What better time of year to start focusing on your health than spring?! The days get longer and warmer, beautiful warmer weather produce starts to appear and there is a renewed sense of vitality in the air as everything comes back to life. If you’re anything like me, it’s time to come out of our winter hibernation.
The food we eat is a perfect place to start so, when making over your kitchen, there are a few fundamental principles that will guide you towards healthy choices every time. Consider whether your foods are seasonal, local, organic and whole.
In a world where we import food from almost every corner of the globe, we seem to have lost our way with eating seasonally, which has far more benefits that you may realise. Eating seasonally will provide more of what your body needs in different times of year without even having to think about it. In winter we tend to go for more starchy or hearty foods – well guess what? That’s partly because they’re readily available at that time if the year. If you’re like me, summer is all about smoothies and salads, when we consider what’s seasonal at that time of the year, particularly here in sunny Queensland, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. In the days of hunting and collecting, our bodies became attuned to what was available based on the environmental conditions, not what was on the supermarket shelf.
Eating locally, not only makes our food more sustainable by reducing food miles but it also supports the local farmers who work tirelessly on the land to provide us with beautiful fresh produce. I love nothing more than a good road side stall! Local farmers will grow what is seasonal to your local climate too. The easiest way to achieve this… Farmers Markets! They’re literally everywhere these days, so look up where your local market is and make it a weekly ritual. You won’t regret it. The friendly conversation, shopping outdoors in the sunshine, being able to meet the people who grow your food and ask them questions is invaluable. Not to mention the inspiration it provides to try something new, as we all know variety is key to health, yet most of us stick to a repertoire of somewhere between 5-10 basic recipes. So, pick up something new and just try it! You might love it!
Organic food seems to be a topic of endless debate. Is it better for you or not? Well personally, I’d rather not eat the chemicals that are sprayed onto non-organic food to protect it from insects. A wise and passionate gardener friend of mine once said, if the bugs aren’t having a go, you’re doing it wrong! The farmer I buy my produce from uses no chemicals whatsoever, and yes, he loses a lot of produce to insects, but he quite happily tells us his pigs on the farm eat exceptionally well! Again, the farmers markets are a great way around the expense factor. Ask your farmer is they spray, and with what? Many of them are not using chemicals, however they haven’t gone to the expense of becoming certified organic and therefore are able to pass on the lower prices to consumers. If organic is completely out of reach, then soaking your food in a water and apple cider vinegar mixture prior to eating is a great way to remove some of the chemical residue.
Whole foods is a term that gets thrown around everywhere you look at the moment, but what does it really mean? Well, as close to naturally occurring as possible, not being added to or taken away from and free of artificial substances. Think as close to the way they grew in the ground, ran across the earth or swam in the sea. Examples of whole foods are; whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, meat, fish, eggs, herbs & spices. The reason that’s important is that is causes havoc in our bodies when we put in things it doesn’t recognise. It causes inflammation in our gut and activation of our immune system. They both have far better things to be doing than policing the unidentifiable substances we are calling food these days! If it comes in a packet, it’s generally best avoided as it will require a degree of refinement or preservation to ensure stability on the shelf. If you’re shopping at the supermarket, stick to the perimeter where you will find mostly wholefoods. As you can probably tell by now though, I am a huge advocate for farmers markets! Its shopping the way our grandparents did it – the butcher, the baker, the green grocer…. It’s the same principle. Where all else fails, ask yourself, how close to the way this was grown does it appear now? If it is completely different, best avoid it. That should be your guiding principle when selecting whole foods.
Other Helpful Tips
- Use glass containers or stainless steel for storage to avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals found in plastics. Think water bottles, Tupperware containers and even cling wrap. There are fantastic alternatives like bees wax wraps that are reusable and kinder not only to our health but to our environment, which is something we should all be concerned about.
- Ditch the microwave! I haven’t had a microwave in so many years and I don’t notice it at all. It takes no time at all to heat something up in the oven or on the stove top and is undoubtedly a safer way to go.
- Use filtered water. We are so lucky in Australia to live in a country where drinking our water will not harm us like it would in some developing countries. However, that’s not to say it is exactly health promoting either. There are certain compounds found in tap water that can be harmful, particularly to the endocrine system (aka. Your hormones) so switch to filtered and feel the difference.
- Set aside time to plan and prepare, especially if you’re new to this, it will take a little time to get your head around what to actually eat?! But, with preparation – take time to flick through recipe books or search for online inspiration and write a list, it will come easier than you may think.
- Eat mindfully. Set aside time in your day to sit down and enjoy your meals. Our lives are crazy busy and often our digestion suffers from the ‘eat on the go’ mentality. So stop, sit, chew, enjoy it!