Interview: Exercise guru Joe Wicks discusses new book 'Feel Good Food'

Joe Wicks cooking with the family.

Joe Wicks cooking with the family. - Credit: Harper Collins Publishers

He inspired the country to keep moving during the pandemic. 
But Joe Wicks has another string to his bow – cooking and writing cook books.

The nation’s favourite fitness teacher and bestselling author has written a new cookbook with a focus on eating to feel good, called Feel Good Food.


“I’m so passionate about helping people eat well, live well and feel fantastic. I want to bring a bit of joy back into eating and home cooking, and for me, my approach is about promoting good mental health too,” says Joe, who was awarded an MBE in 2020.

In Feel Good Food, Joe – who is known as The Body Coach and whose livestream PE sessions on YouTube were viewed by more than a million users – has created more than 100 tasty and easy meals that are quick to get on the table and will have you and your family feeling your best.

Joe says: “It’s something I’m really passionate about – food, sleep and exercise are all very important to me, because without one of them, it’s very easy to feel off balance.

“This is the most varied book I’ve ever created and I’ve really thought about both people that live alone or those that live with friends or family – it's an accessible book that I hope will be enjoyed by all.”


Feel Good Food by Joe Wicks is £20 (hardback, published by Harper Collins).

Feel Good Food by Joe Wicks is £20 (hardback, published by Harper Collins). - Credit: Harper Collins Publishers


Here, Joe answers questions about his new book: 

1. Your new book Feel Good Food takes you in a new direction, what made you pivot to writing about food to feel good?

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There’s been a massive shift in my narrative over the last couple of years, especially through the pandemic and the links that have surfaced between mental health, the food we eat and the exercise we do. There’s always such a big emphasis on food for fat loss and getting lean by cutting things out, but actually I think the most important thing that draws people back to healthy food and home cooking is the feeling they get when they spend time in the kitchen, creating wonderful recipes with their family and enjoying the food and the energy it gives you.


There’s a big conversation that needs to be had around just how much food impacts our mood - I think people often think adequate exercise and sleep is enough to feel fine, but if your diet consists of mainly heavily processed foods, then this isn’t going to give you energy and will instead bring you down. Feel Good Food is about getting in the kitchen and enjoying the process of prepping food, understanding what you’re putting in your body and how this can benefit our energy levels, focus, attention and mood.


For me personally, when I eat junk food I notice I can be more snappy and irritable. Allowing myself treats every now and then is totally fine, but I’ll always come back to nourishing my body with food that makes me feel good. It’s something I’m really passionate about – food, sleep and exercise are all very important to me, because without one of them, it’s very easy to feel off balance.

2. Why is it now more important than ever to start eating food that makes you feel good?

We’re in a time where it’s so easy to get fast food delivered to your door, or to grab a ready meal from a supermarket, but these meals have such highly processed ingredients that they aren’t going to give you energy, and an excess can hold you back from really feeling your best self. When you have great ingredients in your cupboard and access to recipes that you can bang out in 15/20 minutes, it’s going to set you up for a day of energy, leaving you feeling more focused, calm and tolerant.

This book is slightly different from what I’ve done in the past, my Lean in 15 books were very much based solely on body image. But that was 7/8 years ago now and my message has changed a lot since then – looking good is a big motivation but it doesn’t always pull you back. Feeling good and feeling energised and experiencing the mental and physical benefits of great food and exercise, that’s what brings you back to a cookbook. I think this book contains a really important message for everyone going through a difficult time at the minute – there’s still a lot of anxiety and people feeling low, especially with COVID still lingering, so putting good food in your body means you’re giving yourself the best chance to take on the day feeling energised.


3. Have any significant life experiences inspired the book?

100%. Becoming a parent and trying to balance work (e.g. filming my workout videos) and life (e.g. trying to get the kids to bed and have enough sleep myself) has inspired me to think more about batch cooking and family style food, hence the pies, the curries and chillis – they last 2 or 3 days in the fridge too! For me, batch cooking means leftovers, which in turn means less hassle in the kitchen as well as less dishes, which is great if you’re a fan of speed and simplicity like me. Not all of the meals in the book will be 15 minutes, but I can guarantee they’re all simple and full of flavour. I wanted this to be a book that people buy not just because they support me, but one they can actually use and return to time and time again. There’s a lovely recipe called the Sausage Sweet Potato and Mustard Traybake which you can do pretty much all in the oven – it’s so simple you can do an entire workout while it’s cooking, come back and have an amazing recipe on the table. Parents and those who work are often so short on time that I wanted to make sure there were quick and simple recipes that would be great for them as well as make them feel good, and I really think we’ve achieved this!


4. How are these recipes going to make people feel good?

Food is our energy source, it’s as simple as when you’re putting healthy fats, the right balance of proteins and delicious carbohydrates into your body, you’re going to feel the benefits. Then, when you experience the positive impacts, you’re going to want to come back to it. It’s also all about the basics, I don’t list calories or track macros because I don’t want to confuse people, I want everyone to be able to enjoy these recipes, to get back into the kitchen and keep things simple.


Don’t get me wrong, in the moment when you’re eating a chocolate bar or ice cream, it’s going to taste good, but it’s likely to be followed by an energy drop, bloating and tiredness. But with these recipes, putting foods in your body that are high in flavour but contain all the essentials will make you feel so good without the element of stress in the kitchen.




5. What is your top tip for how to boost your mood with food?

The most important things for me are consistency and getting organised. It can be quite stressful trying to cook meals if you know you haven’t got all the ingredients, but getting everything lined up beforehand can really help with this. Having ingredients you need in the house and prepping parts of your meal where possible in advance can really set you up for success – you can have breakfast ready for when you wake up and can take lunch with you on the go, meaning you don’t have to rely on spending money whilst you’re out. I think it’s good to know that this doesn’t always have to be a strict plan, but can be worked into your lifestyle, getting into the habit of bulk buying and batch cooking are great ways to stay consistent. If you’re exercising and putting great food into your body, you will feel better, you’ll have more energy to exercise, which in turn means you’ll sleep better and you’ll start to see and feel the links between everything.

6. What is your favourite recipe from the book?

This book has 100 recipes with 100 images which I’ve never had before, so it’s very hard to choose. But, if you’ve followed me for a while and have looked at any of my other books, I always have a filo pie included. In one of my first ever books, the red Lean in 15, I had a Joe’s Chicken Pie. But in Feel Good Food, we’ve gone above and beyond with Joe’s WOW Chicken Cauliflower Leek and Bean Pie. It’s super creamy with a wonderful sauce and a lovely crispy filo pastry on top – it tastes AMAZING and I think it’s the best recipe in the book.

7. What would you like people to know about the book?

I’ve broken this book down into sections such as snacks, small but satisfying plates, comfort foods, speedy recipes, crowd pleasers and sweet treats. There’s something for everyone. 

Feel Good Food by Joe Wicks is £20 (hardback, published by Harper Collins).


Sausage, sweet potato and mustard traybake.

Sausage, sweet potato and mustard traybake. - Credit: Harper Collins Publishers


SAUSAGE, SWEET POTATO & MUSTARD TRAYBAKE

Serves 4

Ingredients
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3cm cubes
2 red onions, peeled and cut into 6 wedges
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 tbsp olive oil
8 pork sausages
500g Brussels sprouts, halved
For the dressing:
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Juice of a lemon
1 garlic clove, finely grated
Pinch of salt
Pinch of black pepper

Method


1 Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan.

2 Spread the sweet potatoes, red onions and rosemary over a large, rimmed baking tray. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss together to coat, then lay the sausages on top.


3 Bake for 20 minutes until the sweet potatoes are starting to soften. Remove from the oven and add the Brussels sprouts, using a metal spatula to mix them into the vegetables on the tray. Flip the sausages over and return the tray to the oven for a further 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are becoming golden and the sausages are browned.

4 Combine the dressing ingredients in a jam jar, screw on the lid and shake. Pour over the contents of the tray and serve. You could swap the pork sausages for frozen vegetarian sausages – as they need less time to cook, add them to the tray in the final 15 minutes of cooking, flipping them over halfway through.

Joe’s tip
If your trays are too small to hold all of the ingredients, divide them between two medium trays instead of one big one. It’s important to not crowd the vegetables too much or they won’t get a chance to caramelise properly.



See another recipe from Joe Wicks in the May 2022 issue of Let's Talk magazine.

See another recipe from Joe Wicks in the May 2022 issue of Let's Talk magazine. - Credit: Archant