complete game changer, and I make that every week. I also puree some pumpkin to make a curry sauce. I then add some chicken to it so that we can enjoy healthy butter chicken as well. It’s just another example of how healthy eating doesn’t need to be boring.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.