Let's make a fresh start...
We all know that the right nutrition will keep us and our kids, even our parents, full of energy, free from lifestyle induced diseases, such as type-2 diabetes and heart disease and equipped to make the choices that will keep us that way throughout our lives.
Eliminating animal products is the first step in the right direction - but good nutrition goes deeper than simply cutting out selected foods. Good nutrition is about opting for the most nutrient dense version of the foods you eat and this comes down to eating the right kind of plant based foods.
1. Choose the least processed option (ie wholegrain over white)
2. Focus on whole, fresh fruits and vegetables
3. Avoiding pre-made, packaged food products.
We could sum this up still further by saying cook from scratch using whole plant foods. If you currently rely on predominantly pre-packaged this might sound daunting - and if so it is about being easy on yourself and focussing on one change at a time.
These 'rules' are for optimum nutrition - but of course we are all human and we all have different time, budget and taste restraints so it is about taking this philosophy as far as is practical for you and your family now.
I would also add that for you it might be best to adopt the philosophy of 'cook from scratch as much as possible and as often as possible'. For example I always have tins of tomatoes, tinned pulses, dried herbs and tins of coconut milk on hand. This means I'm always only minutes away from a nutritious one pot meal like a curry, targine or chilli.
In addition to keeping tins and herbs handy my other staples are multiple large jars of whole grains including brown rice, quinoa, wholemeal wheat pasta, buckwheat pasta. For variety I also usually have both sushi rice and risotto rice on hand - although either dish can be prepared (and is more nutritions when prepared) with brown rice.
So what is all this fuss about whole grains anyway? I can assure you it is about more than just the fibre. Whole grains are the real thing. White versions, white rice and white flour for example, are relatively recent inventions and are simply the whole grain minus the outer layer which is rich in B vitamins as well as other vitamins and minerals. To demonstrate - one cup of whole grain flour has 126mg of magnesium while a cup of white flour has only 27.5 mg. The same can be seen with virtually every nutrient. Even protein is a little higher in the wholegrain flour. The only marker that will be lowered in a wholegrain product is the calorie count, on account of the extra fibre. It takes only a little research to see that the question is not why eat whole grains, but rather why not?
When buying bread always check that whole grain flour is the first in the ingredients list. And the ingredients list should be short. Spend your money on the highest quality you can afford. If you can afford wholemeal, organic, genuine sourdough bread then absolutely buy it. If the most you can stretch to is supermarket's the own-brand wholemeal then buy that. But always read the label. The list of ingredients is always in order of the highest quantities to the lowest quantities. In bread wholemeal flour should be first on the list.
read the label...
Label reading applies to more than just your bread. If buying packaged food always read the label. You are looking for real food, pre-prepared. Be sure to check for tricks like two sources of sugar in the same list, next to each other. For example if you see concentrated fruit juice plus glucose syrup and fruit juice concentrate next to each other you should assume there will be a serious sugar hit in that 'wholegrain' muesli bar.
When I warn against packaged foods of course I am not warning against packaged ingredients. We need some way to get that flour from the shop to home so it needs to be packed somehow. Packaged rice, dried pulses, oats, dried fruits etc are what I would call packaged ingredients. (Still skim the label in case of hidden additives).
Next on the continuum are lightly processed foods which still pack in the nutrition but come in a semi prepared state. For example bread, pasta, tinned tomatoes etc. I have a family to feed and i certainly use these sorts of gently processed foods. Again though I implore you to read the ingredients. Bread should not have 27 ingredients. Unless perhaps the loaf is a mixed flours, mixed grains and mixed seeds sort of loaf! I look for 'wholemeal flour, sourdough starter, water and a touch of salt. I opt for the magic of sourdough because fermentation really is ancient, biological magical process and comes with it's own array of benefits. Namely and not limited to gut health, but that would be a blog post on it's own! Back to reading ingredients. Tinned tomatoes should be just tomatoes. Tinned beans should be beans and water. You get the idea. I have seen everything from sugar, to firming agents to antioxidants on cans. The habit of ingredients scanning takes time to acquire, and don't be hard on yourself for making mistakes. I still do. I grab the beans on special and don't notice the odd additives until it's too late.
Your experience of shopping will change as you adapt to a healthier diet. This could be frustrating without preparation. Be sure to write a shopping list, allow plenty of time for the shop and probably best to go alone until you feel confident! You will get used to delving into the fresh foods section, getting familiar with the once daunting 'health foods' section, plucking your favourite plant-based milks as you pass through the long-life milk aisle and stocking up on canned goods like someone heading for the bunkers. I enjoy shopping (usually) as I tackle the challenge head on to hunt out the most nutritious gems from the mine field that is the local super market. Really really good food, is there for the taking and it is simply education, choice and habit forming that makes it yours.
Really the first step is to buy a few inspiring cookbooks or start a pinterest board. If you are filled with horror at the thought of foregoing delicious food then stop right there! Look into it and you will see the options are plentiful for truly tasty and delicious yumminess. Think curries, pasta bakes, burgers, oven fries, exotic salads, wraps, Mexican, Thai ... painting a better picture now?
planning = time saving...
Plan head. This will keep you on track and is essential during your transition. I find that if I note down a weekly menu (I pre-plan the evening meal only, as the rest is simple, once established). Pre planning means writing your weekly menu and then of course a shopping list of required ingredients. This in turn keeps your shopping budget in check. I recently wrote a printable list of all the foods I buy regularly, including breakfast foods, kids school lunch stables, favourite grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, drinks and snacks and I use this to check off the standards not part of the evening meal. This sounds O.T.T - I know it does! But the time is definitely saved in a single weekly shop (plus usually a second shop for a fruit top up, fresh orange juice etc) rather than my previous almost daily 'pop to the shops'.
Eating well is incredibly simple, when you know how, and is also very, very affordable. I know of people spending $250 or $350 a week to feed their family of four - I spend on average well under $150 a week. That's a little over $5 per head per day. Now tell me it's expensive to eat well!
I hope this is enough to inspire you to take a few steps in the right direction. If this leaves you inspired but daunted feel free to get in touch to discuss a suitable health plan for you. My one-on-one sessions (or the whole family if better for you!) include even more discussion about all of the above as well as further reading into both nutrition and plenty of starter recipe ideas. Sessions can be suited to certain health conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes etc. If you have underlying health problems this would of course be with ongoing consultation with your usual doctor to ensure medications are adjusted as your health improves (massively and off the scales!)
Live Well, Feel Well