Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A month of health: Real food

Image from here
When it comes right down to it, how can we be healthy if we litter our diet with chemicals, additives and preservatives? Can we be healthy if we eat un-pronounceable ingredients that we don't add to our own food but seem happy to have someone else add? How can we be healthy if we don't eat real food?

There is so much edible stuff that masquerades as food but isn't. Two minute noodles spring to mind as do some crackers and many forms of confectionery and soft drinks. It is like feeding your child cardboard, only with more preservatives.

I come from a family of cooks. Both Mum and Dad prepared meals from scratch. We all watched and learnt by osmosis and for me, cooking the family meal is a normal part of the day. I prefer my own cooking to a jar prepared in a factory. Probably a bit too much if I am honest. But I want to role model to my children what food actually looks like and where it comes from.

We have our vegetables delivered and I usually top up at the local farmer's market or the stalls at the nearby farms. Local is best for sustainability, reduced travel miles and freshness. I can't always afford to buy organic, but I do when I can, especially focusing on the dirty dozen. Same goes with supermarket bought products; Australian made all the way.

When I get busy though, I start to take short cuts in the kitchen. A few too many 'easy dinners' creep into the menu plan and before I know it, the kids have been two days without a vegetable! Crumbed fish and bottled sauces are leading contenders. The mindfulness of connecting with the source of the food seems to slip away and meals become fast rather than slow food.

I have long been interested in the work of Michael Pollan, and more recently, his convert 100 Days of Real Food. I have shared a number of his food rules in the form of blog posts over the years. The man makes a lot of sense to me.

So as I am spring cleaning my diet and looking to improve my health, rather than selecting a 'diet' per se, I am trying to oust processed foods, increase fruit and vegetable consumption, and find the path to maintenance of weight. Prepared foods with more than five ingredients are off the menu as are foods with unrecognisable contents.

Over on the 100 Days of Real food blog they have a 14 week program to look gradually at different aspects of your diet to increase your real food consumption. We started it last year and got stuck after Week 1 because Week 2 means I have to address my love affair with Coke Zero and I may not be ready to do that even though it totally signifies all the badness there is in the food world in one neat little (recyclable) container.

But I am going to start again. Even if it means postponing Week 2 until the end.

What are your thoughts about real food?


ANB said...

I think you've got it right with lots of fruit and vegetables and fresh stuff. We are guiltily omnivorous and my latest thing on that front is buying smaller (read: more expensive) amounts of more kindly produced, therefore hopefully better for us meat. In WA this means Plantagenet or Linley Valley pork, Mt Barker chicken and organic Margaret River beef. Also trying to eat more beans, there's been lots of Mexican happening recently. Child-wise I would like E to eat more of the same stuff as we eat rather than having to cook separately for her, and whilst we manage quite well at lunch she is so exhausted by dinner I don't see that changing any time soon.

River said...

I eat a lot more real food in the winter when I'm more into prep and cooking. In this heat all I feel like is something zapped in the microwave, with broccoli or something else green added to raise the standard. I do applaud you sourcing organic where you can and buying from farmer's markets, you're getting real food that is much fresher than something trucked in from across the country.
A tip about reading and counting the ingredients on jars and cans... Count only the ingredients in "bold" types, the regular type following that is the breakdown of everything that makes up the "bold" ingredient. This is done because everything every. little. thing. must be listed so the company cannot be sued when someone says "I didn't know that was in this". so when someone says a particular canned food has 3000 (slight exaggeration maybe)ingredients they're probably counting every breakdown as well as the actual ingredient.
Many canned or jarred foods aren't all that bad as long as they're not your sole source of nutrition. For instance I buy jars of pasta sauce for my spaghetti, but I add extra fresh ingredients such as carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, fresh parsley and so on. (it gets cooked up in a big pot and frozen in portion sizes). Ditto a can of tomato soup. Add a bucket-load of chopped fresh vegetables. For me, this is good enough.

River said...

@ANB; freeze a small portion of your dinner to feed to E the next night. It will just need reheating, so won't take up too much time and E will get the same food you're eating, just a day later.

Marcy said...

I tried the 10-day real food challenge and really learned a lot. I have cut a lot of processed food out, but I still grab a Diet Coke more often than I should. I like making my own food, but don't do it every night. I pick up whole wheat bread from the grocery store, and it has some junk in it. That's probably the hardest item to get a hold of that's "real." Good luck with it! (If you happen to click through to my blog, please ignore my post about eating Spam, lol. It's an anomaly, I swear! ;) )

Kymmie said...

I am such a believer in 'real food'. I make our flour from scratch even! We are vegetarian here, and I don't think a meal is a meal without something or lots of somethings that are fresh and grown from our garden. I am so blessed to have a husband who maintains the most awesome garden that we can eat from. In fact, I might brag right now and say that I'm not buying any fruit and vegetables right now, because our fruit trees are bearing, as are our vegetables!

All the best! I have a thermomix and it makes it easy to cook from scratch too. xx

Charis Sharpe said...

I love the idea of real food and definitely prefer to prepare food from scratch instead of out of a jar. However convenience, bread & pasta win out too often for me :(

Going to check out 100 Days of Real Food now, pleasantly intrigued!

seana said...

I think I'm a rare mum in that I feed myself pretty well, but the kids not so much. The bigger boys are easier but the twins are hard. Mind you, a plate of veggies when they are watching TV usually does go down well.

I've often managed to get them all good breakfasts and then been slack the rest of the day. It's a balance isn't it, between health and perfectionism which I think is totally unhealthy.

Have a new chocolate cake which has only good stuff and they love, stand by on blog!!

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