I had a question from a mum about what kind of perspective the food presentation part of Saturday’s Mother Daughter Date event would take, as she wanted to know what sort of information her daughter would be told. Fair enough too – teenage girls are surrounded by so many negative or extreme influencers now, I’d be wary too about information being presented to my child. It was a fantastic email to receive.
This mum didn’t want her impressionable teen influenced to eat in a particular way – vegetarian to be exact – and I can understand that. And I completely agree because advocating any particular or restrictive way of eating at any age I think can be dangerous or misleading.
So here is my attitude to food , not just for Saturday and for presentations, but for clients, readers and every day life.
Every ‘body’ is different – in that what is good for one body isn’t going to be good for every body. One person’s panacea is another person’s poison, and telling someone they should eat a certain way is like telling them what they should believe.
Paleo is all the rage right now (and in some instances, taken out of context), just like vegetarianism was when I was a teenager. There are literally hundreds of different ‘diets’ you can follow, and all of them have positives and negatives. None of them are the ‘right’ way – but one may be right for you. It won’t be for someone else.
For me, steering clear of processed, packaged foods is the best thing you can do for yourself. Whether you choose to eat meat or otherwise is a personal decision, much like religion. Everyone has an opinion on food and there is some element of truth in all of it – and a lot of untruths too because nobody can make the best decision for you other than yourself.
I’ve seen people pose questions on Facebook pages about the best way to lose weight, gain energy, feed their children, and the responses vary from go completely raw or vegan to paleo and juice fasting … and it’s scary how dogmatic some people are. Most responses are based solely on what worked for them at one point in time.
Understanding how certain foods affect your body is the key to working out what you should be eating. The research shows plant-based diets are the healthiest, but that doesn’t mean you should be vegetarian. Some people thrive without meat, others flounder. Some people love grains, others can’t stomach them (literally). How your body will react to some foods depends on the state it’s in, if you’ve had an illness or still do, how efficient your digestive system is, the strength of your immune system, what your stress levels are like, what your overall lifestyle is like.
You have to look at the complete package – it’s not as simple as eating or not eating one particular thing. You can be gluten-free and completely unhealthy because you’re still eating packaged, sugar-soaked chemicalised rubbish. You can be vegan and still drink buckets of coffee and get sick. You can be sugar-free but an alcoholic. Being ‘something’ won’t make you healthy.
Statistics can be massaged to prove any damn point you want to, so I take all of them with a large dose of (Celtic sea) salt. But there is information out there that makes sense, and it is this: for most people simply sticking to fresh, wholefoods will make all the difference. Real food is vital to health and wellbeing.
By all means experiment, but keep an open mind and be mindful you don’t get caught up in the dogma of a particular way of eating.
The guidelines I follow are:
- Packaged and processed foods are the worst thing you can eat. If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
- The 80/20 rule is your friend. A little bit of wine, healthy chocolate or the occasional hot chip isn’t the end of the world when your diet is largely healthy.
- Aim to make the majority of your plate plant-based, vegetables in particular with an element of green leafy veg included.
- Animal products should be from organic, pasture-fed animals – you are what you eat ate.
- Look at meat as the complement to your vegetables not the star of the show.
- Breads and pastas are not whole grains but part of the processed family. If you choose to eat them, choose the highest quality you can afford and don’t base every meal on them. Gluten is not friendly I suspect to most people.
- Sugar is poison. But fruit is not. Our bodies aren’t designed for high amounts of sweet foods, and even too much fruit isn’t a good thing. But it’s still better than a packet of biscuits or other processed snack.
- Caffeine isn’t our friend. Sadly.
Food shouldn’t be as complicated as it has become. You can literally spend your lifetime searching for the one perfect way of eating and never find it. As human beings though, we are part of the animal kingdom and organic beings, in that we will die and decay. We weren’t designed to eat ‘food’ from a factory or chemistry lab.
So keep it simple, keep it real. Just Eat Real Food. And enjoy it!