It’s never too late to start eating a little healthier, mama! Our Sassy Mama contributor, Ifat is here with some simple suggestions to set you on the right path…
A couple of years ago I found myself diving more into a healthier lifestyle. My son, who was then only two years old, went from naturally curious about the foods I ate (sticking his finger into my salads) to switching overnight after his first bite of chocolate covered digestives – his dad’s favourite at the time!
It was hard to watch but definitely telling, as you could see just how sugar almost instantly had him hooked. What was to come was a series of life changing decisions, that made our lives today quite possibly much more fruitful (excuse the pun).
My hubby, who was also an addict of the ‘Golden Arches’ since early childhood, would skip dinner, and inhale two packets of chocolate biscuits instead. So in December 2012, I challenged him to give me three months on a nutrient dense diet, and if he did not like it he could go back to his old ways.
The first couple of weeks were a struggle as we slowly removed all processed foods from our home, and he got used to smoothies and salads. Real foods made him full and he became less lethargic, or bloated, and eventually his seborrhic dermatis was disappearing. As an added bonus, he lost close to 14kgs in 6 weeks and was more svelte than he was at university.
This was his new years resolution was well underway. When challenged, he went down to Park N Shop and loaded up on fruits and veggies. All the things in his trolley were single ingredient products and his trolley was bursting with variety. He started to not be too bored with the style of eating, and his involuntary retches ceased when he drank the vegetable juices I made for him. His taste buds had started to change.
Now our days start with healthy smoothies or Green Monster pancakes. The kids only eat sweets, candies or chocolates when they are at birthdays or similar events. Generally these are just too sweet for them and they complain about how they feel afterwards. There are days we cheat, as everyone does, and perhaps those days remind us of why we generally make the healthy choices, because not long after we feel the affects!
A New Years Resolution changed a family, quite possibly for life! From this my hubby has now developed so much interest into growing organic veggies and fruits, while learning more about healthy guts, brewing his own kefir at work and spreading the message to coworkers. Saying I am proud of the massive changes he has made is an understatement. I can’t wait to see where the pursuit of living with healthier choices will take us next!
So with all this in mind, what are my top tips?
Replace refined sugars
All sugars at home, if you haven’t already done so, replace them! Get your pantry filled with Maple Syrup, Coconut Nectar Syrup, Jaggery, Coconut Sugar, Date Sugar, Date Syrup. All these are non-refined and either non-processed or hardly processed. Sugar should be avoided as much as possible, but choosing sugars that have nutritional benefits to them is the choice to make.
Eat your colours
By that I mean when you eat your veggies and fruit, eat as many colors as possible. Someone once said to me that I ate way too much fruit. My response was “Look, as far as I can tell, way too much fruit is way, way, better than anything processed out-of-a-box rubbish”. I can hardly pronounce half the ingredients in many products and have zero idea what they are, or where they came from (think plastic, yes some companies put yoga mats into foods! Yuck!). So eat as much REAL fruits and veggies, and as colorful as possible!!
Organic benefits tip the scale as the positives outweigh the cost. ‘Pay now or pay in medical bills later’ is a motto to live by. Where possible, organic dairy, meats, veggies – organic everything! Hong Kong has a great source of places to get organic foods. Green Queen and Mango Menus both have good lists on these topics.
Bottled water is bad, and when I am out and about I always look for glass bottles or for establishments with filtered water. Chemicals from the plastics seep into the water and negatively affects us in so many ways that it’s just not worth it! You’ll find you’ll save so much money buying a filter (I use Aquasana) rather than buying bottled water.
Frying / Cooking / Baking
At home I use as Coconut Oil and Ghee for most of my recipes which require either frying, cooking or baking. When it comes to salad dressings I love Olive Oil, Avocado Oil and even Toasted Sesame Oil. Again I go for the organic varieties that have also been cold pressed. Coconut Matter is a great local company selling great variety of coconut oils.
If you can, try and incorporate as much fermented foods into your diet. You can make Kefir at home or you can buy it, as with Kombucha. Watch out for yogurts, and always read ingredients. Go for those with only live cultures in them rather than added sugars. We buy plain goat yogurts and blend them with our favorite flavors. Green Vitamin has our favourite coconut yoghurt, and Lantau Mama and Loula Natural have regular classes on how to ferment your own food and drinks at home. Scientists have likened the gut to the second brain for the body, and having a healthy gut is key to overcoming many health problems.
The good old gluten debate, for us as a family we are intolerant and pretty much stay away from gluten if possible. It makes us feel run down, my children go a bit wild and get boils on their knees, while my hubby gets bad skin rashes and I bloat and look like I’m pregnant. That being said, if we will go and eat gluten then we aim to eat fermented bread, such as soda bread. Places like Bread Elements and The Mixing Bowl have great selection of good quality bread.
For those who are gluten free its important to remember that all suggestions apply here most importantly as well. A lot of gluten free products that run the isles at supermarkets are highly processed and filled with rubbish. Fear not, there are a good selection of gluten free foods available, you just need to get into the habit of reading labels and understanding what the standard gluten free ingredients are. My favourite snacks come from Green Vitamin, however supermarkets such as Just Green, Green Common and online store Berry Time have selections which are more favourable to the healthy conscious persons.
I love chocolate, in its raw form it is typically healthy (depending on how it was made). To make chocolate the beans are separated into cocoa butter (healthy saturated fat) and cocoa solids (all the other nutrients – magnesium, copper and zinc, and even a little fiber). Another benefit is that cocoa solids are high in antioxidants, and studies show that the antioxidants in cocoa reduce oxidative stress as well as have various cardiovascular health benefits such as, blood pressure reduction and anti-inflammatory properties too. Here in Hong Kong we are super blessed with having our very own Raw Chocolate factory, Raiz The Bar who produces their chocolates with great integrity from bean to bar. I often buy my chocolates from them, however you can experiment with buying some raw cocoa and making freezer chocolate fudge or even home made chocolates.
Try and opt for grains which are more nutrient dense. Whole grains are as they are found in nature. This can be processed and still remain a ‘whole grain. Refined grains are those such as white rice, only contain part of the grain and are less nutritious. Whole grains are considered healthier because they contain high volumes of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, phytochemicals and fiber. Some grains to enjoy are, Quinoa, Oats, .Millet, Brown Rice, Spelt, Corn, Amaranth, Bulgur and Teff. Sprouted grains are even better for you, as they help our body break down the anti-nutrients such as gluten, lectin and phytic acid in grains so that they are easier to digest.
Start with baby steps
The thought of changing your diet into a healthier one may be overwhelming, but if you try and change it all at once most likely you’ll go back to your old eating habits after a short trial.
At home we removed one part of the diet every other week, that way we had time to adjust and no one really noticed. Starting with the processed foods one week and then bad oils. Commit yourself to this plan for a time period, I gave my husband three months, by week four he was converted and convinced of the positive changes.
All the processed foods and junk we had at home we donated to food drives so they weren’t thrown away.
Making healthier choices is a way of life, if you look at it any other way you may be setting yourself up for failure. Instead of saying you can’t have something, maybe replace it with a shouldn’t. That way you are being conscious of the choice you are making to live better and feel better.
Get your kids involved and have them start as slow as you do. Have them learn about the healthier way of eating simply by showing them a short cartoon on youtube about organic farming or have them help you make your morning smoothie. Make sure the baby steps you take are at the same pace your children are taking too!
Stock up on all foods at home, we have a salad and fruit bar in our fridge! A constant order from places like iherb will get you discounts and usually they have shipping specials. Berry Time will also provide special discounts on a weekly basis so keep checking their specials! When you have all that you need at home it makes it easier to cheat less and stay on track more.
Making the decision to eat and live a healthier lifestyle is a great change for many. Today, my grandmother laughs that this is how she always lived. Remember what you are doing this for, it should never be about weight loss. It should be about the bigger picture, living healthy, being kind to your body and feeling good for it. Go easy on yourself, if you really want to eat that burger then have it, but don’t torture yourself for it either. Just try and have the healthier option, grass-fed organic burger on a homemade sourdough bun. Places like Butchers Club have awesome healthier options (note not healthy but healthier). Eat as nutrient dense as possible, so when making your choices daily ask yourself is it nutritious and take it from there!
And for a treat … FREEZER FUDGE
½ Cup Coconut Oil
½ Cup Organic Raw Cocoa Powder
¼ Cup Nut or Seed Butter (favourite is cashew/almond)
¼ Raw Honey / Maple Syrup / Coconut Nectar
½ Tsp Vanilla Essence
Dash of Himalayan Salt
Mix all ingredients until smooth, and spread into a glass container lined with baking sheets (easier to take out after) and freeze for half an hour. Cut into squares and put them into a container in the freezer.
This never lasts more than a day in our freezer!