There is not a week goes by where there is a health/scare story on food, what we should eat, what we shouldn’t eat, what we were told to eat years ago is wrong and we now should eat this. Last week it was fat. This week the dangers of clean eating.
I subscribe to The Times newspaper and every Sunday they feature a chef/cook and their cooking in one of their supplements, more often than not its a healthy “clean eating” blogger with their gluten free, sugar free (but features dates quite a lot), spiralised courgette recipes. Then this Sunday they had quite a hefty article on clean/healthy eating and the dangers, demonising these cooks. Hey wait a minute your Sunday supplement promotes them usually, I am confused. And if I am confused then you will be even more.
I think the clean eating movement is partly born out of the junk food movement, people have seen an opportunity to get the mass onto a healthy bandwagon in a trendy doable way. Many have swapped toast with jam for chia puddings. My 16 year old daughter follows similar health gurus on Instagram showing her how to make avo on toast (I can do that), one person she follows has her own online business selling healthy snacks, I had a look, I was quite impressed, so not all to be frowned at better than the Graze craze, the ingredients in these snacks are questionable regarding health and at the end of the day what’s wrong with an apple?
What is the difference between my daughter and the people described in The Times supplement who are underweight, depressed with no periods due to eating clean? She is a healthy weight, loves food, eats healthy but also doesn’t, sweetie wrappers are found in her blazer pocket (all normal), she takes what she wants from social media regarding eating and health but doesn’t let it takeover so that her health starts to suffer. I think because she knows quite a lot about food, and she is in tune with her body, if she is going through a hungry phase as teenagers do, she eats more. She also has always had home-cooked meals and we eat as a family at a table every night, instilling a good feeling around food. It’s not always about what you eat it is about HOW you eat.
How do I eat?
I eat slowly. Never used to, so it is not always easy but I really try. Eating slowly gives your body time to digest food, if you eat too fast, you may eat more as you have not given enough time for your body to know it is full. It is also easier on digestion, we need to eat when we are relaxed, if we eat on the go or in a hurry, digestion will be impaired because it is not in the right zone. I chew my food. Again never used to but I am more conscious of this now and one thing I have noticed I enjoy my food more when I do this. I often ask clients to count the amount of bites it takes them to eat an apple – if it is 1 or 2 you are not chewing and taking your time – as the rabbit in Cadbury’s caramel said – slow down, take it easy. I always eat at a table without television, at breakfast and lunch if I am on my own I might read, I am thinking of ditching this habit though. I eat with people at night, we share the day, my son and husband often says how delicious the food is, making me feel good.
When do I eat?
I have 3 meals a day, at regular times mainly. Breakast is usually about 7am, lunch about 12-1pm and dinner at 6:45pm. I don’t eat after dinner and try leave 12-13 hours between dinner and break fast, yes this is a mini fast, giving my digestion a break. Interestingly a recent study showed a reduction in developing breast cancer for people that had a 13 hour or more fast between dinner and breakfast, worth trying. I have a couple squares of dark chocolate with a cup of green tea about 10am and in the afternoon about 3pm I will have couple of oatcakes with nut butter and sometimes half a banana, or some nuts and a apple, or humus on oatcakes.
What do I eat?
I would describe my food as clean if that means whole food, unprocessed as much as possible, 80% organic , minimal sugar, and lots of fruit and vegetables. I also describe myself as a family cook so I do eat red meat – 1-3 times a week. With kids, cottage pies, casseroles, chilli and bolognaise are all really handy, easy meals, you can batch cook and it is a great way to get the vegetables in. I eat fish 1-2 times a week, and oily fish at least once if not twice. I also have a vegetable night and aim for grain free nights as well. I do eat quinoa – a demonised food in The Times article, I am wheat free it’s a good alternative so I am not depleted of nutrients that wholewheat may give me, for example B vitamins. I am also dairy free so I eat lots of green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, fish with bones, sometimes a little organic soy yoghurt and chickpeas – these foods have good sources of calcium. I love eggs, but can’t eat too many, I have 2-4 a week. I don’t eat wheat and dairy for health reasons but everyone is an individual so do not recommend this to everyone. Food choices and health depend on a variety of reasons: health circumstances, health history, genes, diet and diet history, if a food group is being excluded alternatives need to be put in place to make sure you are getting enough nutrients with a plan to reintroduce where possible. I eat protein at each meal and I include good sources of fat in my diet: nuts, ground seeds, oily fish, grass fed beef, olive oil, flaxseed oil and coconut oil. I love avocado, I sometimes juice but not often and have green smoothies. I like red wine but don’t drink Mon-Thurs and will have a glass on Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday. I don’t drink coffee but again this is a personal choice, studies have shown coffee can be good for you. A lengthy but interesting review on it here.
I am reading Novak Djokovic’s book and he claims his success in tennis had been down to changing his eating habits. His parents have owned a Pizzeria for years, he was brought up on it and after seeking advice from a naturpath, he found he was intolerant to gluten, he cut it out for 2 weeks and found 3-4 days in he felt lighter, faster and free from a bunged up nose that he had suffered with for years. Not only that his game dramatically improved. His parents in turn opened up a chain of gluten free pizzerias called ‘Novak’. How cool is that. However again whether it’s a tennis player, a top chef, a food blogger telling you what to eat, like my 16 year old daughter – listen first to your body and what it needs and seek professional advice from a nutritionist or dietician.
Do not just follow the tennis players, food bloggers, chefs, cook book writers without professional guidance as it might not be the right thing for YOU!