- the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.
- food; nourishment.
That one bold little phrase is where I think all of the controversy and debate over what nutrition really is can be traced back to. We, as a society, do not agree on this phrase. We don’t agree on what is necessary for health and growth. We don’t agree on what is harmful to our bodies, what ingredients we should limit and what we should avoid all together.
Some people believe that low carb is what we need while others argue for diets low in protein and high in complex carbohydrates. Balanced diets including varied proteins, fruits, veggies and even the occasional sweet are favored by many while still others rally for no animal products at all in favor of vegetable proteins, legumes and fruits. Many “health” fanatics are all about counting calories while others never count calories.
In the midst of all of these different ‘expert’ opinions it can be so hard to know which way is up, let alone what you should feed your family. Ultimately I feel it is the responsibility of each parent and family to decide for themselves what they should eat based on the individual needs of their families. Research, make informed decisions, ask questions and trust your instincts. When you get new information that calls into question what you previously thought to be “the best,” be willing to make changes. Don’t be afraid of making changes. It is easy to get caught up in the mindset of “well I have always said this was the best way so now I can’t change or I will look like a hypocrite.” Many times we do things the way we grew up with or the way we have always done them and in doing so act from a place of ignorance. I challenge you that whatever you decide for your family as far as nutrition is concerned that you educate yourself and make those decisions based on what you learned. This way you will be able to support your choices and share them with others.
I can tell you that for my family we have changed our way of eating several times over the last 10 years as our children have grown, the health needs and challenges of my family have changed, new information about different foods and ingredients has come out, and the food we have access to has changed. Right now for us, I don’t care at all about counting calories. I occasionally glance at calories on snack foods and so may choose a lower calorie option if one choice is excessively higher than another, but even this isn’t a common occurrence. We eat gluten and sugar and animal products. We also eat lots of fruits and veggies, with most of them being raw. What I do care about is ingredients and preparation. This means I make as many things from scratch as I can, I buy way more ingredients than finished foods and I read labels A LOT. We also prefer local mom-and-pop restaurants that actually prepare and cook meals instead of just heat ready made products. We care about moderation of the less healthy ingredients like sugar and caffeine. We care about choosing natural and less processed on things like lunch meat, hot dogs, raw meat and more. We care about swapping out pantry staples like refined white sugar for natural cane sugar, maple syrup and raw local honey; bleached refined flour for unbleached natural whole grain flour; vegetable oil for unrefined coconut oil; mayonnaise and sour cream for plain lowfat yogurt… these are just a few of the swaps I have made over the last couple of years.
Just some of the ingredients that I would encourage you to look for on labels and research about are high fructose corn syrup, nitrites and nitrates and BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene). There is A LOT of information out there so take your time to sift through it and find what is useful. Here are some great websites I have found in my own research:
Nitrates – http://www.livestrong.com/article/283850-why-is-sodium-nitrate-bad-for-you/ http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/sodium-nitrate/faq-20057848
Ingredients – http://saveourbones.com/12-dangerous-ingredients/
Whenever possible choose local, fresh ingredients. You will often be able to ask the farmer questions about pesticides, grain and other farming practices so you know where you food comes from and what has been done to it since planting or birth. You may be surprised by what is available to you in your area once you start really looking for it. Here are some great websites to help you on the hunt:
What this all boils down to is, nutrition and health are about SO much more than just how many calories or fat in a meal. A higher calorie meal of quality fats from local, grass fed beef, fried zucchini that we grew ourselves and fried in coconut oil, locally harvested strawberries with local raw honey and home made whip cream BY FAR beats out a grilled chicken sandwich, a frozen veggie boiled and slathered with butter and salt and 100 calorie snack pack dessert cookies. A meal like that is what most of us would have (or still do) consider healthy when choosing convenience foods to take to work, grab from the cafeteria or from a drive thru. I encourage you to think outside the box you have been living in and look for new ways to make healthier choices!