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TV presenter and healthy eating advocate Davina McCall shares her secret to smart carbs

Presenter, triathlete and healthy eating advocate Davina McCall is back with a new cook book, Davina’s Smart Carbs, designed to help curb food cravings and put an end to energy slumps.

As well as being one of our most recognisable celebrities, Davina McCall can also take credit for knocking the nation into shape with her hugely successful line of fitness DVDs.

However, not everybody realises that Davina is also a dab hand in the kitchen.

Davina has a new cookbook out. Picture: PA Photo/Andrew Hayes Watkins
Davina has a new cookbook out. Picture: PA Photo/Andrew Hayes Watkins

Last year the 48-year-old released 5 Weeks To Sugar-Free and has now added another healthy-eating cookbook to her repertoire.

Written out of frustration at the confusing advice surrounding carbohydrates, Davina’s Smart Carbs seeks to simplify the issue.

“I’ve always been telling everybody about eating a balanced, healthy diet, one that includes carbs, and then I suddenly thought, ‘Have I been telling people the wrong thing?’ Then a nutritionist told me that there are good carbs and bad carbs and we came up with this idea of smart carbs.

“It makes total sense. There are smart carbs, ones that are good for us – and there are some very simple changes we can make.”

Davina's Smart Carbs, published by Orion Books
Davina's Smart Carbs, published by Orion Books

These changes include swapping white bread, rice and pasta for brown varieties (“that’s a no-brainer”) and using sweet potato in place of regular spuds.

Davina recalls how she thought her kids would “baulk” when she first made a chicken crumble with a cauliflower, quinoa and Parmesan topping – but actually they loved it.

“It’s interesting, you think, ‘Oh well, the kids aren’t going to like it’, but they have got more adventurous with the new stuff I give them. They’re into trying new things,” said Davina who lives just across the Kent border in East Sussex. She acknowledges mealtimes can be a battleground, however.

“I’ve got three kids and quite often, two of them like something and one of them doesn’t. I don’t make them something different – I just say, ‘Have some of the veg and have a bit more of this if you don’t like that’.”

Davina McCall gets cooking. Picture: PA Photo/Andrew Hayes Watkins
Davina McCall gets cooking. Picture: PA Photo/Andrew Hayes Watkins

Davina who completed seven days of swimming, running and cycling across the UK for Sport Relief in 2014, said: “The more somebody tries something, the more likely they are to like it in the end.”

Where to get local, fresh Kentish produce: head for a farmers' market

Davina's Bubble and Squeak

(Serves 4)
300g carrots, cut into chunks
300g swede, cut into chunks
10g butter
150g spring greens, cabbage or Brussels sprouts, shredded
1tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
Olive oil spray
Poached or fried eggs, to serve (optional)
Salt and black pepper

Bubble and squeak
Bubble and squeak

1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add the carrots and swede and cook them for about 10 minutes or until tender. Drain thoroughly, then tip them back into the saucepan and leave them over a low heat for a few minutes, just to help steam off any excess liquid. Swede in particular can get quite waterlogged, so this is important.

2. Mash the carrots and swede with the butter until fairly smooth. Tip the mash into a bowl and leave it to cool, then chill it in the fridge for a while to firm it up.

3. Wash the greens thoroughly, put them in a saucepan with a little water and cover the pan. Place the pan over the heat and cook for a few minutes until the greens have wilted down, then drain them thoroughly and leave them to cool.

4. When you’re ready to cook the bubble and squeak, mix the root veg mash and the greens together and season with salt and pepper.

5. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and gently fry the chopped onion over a medium heat until it’s softened and caramelising around the edges. Add this to the vegetables, then tip everything back into the frying pan and spread the mixture out into a large round.

6. Cook the bubble and squeak over a medium heat for several minutes until it’s nice and brown underneath and cooked through.

7. Meanwhile, preheat your grill to its highest setting. Spritz the top of the bubble and squeak with olive oil spray, then pop it under the grill for three to four minutes until it’s browning around the edges and in patches on top. Cut it into wedges and serve as part of a brunch with poached or fried eggs, if you like.

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