As chief keeper of the family cave (I’m really into that phrase since using it on Monday in THIS post), I pretty much control what we eat. Clearly, my husband, being a fully grown adult in possession of both money and opposable thumbs, can source and purchase his own stuff but generally, he eats what we have in the house. And what we have in the house is generally what I’ve cooked!
Since quitting sugar back in January 2013 (you can read more about that HERE, HERE and even HERE), my food philosophy and approach to eating has shifted. As I mentioned HERE, in an ‘Ode To Coffee’, we tend to take a kind of holistic approach to food and eating. While I don’t think I can affix any particular label to how we eat (it’s sugar free, kind of paleo, sometimes vegetarian, usually organic… the list goes on), it’s safe to say that we tend to eat whole food and a lot of stuff that’s made from scratch. Not all the time, not for every meal but for a large portion of our week, that’s how we eat.
Quitting sugar was the precursor to this as I started really looked at labels for the first time. At first, I only looked at the nutrition panel to guage how much sugar was in whatever it was I was thinking of stuffing in my trolley, but as time went on, and I developed a natural sense of the sugar content of food, I started focusing on the other ingredients as well. While some foods surprise with me with their short list of maybe 2 ingredients (Smiths Original Chips when I was at a servo trying to placate a screaming toddler), others are slightly bewildering. There is so much STUFF in the food we buy today. It blows my mind a little bit to be honest. I can’t make sense of the purpose of half of it, especially when you know exactly what goes into the homemade variety (and it has no numbers, funny letters or names that end with ‘ose’ and ‘ix’).
These days, I usually ask myself and/or ponder, whether my nanna (who is still going strong at the grand old age of 93) would have eaten it when she was my age. This is the same woman who I tried to convince to switch to skim milk, olive oil spread and low fat yoghurt maybe 5 years ago (she wouldn’t hear of it, as it were). Nanna, up until a few years ago, enjoyed a hot breakfast most days. Had eggs at least once a day. Enjoyed full cream milk in her tea and cream on her (homemade) dessert. She cooked a hell of a roast, used lard and dripping in her cooking and I never once saw a ‘diet’ product in her pantry or fridge.
While the idea of a ‘diet philosophy’ would have been hilarious (still would be) to my nanna, the kind of food she was eating is generally what we are told to avoid today. Yet, for some reason, we are only getting fatter and sicker. And there’s my nanna, who’s never had an issue with weight, cholesterol, diabetes or any of the other health ailments striking down women and men half her age, going strong with her cup of milky tea.
There is so much to be said about that fact but I don’t want to turn into crazy food lady on you JUST yet. What I was keen to share were a few of easy things I do to add a nutritional boost to our families food. Some of the things are really, really old school (beef broth anyone?), while others are the best, non bizarre and arrogant bits of the newfangled wellness revolution.
This is how we roll, health wise..
I make my own stock/broth.. And use it wherever I can..
Making stock or broth is one of those ‘lost art’ kind of things. These days, we tend to buy our stock in cube or packet form and while I usually have a stash of Celebration Organic Stock in my pantry, for the most part, I make my own. Back when families used the whole animal for their meals, things like chicken and beef bones would have been tossed in a stock pot and simmered down for hours to create a slightly gelatinous, marrow filled liquid. The fat renderings would have been skimmed off the top and put aside for baking spuds and other root veggies. When we started taking part in the local cow pool, beef bones were one of the things that we got in with our steak, meat and sausages. Every few weeks, I take out a batch, roast em’ in the oven for 45 minutes or so then chuck them in my Le Creuset pot with a few litres or filtered water, apple cider vinegar, a couple of bay leafs and whatever veggie scraps I have lying around. If I need to head out, I pour everything into the slow cooker and leave it on ‘low’ for 12 or so hours.
Why do I bother? A couple of reasons. The fact that its far, far cheaper to make my own stock is one thing but the primary motivation is the health benefits. What you’re creating is pretty much a health elixir. The long, slow simmering process draws out every little bit of gelatin and collagen and all the vitamins and minerals we’d otherwise miss out on. It’s amazing for our immune systems, the (often overworked and under loved) gut and our thyroid. It can also reduce inflammation, making it fab for arthritis etc and give our skin, hair and nails a boost. And it costs less than $10 to make.
While some people drink the stuff straight, literally as a broth, I use it wherever you might need stock. I add it to my slow cooker meals, pour a bit into the pan when I’m roasting veggies, siphon a little into risotto and pretty much find a way to get it into anything I’m cooking. I also save up all the chicken bones from our frequent roasts and do the exact same thing (though I usually only simmer chicken stock for maybe 6-8 hours). Same amazing benefits and a huge variety of uses.
I add chia to everything..
Chia seeds are one of those things that have been around forever but have recently seen a huge boost in popularity. So popular have they become that my local IGA stocks three different types. Why are they so good? They pretty much provide your body with (almost) everything it needs in a food, all in a teeny, tiny little package. Calcium, fibre, protein, iron, antioxidants, vitamin C, Omega-3.. Chia has em’ all.
I use them in EVERYTHING. Smoothies, baked goods.. I add them to yoghurt and sprinkle them over whatever we’re having for breakfast.
I steer clear of low fat..
I was once a card carrying member of the low fat brigade. Skinny lattes, reduced fat cheese.. I was a walking advertisement for a low fat diet. I sometimes did wonder whether mucking around with the molecular content of a food was the smartest thing in the world but as I knew nothing different (and was constantly being told that low fat was the best way to eat) I didn’t worry too much about it. When I quit sugar, one of the things you are recommended to do is bin the diet dairy and stock up the full fat stuff. This felt weird but I soon came to realize just how much sugar and/or sweetener was in the low and no fat stuff. In some instances it was mind blowing!
When you remove the fat from food, you take away a lot of the taste and to create a palatable product, fat is replaced with sugar and/or sweetener.
Us humans LOVE sweet stuff so we don’t tend to notice or worry to much about the change in flavor.. Generally only concerning ourselves with the taste. It can be a bit scary to introduce fat back into your diet (and obviously not all fats are created equally), but as a family who made the switch and embraced fat while binning sugar, we’ve reaped the benefits and I really can’t imagine ever going back.
I’d love to know.. What do YOU do to add a little bit more ‘health’ to your day?