Image: The Nutrition Guru and The Chef
Those who know me well, know that I have spent the last 18 months going through a huge transformation in terms of my health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on the food and nutrients I consume. What started out as a quest to lose some weight, soon became much more as I realised the importance of eating not only to lose weight but to nourish my body.
During this time, I had been reading up on various styles of eating- fructose free, paleo, whole30, raw food, veganism etc… and regardless of the differences between these eating styles, I found there is one thing in common with all of them:
The avoidance of consuming processed, refined, manufactured items being sold to us as “food”.
Why do we resort to convenience and pre packaged foods? To some of us, it may seem like the normal thing to do- many of us may have grown up in households where it was typical of a parent to buy a packet sauce to add to the family’s casserole, or a tin of Gravox to make gravy for the Sunday roast.
Food manufacturers have taken advantage of the fact that we are so time poor and busy and have created and marketed convenience products that many of us mistake for being healthy: packet soups, liquid cereals and yoghurts that we can drink on the go and muesli bars, just to name a few.
Our grandparents and great-grandparents’ generations grew up mostly cooking their own meals from scratch using fresh produce purchased at a local market. There was no globalisation, no trading of foods between nations, and no supermarkets. Most women stayed home to look after the family and maintain the household, which included cooking the meals.
Our way of life certainly has changed since then. More women are in the workforce than ever before, and the globalisation of our economy means that nations are able to trade food so that we can have available all fruits and vegetables regardless of the season or time of the year. We shop at supermarkets and eat out at restaurants, and drive through fast food outlets to buy something on the go. Some of us skip breakfast, or buy our lunches at cafes near our workplaces. Some of us order lunches for our kids from the school canteen, or celebrate their birthdays and other special occasions at venues that offer fast food catering options.
We have unintentionally made cooking and eating whole, fresh foods an inconvenience of our time.
Have you ever said any of the following:
I’m too busy to make kids’ snacks from scratch so it’s easier and quicker to just buy them a packet snacks.
I come home from work late and don’t have time to peel and cut potatoes- it’s more convenient to buy frozen fries.
I’m too busy to find the time to cook chicken stock from scratch- it’s easier for me to buy packet sauces for flavourings, or chicken stock cubes.
Our family is busy with after school activities so we make this our takeaway night because it’s more convenient.
Yep, I’ve said all these things in the past.
But is it time to change our way of thinking, and not rely on time as an excuse for the way that we nourish our bodies?
Can we make ourselves unbusy enough to create a healthier lifestyle for ourselves and more importantly, our children?
It may mean needing to adjust the way we spend our time so that we can create the time to cook fresh and healthy meals and teach our children how to cook. It’s an investment in our health and wellbeing, and an investment in our children’s wellbeing that will reward us in the long term.
Some of the rewards that I have experienced from cooking healthy foods from scratch include a reduced grocery bill- yes, when many think that eating fresh fruit and vegetables (sometimes organic) can be costly, I have found the opposite. By eating nutritious foods, I find that I need to eat less to feel full and so smaller meals have reduced our grocery costs.
I don’t have to add sauces and flavourings to my meals because my palate has changed and I now find natural foods more tasty than I had when I was eating processed foods high in salt, sugar and other flavourings. I can throw a few herbs and spices into a casserole to make it tasty, much cheaper than resorting to a pre made casserole sauce in a packet.
I also find that since improving my nutrition through healthy eating, that I don’t get sick as often and when I do get the common cold, I recover from it more quickly. I don’t purchase any medications and don’t visit the doctor as much as I used to. This has saved me money and time.
And my kids enjoy having a go at creating something in the kitchen, even if it’s as simple as chopping some vegetables or stirring a bowl when I’m baking. The time I spend with them in the kitchen is giving them valuable life skills that will enable them to continue to eat in a positive way when they move out of home.
Here’s a quick run down of how I have made myself unbusy enough to lead a healthier lifestyle:
-I have found a great local butcher that sells grass-fed beef and buy all my meat from there in bulk to last us a fortnight.
-I visit a local store for all my fruit and vegetables and buy in bulk to last up to a fortnight, and top up as I go if I run out of anything.
-I then visit one of the supermarkets to purchase anything else that I need, toiletries, frozen fruits, dairy etc…I shop at night when it is quiet and I am without my kids so that I can take my time and read the food labels when I do have to purchase something in a packet.
-When shopping at a supermarket, I try to avoid the lanes in the middle of the store as much as possible because this is where the convenience packaged foods can be found. If you need to buy your meat, fruit and vegetables from a supermarket, then focus on spending most of your shopping time around the outer sections of the store: all the fresh and frozen produce is located around the edges of a supermarket: the deli, bakery section, meat section, dairy, frozen foods etc…
-I spend a weekend afternoon in a cooking and baking frenzy, making things from scratch and then freezing them so that they are available to eat during the week. This helps if there is a day when I don’t find as much time to create something from scratch due to other commitments.
-I try to simplify my approach to cooking. I don’t follow complicated recipes and prefer to think of my meals as things I have thrown together: I might throw some vegies together to make a stir fry, or a simple salad using what I have in the fridge. I will pre cook a few different soups using my homemade chicken stock as a base. I might sauté some vegetables and add an omelette. The only time I follow recipes is when I bake, and even then I try to find ones that are simple and can be changed slightly by adding different fruits to create variety.
Feel free to explore until you find what works for you and your family. I’m not a fan of Thermomix as I like to do everything myself and it allows me to show my kids how to cook rather than just throw everything into a machine. However, if using a Thermomix or similar appliance means that you will eat healthier and less processed and packaged foods, then go for it.
Let’s change the attitude that healthy cooking and eating are inconveniences that robs us of our time and remind ourselves of the benefits that good nutrition can bring us both today and in years to come.