Last year, a market research company discovered that supermarkets today carry 40,000 products more than they did in the 1990s. No wonder we’re all so bloody confused about what to eat, what brands to choose, and which products we should be using.
Do you really think that in the last 20 years we developed a need for more choice? A need for 40,000 more products in the supermarket aisles? Were we walking through the supermarket in the 1990s thinking to ourselves:
“Damn, there’s only 4 brands of dish soap available… I just really wish they’d give me ten options to choose from”
I’m pretty sure back in 1990, most us had never heard of a Goji berry or quinoa. We were eating rolled oats before we knew they were a “superfood”. And we were quite happy to choose between two products – brand name, or home brand.
Sure, there’s been some good developments with the increase in products – it means we have more options to make healthy choices when it comes to filling our supermarket trolley.
But it can also mean most of us are completely confused and overwhelmed doing our groceries. We’ve lost sight of what “heathy” is, and it’s sometimes just all too hard. Reading labels creates more questions than answers. It takes 30 minutes to find a tin of tomatoes that doesn’t have BPA in the lining. We feel guilty when we choose generic almond milk instead of the organic, non-GMO, no-sugar-added almond milk that is 3x the price.
So what did health look like in the 1990s?
Whole foods! Vegetables were a staple – even if most households did the old ‘meat & three veg’ kinda meals. We also weren’t afraid of fruit back in 1990, so we got loads of fibre, nutrients and antioxidants from fruits. Grains didn’t have a bad name yet, and meat was almost always included at dinner time. It wasn’t complicated.
It’s not all bad, though.
The rising interest in healthy living and eating isn’t all bad – most of us now choose wholemeal at least, instead of white bread. And we might be eating a wider variety of veggies these days. And hopefully, less meat than we used to.
The point is, we don’t need superfoods and fads to be healthy.
The best thing you can do for your health is to eat a lot of vegetables, some fruit and some meat. Grains really depend on your current health – some people are fine with grains, and others tend to react.
Avoid packaged foods wherever possible, but also utilise the foods we have access to that make healthy eating so much easier – like frozen vegetables (from Australia, preferably) and already diced meats (for stir-fries, etc) if you’re short on time, or convenience is a factor for you.
When shopping at a supermarket, you should be buying around 80% of your groceries from the outer areas – fruits, vegetables, meats – and 20% from the aisles.
Some of the things I buy from the aisles are:
- tinned tomatoes, beans and coconut milk, tinned tuna too
- plant-based milk cartons
- rice cakes or biscuits/crackers
- nuts and seeds, dried soup mixes or lentils
- dry pasta, seaweed (nori) sheets for sushi, rice
- popcorn kernels (to make my own popcorn at home)
- herbs and spices, salt & pepper
- cleaning products (as natural as possible) and pet food
Of course, if I’m baking or my hubby is making pizza dough, we’ll get flour and sugar and all that stuff too. And yes, we have times where we’ll get a packet of chips or a block of chocolate – I’m all about balance, and being human! But overall, the amount of stuff I’m getting from the aisles of the supermarket is not a lot.
So, do we need all the fluff and fuss around healthy eating?
Not at all. Research shows over and over again that a whole foods diet (meaning predominantly vegetables and fruit) is the best thing we can do for our health. A little meat, if you choose to include it in your diet. And when it comes to grains, the less-refined are better (the whiter they are – bread, pasta, rice – the more refined. Choose darker grains, like rye bread or brown rice, as much as possible).
I am a big believer in moderation and balance, because any time I’ve tried to restrict my diet in the past I’ve ended up binge eating. What works for me is to fill my diet with the stuff that nourishes my body – vegetables, fruits, a little meat and carbohydrates – and allow myself to indulge in sweet treats without judgment or guilt. I find that the less I restrict myself, the better I eat.
As women (especially mums) we already put so much pressure on ourselves.
Food choices doesn’t have to be another source of stress in your life. Just do the best you can, and get back to basics. I have met so many women who are completely overwhelmed when it comes to food, so they would skip dinner altogether (still cooking for their family, of course) and then they’re hungry at 9pm – eating things like chips, chocolate, the kid’s school snacks or raisin toast with butter.
If that’s you, the best thing you can do for yourself is take the pressure off yourself. As they say, let 80% of the food you eat be for your body (nourishing, healthful foods) and 20% for the soul – whatever the hell you want. Restriction, guilt, overwhelm and stress doesn’t help you eat better – it does the exact opposite of that.
Relax the reins a little bit lady, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how simple health can be.