“Food should always be there as that enjoyable time, even if you are sat by yourself in front of the television, it should just be a moment of de-stress, a moment where you can just sit and watch the world go by and enjoy every mouthful of something. It shouldn't be a stressful thing. That is what we are trying to deliver.”
If there is one man who knows a thing or two about food it is Omar Meziane. One of the finest sporting chefs in the world, he’s made dishes for the England football team, Harlequins rugby and even England Cricket. Now he has teamed up with top food nutritionist Mike Naylor to bring you Tweakd, nutritious meals delivered straight to your door.
In an era where we are mostly shut inside, we are all facing our own difficulties, and for some food and exercise provide their only outlets. However, others can be left feeling guilty if they have one off-day when it comes to food, and Omar is keen for people not to be too hard on themselves.
“Don't over complicate it. Be kind to yourself,” he tells The Sportsman. “I think now at this particular moment in history, life is arguably tougher on everybody's mental health than it has been in a very long time. It is potentially not going to get any easier anytime soon. Be kind to yourself, always enjoy your food, take a bit of time over it.”
Having worked with some of the top athletes in Britain, Mike knows exactly what similarities and differences us regular folk have in comparison to those athletes.
“What you find is athletes use this phrase ‘Fuel for the work’ to make sure they are eating enough calories and enough carbohydrates to deal with the intensity of their training that they are undertaking or to fuel the demands of their competition.
“For instance, if you're running a marathon then your carb intake requirements become a lot bigger compared to if you have an office-based job. In some instances the protein intakes can be pretty similar! One thing everyone wants is great-tasting food.”
This is a message that Omar tries to get across in his frozen meals, which on average can be ready in six minutes. “Food is food, but good food is good food and bad food is bad food. For me personally, it is about embracing those meal times. There is no athlete or no mere mortal like us that is going to enjoy running around on a football field or the park with your kids if you are not eating really delicious food.
“I think sometimes life can either be too much fast food or too much kale and quinoa and it is about striking that balance in the middle of really tasty delicious good-looking nutritious food.”
But having worked with some of the top footballers in the world, we just had to ask Omar what he was serving them in preparation for a big match. And just like young children, it is all about trying to get them to eat their veg.
“The day before a game, it is all about ensuring that they have enough carbohydrates and that they are consuming enough carbs so that they can perform at their absolute best. As it comes around to matchday in particular, the food gets a lot more simple. So it is pasta, it is a plainly-grilled fish, plainly-grilled chicken, my salads that I'm famed for become a lot simpler. It is about trying to persuade them to consume beetroot and various other vegetables.”
Talking of vegetables, with sports stars like Lewis Hamilton promoting a vegan lifestyle and many people becoming more aware of the amount of meat they consume, is there any scientific benefit for athletes to try a plant-based diet?
“What we have done over recent years is we have debunked the myth that you can’t get enough of the nutrients that you require from a vegan diet,” Mike answered. “There was a point where a lot of athletes would be advised to eat more meat to get enough protein. Now we know with how food technology has progressed that it is possible to be a vegan athlete and you can get enough protein.
“I have cut down on my meat consumption, just because the older I get I am more aware of the environment in which we live,” Omar added. “For some of the athletes that I know, it is about environmental impact as opposed to anything about their moral viewpoint.
“One of our products, the Vegan Satay Chicken, is completely vegan, nut free and gluten free but it tastes like the best chicken satay you have ever had in your life. So much so that I crave this dish. If you wanted to not eat as much meat then we are the perfect solution for you!”
Tweakd launches for orders on 8 February, and you can eat the ideal meals created by Omar and Mike, tweaked for your personal needs.