The ONE thing we should be doing to eat healthy

With so many different and conflicting messages around food, diet and nutrition, it’s no wonder that we’re confused about what we should and shouldn’t be eating. We shouldn’t be consuming dairy. We should be drinking organic raw milk. We shouldn’t eat meat. We should be Paleo. We shouldn’t be eating fruit. We should be eating kale and avocado with every meal. We should be adding spirulina to our juices and smoothies. We should be cooking with coconut oil.

It’s a minefield of information and contradictions but you want to be healthier (and maybe lose a bit of weight while you’re at it) so you read up, get inspiration from Instagram and try some things out. You’re inspired by the poster-people of healthy eating and learning so much about the benefits of superfoods and how good they are for you. Then, when even the Mail Online is raving about chia seeds and spirulina, you know you need to add them to your diet.

So you buy some chia seeds and make one of the breakfast recipes and you hate it (you’ve never liked that tapioca / rice pudding texture in food). However, you try something else, and you still hate it but you know it’s good for you so you keep at it. After a few weeks of trying, you finally decide you’re really not into the gloopy, flavoured frogspawn and it now languishes at the back of your cupboard. Every time you see it you feel a little guilty that you’re not being the healthiest you could be and a little part of you feels like you’ve let yourself down. So occasionally you try again but it’s always the same – that cycle of trial, distaste and then the disappointment in yourself. How many of us feel like this? How many of us have felt like this about chia seeds?*

It’s something I’ve heard from a number of clients about various food and drink, and the accompanying sense of failure and disappointment that they haven’t managed to be the healthiest versions of themselves is sad to see. We need to get over the idea that food is a battlefield that we need to conquer. Don’t get me wrong, some things do get better over time and are an acquired taste (remember when you first ate olives or tried wine?). If you’re starting to reduce the amount of fruit in your green juices and getting used to the ‘green’ taste, keep going, you do eventually get used to and enjoy the flavor of a vegetable-based green juice. However, there are times when common sense goes out of the window in the quest to be more healthy and that’s the area we need to look at.

I say this as someone who is so guilty of this approach to healthy eating. Take coconuts for example. I have never ever been a fan. As I child, I avoided Bounties and anything with coconut in it. Thai curries have never really agreed with me, the coconut milk has always left me feeling a little unsettled and borderline nauseous. I hate the smell of coconuts, never liked coconut water and avoid it in beauty products. All of which would indicate that perhaps coconuts aren’t my thing. You would think I’d pay attention to that.

Over the last couple of years, coconuts have been having their moment in the spotlight. They’re the fantastic dairy free alternative, coconut oil is the perfect saturated fat for cooking and coconut water is super hydrating and full of electrolytes. Not to mention its use as a miracle moisturiser / beauty product and star home cleaning product.

So because I avoid dairy because of its effect on my skin, off I trotted to buy some coconut yoghurt as the perfect dairy-free breakfast, dessert or snack option. I tried the natural flavour a few times. It made me feel slightly queasy but I’d load it up with fruit and seeds to mask the coconut-ness. I then discovered vanilla, less intense definitely but I was still getting that sickly coconut feeling. However, I continued, adding it to breakfast muesli, having it as an afternoon snack, never shaking off the uncomfortable feeling, never feeling nourished and satisfied after I’d eaten it, just a bit sick. But it was good for me right? I had to make myself get over it, so I forced myself and continued this for about 3 months, after which I had this ridiculous epiphany of thinking ‘I hate coconuts, why am I wasting my time when it’s making me feel sick and there are a million other great and tasty healthy things that I like that I can be eating?’.

It was such simple realisation, I feel a bit stupid even telling you about it. However, I was so influenced by all the positive media messages on what I should be eating, rather than listening to my body which was giving me quite strong signals about what I shouldn’t be eating.

And that’s exactly it. The ONE thing you should be doing to eat healthy is listen to your body. Really take the time to consider how different food makes you feel. As Dr. David Katz says, “love food that loves you back”. Yes, we can get inspiration and try out new things, but we don’t have to be eating the latest superfoods to be healthy. We don’t need to be forcing ourselves to eat food we don’t like. All we should be doing is eating tasty, real, unadulterated, unprocessed food that nourishes us deeply from within.

Your Mission Starts Here…

* I’m raising my hands to this one, I have never liked that kind of texture. Let’s have a Chia Seed Challenge. How about we sprinkle them over cereal and salads to add a little crunch? Let’s use them up and then make sure to remember that we don’t like them and never buy them again. #chiaseedchallenge – let’s do this!

Why ‘gluten-free’, ‘vegan’, ‘local’ or ‘organic’ does not automatically mean ‘good for you’

A couple of months ago I was in NYC for a conference and I went to the Whole Foods at the bottom of the building for lunch. As I waited in line for a tea, I took a good look at my surroundings. All around me were signs promoting local, vegan and gluten free products – “local pastries”, “vegan cupcakes”, “gluten free cookies”, “organic crisps”. Standing there, taking it all in, I had a realisation about the power of labels and how much of an impact words have on our choices.

Many people shopping in that store would have seen those labels and automatically presumed those products were healthy. In the ever-changing world of nutrition and bombarded by a proliferation of messages, these are the things we’re currently being told are good for you (just as we were educated about ‘low-fat’ or ‘high-fibre’ foods in the past). And yes, organic produce may be higher in nutrients. There are some people who do have a sensitivity to gluten and removing it from their diets has been beneficial to them. For environmental and ethical reasons, buying local produce can be a positive thing. A vegan approach has had health benefits for a number of people.

However, just because a product has one of these labels doesn’t mean it’s nutritious and the reality is, we need to be curious about the food we eat (like animals who naturally sniff food before they consume it). We need to be looking at the what’s actually inside these ‘healthy’ products and we need to question what we are putting inside our bodies.Continue Reading..

Eating Seasonally – Fun at the Farmers Market

In the last year, I’ve found myself a new weekend hobby – wandering around my local farmers market. When I started taking more of an interest in what I was eating and where it was coming from, I discovered that I was lucky enough to have a farmers market a short walk away from where I live. Since then, I’ve loved going whenever I can.

Initially, the main draw was the idea of being able to buy fresh organic fruit and vegetables nearby. What it soon became though, was a weekly education in appreciating the value in eating seasonally. Nature is amazing in that it provides the right foods for us when we need it, and a farmers market is where this comes to life right in from of your eyes. E.g. in the winter, when it’s cold, there are a proliferation of root vegetables which are perfect ingredients in the warming soups and stews that are ideal for cold weather. Then in summer, when it’s a bit warmer, that’s when the fruit comes out, full of water to refresh and help you cool down. So, what’s on offer at the market changes throughout the year, reflecting what’s in season and meaning you’re kind of forced to prepare food that’s actually giving your body what it needs to cope with the weather. Right now, there’s no fruit, and there hasn’t been for the last month or so, and the stalls are filled with squashes, parsnips, carrots, so many different varieties of potato, turnips and greens. But with the coming of spring, that’s soon to change.Continue Reading..

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