One of my pillars when working with clients is food and supplements / vitamins. I am not a health coach or a nutritionist, just a mum that has had a real fascination with this topic for the last 18 years.
My health took a deep dive in 2003, and with the help of lifestyle changes, including looking at my nutrition and supplementation I really saw differences. I found it hard at the time to find information. What I found frustrating was that most was referring to diets, do this do that kind of attitude. I wanted to find a way that suited me. I knew I needed to change, but I also knew didn’t want to deny, diet or feel I would fail after a month. I read so many books on the topic and looked specifically at my hormonal health at the time as this was pressing for me.
Over the years I have come off and back on the waggon of healthy eating. I try hard not to berate myself for this, but rather investigate why? Often, I like to start with the emotions behind it. I know I am an emotional eater as well as an emotional drinker at times. Knowing this and exploring the thoughts and feelings behind the behaviours have often helped me have a softer and kinder approach to myself.
Supplementation is personal. We will all have our views and ways of finding the perfect combination for us and for our children. Of course, we have our favourites, but this is not about that. It is about you being educated in what your body needs and what works for you. I have found over the years this has changed for me and my family often. We know intuitively when someone stops working for us. Listening to our body and what it needs is helpful here. Seeing a health practitioner who can assist you in finding out what you are depleted in is worth every penny.
However, remember science has proved that fruits and vegetables from the 1950s compared to now has a difference of up to 38% in vitamin and mineral content. So this means that eating fruits and vegetables now compared to the 1950s will only give you 62% of the energy you would have received. There are many studies into this. So, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, could be seen very differently nowadays. We need so much more intake to get what we need. Therefore, I use vitamins and supplementation in my diet. I see it as a necessity for my brain function, my physical body, and my emotional wellbeing. I also choose good quality wholefood supplementation so my body will be able to ingest and use the minerals, nutrients, and vitamins I am giving it and not just dispose of it as a waste product. Many cheap versions do not offer the quality we need. It is an area of our health that I feel is not discussed enough.
Rule of thumb here in our house is the 80/20 rule. We eat healthy 80% of the time, we don’t deny ourselves things that we enjoy but we do limit certain items coming into the house. This gets increasingly complex the older your children get, as you have less control over their food choices outside the home.
What is my healthy? I think we all have our own take on what this means - I am happy with that. I also know we are not perfect, and I am content with this. For me it is equally about planning and organising too. Here are some ideas from our home that are healthy and save time in the long run. They tend to save money too, especially when you have a large family like we do.
· Cooking nutritious meal from scratch.
· Limited our intake of red meats particularly. I am mainly vegan but when the mood takes me, a vegetarian. My children are not, but we do have many meat free meals.
· We really limit our intake of processed foods - ready meals, take outs, pour in sauces, etc. They do creep back in and yes, I do have a bottle of ketchup and mayo in the fridge. Have I tried to do my own? Yes, I loved them, my kids not so much!
· I don't buy ready cut vegetables or fruit either - their nutritional value is depleted. I do however cut my own and freeze them to save time, when I have the time!
· I try to limit the amount of shop bought snacks in the house - this is hard when my husband does the shopping and sometimes the snack cupboard is overflowing with crisps on offer! But you know that’s OK for me if it’s eaten in moderation. Everything in moderation is our mantra here!
· I like to make our own snacks - they are not all cereal bars and sugar free. But they are reduced in sugar, and I know what are in them. I prefer to make my own vegan brownies than buy them for this reason. We have milk and corn allergies here, so this helps us make more of our own and it means those with these intolerances don’t go without. Often free from ranges are loaded with more sugars and corn anyway which just doesn’t work for us.
· I try to educate the kids on healthy choices. Choosing nuts, seeds, raisins, apples, and a chunk of cheese rather than chocolate and crisps. This doesn’t always work. Or having a compromise – some crisps with hummus and veg cut up… or some homemade raw chocolate instead.
· Meal planning so we all know what the menu is for the week. This helps us plan healthy meals, gives the kids an idea what to expect as well as a shopping list for our weekly shop. We have neuro diversities here, so knowing what is coming up helps with processing and anxieties.
· We have family meetings about what are our current favourites, which ones we have had too much, what we would like to try. We get the kids involved by making a list of their favourite meals too.
· We have a list of about 14 family favourites, so when we are stuck, we can pick a couple off the list.
· We keep our cupboards stocked with dry ingredients, so we can improvise, and it makes cooking from scratch so much easier.
· Batch cooking – not so much here but meals that may do one evening and then a lunch for someone. We have up to 7 mouths to feed often, so there’s never many leftovers. But we do plan on quieter nights larger meals, so they last for another night, or a lunch for someone.
· We have a running shopping list for those things that run out and you always then forget to buy as its not a weekly thing. Trust me this helps so much not forget those ingredients you need occasionally.
· We try and make a new meal each week – It gets the kids trying new and diverse foods.
· We have a takeaway night too – but it’s a healthy version cooked at home. Often this is so much more tastier and cheaper than getting a take out. The kids love it when we do this.
· Themed nights – choosing a country and learning how to eat traditionally from that country. The kids have found this really interesting as have we.
· Making sure you have good appliances. To prepare and eat well having the right tools in your kitchen can really help. I had many different appliances until about 2 and a half years ago. I invested in a thermomix and I didn’t need any of my other appliances anymore. They are an investment but have made eating healthily more cost effective, less time consuming and so much more fun. My children can use it and prepare food in it. It also has over 60,000 recipes in it! We use it at least 3 times a day, often more.
· We will have meat free days too. I am meat free; my kids aren’t but I like to introduce them continuously to yummy vegan food. To dispel the myth that you need meat to make a meal tasty, nutritious, and filling!
This pillar for me is about moderation, choices and not feeling like you are denying or eating badly. Its important for kids to know the difference between what is nutritional and what is not. But it is also to have a balance. We don’t want our children to become obsessive with food choices or have issues around enjoying nourishing and pleasurable foods.
Food to me is about pleasure. Nothing gives me more satisfaction that being cooked for or cooking a nutritious food, enjoying it around the table with family, friends, conversation, and laughter. This part of eating is often forgotten. The art of family time around the table. For me this time with our family is priceless and precious. It’s a time for sharing of food, conversation; in our home laughter as well have heavy debate!
Don’t stress too much about the latest fad or whether you’ve indulged in your favourite sugary treat. Whether you’ve gained a few pounds with age. Worry more about missing the opportunity to come together as a family and enjoying these moments together…
Getting organised and finding your healthy for your family is the key to this pillar. Tackle it with curiosity, make it fun and not a chore. Food can be our medicine and such an exciting journey of discovery.