Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nutrition – defeatism, real change and investment of time

During the time of my studies in university, several of our professors repeated that there is almost no way to acquire all the needed vitamins and minerals from the typical modern diet, and thus progressed to say that synthetic supplements in the form of pills, and artificial fortification of widely used foods, are recommended to the population.

It is true, they argue, that what would really be optimal is a whole series of radical changes in the modern diet, but since these aren’t feasible, supplements should be taken. Similarly, since people are unable to give up their sugar addictions, it would be useless to try and make them do that. At most, we should recommend artificial sweeteners to replace refined sugar, based on the evidence that these are harmless in moderate amounts.

To me, even then and especially now, such an attitude seems not only defeatist, but also very underestimating of people’s willpower, intelligence and determination. Shouldn’t we believe that in the light of scientific evidence and proper encouragement, many people will go to great lengths to do what is needed in order to gain good health for themselves and their children?

“Children will never give up sweets,” they say. Thus, it is acceptable to feed them ice-cream and highly sweetened milk products in order to reach the needed daily calcium intake. “Children don’t like vegetables,” and so, it is alright to give them sugar-bombarded, poisonous-colored breakfast cereal because it has some synthetic vitamins stuck in it by the benevolent food industry. This is saying it’s impossible for little children to like and eat with relish simple, wholesome and healthy foods.

True, it might be more challenging, but it isn’t impossible for the committed parent, especially as children tend to copy what they see. If we consistently sit down to good, proper family meals consisting of good healthy foods, this is what the children will see as their model. Food should be a prize, not a chore. We never make a fuss when our daughter trifles with her food, nor attempt to make her eat a full portion when she clearly has no appetite for it, nor offer rewards in the form of sweets.

“People don’t have time to cook,” and so commercially prepared meals indisputably become usual fare. The often overlooked fact is that the modern diet is correlated with the modern lifestyle – rushed, crazy, and highly stressful. If you want to eat healthy homemade food, it doesn’t mean you need to spend all day in the kitchen preparing gourmet meals, but it does usually mean investing more time in food preparation. It means slowing down to plan ahead and think. If the morning is always spent in insane rush of both parents hurrying to get the children out of the house and get out themselves, each going his own separate way, chances are that someone will reach for that box of sugared cereal, rather than make a simple and nutritious breakfast of oatmeal porridge, scrambled eggs and toast.

The habit of family meals is something else we have been robbed off. Even when the family eats together, it often means that they all sit in front of the television with their eyes glued to the screen, many times eating convenience food of inferior quality and taste. A lot more than nutrition is compromised; we are losing the fellowship of the family table, the easy conversation over dinner, the laughter and exchange of ideas, and what happens by-and-by – the training of children in good eating habits and proper behavior. Even with the quality of food in conventional stores so compromised, we would still all be far better off simply with the investment of time to prepare good, proper, simple, nutritious and economical meals.

Needless to say, a mother at home makes a huge difference. It is her who keeps the cooking fires burning; it is her who gathers the family around the table, nicely set, and offers delicious hot dinner, at the end of which her children will go to bed well-fed, full and sleepy. But of course, conventional nutritionists will not tell women to stay home, if at all possible, and cook for their families. It isn’t politically correct.

The only hope is that people will see for themselves that the lifestyle we are trying to maintain is nearly always impossible to combine with good health and vibrant family and community life. Our homes have been empty all day for too long, locked up, dark and cold. Our freezers have been stocked, for too long, with food that will temporarily satisfy the hunger while offering no real health benefits. For too long, we have looked for the secret to health and long life in all the wrong places, giving in to the calorie counting craze.

My belief is that nothing will make a real difference unless home, family, and consequently the family table, return to occupy their traditional proper place in our society. This is far more complex than calories, fats, vitamins and DRI. This is about the whole course our life will take from now on. 


famayes said...

I am very grateful to my Mom for always insisting we eat a sit down meal together every night and never letting us watch TV while we were eating. My own family has benefited from having a family meal together everyday.

Linda said...

Anna, I couldn't agree with you more.Thank-you so much for this.

Muriel said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you !
I have always managed to cook home-made meals for my family of 5, even if I have always worked outside of the home, part-time, of course, otherwise I don't think I could have done it !
I live in France, where the family dinner is something very important, I think most French family do it this way and I don't think it will change any day...
I buy our meat twice a year to an organic farmer, so we don't have to buy it from supermarket, I grow a lot of our fruits and veggies and belong to a CSA who provide us a big basket of organic veggies each week
I bake a lot, always lowering sugar amounts, as you do too !
My children are very healthy, I never fed them with commercial cereals or artificial vitamins, and I can tell you they are thriving !
They are now 15, 13 and 10, and eat a very wide range of food, including a lot of veggies and fruits...
I think you are doing a very good job with your little girls, and yes it can be done without in "harm" against those poor deprived children who don't binge on junk food everyday LOL

Michelle said...

As a woman that works outside the home (albeit without kids) I can emphatically state that it is possible to eat a nutritious dinner each night. And that you can get a nutritious dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, it just takes a bit of planning and a bit of ingenuity.

Anonymous said...

My mother worked full time when I was growing up. We always ate together, and never in front of the television. She cooked from scratch and when I was old enough I took over lots of the cooking because I was home first. I enjoyed the responsibility! The majority of my friends came from households where both parents worked and meals were healthy, balanced and home-cooked. Ironically, the friend I didn't like going to tea with because her mother always served burgers or fishfingers (both of which I disliked) was a part time childminder working from home...

I would argue that it is a matter of education. People are told that convenience foods are easier to prepare, while I learned to make a pasta sauce out of random bits and pieces which takes minutes and is very healthy. Far cheaper too.


Jana said...

For years now I've enjoyed reading your blog and articles on LAF. You really have a good grasp of what stay-at-home mothers are dealing with these days. It's not the same as when our mothers were our age.

I need major help, as do many other mothers out there trying to stay home. I can follow a recipe but I lack the flow and forethought of a mother from 50 years ago. I have lots of cookbooks of a wide variety of sources but pulling them down and using them really only happens when I'm baking for a special event like bread , candy or cookies. I've also learned that while baking is like a chemistry experiment, cooking is much more free flowing and intuitive. I can bake but I'm not very good at cooking.

Would you consider creating blog posts to help us new moms and stay-at-home wives in the art of meal planning and getting nutritious meals on the table? I strongly dislike the newer cookbooks today that get rid of ordinary ingredients (butter, coconut oil, cream) in favor of chemically created low fat substitutes. I find if I shop on the outer edges of our grocery store I avoid those items but I don't know what to do with the items I find (kale? sweet peppers? cauliflower? parsley?). My meals are boring and lack variety. I don't even know what nutrients I need or vitamins.

Please help.

Beka said...

Shalom Jana! i'd like to help u find some recipes. Check out 's youtube site for some healthy smoothies for kids and adults. Will sent you more links.

Anonymous said...

As a mother of 4 who works full time outside of the home, I can say it is still possible to feed your family homemade (from scratch) food and sit down together as a family to eat it if you make it a priority and do some planning. We do it every night and every morning for breakfast. And we send homemade food in their lunchs.

Jana said...

Smoothies are all fine and well but I've got food sensitivities I need to look out for for my family. I've got a husband who is lactose intolerant, although he does eat butter - he hates dairy flavoring, and he is allergic to cane sugar and positively hates things to be sweet unless it is fruit. This makes meal times very challenging. My side of the family can eat almost anything and his is very limited. I find this more difficult than I can handle. How do I get adequate nutrition into someone who is so limited in their eating? Also, I want the whole family to be able to eat what is prepared.

Laura said...

I feel so bad! I am an at home housewife, and I just can't seem to get the food thing right. I know It is bad, but for dinner tonight I had coffee and half a pint of ice cream, and the rest of my meals this week have been fast food. I hope I can do better when I start having kids. I have healthy food at my house but vegetables seem so unappealing when I am hungry, and then it just gets too late and my head is spinning with low blood sugar symptoms and I just break down and go to the fast food place. I think for me, the problem is planning. I just can't seem to keep to a daily schedule that includes shopping, meal planning, prep, cooking, and regular meals. I get easily distracted, procrastinate, and get easily discouraged, then I have cravings, try to diet, go out with friends or husband, and whatever I did plan or prepare for goes by the wayside. And with only myself to cook for (husband works 12 hour days and eats at work) it is hard to shop in quantities that do not guarantee I am bored of a food by the time I am half-way through it. My cooking skills are decent, but I can never decide what to make, especially since I tend to get bored cooking the same thing twice. I always assumed this was one of those things that I would eventually work out. Hopefully I am not just a bad person who lacks character. Although that seems more likely as a get older I think. Anyway, thanks for capturing a lifestyle to aspire to.

Mrs. Anna T said...

To Laura, Jana and all who are struggling with meal planning - I'm afraid time might not allow me to write a series of posts on this right now, but you can browse through my "in the novice's kitchen" section and look up many easy recipes. Also Google "meal planning", "menu planning" and "freezer cooking".

Oh and yes of course it's possible to work outside the home and still provide your family with decent homemade meals, only it's much more difficult and no wonder obesity rates started soaring precisely in correlation to women going out to the work world en masse.

Jo said...

I have worked for many years but there is one thing I do every night when I get home - I cook dinner from scratch. Each meal is healthy with veggies and meat and as a result my sons love healthy food and rarely eat takeaway. It isn't difficult if you are organized and have a pantry that is well stocked. I have some quick and easy recipes for those busy nights and more complex recipes for nights when I have more energy and time. I am not keen in processed food and stay away from them as much as possible. I ave created my own cookbook so I can quickly find a recipe for each night.

I also make our own bread and cereal. Not only saves money, contains less sugar and salt.

Beka said...

Shalom again!

This site has many, many, great food articles and the second place has many great links. CHeck them out! I'm a meat and potatoes girl, but I've been learning just to consume a lot more fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables raw. This is really great, tasty, and nutritious. This website I find useful, because they have recipes for replacement canned soup that you can freeze, homemade mayonaise, etc.

I read some great articles in the Above Rubies magazine - they have great family tips for health, etc.

It's been a great challenge to eat vegetables myself, because as a child I read an parenting magazine explaining why vegetables are yucky to kids and it affected my thinking as a small child. Cooking can be simple fun as a family.

The institutionalizing of life is bad, because the home has ceased to be a center of education, replaced with schools, family meals replaced with restaurants, family study of God's word to religious institutions, etc. Institutions r not bad, just that the home should be the center of life, right?

It's fun learning about nutrition and cooking so I hope these links may help. if I find anything more I will post it here! Shalom!