As a naturopath and mother of 2 kids, I use a huge amount of time and energy trying to create nourishing, healthy food which actually gets eaten, (and hopefully enjoyed)!
Years working with and observing sick (and healthy) people in healthfood shops and pharmacies has taught me a lot. Food plays a MASSIVE role in how we feel, our energy levels, what sicknesses we get, our general quality of life and how our kids grow and develop. If you look around the average classroom today, most of our kids are fatter and sicker than ever before and when you look inside their lunchboxes it’s pretty obvious why that is…then add computer games into the equation as the main recreational activity, and duh! We are all too busy to cook and provide what they really need (real, natural, nourishing food) and heaps of outdoor play / physical activity. Even some of our parents were too busy when we were kids, so we just never learnt how to use a kitchen properly, how to shop properly and what a wholesome daily household menu should look like. The pantry cupboard of today looks completely different to those just 2 generations back, and unfortunately we’ve gone backwards in the ‘nourishment’ department. Blame food companies and advertising all you want, but seriously guys – the information is out there now for everyone, all over the mainstream media and internet – we KNOW this crap is killing us and our families – and for the sake of convenience? Well it’s pretty inconvenient having your family suffer major, preventable illnesses which develop as a direct result of eating out of convenience too, yeah?
So what are we going to do about this – how can we get healthier through food? We can’t slow down the pace of our world or ban dodgy food producers from stocking our supermarkets, but here are some simple ideas that can make a world of difference.
1. Get educated
Do a short online course, work with a personal trainer or natural healthcare provider, buy a couple of good books or get some from the library, subscribe to a healthy eating / fitness magazine, pick the brains of a ‘health-freak’ friend, relative or acquaintance, listen to podcasts while driving, like healthy companies on Facebook to get the tips – whatever it takes, whatever works best for you – this is NEED TO KNOW stuff! No-one else is going to save you or your family, and there is no valid “but we didn’t know” excuse anymore. Your kids might hate you a bit during the transition period if they can’t eat all their old favourites every day, but they’ll probably hate you more if you just let them become obese, pimply, unhealthy teenagers / adults through your own poor habits, ignorance and laziness!
2. Shop smart
Be careful in the supermarket – a lot of the shelves really are chock full of absolute garbage in disguise as proper food. When you go there, your trolley should be mostly vegetables, fruit, some quality protein (eggs, fish, meat, nuts, beans, legumes, seeds, quinoa, chia, natural yoghurt etc), some good oil / fats (macadamia, olive and coconut oil, butter, ghee). Pick up some tamari, a few tins of tomatoes, some herbal teas, natural nut butter; herbs and spices for flavour, sauces and seasoning; maybe some plain rolled oats, unsulphured dried fruit, a tub of good quality hommus (check for vegetable oil and preservatives) and that’s about it. Grab some toilet paper and whatever laundry / dishwashing needs, then GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE, leaving behind all the pre-packaged, preserved, flavoured, sweetened, coloured, modified, hydrogenated, processed, extruded, shaped, individually-wrapped serves of ‘food’ in the middle aisles.
3. Learn how to read a food label
Before something goes in your trolley / mouth, you want to know what it’s made of. If your kids can’t read, you need to be in charge here. Basically, look at the first few ingredients, and if they are all things you know your nanna would have had on the table, its probably ok (just watch sweeteners though, sugar and many sweeteners are natural and also pretty poisonous in large quantities). If the list of ingredients starts to look like a chemistry textbook or mathematical problem, back on the shelf with it – numbers and big words are generally bad news (with a few exceptions – but the ‘chemical maze’ app or booklet to help decipher numbers and chemicals).
4. Consider the environment and the creatures we share it with
Choose products with minimal packaging, companies who use responsible / sustainable / organic / local ingredients, animal products should be kept fairly minimal and all be free-range, grass-fed and organic wherever possible. The best way to gather food that’s good for you, the planet and the community is to find a local farmer’s market in your area – usually the produce is heaps fresher, grown more naturally and cared for in a way that mass-producers just can’t, and you’ll get to ask questions about where things come from, how they’re produced, how to prepare them, what nutritional value they have etc. Also a fantastic learning experience for kids – milk doesn’t just come from cartons!