In the Khoollect Kitchen with Dr Rupy Aujla, a doctor with a healthy appetite

With so much conflicting informaton about what constitutes a healthy meal these days (are ‘good fats’ still good? And is red wine still allowed every now and then?) it’s reassuring to find a medical doctor with a strong interest in food and nutrition – who’s, better yet, eager to help us figure it all out. The man behind The Doctor’s Kitchen joined Rachel Khoo in the Khoollect Kitchen to make a delicious dish and talk all-things food. Here’s what we found out …

By day you’re a GP. How does the vast amount of incorrect dietary information affect the patients you see?

I think with the internet and lack of information health practitioners have to offer, people are just confused! Fats are terrible one day, red meat is as bad as smoking, low carb is healthy. I see and hear it all and unfortunately not many doctors are up to speed on the information about nutrition.

More so than incorrect information, however, is a lack of recognition of how important our plates are to health. Most people are micronutrient deficient, fibre deficient and filling up on energy-dense poor quality foods. I believe once we address this imbalance and empower people to think about food and lifestyle as medicine, we can actually start to make changes to their health on a grand scale.

You’re an avid Instagrammer. What do you love about the platform?

I’m indebted to Instagram for being able to elevate my message, connect with amazing people like yourself and being part of a global foodie community. It’s inspiring on a daily basis and I love it. But wow it can be all encompassing. It’s addictive, disruptive and anxiety-provoking. Especially with the book coming out, I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time on it and I need to address that this year!

What do you think of nutritional therapists or well-being bloggers?

I think they’re an easy target these days for the media to point a finger at and I don’t like to engage in public floggings! Whilst I don’t agree with everything that’s been said by a variety of different bloggers, I think we should be grateful for ‘health and wellness’ being on trend.

My job, along with other qualified commentators, is to steer the public toward evidence-based food and lifestyle medicine and demonstrate how health is accessible to everyone.

I also know some wonderful and very experienced nutritional therapists who are lumped together with those who simply printed off a diploma from the internet. It can be quite an unfair comparison to make, especially as a lot of them give very sensible and well-researched advice.

You’ve been following a daily gratitude exercise for almost a year? Have you noticed any benefits? How have you been able to stick to it every day?

I have a reminder on my phone! I actually started a couple of years ago, but I decided to record it at the start of the year for 15 days on Insta Stories just to see what people thought! It was popular so I just carried on!

And I actually look forward to it every day. It’s encouraged me to consciously, and perhaps even subconsciously, look for the positive accents in my daily life. The beautiful scent of petrichor, the bus driver who smiles at you, the grand tree in the park, your parent picking you up from the station. There is so much to be grateful for and it gets brushed aside by our busy lives. Gratitude is just a way of making me feel more present and I recommend just trying it for 15-30 days and seeing how you feel. Once you start, it almost becomes addictive.

What advice would you give people saying they don’t have time to cook healthy food?

I would say forgive yourself. It’s hard initially and if you try and cook every single day when you haven’t done that before, you could be setting yourself up for failure.

It’s not an easy task and you don’t want to lose motivation. Wanting to cook healthily is the first step, some people genuinely don’t want to, so use that as the starting point.

Set manageable goals. Cook up from scratch a couple of times a week. Batch cook unflavoured lentils, rice or root veg that you can quickly warm up with fresh herbs and spices to keep it different and unusual throughout the week. Allow yourself meals that are not as ‘healthy’ but don’t think of it as a cheat, it’s all food in the end and as long as you enjoy it it’s part of a healthy life.

How did you find the process of writing and developing recipes? What did you enjoy the most?

It was pretty overwhelming being asked to write a book. Having no experience I created a general plan but it wasn’t easy. I set clear goals for myself and worked really hard. I found myself behind my desk rather than in the kitchen for longer than I thought because I was committed to writing an evidence-based cookbook that combines the science with the culinary arts. So, referencing all those 200+ scientific papers was a non-negotiable and that was like writing a thesis! Add to that creating over 100 new recipes from scratch and it was a mammoth task.

One thing that I found particularly difficult was writing down exact quantities! I’m an intuitive cook so being regimented with exactly what amounts I was using was an interesting skill I had to learn!

I managed to do the bulk of the writing and recipe creating in three months whilst juggling the day job. It was a deadline I had to make because the photo shoot was booked for June! It was a hard task but I look back on what I wrote today and I’m happy with it. In fact, I’m very happy with it and that’s what I promised myself and the readers. I wanted to make my profession and fellow foodies proud and I really hope to have achieved that.

Where do you currently call home? And what inspires you about your city?

Currently living in London and I’m constantly inspired by the diversity of our community. I love hearing tons of different languages being spoken on the tube, it’s great!

Top three foodie spots in your city? And why?

  • The Palomar is one of my all time favourites. Sitting at the bar, watching the chefs work and interacting with them is amazing. Food’s not bad either 😉
  • The Ninth on Charlotte Street is incredible. I went there with a friend recently and we ordered more starters at the end of the meal instead of dessert because it was that good.
  • Herne Hill Market on a Sunday is fantastic. I take a leisurely walk through the stands and end up eating a selection of goodies in park afterwards!

Most beautiful outdoor space?

Kenwood House in Hampstead and the view of the city from the top of Hampstead Heath.

What to do on a rainy day?

Go climbing at the Arch in Bermondsey. I love the mental and physical challenge of bouldering, it’s brilliant.

Best nook for daydreaming? (i.e. quiet corner of the library, local park etc)

The bench opposite the statue of physical energy in Hyde Park. It’s shaded and right in the centre of the green space far enough from the bustle of London.

I khoollect a few…

I’m actually quite a minimalist, I try not to collect anything apart from cookbooks! I recently bought Honey from a Weed by Patience Gray and Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco.

What’s your favourite item in your khoollection?

Probably my photos from uni (we didn’t have digital snaps back then!).

Your three desert island must-haves?

My ukulele (I guess I’d have time to actually play it), a big Le Creuset pan, and a Bear Grylls’ survival guide.

A life lesson that you’d tell your younger self?

Don’t care about what other people think of you. You’re good man.

Where do you find your motivation? 

One of my colleagues and mentor Dr Tim Harlan, who set up Culinary Medicine at Tulane Medical School back in 2012. He’s a former chef and now medical doctor making big changes in America.

Can you imagine a world without Internet? 

I literally would have a melt down. But then I’d probably get over it pretty quickly and fall back into my hobbies of climbing and playing tennis. Wouldn’t be a bad thing actually.

What inspires you?

People who make a commercial business out of creating positive social change.  I aspire to be one of those people who can manage that tricky balance of doing good in the world and sustaining a living out of it.

What are your top three tips to having a healthier diet?

  • Eat colourful – vary your vegetables and look for the colours
  • Eat on time – not too late, not too early, and enjoy your food
  • Eat mostly plant-based – the longest living, healthiest people have all been largely plant-based, it’s a tried and tested formula.

 

What are your favourite healthy recipes? Share them with us in the comments below, or tag @khoollect on social media.

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WRITTEN BY:
Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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Try Dr Rupy's recipes

Check out the nutritious recipe Dr Rupy created in the Khoollect Kitchen.

Photos by Lara Messer.