For a Happy, Vibrant New Year, Opt for Real Food Instead

I consider myself a food activist. And make no mistake—real food needs an advocate these days.

In our culture, we’ve been conditioned. We’ve been marketed to. And the result is that people no longer realize that their bodies want real, whole foods. Many have gotten to a point where they hear “healthy food” and imagine a microwave dinner and a bland side of lettuce and tomato.

“Healthy” has become a swear word, and somehow also a buzz word at the same time. People are confused about what it really means—do they need to buy prepackaged meals? Contrary to marketing from the “health food” industry that swears that the latest in fake food will save you time and make you thinner, no. You have other, better options.

Your Body Knows

Here’s a truer definition of “healthy” food: anything that makes your body rejoice.

Now you may be thinking, I would rejoice if I ate nothing but donuts every day—yum! But eventually we both know you’d feel the results of that one-sided diet. The truth is, you can eat anything you want, and your body will let you know if it doesn’t like it. You’ll know because your stool is softer or your stomach is uncomfortable and bloated. There are many ways in which your body can say, “this is not working for me.”

Your body is telling you that you’re intolerant to something you’ve eaten. If you’re eating real, whole foods, you can cut it out of you next meal, because you know exactly what you’ve put into your body. Here’s where we get stuck: When eating prepackaged food, it’s hard to know exactly what you’ve put into your system. They do not have to list all the ingredients on the package, so higher levels of sugar, salt and not forgetting the artificial colours, flavours and sweetners can all be there, and you are non the wiser.

Food intolerance and allergies are just one of many sticking points for processed “health” food. We also store these foods differently. Our bodies don’t know what to do with synthetic food, so they just pack it up and hold it. This is why you can be eating minimal calories and not lose weight. And along with helping you hold onto those stubborn pounds, these chemicals clog up your major organs. Eventually you’ll become sluggish, hold water, and feel achy.

We blame our poor health on all sorts of things. But we don’t realize that we can often reverse these effects by changing what we’re eating. We could help reverse obesity, heart attack, diabetes, kidney disease… People often see improvement within weeks of changing their diet. It has got be worth the health cost alone to at least try.

Whole Foods are Health Food

It’s almost as if the food industry doesn’t want you to know that—which is really sad. We are set up to fail by what we see in the ads and stores. But you don’t have to be a chef to cook a healthy meal. You’ve been told in every commercial that you just don’t have the time, but you do. If you’re pressed for time, cook a simpler meal—the truth is most whole foods don’t require much cooking! If you embrace a plate full of color and texture, there’s a good chance you’ll be serving up a variety of nutrients.

Let’s change the paradigm for what it means to be “healthy.” Abandon those single-serving freezer meals and 100-calorie packs in favor of something fresh and whole, and you will be healthier. You’ll discover you suddenly have more vitality. Your skin will glow. Your brain will function better. You’ll have energy to really show up in your life.

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Getting Started

If you’ve been stuck in the cycle of packaged “health” foods, and don’t feel up to a dramatic overhaul (or perhaps you know your family needs to be eased in carefully), you can begin with one of these small steps:

  • Start every meal with a fresh salad. Put ingredients on the table and let your family make their own salads before the meal. This way they’ll feel empowered, can choose for themselves and feel more control, but since this course comes before the meal, they won’t be as tempted to skip it entirely in favor of an extra slice of pizza.
  • End the meal with something like fruit. This will give your family a chance to end with something sweet without adding a processed dessert to every meal. You can even add fresh fruit to ice-cream, meringues, jelly/jello.
  • Cut back on the sauces and condiments. They can pack a lot of calories, sugar and sodium. Look for organic ones or make your own. That way you are certain what ingredients they contain.
  • Start your meal planning by asking your kids about color—“What color soup would you like,” for example. This introduces a new (and fun!) framework for choosing vegetables and fruit.
  • Go to the produce section and just get one of something you’ve never tried. Get it and try it, or you’ll never know. Not sure what to do with that one star fruit or spaghetti squash? In this day and age, you’ve got endless resources. There is a mountain of info available on the web at all different levels. You can even punch it into your smart phone while you’re standing in the supermarket. Just type into your search engine—beets and oranges, for example—and let the magic of the internet work for you.
  • Make sure the adults are leading the food revolution. If you are screwing up your face or wrinkling your nose, that’s not going to work. There are hundreds of different fruits and veggies out there, so just keep a positive attitude and move onto something new.

Have you found an easy strategy for introducing whole foods to your family’s menu? Join the conversation in the comments below!

Author: Tamzin

Food activist and childhood nutrition advocate Tamzin Cochrane helps the busiest of people to cook up something healthy and delicious, even after a long day. She also helps companies and schools educate around—and create a culture and environment that truly supports healthy eating. Decades in the foodservice and hospitality industry have given Tamzin a well-rounded perspective on mealtime. She is passionate about bringing back the lost art of families and friends cooking together, and she loves seeing people enjoy the amazing tastes and textures of their communal effort. Inspiring children to cook and expand there horizons on food is very important. She shares this message through virtual coaching and video courses, by speaking at corporations, schools, and events, and through her recently-released video courses. Tamzin is found most often at The Pinny and Trowel Cooking School, which she opened in early 2020, it is located in Austin TX. Tamzin was born in England, grew up in Scotland, and now lives in Austin, Texas with her husband (who incidentally, is Scottish but grew up in England) and their children.

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