Healthy eating. What does that mean to you? For some it means a balanced diet, eating everything in moderation. For others, it means being on a diet, cutting out “bad” foods, and counting calories. Perhaps healthy eating means low-carb to you? Or maybe it’s about following a vegetarian or vegan approach? The point is that the definition of healthy eating is as varied as we are, and the medical and scientific realms are divided on many a nutritional point. But at the end of the day, we don’t all sit around waiting for definitive answers on healthy eating, we make choices about what goes on our dinner plate.
Here at the Munching Mongoose, we also make decisions on what we think makes for ‘healthy eating’, but instead of following a set of rules, or restrictions, we believe in two philosophies. Here’s our take on eating healthily:
Philosophy #1: Eat consciously
To do something consciously, is to do something intentionally and deliberately. Explained another way, you may have heard of mindfulness, a form of meditation where you train your attention to be in the present moment. Same thing. So how does this apply to eating? When you eat consciously, you think, really think, about what you’re eating. What is it? Where did it come from? How does it taste? How does it make you feel? Recent research has suggested that mindfulness is a great tool for breaking old habits, for example, smoking. By being conscious of what you’re doing, how it feels, how it tastes, etc. you are not only cognitively aware of your behaviour, but you start to understand it on a visceral level.
Applied to eating, practically, it means knowing where your food comes from, knowing how it was grown and knowing all the ingredients on your plate. It means tasting, really tasting, what you’re eating, and being conscious of how it makes you feel. It’s about reconnecting our food with our bodies, and eating to fuel our bodies in a way that makes them feel good, and makes us feel happy.
“Eat with consciousness. When you eat with consciousness, and you know what you’re eating, and you eat it in full appreciation of what it is, it’s enormously satisfying.” – Michael Pollen
Philosophy #2: Eat Real Food
Choose foods as close to their natural state as possible. As many of us are aware, a lot of what you find on the shelves has been modified from its original state, with pesticides, preservatives, sweeteners, flavourants, stabilisers, etc. By choosing to eat food in it’s natural, whole state, you are guaranteed all of the goodness and the nutrients, with nothing added or taken away. If we think about how our grandparents and their parents used to eat, whole, local, seasonal foods were the norm, and fast food meant the local fish and chips. We think this sums it up quite nicely:
“When my kids were young, we used to wait for the ladies to come in with fresh spinach, which we could then buy. And we loved fresh mielies, from the boy on his bike. Otherwise, I grew everything, even potatoes! When I cooked for my kids, I would go out into the garden, and it would be cooked fresh. I would make the kids porridge for breakfast, and our main meal was always meat and three veg. Sunday was always a roast, we also used to braai and have salads.
We never really paid attention to organic, or olive oil, sugar or salt, not the way people are into health things nowadays, and maybe we should have. We weren’t without our ailments, but we were happy, and we didn’t fuss. Nowadays there’s such a variety on the shelf. This or this or this or that. It’s mind-boggling and it’s a pain. They never tampered with the food, like they do now. You go look on the shelf, it’s ridiculous all the different yoghurts.
We used to get milk delivered, I don’t even think it was pasteurised, it came from a bloke from the local dairy. And we had the german butcher, and the bakery. It didn’t matter, white or brown bread, but it had to be fresh!” – Eve, 81
When it comes to healthy eating, we all make the choices we make based on what we think is healthy or not, and we definitely don’t claim to have the answers. But by being more mindful of what we eat, and choosing to eat more real food, we believe that only good things can happen.