Healthy cooking and authentic dishes – what’s much better?
Traditional foods from England aren’t all about deep-fried fish, refined carbs, and desserts! Here are some delicious guilt-free classics.
“Good morrow ladies and gentlemen!” calls a peculiar British voice.
“Today we shall discuss some of the finest traditional foods from England. And by fine, one of course means healthy! One might even state these foods fit for Her Majesty the Queen (ha-ha-ha)
‘Tis a jolly day to have us another article, wouldn’t you say?
… And I suppose you’re here for the list, not my satire early 1900’s writing style?
Of course you are! How splendid!” [exit olden James]
Fry-Up / Full English breakfast (Yep!)
I bet no one was expecting to see this here! However, a traditional fry-up can actually be quite healthy.
The key is to avoid unhealthy oils and processed foods and instead opt for healthy whole foods.
This means avoiding using sunflower, canola, grapeseed, soya, and other vegetable and seed oils.
A healthier option is to use a fat or oil with a high tolerance to heat and stable fatty acids.
Here are a few examples which are perfect to use when frying:
- (Extra-virgin) Olive oil
- (Extra-virgin) Coconut oil
- Goose fat and other animal fats
- Butter (but avoid those with a lot of additives – goats butter is often a good choice)
- Almond oil
- Avocado oil
I’ve spoken about this many times, but it must be said that saturated fat IS NOT bad for you! ‘Outdated misinformation’ – as I often call it – is still often touted today.
Eating saturated fat will increase your risk for coronary heart disease!Rather, refined carbohydrates (like sugar) will do this.
Cholesterol-rich foods raise your cholesterol!Simply false. No detailed research supports this claim. Dietary cholesterol won’t clog your arteries or raise LDL levels.
And so on… It’s simply false. Whilst we do need to watch what fats we eat, natural animal fats have many essential functions in the body. Saturated fat is vital for the proper transportation of vitamins throughout the body, and in fact, is quite heart healthy!
Lipid scientists have known this for a long time now. More and more, research is telling us that we need to rethink the way that the mainstream nutritional system is set.
Low-fat diets can actually increase our risk for heart complications, and additionally, saturated fats have been shown in many studies to have no direct correlation with coronary heart disease, stroke, or cardiovascular disease. (^)(^)(^)(^)
In fact, these fats may benefit both the immune and nervous systems, and our metabolism! For cooking in particular, they are the safest option to use.
The benefits of a fry-up are as inclusive as you make them!
This traditional breakfast / “brunch” is a hearty, high-protein breakfast to keep us energetic throughout the day! It mostly consists of eggs, sausages, bacon, black pudding, mushrooms, tomatoes, and beans – all fried of course.
You couldn’t do any better than to make these yourself using simple, natural ingredients.
Why not indulge in our ‘Delightfully Healthy Sauteed Mushrooms’ Recipe?
Fun fact: We used to make sausages and black pudding with chunks of white cartilage, and then we encased in even more! Cartilage an extremely important building block of a healthy body, and is something that a lot of us don’t get enough off.
However, most sausages now have unnatural additives. As do bacon and black pudding! The best practice is to make your own, but that’s not always easy…
Source locally with fresh ingredients, or simply look out for nitrates and don’t eat these foods too often.
Back to cartilage – a protein group which is a nutritional powerhouse for connective tissue in the body… The best source is beyond-a-doubt bone broth (one of my favourite ingredients which I spoke about in This Post). But, in the past, it was also a common food ingredient.
A healthy fry-up will provide you with a bunch of beneficial minerals and vitamins (including iron, selenium, zinc, choline, vitamins B1, B2, B6, B9, and B12, vitamin A, vitamin E, and more).
This helps our nervous system, immune system, muscle and skeletal development, skin health, brain health, and metabolism!
Here are some guidelines for healthy ingredients in a fry-up:
- Use pastured / free-range eggs (preferably organic).
- Make your own ingredients, or opt for sausages and black pudding with the fewest additives and flour, and bacon with the least salt and nitrates.
- Don’t buy tinned baked beans. These are high in sugar and artificial no-nos! Instead, you can simply use plain tinned beans (of any type) and cook them with seasoned tinned chopped tomatoes. Check Out my Recipe for Homemade Fresh Tomato Sauce (Easy).
This is a great video on making your own easy and fresh tomato sauce, too.
- Only fry the Mushrooms lightly to preserve their brilliant nutrition. You can also oven cook them or grill them beforehand, and then fry for even shorter.
Not a bad start for our first traditional foods from England, right?
The unofficial national dish of England is Tikka Masala. Some claim it to be a dish taken from India, and others claim its origins to be British.
There is some debate, but what we all can agree on is that it is delicious!
Tikka Masala is a spiced chicken curry with a rich flavour, aroma, and colour.
(The name literally means “spiced/marinated meat”, but chicken is the standard type in England.)
When made using natural whole ingredients, this dish may have multiple health benefits.
Next time you go to make a chilli con carne, why not mix things up and have a go at this! It works brilliantly with basmati or whole grain rice, as you’d expect.This is a Brilliant Homemade Chicken Tikka Masala Curry Recipe for the homestead chefs, but you can also simplify a bit!
As you might as might have known, the chicken in this dish will provide you with plenty of protein and minerals. Just as impressively, the wonderful range of spices and herbs provides a hefty amount of anti-ageing anti-oxidants!
For the best results, make sure to include turmeric and season your rice with black pepper! Turmeric is one of the most amazing foods on this planet, and that can genuinely be stated.
I spoke about it in some detail in my post about The Best Foods for Brain Health, where we learn about the importance of using black pepper to really absorb the healthy components from it, and about its anti-inflammatory and protective properties!
Shepherd’s Pie (Cottage Pie)
One of the most traditional foods from England is Shepherd’s pie, also known as Cottage pie. Now whilst I just said the dish is from England, it actually originated in Ireland and is a traditional dish of Irish cuisine…
But, I guess we loved it so much here that it’s now a well-rooted dish in English cuisine!
For anyone who hasn’t had this, it is a delicious, hearty mincemeat pie topped with mashed potato. Perfect for cold nights, that’s for sure!
The meat is often with your basic mixed vegetables. These include cauliflower, carrots, green beans, some broccoli, and sweetcorn (or a variation with only a few). Cheese, particularly Cheddar, is another common addition grated on top of the potato.
P.S. If you use cheese, I’d recommend one from grass-fed cows or goats. Abel & Cole offer a “great-to-grate” Organic Mature Cheddar. Get it?
Shepherd’s pie is a well-rounded dish, and can be made with either beef or lamb. Most commonly the meat of choice would be beef, though.
If you make this at home, the mashed potatoes work wonderfully using a pure butter or even bone broth! Once again, goat’s butter is often a healthy go-to choice.
EVERYONE loves a roast! Yes, everyone.
Possibly the most traditional dish of England is a Sunday roast. Complete with beef, roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots, yorkshire puddings, and any sort of green vegetable, this is a well-rounded meal that lives up to its reputation.
Typically, a full roast will provide you with healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- B-vitamins (particularly 3, 6, and 12)
- Saturated fats such as Stearic Acid
- Monounsaturated fats such as
- CLA (see below)
Beef also contains substances that are brilliant for proper growth, maintenance, and muscle function. Creatine is a good example, and is often taken supplementary by athletes and bodybuilders. Glutathione and taurine are other examples.
Conjugated linoleic acid is a type of Omega-6 fatty acid derived from Omega-7 in beef. Despite being considered a trans fat (which are often extremely unhealthy), it is a ruminant trans fat which actually benefits our health (^)!
Yorkshire Puddings are a Touchy Subject...
Despite being loved by Brits all over, those found in the supermarket aren’t very good for you! They often contain vegetable oils and a range of artificial additives, making them bad for heart health and inflammation.
However, they are super easy to make at home with only a few simple ingredients. That is how they should be – traditional and natural! Here is an excellent recipe using whole spelt flour which I highly recommend.
Modern wheat can have adverse effects on a lot of us – even if we don’t realise. This is in part because of its tough type of gluten. Whereas the gluten in spelt is much easier digested and is water soluble! As an ancient grain, it has had little effect from modern agricultural modification, and is highly nutritious (^).
An excellent option is to keep the juices from your cooked meat. Mix this slowly with a little spelt or corn flour over low heat, and you have a traditional gravy! Yum!
The abundance of nutrients and antioxidants found in a complete meal like this can benefit our brain and body in many ways. By keeping our organs and tissues strong and healthy, and preventing premature degeneration, it is no wonder that the centenarians of today are often those which have been raised on a pure and traditional diet.
As an attempt to find a traditional vegetarian dish from England for those of you out there, this is probably the best option! Not only is a soup versatile, it’s easy to make and should never be overlooked!
Additionally, different types of soup are well rooted in English cuisine. As an Englishman myself, I know the saving grace of a hearty vegetable soup (especially in winter)!
Typically, an English vegetable soup or contain an abundance of root vegetables, leeks, celery, and herbs. Some legumes such as lentils are often optional additions.
A soup containing potatoes, carrots, parsnips, leeks, onions, and mint is simple and wholesome. This alone would provide you with large amounts of vitamin C and K1, and some vitamin A and B vitamins. You would also find a fair amount of potassium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, and iron.
For this reason, root vegetables like these can be important sources of nutrients for vegetarians. A hearty vegetable soup like this can provide B-vitamins and minerals found more in animal products.
- Reduce inflammation
- Prevent ageing
- Support the immune system
- Boost skin health
- Protect brain health (^)
- Protect eye health
- Improve heart health
- Keep bones strong
How’s that for just a couple of the many antioxidants found in this?
(*By the way, it is recommended not to supplement with beta-carotene. The amount found in a healthy diet is enough, and supplementation in too high amounts may lead to adverse effects.)
A soup like this also has a fair amount of carbohydrates and may provide gut-friendly fibres depending on the consistency.
Offal, or organ meats (whichever name you like), do you have their place as traditional foods from England.
Unfortunately, they are much less common here than they were in the past. But hopefully that will change again (particularly as a healthy lifestyle becomes more prevalent), and we won’t waste as much meat (which is unsustainable).
The first ever health food article on the Healthy Ronin website was on the benefits of organ meat. That is because they are extremely overlooked and have played an important role in human nutrition for thousands of years. Suddenly changing that now is less sustainable, and even less healthy.
In fact, our evolution into the big brain homosapiens that we are today, is in large part thought to be because of our tendency to eat meat and offal from animals in the past.
This provided our ancestors and their infants with a lot of nutrition. And that, in turn, enabled us to develop these features.
What To Avoid… An Important Reminder
As with any post on healthy ethnic and cultural food, we like to touch on the subject of the foods to avoid.
For those living in the UK, which I presume is a lot of you, these may seem obvious. But, for our brothers and sisters around the world wanting to experience true, healthy, wholesome English cuisine, these should be pointed out!
I have written below a quick list of some unhealthy Traditional Foods From England (best avoided). These aren’t exactly all dishes in their own right but are best included in this list.
Fish and Chips
This is by far one of the worst choices you could go for! As sad as it is to say, the go-to “traditional” takeaway option in the UK is unhealthy. We should know to expect that of fast food though.
Originating from a so-called “fried fish Warehouse” created by Charles Dickens, the first fish and chip shops opened in the 1860s. And they were exactly that. They fried fish!
In short, they had taken one of the healthiest foods and turn them into one of the unhealthiest by battering them, blasting them with high heat, and providing a heavy dose of inflammatory and heart-destructive vegetable oils.
This one is a no-go, no matter which item is on the menu!
Tarts, Cakes, Desert Pies, and Biscuits
A group of food items once reserved only for the richest has now found its way into the common. Unfortunately, that’s bad news…
Tarts, cakes, and dessert pies are all often extremely high in sugar. And even if you find any which aren’t, they’ll almost certainly be high in refined carbohydrates which will spike blood sugar anyway, and a bunch of unhealthy flavourings.
The chemicals found in the everyday processed versions of these foods can often be hazardous to health as well (particularly in excess).
The same pretty much goes for biscuits (or ‘cookies’), unless you make some healthy whole grain recipes at home. There are various recipes for this, particularly savoury options. Some examples to experiment with use sprouted buckwheat (^) and almond pulp (^)!
Why not experiment with spelt gingerbread, for example, as a sweet option! Here’s one useful idea.
I’ve tried to make almond crackers before with the leftover pulp from making almond milk. But, I forgot to use enough olive oil! Maybe you can do better 🙂
High Amounts of Processed Meat
Processed meats include canned meats like ‘SPAM’ and corned beef, and cured meats such as hot dogs, salami, and sausages. Other cured meats are ham and cured bacon.
The reasons for avoiding these vary. Canned meats include the negatives of cured meats, and often have a lot of unhealthy added ingredients. Cured meats are particularly high in sodium and types of nitrite.
Nitrite (note: not nitrate) and N-nitroso compounds like nitrosamines are all used to preserve meat. However, they may be harmful to health and show a particular correlation with both bowel and stomach cancer (^) (^) (^).
Additionally, too much sodium is bad for gastrointestinal health and can increase blood pressure (https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/potassium-sodium-related-hearts-contraction-9102.html). As you may expect, this can increase the risk of heart failure.
PAHs (‘Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons’) are also worth noting. These are formed in smoked meats and fish and have been linked to cancer formation, so are best limited (^). Smoked foods should be consumed with consideration considering this.
For both of these reasons, it is wise to avoid high amounts of processed meats. If you do eat them on occasion, opt for the lowest you can find in nitrites (etc.) and salt. Without a doubt stay away from canned meats and hot dogs, though!
Pies and gluten-containing foods (for some people)
For those with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, a wheat allergy, it is best to avoid these foods. Pies, pasties, and sausage rolls – despite often being highly process – also contain gluten.
In the UK it is quite difficult to find these without wheat flour, as well.
Besides, shepherd’s pie as a great alternative, and making your own healthy versions of foods is always good fun!
Cheerio, and Not The Cereal!
(Too much sugar in that one! ^ Opt for Scrumptious Oats Instead!)
[Enter awful early 1900’s impression again]
Oh, it’s you again! I guess my time machine brought me back by some means…
Well, I do suppose now’s time that I make leave again. But before I go, a future variant of myself did ask of me yestermorrow to share a message (prior to my departure, that is).
Although I am not sure I fully understood the last part, perhaps you can make something of this:
Thank you for reading everyone, I hope you learn something useful today. When exploring traditional English cuisine, there is a lot to cover.
We have only scratched the surface, but I hope to have given you some great ideas for the healthiest Traditional Foods From England available.
It is important, as always, to avoid the unhealthy options you may typically find. We cover similar useful information for our other cuisines, too: Find out More Here if you’re interested!
And remember, share this with your friends and family on social media, Facebook and Twitter, and let’s spread the word of good health together! Until the next time, stay healthy…James
How odd indeed! *Poof* I do say, this machine is acting up a great deal recently!
Cheerio! *Click* *Zoom* [Exit]