Growing up I remember being so jealous of friends lunchboxes at school. They would have 'delicious' packs of potato crisps, lollies, white bread sandwiches etc whilst I would have the choice of a wholegrain sandwich, an apple and maybe if I was lucky a muesli bar. There was only ever soft drink in our fridge if we had a party on, and Mum never had lollies, chocolate or chips in the cupboard for everyday eating. That's not to say that we ate textbook style. We got our fair share of treats, especially as we got older, but the underpinning of our diet was always good quality, whole foods. Back then I didn't appreciate it. Now I owe so much to the upbringing that my parents imposed on me.
Whilst I don't remember the detail around exactly what we ate, my earliest memory of actually being mindful of what I was eating came at a time when my Mum and Dad adopted the 'Pritikin Eating Plan' for our family. This plan focused on minimally processed, unrefined plant foods, whole grains, and modest amounts of non fat dairy and protein (preferably fish, then poultry and least preferably lean red meat). I still have the old cookbook that Mum used religiously as well as the thick paperback explaining the diet in great detail. I feel the impact this awareness had on me actually hit more recently rather than at the time.
Then in my late teenage years/early twenties, the focus for me was very much external. Life was all about the social aspect and I had a subtle, underlining pressure on myself to look a certain way, which lead to an eclectic mix of eating low/no fat everything at all times (Mum used to shake her head when she saw me cooking my chicken breast in water!) and yet coming home from a big night or hanging out with friends often included a meal at Maccas or other such cheap and fast establishments. Quite ironic really when you think about it - trying to look my best but not really going the right way about it nutritionally!
Studying nutrition was a big turning point for me, although not so much at the time, but more so in more recent times, much like the Pritikin Diet. Whilst yes, I have been able to make a career out of nutrition and food, the learnings I have attained from my degree are far richer than any pay packet. It has, and will continue to give me the wellbeing that I feel today, and that I am trying now to achieve for my children.
The field of nutrition is very much like Medicine in that you never really learn everything at uni, or indeed in the years following. It is a continual journey that twists and turns and changes and updates, with new news emerging all the time. Such an interesting adventure to be on!
My own journey has stepped up a gear in recent times and is turning left down a new and exciting road! The Thermomix has initiated this to some degree, although I feel it is probably more the catalyst for what was brewing in me for some time, with just the busyness of life stepping in the way!
My desire is now burning strong to explore the forest (and in many ways Pandoras box) that is minimally processed, as close to nature as possible, nutrient dense, soul warming, simply satisfying, food! I must admit it is a little addictive once you start on this journey because there are so many interesting facts, and stripping it all back is daunting in a way because much of what we eat these days is chosen due to convenience, simplicity and cost. To change a large percentage of that can be a tough road when you have a family to cater for, but I am finding it a satisfying one. My research is uncovering information that is making me wary of products that I would not have thought twice about throwing in the trolley even a few months ago - me, the nutritionist and inherently healthy food lover!!
Now on that note, please don't read this post (and blog as a whole) in a pretentious, egotistical, elitist tone! I see this as information sharing, not dictating the way it should be. This is my story, the way life has been for me, and the way I see it going. I am learning and sharing those learnings. I see someone choosing to eat, live, and play differently to me as just another way of doing things. When we are trying our best, we are at our best, and that is all we can wish for. The best part of this blog so far for me has been hearing the changes that people are making inspired by my posts. Even if it has been just 'shaking the apple cart' to invigorate the thought process of food and eating in your house.
So anyway, my focus now is not only on the food itself, but in the way I prepare it in order to maximise the nutrition benefit it is giving us. Ideally I would like to increase the amount of 'raw' foods eaten here but the boys aren't into that so much at the moment so it is something I will have to work on!!! I have put my areas of focus for the coming weeks/months in dot points below. What will your focus points be?
Up the anti on RAW foodsAntioxidants and some other important vitamins and minerals can be quite unstable and actually start to die off once exposed to heat greater than about 45 degrees celcius. When I'm eating a carrot I want to know I am benefiting from the vitamin A, C and other nutrition benefits from that carrot. If I have cooked the mickey out of it, unfortunately not a lot of those vitamins are going to be left. There is a lot more to eating raw than just that - but there is plenty of information on that from raw food gurus - a google search will show you that!
My goal is to increase the amount of foods we eat in its natural state - grated carrot in sandwiches, veggie sticks with dip for afternoon tea, salads with meals, avocado in smoothies etc. Starting small but taking deliberate steps towards the end goal!
Reduce (with the aim to eliminate almost completely) the amount of chemicals, additives, preservatives, enhancers etc in our dietA couple of interesting websites, Fed up with food additives and Additive Alert list the different additives, their origin and possible side effects. I'm sure there are 'apps' listing them too!! I was never really concerned about these to be honest - perhaps in part because I already had to avoid gluten and worrying about anything else felt way too restrictive. But having kids really put the focus on what I was putting in their little mouths and therefore what I was buying. Again for me I think it just happened over time that each week a few more 'convenience' items were being put in the trolley quite absentmindedly. Things like frozen chips, biscuits, fruit snacks, premade meal sauces etc. Cutting potatoes up into chip shapes or wedges and spraying a little olive oil, sprinkling herbs and a bit of salt on them before throwing them into a hot oven is sooooo easy, and so much cheaper. I think its just realising that the home made alternatives aren't that difficult!
Becoming more self-sufficient and environmentally consciousGrowing herbs (and successfully!) really sowed the seed for wanting to do more in our own backyard for the health of us and our environment. We are nowhere near where I want to be (including my desire to have chickens and beehive boxes!!) but little by little it will happen. The whole process of creating an edible garden and recycling food and garden waste offers so many benefits to a household (and the greater environment) including learning respect for food, our bodies, and the environment. It creates time together as a family unit and a feeling of satisfaction sitting down to a meal made with food all members of the household have contributed to.