Learning how to eat like our grandparents did

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When mum knows how to eat well, it automatically filters down to her children. Most of my generation of mothers were not taught much by their own parents about cooking. This is no ones fault, it was really all about the big changes in introduction of processed food in the 50s and 60s that changed everything. Mothers were told through advertising that the best cakes were made from a cake mix packet. We are more immune to advertising now, but back in those days, a lot of people believed what the advertisers were saying.

The way we ate before all the processed food was introduced, was so much better for us. People ate with the seasons and ate produce that was locally grown so it didn’t have to travel vast distances and ripened properly before picking. The food wasn’t treated to the same extent, with the chemical fertilizers and preservatives we are dealing with today. There is much confusion these days about nutrition, which is exacerbated by the media.

It’s so easy as mothers to feel guilty about our parenting – including how we eat and how our kids eat. That’s not what I’m about. That guilt and stress is so destructive and unproductive.

What is it about some food that makes people feel guilty? It’s that pleasure/ pain, comfort/ discomfort duality that drives us. I know all too well as the mother of two boys (really three if you count my husband). My youngest is nearly four years old and my teenager is nearly 14 years old. But when I feel that guilt slipping in when I am very busy, I send it off on its way. Eating well isn’t about feeling bad when you eat something that’s not good for you. I have a 80/20 rule. Eighty per cent of the time I eat really ‘clean’ and 20 per cent I want to be able to eat out or at other people’s houses and not be thinking about whether it is ‘clean’ food. How you feel about the food is important too. We need to enjoy the food we eat.

There was much wisdom in the simplicity of traditional cooking. It’s simply relearning what our grandparents knew, and what we intuitively know about food, but incorporating it into a modern setting. The old traditions are creeping back into the way we eat, which is so wonderful to see. But there is still lots of pressure on parents to buy processed foods out of convenience.

There are many simple ways to make traditional food ‘convenient’ food at home. Like cooking once, eating twice or three times. That is, taking a meal and reinventing it into a couple of other meals so there’s not so much cooking involved. Rice or quinoa could be converted easily into fried rice, or with eggs for breaky and in a wrap with veggies for lunch the following day, and that night rolled into rice balls or paddies. It’s a fun way to approach cooking so that it doesn’t feel like you are taking on yet another task, but actually simplifying your lives and feeding your family nutritionally dense food in the process.

As people, we are busier than we have ever been in history, and also less healthy. It’s taking back the power here and making small steps to incorporate real food back into our lives. And sitting together as a family at least once a day, ‘the family that eats together, stays together’.

Simplifying the process of cooking and using whole foods is the answer. It’s pleasurable, not a chore. And this comes from having a few straightforward strategies in place. This is all doable, it may just mean making a few simple changes. When we really get down to it, what do we really want out of life, but to spend fun loving time with our partner, family and friends, and live healthy fulfilling lives.


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