Attempting to eat more nourishing food has brought me a joy for cooking that I have not experienced since I was a child. For most of my adult life, cooking was simply a way to get full for less money than eating out. Or worse, to get a quick sugar-fuelled energy boost. These days, I challenge myself to cook meals that are both nourishing and taste good (almost) every day. It gives me great pleasure, as does going to farmers markets, and to health food focused shops, cafes and restaurants.
Eating more nourishing food has also been the catalyst for a lot of other small changes I have made in my life. For example, I have become much more mindful of my waste, my carbon footprint and my exposure to toxins, and now I try to buy local, organic and package-free ingredients whenever I can. Turns out that being more mindful and intentional in one area in my life has made me want to do the same in other areas!
It makes me sad to think that something that has made my life so much better, regardless of any health benefits or not, can cause others stress and anxiety. I came across an article not too long ago about how “the clean eating fad is taking a toll on young women”. The article, at a high level, talks about the mental health impacts of viewing food through a lense of judgement and restrictions. I understand the sentiment in this article. I have always been an “everything in moderation” type of girl, and before getting specific dietary prescriptions from my doctor I had never been on a “diet” in my life. Not even in the lead up to my wedding. If I had children, I would not restrict them from eating certain things. I like to think they would eat plenty of vegetables, and refined sugar only on special occasions, but I am sure the practicality of that would be much more difficult in real life than in my head!
I think not so much about “restrictions” when I think about eating healthy, but rather about “crowding in” nourishing food and making it part of my everyday life. I love taking friends to cafes and restaurants that serve organic, local ingredients. My social media features photos of new mostly plant based meal ideas. Conversations with family often turn to great recipes or “less waste” food shopping. I bake experimental birthday cakes made from cauliflower, avocado and pumpkin (ok, it had a couple of other ingredients too!). The response is usually very positive from both friends and strangers, who often become motivated to try a healthier alternative themselves.
Ultimately, I think we should not do nothing (in regards to trying to eat healthy, and in general) because we cannot do (or know) everything. Conflicting advice and opinion about the exact nutritional value or other consequences of eating things like kale, coconut oil or chia seeds does not mean, to my mind, that you might as well eat fast food every night. Generally speaking we know that much of the processed food available has a more limited nutritional value, mostly because it is cheaper to produce and has a longer shelf life that way.
So what should we do? In the words of one of my favourite food bloggers, Food Pharmacy, “focus on what you can eat, instead of what you must avoid eating”. Eat a varied diet and pay attention to what foods make you feel good. Make sure you eat enough vegetables. And then, notice how preparing and eating nourishing food acts as a catalyst for small positive changes in other areas of your life!
Try it: Make an effort to “crowd in” nourishing ingredients to as many meals as you can, and take your friends and family along on your journey.