I have so many conflicting thoughts on the whole healthy food war that seems to be raging around me. Truthfully if I weren’t on social media and didn’t read the newspaper, I wouldn’t even be phased by my choices and decisions made during each kitchen pursuit. But I am on social media and I do read the newspaper, and so here I find myself immersed in a continual swirling of opinion, rhetoric and passion where food and the form it takes into our bodies is concerned.
There seems an overwhelming amount of information on every ingredient out there. But it’s a little like religion and parenting – you can find articles, perspectives, opinion and testimony as to how a particular food is bad for you and then from another person’s point of view, how that very same food is actually good for you! Stats are quoted, scientific sounding research is presented and the reader ends up confused as anything. At least I do!
I was raised on what I consider a healthy and varied diet. My mama baked regularly, as did my grandmother. They both used plain old white sugar, plain old white flour and full fat butter and milk. We ate a lot of vegetables: green, red, orange, white, yellow – any and every colour in between – at every meal. We ate potatoes. We ate red meat. We ate chicken, we ate fish. We didn’t eat a lot of junk food in the way of packeted chips, biscuits or muesli bars and I always thought that was more because we couldn’t afford them rather than their processed contents – but maybe it was about more than that? We seldom had juice in the house and never ever had soft drink/fizzy/soda. Dinner was made from scratch every night. Our lunchboxes included sandwiches every day. We lived an hours bus ride from school so there was no wandering past the local fish and chip store after school for a casual scoop of chips or a quick afternoon pie snack from the dairy on the way home but my brothers ate peanut butter on Vogel’s every single afternoon as their after-school snack.
I think about all of the above when I acknowledge that no one in my extended family on either side have any health issues relating to diet or health. I have three living grandparents aged 95, 89 and 88 and my deceased grandfather passed at age 89 whilst taking a nap. I don’t say that to brag but because it’s what I think about when I get caught in this whirlpool of emotion concerning eating that seems to dominate our society. I consider all these factors when I occasionally begin stress out that about the fact that I haven’t overhauled my kids diets to be whole plant based, vegan, refined-sugar free, and 100% organic. I haven’t made the switch to bake only with spelt flour, or sweeten alone with coconut sugar, bananas or medjool dates.
I feel mostly confident in the quantity of fresh fruit and vegetables they eat, but heck, they’re not organic! I read packet labels, I buy the crackers with no flavour enhancers or 600 numbers. I try to buy bread with the shortest ingredient list. I feel like I care what my kids are eating, and what I’m eating too. And still, I feel bad sometimes when I’m the mama at a birthday party who plates up for her kids and am the only one who doesn’t put cheezels on that plate or restricts them to just one lollipop while kids around them are literally drinking candy from the bowl. But I feel like any more over the top than that and I’m going to create issues for them in terms of their own relationship to food that could become unhealthy, when the whole intention would be to try and help them make healthy choices. Right?
Please don’t get me wrong, if someone has dietary issues and is stomachily-averse to certain foods or food groups, I wholeheartedly suggest they refrain from consuming said foods. However, I find it personally a little strange to want to raise kids on a paleo meal-plan when this is clearly a fad, something that has taken over in the past year or so and eliminates so many food groups – some that I’d think little bodies needed to grow effectively? I’m not nutritionist, or dietitian it’s true, I just find the whole thing a bit overwhelming. Not to mention confusing. And also not ignoring expensive!
Sugar itself is not the enemy in my opinion. And neither is wheat (unless you’re coeliac). It’s the alarming rate at which we are consuming these ingredients and the undeniable fact that they are added to just about every processed food that we consume which is the real problem. If you eat toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, toast for an afternoon snack and finish with something wrapped in a tortilla, or housed in a hamburger bun or naan bread, you’re totally overdoing the gluten for one days consumption right? We know this stuff right? For this reason I support a return to whole foods in the main, but I personally think it’s a worry when people are so obsessively concerned about a teensy bit of food colouring or processed sugar touching their lips on occasion. It is completely an ‘each to their own’ situation and what you choose to feed your family and how your children might respond to a change in diet or elimination of sugar or gluten or dairy is a personal decision that you need to arrive at as a family.
I know things have changed since the ‘good old days’. The way food is processed nowadays, the composition of and growing of wheat and its subsequent manufacture into flour is so tampered with and quite different I’m assuming from how it was done when we were children. It is a combination of factors that is resulting in major health crises now. I am not going to pretend that food related illnesses, allergies, Type 2 diabetes, coronary disease, skin irritations and asthma and eczema aren’t on the increase. All of these can be attributed to dietary factors of this I’m well aware. So I’m not at all anti the whole food movement and a turning away from packaged over-produced food. I’m just wondering if we’re going too far the other way when we are excluding food groups that do have some merit, some nutritional value and are OK to consume on a ‘sometimes’ basis?
I read this really interesting article a few weeks ago which basically addresses healthy eating becoming an obsession and the effect it can have on our overall wellbeing. It really made me think a lot about how much we have shifted from food being fuel, to being for pure enjoyment, to being a subject of intense scrutiny and something to obsess over.
I don’t have a conclusion to this conversation in my head other than to consciously try to feed my family as much real food as possible and minimise the unnecessary added sugar in our daily intake.
Do you think about this issue? Do you make conscious decisions to eliminate particular foods from your family diet? If so, tell me about your experiences – why did you do it and what changes have you noted? Do you think this topic is simply a storm in a teacup and just a passing phase?
And if you have a recipe for ‘clean’ baking that actually tastes as good as my favourite butter, sugar and flour combos… share away! Because I have tried SO many recipes that promise amazingness only to find my family won’t touch them and with the exception of about 3 recipes, I struggle to swallow them too. Add to that the cost of fancy ingredients and I balk every time I try a clean/healthy treat. I’ve pretty much given up on trying anything new unless it comes highly recommended! So, please, recommend away.