Eight Food - healthy, frozen family dinners
PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 April 2020
I’m seeing frozen food in a whole new light after talking to nutritionist and co-founder of Eight Food Jo Saunders.
“It’s not a shortcut, it’s an opportunity,” says Jo Saunders, co-founder of Eight Food, a power-packed range of healthy, frozen family dinners that are shaking up the ready-meal market.
“We are determined to change the way people eat at home. Our meals save you time and mean you can serve your family top quality, carefully selected healthy, delicious and nutritious ingredients. Ingredients whose health benefits have been frozen in time.”
Jo lives in Midgam Green near Woolhampton, close to Bucklebury. “We moved here from London when I was expecting our son, Max, who is now eight. We now also have Molly, six, and Mary, two – plus a chocolate labrador, a cat, rabbits and goats,” she laughs.
“In Berkshire we have the best of both worlds as we’re close enough to London but it’s also so green here. We live in an old 17th century cottage with a big garden so that the children have the space to run around.
“We love Bucklebury Farm Park and The Rowbarge, which has a lovely beer garden. We often take the bikes for a ride along the canal and end up there. We also love taking the dog for walks around the Yattendon Estate, buying a coffee from The Pantry or nipping into The Blackbird. I also enjoy doing yoga at the Wasing Estate and the circuit training at Gecko Fitness.”
Jo started her career working in development for Animal Planet on the Discovery Channel. “I loved it but I wasn’t convinced it was what I wanted to do forever,” she admits. “I then moved to Tigress Productions in Bristol, where I met my now husband, Charlie, and then moved to Channel 5, but they underwent a restructure so I took voluntary redundancy. It was then I began studying Nutritional Therapy at the College of Natural Nutrition and qualified as a nutritional therapist just before I had Max.”
Jo set up her own practice and became part of the Nature Doc Clinic team of practitioners.
“One day, my good friend, Georgie, contacted me asking for nutritional advice regarding her eldest son, hoping to bolster his immune system and reduce the constant coughs and colds. So I gave her a list of foods to include in his diet to boost his nutrition,” says Jo.
Georgie, a Leith’s-trained chef, got busy in the kitchen creating delicious and nutritious recipes. “We decided to put them on a blog called Cooking them Healthy, which became really popular,” says Jo. “Our aim was to use nourishing ingredients to create quick, delicious recipes to benefit the whole family.”
They also started running workshops on foods to boost the immune system and foods for digestive health.
Meanwhile, busy working mum Hattie Mauleverer, founder of TopHat, an award-winning, high-end catering service based in London, was struggling to keep up with home cooking. In a quiet moment in between catering jobs, she asked her Top Hat chefs to create Georgie and Jo’s recipes and freeze them to ensure she had a constant supply of nutritious family food.
When Hattie got in touch with Jo and Georgie and suggested that others might want their meals too, an idea was born. The trio met up, combined their wisdom and created the perfect storm… Eight Food.
Using the tagline ‘you are what you Eight’, the meals are all gluten free and carry umpteen vitamins, minerals and other naturally fortified ingredients, such as chicken livers and flax seeds, which all boost the nutritional impact of the cooking. The range uses organic dairy products and free-range meat wherever possible, and the dishes are available online for home delivery and also via Cobbs & Cowdray farm shops.
“We flash freeze the meals to maintain the nutritional benefits,” says Jo. “They’re then delivered frozen and wrapped in eco wool so stay that way for over 12 hours, and can be cooked in the microwave or oven from frozen. My middle daughter eats all the dishes despite being quite fussy – they really are delicious.
“Our initial aim was to feed children, but we had such positive feedback that all of the family loved the meals, we created bigger portion sizes.”
As we chat, Jo shares with me the sad news that her youngest daughter, Mary, is 14 months into treatment for leukaemia. “She has daily oral treatment at home with two weekly visits from the nurse. We have to go into hospital once a month, unless she gets a temperature, which means she has to be admitted,” says Jo.
“Mary was tube-fed for a while as she stopped eating. Because of my nutritional knowledge, I was in despair, knowing how vital it was that she needed nutrients to help her fight her illness. It was really important that I did something about it so I eventually imported a wholefood blended liquid feed from the US and it was then that Mary turned a massive corner. I am absolutely positive Mary’s diet is the reason she is doing so well. Good nutrition is so important and I want to make the knowledge I have more mainstream and accessible.”
Jo also reveals she is a big advocate of Dr Chatterjee, the author of Feel Better in 5 – Your Daily Plan to Feel Great for Life. “I’m so pleased he’s helping to bring lifestyle medicine to the mainstream,” Jo says.
So what are the goals for Eight Food? “We want to enable everyone to feed their families well using our food, or teach them through our workshops,” says Jo. “Eight’s brilliance is its simplicity. We know what we should be eating, but people struggle to find the time to batch-cook or whip up nutritious meals every night. This is where we come in. We’ve made it easy to eat well and we hope people enjoy eating our dishes as much as we’ve enjoyed creating them.”