For breakfast this morning I had sautéed mushrooms and cauliflower, a big handful of kale, 2 eggs and a turmeric chai latte. It is my favourite breakfast, not only because its delicious but I know that I am starting my day with a good dose of essentially every nutrient. Just half a cup of kale contains more than 50% of the daily requirement of Vitamin C, plus all of the other vitamins and nutrients it is rich in. Compared to the toast and coffee breakfast I would have had years ago, there is a vast difference in the nutrient profile.
Our bodies need a certain amount of each nutrient every day. This is a fact. If the body does not get adequate amounts different organs and processes will be affected, various functions will slow or stop and you will get sick. This can lead to chronic health problems when not rectified.
Knowing the daily requirement of each nutrient is not common knowledge for most people, so how can you know if you are getting enough? It all pretty much comes down to your fresh, unprocessed, whole food intake as these are the richest sources of nutrients. If the majority of the food you eat comes out of a plastic packet or cardboard box chances are you are not getting enough nutrients. If you have a chronic or re-occurring health problem or just always seem to be sick, think about where most of your food comes from.
When considering what to eat, think about each meal and ask ‘what am I going to get from this?’ Some times this question can be hard to answer, particularly when food ads and marketing would have us believe that Milo, low fat yogurt or extra fibre bread are good for us, they AREN’T! There are a few basic rules that can be used to answer this question.
Has the food grown on a farm, or been made in a factory? Factory food is usually highly processed and contains substances that you would not eat on their own. If the item contains ingredients that you do not recognise, can not pronounce or are listed as a number it is not a good food choice. Farm grown food in its freshest form is always best, but frozen will also offer essential nutrients.
If the food is in a packet, does it still resemble the original ingredient? For example tomatoes in a can, Yes. ‘Wholegrain’ cereal like Nutri Grain, No. Frozen raspberries, Yes. A packet of pasta, No. Food that has been processed beyond its original form and is in a packet you need to be wary of as they have been processed so far they don’t have much good left in them.
Is the product labeled as low fat? Low fat means high sugar, which is what turns to fat in the body. Don’t fall for this.
Has the food had extra vitamins or minerals, fibre or omega 3’s added? Some foods are fortified with added nutrients because the natural nutrients have been removed by processing. These added nutrients are synthetic and our bodies don’t easily recognise them. Even fibre which has been added back in is questionable. This fibre often comes from corn or soy products which sound like natural ingredients, but are two of the most genetically modified and highly processed foods available. They are often added to white bread to make it sound like a healthy option. But in reality poor quality nutrients are just being added to food that is nutrient devoid itself.
Does the food have advertising? There are a few TV commercials for bananas and avocados, but ads for fresh produce are really few and far between. Some ads can be really misleading yet still have the power to influence thoughts and choices. If food needs relentless advertising to get people to buy it what does that say about the food?
If you ask yourself these question when making food choices they should help steer you in the direction of making a good one. Moving away from the SAD, Standard Australian Diet (a pretty accurate acronym don’t you think) can be hard when it offers so much convenience, comfort and routine. But we need to think about food as more than something that just stops us from being hungry and we need stop thinking that anything can fill that hunger. If you feel like you are hungry all the time, regardless of how much food you eat, maybe you should consider what you are eating. Because your body can be physically fed, but still starving for nourishment.
Here are a few tips to start thinking mindfully:
- Make time for meals. Food companies have done a really good job of convincing us that we don’t have time to make real food so you can have something like an Up and Go or muesli bar which are not good choices. It seriously takes 3 minutes to make your own nutrient packed smoothie, if that’s too long you need to consider how you will have time for being sick.
- Stop telling yourself that you are missing out if you say no to something unhealthy like KFC. It might taste good but you just need to remind yourself that you are really saying no to trans fat, artificial colours and flavours and rancid oils. Flip your mindset and remember what you are really saving yourself from.
- Realise that you don’t actually deserve things like a Coke, alcohol or fast food. Advertising tells us that after a long hard day we deserve these things. But after a long hard day your body is needing nutrients. It has burned through a whole heap of them to keep you going, the last thing it needs is a cold soft drink which will deplete some nutrients even further. Don’t reward your body’s hard work with junk.
An easy way to start incorporating more nutrients into each meal is to look at meals differently. Realise that you don’t have to have cereal or toast for breakfast, that a sandwich is not the only option for lunch and veggies are not just for dinner. Mix food around, have some broccoli sautéed with mushrooms for breakfast, or mixed bean salad for lunch. The possibilities are endless, you just have to be mindful and change habits.
I love food and I am a chef, so creating delicious meals that taste great is key for me, and I am sure is important to most. But I understand that not everyone is confident or enjoys being in the kitchen. If you would like some help to change your food habits and to discover what other options are available other than sandwiches for lunch get in touch. I can help with meal plans, recipes and can even show you how to cook them in your own kitchen.