THE world of health can be pretty intimidating. Not only is there a whole lot of contradictory information flying around, but there are also a whole lot of glamorous people, the Gwyneth Paltrow’s and Miranda Kerr’s, telling us how easy it is to eat and live well.
Healthy living has become equated with superfood green smoothies, detox programs and early morning beachside yoga. With all kinds of products making all kinds of health claims, it can seem like a confusing and impenetrable luxury. Health has become a status symbol, a way to show off and communicate fitness, wealth and intelligence through what we eat, where we eat it and how we exercise to burn it off.
It’s been proven across Western cultures that poverty and poor diet are linked; the less money you have, the more likely you are to eat unhealthy foods. There are many contributing factors including lack of education about nutrition and the price of food itself.
Knowing what is healthy is not straightforward and depends on the individual, something I’ll get into next time. But for the most part (allergies, intolerances and other health issues aside) there’s no need worrying too much about the nitty-gritty detail of your meals; the specific nutrients, vitamin content, even calories.
US food writer Michael Pollan has famously summed up how to eat in seven simple words, ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants’. Use this as your mantra, skip the supplements and juice cleanses (unless your doctor recommended them), and watch as healthy eating becomes far less daunting.
With that said, there is still the ever present money factor. So how can we get the most nutritional bang for our buck?
Spend more on food. This seems a highly contradictory point to start with, but studies have shown we are spending less of our disposable income on food now than ever before. Take a look at your weekly expenses and prioritise healthy food. This might mean making sacrifices in other areas, but it could be as simple as eating out less and at home more. Decide if you want to eat good food, and invest in it.
Plan ahead and cook your own meals in bulk, with others. Research has shown poor people who eat home-cooked meals eat healthier than rich people who regularly eat out. Team up with a housemate or significant other, make a meal plan for the week, invest in some Tupperware and do your food shopping together. Those 2-for-1 deals will finally pay off.
Use your freezer. Take all that delicious bulk home cooking and whack it in the freezer. Soups, stews, sauces, frozen vegetables, even rice and quinoa, are great to have on hand for mid-week meals.
BYO containers and buy long-lasting foods by weight. Head down to your local whole foods store with your own jars and stock up on grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Grow your own. Veggies if you have the garden space or access to an allotment. If not, try a few herb pots in your kitchen or for the more ambitious give sprouting and fermenting a go. There are heaps of blogs with tips, check out mynewroots.org for a great Kimchi recipe.
Look beyond the frills, and focus on what healthy eating really should be about; real food, made with your own hands, that tastes good and is even better for you.