Interview with Deborah Meaden for Nourish Awards

Why did you decide to become involved and judge the Nourish awards?

“The whole clean eating issue has never been more important for personal health and wider indications for the planet. I thought it was really important to get involved. My position on Dragon’s Den means that I have a voice and should use it.

“I have often talked about the issue of clean eating to friends but my role in helping to judge the Nourish Awards means I can have the chance to support it publicly.”

What does healthy eating mean to you?

“I have not always been the healthiest of eaters. My favourite foods were chocolate, cheese and bread so not necessarily natural, healthy choices, but I firmly believe you are what you eat. I have horses and I have noticed that when they have a problem one of the first things you do is to change their diet. In fact you manage an animals’ health through diet.”

Deborah with her horses

Deborah with her horses

What’s your favourite food?

“Chocolate, cheese and bread! I’m not perfect and I still want my chocolate! However nowadays I manage that want.  It’s not that I can’t have it, but I make sure that I eat good quality chocolate and in moderation. When you have a higher quality food it is more satisfying. A couple of squares are sufficient.”

Is there any food you would never eat and why?

“I would never eat foie gras, it is bad for animal welfare and bad for yourself. It is not good for anything, not even for the planet.

“If I have an ethical issue with something then I cannot eat it.  I really support the highest animal welfare and it is important to make a stand about some issues, some foods.”

How do you manage work, travel and eating well?

“In some ways I am an unhealthy person because I don’t eat breakfast. It just makes me feel heavy and bloated. I am usually hungry around mid-day and then I eat fruit. The fact that I always carry a banana in my handbag has been known to surprise people!

“I am a bit of a grazer but I will eat a proper meal in the evening and usually go out to dine around 6pm – 7pm at a restaurant of my choice, somewhere that reflects my personality and food choices.”

What is your main concern about modern industrial food production (we are looking at issues like Palm oil, Fairtrade, GMO, chemical sprays, animal welfare)?

 “Every single cell in our body is made up of the food we eat. Frankly it is bonkers to think that we are consuming all those things that are being pumped into the food chain to make a quick profit. As a result of that we are consuming prophylactics, antibiotics by the bucketful. It is totally mad.

“Sometimes to prove the point you have to do what I do in business. When I am analysing what makes a business tick I take out the middle man and this is what needs to be done with food. Strip everything away and look at what is really being consumed. As it stands, the consumer looks at food and everything that has gone in to the creation of that food remains invisible, so the harm is not obvious.

“For example, some fish are being found full of manmade micro fibres and mussels are found to contain plastic.  And this is what we are consuming, what we are putting in to our bodies.

“How many modern diseases are the results of our food production processes? It is madness?”

How important is Organic food is to you?

“We throw away 30% of our food. Sometimes I am criticised and people tell me that it’s alright for me because I can afford organic food. But the fact remains that we should all just be buying what we need and what we will eat.

“My experience with keeping pigs means that I am really conscious of what is involved when you throw away food. People are in fact throwing away hard earned money.”

Deborah is passionate about organic food. She says, “Organic food is very important – we have our own vegetable garden and live off those vegetables for three to four months of the year: a natural source of organic food.” Deborah also keeps bees and encourages the birds to stop slugs.

Deborah says she will shop for organic food and question provenance at any restaurant she eats at, searching out sustainable food from local sources. She is a particular believer in sourcing free range dairy and points out that 30% of cattle do not ever even see grass. She is promoting a free range dairy campaign to ensure cows graze for at least six months of the year.

Deborah is urging people to follow her lead: “if you have a cup of tea with milk, then ask if it is free range dairy. If more people kept doing this, then things could change. I believe we are in total control of this situation. Markets will change with consumer pressure.”

Deborah with her horses

Deborah with her horses

 

If you were heading up a new foodie start up business, what food would you develop?  For example one of my favourite foods is mayonnaise but I wanted to source one that is not made with sunflower oil – just recently someone has brought one to the market!

“I have been a little horrified at the amount of sugar that goes into bread. I would probably work to introduce bread with lower sugar content.”

Do you have a sweet tooth? What do you do to keep your sugar intake under control?

Deborah laughing admits she does indeed have a sweet tooth but says she doesn’t like sugar in tea or coffee and she does not use artificial sweeteners or drink sweet fizzy drinks. In fact she gets her sugar fix from a natural source – fruit and always has that banana in her handbag if she finds herself craving sweetness.

She says, “I was always known for having a chocolate bar to hand, but nowadays I will not consume any chocolate in the hours of daylight and then in the evening, if the craving is still there, I will have just a square. I have made a concerted effort to avoid sugar in my diet and because of that I have found I no longer crave a sugar fix. My body has changed.”

Deborah now gets pleasure out of food that is fresh and smelling lovely!

You are looking amazing! Can you tell us a bit about your secrets of healthy eating and fitness routine – how do you fit exercise in to your schedule?

I don’t do the gym but I do have horses and ride four or five times a week. I wouldn’t describe myself as a fit person but Robin Windsor, my partner on Strictly, was amazed I could keep going for up to 10 hours at a time. I have loads of stamina and this comes from a real core strength which has probably resulted from horse riding. I do get out of breath but when I am in London I make sure I walk up the stairs rather than taking the escalator. And I always walk with purpose – I think I cover around 10 km a day just walking around. I have just finished filming but ridden today” Deborah has certainly enjoyed the legacy of dancing from her time on Strictly and is currently taking two hour tango lessons with her partner. She says dancing, like horse riding, is good for the body core.

I understand you are not a fan of cooking – how does that affect your eating choices?

“I have never ever cooked a meal in my life but I do like food. Paul my partner is a fantastic cook and even if I am not in Somerset he will cook a proper meal – he appreciates organic food and in fact was responsible for getting me interested in organic food. Paul loves nothing more than going to the vegetable garden and picking our produce ready for consumption. For a while we raised pigs and also had chickens and ducks for eggs as well as raising sheep and pigs for eating.

“This was really a pivotal moment for me and my relationship with meat. We made sure our pigs led a free range and lovely life across two summers and we carried this through to the visit to the slaughter house to make sure they were slaughtered in the right environment.

“This did upset me and fostered a real connection to the meat on my plate and how it is produced.  Keeping animals for meat has been something that has made me look at meat production in a different way. I wouldn’t dream of wasting it now” says Deborah. “If you waste it, then you are wasting that animal’s life.”

Diana Murphy, creator of the Nourish Awards, comments, “We are all so excited that Deborah Meaden has put her support firmly behind these new Awards which are intended to raise the profile about many of the issues Deborah has raised in her interview. When someone who is a household name puts their support behind an initiative that will help to alert people to what they are putting into their bodies every single day, there has got to be a positive outcome. We can’t thank Deborah and all the other judges enough for their support and look forward to announcing the results of The Nourish Awards in September.”