1. What should we eat to be healthy?
Most of us have strong memories of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ home cooking. They would go to the market, buy “real food” and prepare it at home every day. They may not have known anything about nutrition, but they bought seasonal and locally grown foods and knew that variety was key to feeding their family properly. Unfortunately, over the last decades, in the western world, cooking at home has become less and less common. We no longer have time for it and there is also a lot of ready-made food available that solves the “problem” of preparing dinner in just a few minutes. Tempting, isn’t it?
On the other hand, nutrition and gastronomy have become trending topics. There is an excess of information coming from different fields and often contradictory messages. As a result, the decision-making process when shopping at the supermarket is more and more complicated.
Here are some examples of this contradictory messages:
- “Dairy is an excellent source of quality protein, bioavailable calcium and vitamins”. But also: “Dairy is inflammatory, raises cholesterol and 80% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant.” (1)
- “Red meat consumption is linked to colorectal cancer¨(2).
- “Fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids. But also “Fish contains mercury, so it is recommended to consume it up to 1-2 times per week” (3).
- “Sugar is harmful and should be eliminated or at least reduced to a minimum.”(4)
- “Legumes contain anti-nutrients “. And also, “Legumes are rich in nutrients and are a good source of protein.”(5)
- “A vegan or vegetarian diet cannot meet all nutritional needs”(6).
- “Soy contains hormones and can be harmful.” (7)
- “Gluten is inflammatory and a gluten-free diet is healthier.”(8)
Even for those with a genuine concern for their diet and willingness to make informed choices, it is difficult to navigate these turbulent waters. It takes time and dedication to do the research to sift through all these messages, put them all into context, and answer the question, What is the best diet for me and my family?
There is no single answer to that question. There are now nearly 8 billion of us living on the planet. We are all different, we live in diverse habitats, with different climates and different food availability. And even in the same family we have different preferences and health conditions.
2. Environmental concerns as a precursor to dietary change
Other socio-economic factors are also involved in the decisions we make about how to feed ourselves. These include the environmental effects of our eating style. There is already sufficient scientific evidence of the damage we are doing to ecosystems by a food model that is excessively animal-based and how plant-based food is one solution (although not the only one).
In recent years, many media and institutions are working to raise public awareness of a reality that the industry tries to hide:
- Intensive livestock farming is highly polluting due to:
- The emission of gases by livestock as a result of their digestion.
- The purines that pollute the air and aquifers.
- The high amount of resources (water and fodder) required to feed the animals.
- The fishing industry is depleting the population of our seas.
- The dumping of waste and plastics into the sea intoxicates fish and by extension those who eat them.
- Plant-based diets are associated with lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Many people are reducing their consumption of animal products or even transitioning to a plant-based diet (vegan or vegetarian) in response to these concerns. But, how to do this safely?, what to eat as a substitute for meat and fish?, would supplementation be necessary?.
3. All right, I want to eat better, but where to start
After all of the above, if you feel the need to do something to improve your diet and your family’s, I invite you to find out what works best for you. Please take a few minutes to answer these questions:
- What do you like to eat? What changes do you think you could make to improve the quality of your food?
- Are there any foods that you do not digest well? If so, what is the symptomatology? Have you consulted a doctor?
- What do your blood tests say? Are there any parameters that are out of balance? That could be a good starting point to assess the need to introduce or eliminate something from the diet.
- What difficulties could you encounter in introducing these changes? How could you overcome these difficulties?
- What percentage of your food is prepared at home? How could you improve your diet by spending a little more time in the kitchen?
4. Home cooking as a source of health
With this cocktail of factors and our personal circumstances, we must decide how we want to feed ourselves. Home cooking is one of the keys to a balanced diet. Few people today doubt that ultra-processed foods contain ingredients that damage our health, and at the same time are highly addictive.
However, no matter how much we bake our muffins at home instead of buying them, if we prepare them with refined flours, sugar and sunflower oil (let alone margarine), the result is not going to be healthy. Therefore, home cooking is one of the keys, but not the only one. The criteria when choosing and the quality of the ingredients are others, and not less important.
We need to learn to combine foods in a balanced way and to prepare them as simply and quickly as possible. The goal is to eat healthy most of the time, without having to be a chef and without spending many hours shopping and cooking.
5. How I can help you improve home cooking for the whole family
Since nutrition is bioindividual, health coaching is unique for each person and as a a health coach I can help with:
Designing a balanced menu for your family, adapted to your preferences, budget, and time to cook
Improving the quality of your pantry, by substituting some products for others with higher nutritional density
Making a smooth and successful transition to a plant-based diet
Learning to read label information and its implications for our diets.
Cooking a couple of hours a week to keep weeknight dinners organised or bring healthy, tasty, home-cooked meals to the office
Offering your family healthy home-made alternatives to the classic breakfast or snack
Nurturing yourself in an intuitive way and maintaining a healthy weight over time without dieting
Overcoming emotional eating and put an end to binge eating and the restrictions that follow along with it
In my coaching program I can help you design an action plan you can easily adhere to, so you introduce home cooking as a healthy habit to offer your loved ones an enhanced family menu.
7. Bibliographical references
(1)Dairy consumption and health. Article published in the New English Journal of Medicine
(2) The relationship between colorectal cancer and red meat consumption. Article from the US National Cancer Institute.
(3) Regarding the recommendations of fish consumption by the Spanish Agency of Food Safety.
(4) WHO recommendations on sugar consumption.
(5) About the anti-nutrients in legumes. Article published by the Harvard School of Public Health.
(6) The UK Health Service position on the viability of vegan and vegetarian diets.
(7) About soy consumption and its effects on health. Article published by the Harvard School of Public Health.
(8) Beneficial and adverse effects of a gluten-free diet for non-coeliacs.
Article published in The Lancet on the carbon footprint of meat consumption.