Coconut oil, ghee, and turmeric are friends of Asian cooking.  Now they are slick, organic ingredients heroed in lattes, or ‘superfoods’ eaten straight from the spoon.  Home-cooked halal food often reflects traditional recipes that can sometimes be heavy in saturated fats or served with refined carbs.  We might want to make them a little healthier, or make our day-to-day diets healthier.  But what is ‘healthy’, and how far should we take it?

There’s so much advice on what to eat.  It’s hard to know where to turn.  What’s valuable in the saturated environment is some back-to-basics common sense advice, stripped of the things ‘you must eat now’ – those lavish groceries and the ‘it ingredients for Q1’.  It’d be nice to think we could eat healthy halal food without having to search for items in out-of-the-way health food shops. For so long it has been hard to get good quality halal meat close to where we live.  Now that we can, we don’t want to go out hunting for obscure ingredients that claim to perform miracles.  Dara Mohammadi and Dr Ali Khavandi tell us we don’t have to.  The experts provide a much-needed take on eating well for less in their refreshing article for the Guardian.  They tell us eating healthily doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.  They remind us that a good diet serves one purpose alone: to live longer.  Their article is a welcome break from much online material.  And you’ll be pleased to hear there’s no mention of Nubian goat’s milk, grasshoppers, macha bread, or marijuana recipes…

Eating at home is one of the food trends for 2017-2018 – but the trend has nothing to do with home cooking.  Instead it celebrates delivery food: meal kits, personalisation, chef apps – even food delivering drones!  (We have to admit, that bit is pretty cool.)  We look at some of this year’s other trends through the lens of simple, healthy halal food that you can cook at home, easily and inexpensively.

Minerals

Minerals are in the spotlight this year, with vitamins apparently taking a backseat… (Yes, it’s all too fashion prediction-like for us too).  Dark leafy vegetables provide minerals and vitamins, and are particularly hot on the big M’s, providing calcium, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.  Mohammadi and Khavandi remind us that vegetables are not good for you not because of their ‘magical detoxifying properties.’  They’re good for you because they help avoid disease.  Green, leafy vegetables are well-known for lowering blood pressure.  The experts also tell us – in the midst of the vegan wave – that meat is an important part of our meals, as a good source of protein.  Protein forms the building blocks of what composes us (muscles and bones), what holds everything together (skin and cartilage), and what keeps it all ticking along nicely (enzymes and hormones).  Why not serve a dark leafy greens with your evening meals?  Alongside some juicy chicken breast or a stew?  Add it to chicken wraps?  Put it in a chicken pasta pake?   You can serve spinach warm and wilted, adding some lemon juice and pepper, or some red chilies.  Or, you can make a salad from fresh leaves.  Throw in anything you like, from toasted nuts (we’re talking almonds, hazelnuts, that sort of ordinary, locatable thing), to raisins, pomegranate seeds, grilled aubergine, peas, strawberries, broccoli, a sliced egg, even blueberries… (Did we mention blueberries were a trend, too?)  Accompanying your meals with a dark green salad is an excellent, simple way to make healthy halal food. Other high-mineral dark leafy greens include kale, swiss chard, and turnip greens.

Olives

Olives are a trend this year, transcending the normal frame of things, flavouring ice-creams instead of salads.  Our friends Mohammadi and Khavandi reassure us that the simple olive still hold value, telling us that despite the many oils with a PR spin, the evidence is strongest with ‘boring olive oil’. There’s no need to pay out for the expensive stuff, they tell us – the economical extra-virgin type is just fine. Whole olives are delicious in chicken pot dishes with lemons and fresh herbs, or added to a risotto or a flatbread.  It’s worth throwing a handful into dinner for their protective qualities.

Tacos

Tacos are a trend that we can make work for healthy halal food. This recipe can be made using Haloodies minced beef.  You can add halal beef stock and a cheese of your choice.  It’s low in calories and has a list of simple, good, water-, vitamin- and mineral-rich ingredients that you can definitely find at the supermarket nearby.  Tomatoes, lettuce, garlic, peppers, onions, lime juice, fresh coriander – and if you make the guacamole too – avocados.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods, enzymes and probiotics are big for 2017-8, but Mohammadi and Khavandi tell us that simple foods like mangoes have protective, soluble fibre that can slow down the digestion of the entire meal.  Ordinary yoghurt works well for the gastrointestinal tract too.  Add it to sauces, hot or cold, to meat dishes.  In moderation, ginger is also celebrated for easing with digestion.  Chop it, grate it, eat it raw or cooked in a little oil.

World Foods

Haloodies’ cooked chicken products have world flavours, from Tikka to Red Thai and Cajun to Peri-Peri.  They’re readily prepared and made from 100% halal meat and marinades.  All of our cooked chicken products are perfect for a diet of healthy halal food.  Serve them up with crunchy, water-filled salads, spices and vegetables.  And you needn’t stock up on the expensive veg either.  Some lettuce, peppers and radishes will make a colourful, protective salad.  Foods of the ‘American Tropics’ are particularly popular this season (yes, we’re still on the subject of food).  Among these is ‘Hawaiian’.  A simple and cheap nod to this trend is the humble pineapple.  Hawaiian cuisine makes good use of the pineapple – a fruit that has more vitamin C than an orange.  A spicy pineapple curry is a tasty and affordable meal.  Slices are also delicious roasted in foil with a succulent chicken breast.  Or a diced breast can be made into healthy halal skewers with pineapple, red onion and green peppers.

South Asian Food

Last but not least is the resurgence of everything South Asian in the world of street food, from bhel puri to lassis.  If nothing else this trend ought to remind us of the multiple health benefits we find in simple spices we have in our cupboards. Although the likes of Cocoa Curry and Cinnamon Caramel are finding their way onto the trends list, the basics are all you need.  Run-of-the-mill supermarket spices like cinnamon and turmeric, cloves and pepper are thought to be disease-fighting and balancing for the digestive system.  South Asian cuisine will never get tired, but we can make recipes healthier by adjusting things simply: cutting back the salt and sugar, stopping frying, and switching to whole grains.

Mocktails

Finally, the benefits of a halal diet are being felt by nutritionists.  Non-alcoholic cocktails are big this year.  They’ll no doubt be bigger next year.  Brands like <a href="https://www.seedlipdrinks.com/">Seedlip</a> are winning awards for their complex and sophisticated non-alcoholic spirits.  Whether you’re at home, enjoying a nice meal, or out socialising, this is a great opportunity to drink more disease-busting juices.  Orange, pear, cranberry are still Vitamin C award winners, even if they seem to have been usurped by artichoke water or a jackfruit.

Food trends are a fascinating part of millennial culture.  We want to taste them at food festivals, save them to our Pinterest boards.  But they shouldn’t dictate how we eat, or encourage us to spend on things we don’t need.  We don’t need oranges to move over to make way for something new. We don’t need seaweed pizzas or camel yoghurt. Forget the next buzzword, the next superfood. Food isn’t fashionable, it’s potentially life-preserving, life-saving.  So we say, if you want to dabble in the purple food trend of 2017-18, you’d do well to chop up a cabbage.