Before you step into your kitchen to prepare a meal, do you ever stop and think about ‘where did this food come from?’, ‘what will I use to cook this food?’, ”what’s the nutritional profile of what I’m about to eat?’, how will I store my left-overs?’, ‘what other ingredients have been added?’…. the list goes on and on.
Below are some of my top tips to help you make an informed decision about how and what you eat and drink. The choices you make can improve the health of both you and your family and support your local community and the environment at large. By no means do you need to do all of these things at once, but they may be areas you would like to work on over time.
Farm-To-Fork: Top Tips for Eating & Everyday Living
– Just Eat Real Food! You should aim for the majority of your meals to be delicious and natural whole foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, wild caught fish, organic meat, poultry and eggs). This will help crowd out the packaged and processed ‘food-like substances’ that are so readily available in our modern world. Whole foods reduce the need for additives, preservatives and emulsifiers (help water and oil to mix). New evidence is showing that these chemicals can have adverse effects in our bodies, especially on our digestion and immune systems.
– Shop more frequently to ensure your food is as fresh as possible. Do you ever open up your crisper and find fruit and veg from last week that’s looking pretty limp and lack lustre (aka devoid of nutrients)? If you buy your produce weekly or bi-weekly and plan your meals, this is less likely to happen and will also save you money.
– Whenever possible, choose certified organic foods, and avoid pesticides and unwanted chemical residue used in conventional farming methods. There is a growing link between pesticide exposure and the incidence of chronic disease. In 2010, more than 70 pesticides were classified as probable or possible carcinogens. Organic crops have also been found to contain higher concentrations of antioxidants (you can seriously taste the difference!).
An easy way to do this is to try and shop at your local farmers markets so you can speak to the farmers directly. For example in my local area, The Springwood Growers Markets are held every month on a Sunday and have stalls with beautiful organic produce.
If cost is a factor, prioritise buying organic produce that are in the “dirty dozen” as these are more likely to contain higher levels of pesticide residue e.g. strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, and your leafy greens (kale etc).
You can be more flexible with the “clean fifteen” which are less of a concern due to their thicker and often inedible skins e.g. avocados, pineapple, and onions. Just make sure that you rinse the skin of your fruit and vegetables well with running water, apple cider vinegar or lemon to remove any unwanted chemical residue before eating. You can also use a fruit& veggie scrubbing brush. Keeping the skin on your produce is a great way to increase fibre and optimise nutrition e.g. the skin of apples, kiwi fruit & sweet potato are full of vitamins and minerals.
– Choose produce that is in season and cater your meal planning around this for maximum flavour and nutrition. A few great resources you can check out are the Seasonal Food Guide and the Sustainable Table’s printable pocket seasonal produce guide. You might even like to try growing a few herbs and veggies in your own garden.
– Buy fresh or frozen rather than canned when possible. The heat treatment used in canning vegetables can result in thermal destruction of up to 60% of the B vitamin content, as well as changes to the colour, flavour, aroma and texture. Some cans are also lined with BPA (bisphenol A) which is a toxic chemical that can leach into food. It is an endocrine disruptor and can cause health problems, and has been identified as a synthetic oestrogen that can disrupt hormonal balance in the body.
– If you are buying packaged food (e.g. almond milk, buckwheat flour, gluten free bread), make sure you read the food labels, paying particular attention to unknown ingredients, added sugars, and avoid genetically modified ingredients. Try and choose products from Australia if you can.
– Soak your nuts, wholegrains and legumes overnight prior to consumption to reduce phytates (hard to digest anti-nutrients). This will also help your body to digest them more easily and reduce the likelihood of bloating and flatulence. I like to do this with my almonds before making home-made almond milk, and with my lentils before I make a big batch of dhal.
– Steam or slow-cook your meat and vegetables rather than barbecuing or frying at high temperatures. We want to prevent advanced glycation end products (AGEs) and free radicals that are caused by browning meats and sugars. These can wreak havoc in the cells of your body and lead to inflammation, allergies and metabolic disorders.
– Avoid non-stick pans when cooking and replace with stainless steel or cast-iron cookware instead. Always store your leftovers in glass or stainless steel containers rather than BPA plastics. Safer storage options include glass or stainless steel containers. You can cover your leftovers with beeswax wraps rather than cling wrap, and use reusable water bottles, coffee cups and straws to reduce exposure to endocrine disrupting plastics and minimise environmental burden.
– Prioritise purchasing a water filter to ensure that your water is clean and does not contain unwanted chemicals and impurities (pesticide residue, plastics, metal contaminants, and pharmaceuticals etc). One Australian company that sells water filters is AquaSafe. It may seem like an unwanted expense, but remember you do drink 2L or more every single day so it is definitely an investment for your health.
This is just a starting point. If you are interested in learning more, you may like to read:
- Low Tox Life by Alexx Stuart
- One Bite At A Time by Sarah Lantz & Tabitha McIntosh
- Healthy Home Healthy Family by Nicole Bijlsma
Feel free to get in touch and let me help you get your eating and food sourcing, preparation, cooking and storage on track to optimise your health and nutrition today!