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“Terrible” is how Niklas Ekstedt summarizes things when he is asked how he was during the pandemic.
“It’s so difficult, because I’m used to traveling all the time and meeting people from all over the world…. and now I’m just stuck,” the 42-year-old Swedish chef admits.
Ekstedt tells us on the phone from Stockholm, where he’s just picking up his eight-year-old son from school and it’s already dark at two o’clock in the afternoon. But being trapped at home still has its positive sides.
He says of his wife, Katarina, “I’m really sure now that I’ve met the love of my life,” “We haven’t had a single fight in that time, and we’ve spent all that time together. That’s when I made the right choice.”
However, in the Ekstedt home, it’s not like there’s nonstop marital bliss. “My wife freaks out when she opens the refrigerator and it’s full of cans that stink, then she says, ‘What’s that?'”
Now that he has more time on his hands, the chef and author has recently become very interested in fermenting (which is why the refrigerator of the family is overflowing with containers filled with vegetables), inspired by what he experienced while working with journalist Henrik Ennart on his new novel, Happy Food For Life.
The follow-up to the best-selling Happy Food focuses again on how our well-being can be influenced by what we eat, incorporating the new findings with recipes that encourage wellbeing.
Research has moved so drastically fast in this field and so many new things have come up. So we thought we’d update it and make it a little more modern,”Research in this area has moved so dramatically fast and so many new things have come up. So we thought we’d update and make it a little more modern,”
Today, the chef knows the value of feeding his own gut bacteria with a diverse diet and fermented foods, but he was “not aware of it at all.” until teaming up with Ennart.
“I didn’t know anything, it was a very personal journey,” he reveals, adding that as he grew older, he had to pay more attention to his diet.
You could just eat it when you were in your 20s – it just vanished – but now you gain weight quickly and it’s harder to get rid of it,”When you were in your 20s, you could just consume – it just disappeared – but now you gain weight quickly and it’s harder to get rid of it,”
“Also, you feel more depressed, at least I feel more affected by bad food. I really need to eat healthy to stay alert and ready to fight.”
And what’s his top tip for keeping your mind and body fit?
“I think the secret to a healthy lifestyle is to eat a lot of different things. Expand your food choices when you shop so you don’t get stuck on one thing, and also discover new things you might find delicious.”
Ekstedt and Ennart agree that it is usually better to have a predominantly plant-based diet of whole ingredients instead of processed foods – but they don’t suggest you have to give up meat completely unless that’s your option.
Ekstedt initially began eating more salad in an effort to select more plant-based foods, but soon found that the leafy dishes weren’t giving him enough room.
“Less salad and more food,” was what he had been craving for. “I needed to supplement my meal with something warm. So soup is really good. Also, use a lot of spice when you’re eating plant-based, like chili sauce, so you feel alive when you eat it.”
Variety is important, but every day, vegetables don’t need to be fresh from the market.
“We have this almost obsessive notion that everything has to be fresh,” says Ekstedt, “and it’s gotten to the point where it’s almost not good for us anymore because we’ve forgotten how to can, preserve and ferment food.”
And while excess sugar and fats are not advisable, every now and then, there is no excuse not to indulge in a little of what you crave. In reality, Ekstedt says that “go crazy” with indulgence is all right, as long as it’s not too often.
“It’s something we really use here at home with the family, so we have this huge dessert or chocolate party once a week!”
He says he enjoyed spending more time at home with his sons, aged eight and 12, with the chef’s Stockholm restaurant, called Ekstedt, closed for two months over the summer, but he was sad that he couldn’t go on holiday to the UK. as expected.
I’d love to go to Cornwall. This summer, we had a trip scheduled there, but we never went there. When I’m there, I always have a lot to do.