The modern diet!

Our children are in trouble because we outsourced the job of feeding them, nowadays diet consists of about 70% processed food.

Our desire for convenience, leaves us relying on strangers to produce the food we feed our children.

 When we cook, we get to decide what is going into our children’s bodies, and unlike the processed food manufacturers, we have a strong interest in the health of the people who are going to be eating the food that we make.

If we practice moderation, then nonfood is forbidden.

When our children are drinking the juice as a thirst quencher during the day, then sugar really starts to add up.

If we do the best we can, with available resources, we can begin to have more control over where our food comes from, and how it’s prepared.

Let’s start by thinking “what am I going to serve my vegetables for this meal”.

Don’t start with the protein, start by thinking “Am I going to make steamed vegetables with white source on top? Or I am going to make a salad with my vegetables? And then ask yourself, what would go well with that?”

Could I make a quick fish in the oven? Could I make some homemade chicken nuggets on the stove for the kids tonight?

Finding our way back to health and love of real food

When kids see adults coming together around healthy foods, they’ll often be more willing to try new things, also, let little ones mix in a bowl or add fruit to make their own smoothie, prep vegetables, or mash things like potatoes or bananas or avocados, this gives them a sense of control that can help to be more adventures eaters.

In the long run, a diet of mostly home-cooked foods, prepared by someone who cares about the people eating that food, will always be healthier for the whole family.

 Food and nutrition

So when we look at food and the functions that food fulfills in our lives, we can sort of separate this into two equally important categories. The first category is nutrition.

So food provides us with nutrition.

It’s fuel right??

You’ve heard the saying, “food is fuel and it fuels our bodies ” it fuels our physical activities it helps us to think and it helps our bodies to recover faster, so this is one really important part of the equation.

But on the other side, we have the social functions of food.

From the smallest families, from the first day of life, and up to the most kind of extended social networks, food is a way of communicating.

It’s a way of showing care for one another, it’s a way of celebrating together, it’s also a way of passing on our families’ history and traditions, and all of these things fall under the side of the equation called the social functions of food.

What do we need from nutrition?

The first thing we need from our daily nutrition diet and sometimes we forget about is water.

Human beings are made up of 50% water by weight, and water facilities all of the bodily functions we need to survive, so water is extremely important and sometimes we forget about that.

The second thing we need is energy, and we get energy from our food in the form of something called macronutrients, and they called macronutrients  because we need relatively larger amounts of these compared to the micronutrients that I will explain later

Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

So for example carbohydrates are a kind of combination of little sugars that are linked together in ways by chemical bonds and those bonds store energy in them, so when our body digests a slice of bread it releases energy that we can use.

The next things we need are micronutrients, which are things like vitamins and minerals, Vitamins are organic substances made by plants or animals and minerals are inorganic elements that come from the earth, soil, and water, and are absorbed by plants.

So animals and humans absorb minerals from the plants that they eat, and both vitamins and minerals are micronutrients that a body needs to grow and function normally.

The last thing that we have to add to this list is dietary fiber, and fiber is a really important part of the diet. It’s sometimes called ruffage, but it’s basically the indigestible part of plant foods, the part that our digestive tract cannot break down and absorb, and it protects the health of our digestive tract, it also helps us to remove waste from the body.

Ok now let’s look at the other side “the social function of food”, food provides a very powerful means of communication, when we eat with our children we communicate, we actually contribute to the emotional health of our children, there’s research saying that children who eat family meals actually do better in terms of their emotional well-being.

Eating together and doing that over time for many years is a way in which we pass on our families’ traditions and record our memories and pass those on.

So we now recognize the importance of nutritional contribution to food, and we recognize that it’s critical to our short and long-term survival, but we can’t forget the huge contribution of food and the way in which we eat to the survival and the development of us as social beings beginning really from the first day that a child is born and someone provides that child with food. 

The balanced meal

The meal is so much more than just nutrients, a meal shows our children that we care for them and that we love them and that’s not to say that parents who are too busy to cook for their children, can’t find ways of showing them love and care.

So, if we do have even 20 minutes in the day to make a fresh meal for them, it’s really so much more than providing them with nutrients.

We want to compose a meal that’s fresh, and attractive and then we want to sit down with them and share it with them.

Supermarket shopping 

When we enter a supermarket on any given day, we come in with a set of goals, maybe we want to get the things we need to make the next meal or the next few days of meals, some times we might be stopping in to pick up just one or two things like eggs or milk, no matter what the goal of our shopping trip, the supermarket has been designed to make us buy more than we came to buy, and to make us consider buying the most expensive versions of those items.

Families’ effect on child health.

Families have a very real effect on the health of the child, so if the parents for example have had enough education to help them understand what a balanced diet is when they’re making decisions about what to feed their children, that is going to have a positive health impact on these children.

What’s healthier for you?

What’s healthier for you is also healthier for the environment, so when looking at the beef and the chicken, for example, there are a lot of fossil fuels that actually went into producing this food, it goes into the corn that the beef eats, there’s a lot of pesticides and fertilization comes from fossil fuels, it goes to the shipping the transportation the manufacturing, and there’s actually 30 times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from a kilogram of beef than a kilogram lentils.

There are thousands of gallons of water behind every hamburger, In addition to water, we use antibiotics to raise these animals, and we use it just to fatten them up more quickly, and to prevent them from getting sick because they’re so close together, this could be really bad for humans because if it creates antibiotic resistance in animal, those bacteria could spread to humans and we wouldn’t have a way to fix it, lastly, the cows and the chicken create so much waste that we don’t know how to get rid of it, especially from cows the manure sits in these enormous lagoons and it can pollute the air and the water for hundreds of miles around.

So for the most healthy choices, we should feed our children plant-based proteins more often.

Reading the labels.

How we can read something called nutrition facts label and in general I think the more foods we eat that don’t have these labels on them the better because for example fruits and vegetables don’t need nutrition facts labels on them.

So if we can minimize the number of items that we eat that have these labels, it’s probably better for us, but, if we’re comparing two packaged goods like two portions of cereal or something like that then we might want to know how to look at this.

Let’s look first at the serving size, this can be a bit misleading because sometimes there’s more than a serving size in a single container and it can be confusing, and underneath the serving size there’s usually an item that says servings per container so this will make it more clear if there’s more than one serving per container and everything underneath that is the amount per serving.

So we are talking about one serving and what are the characteristics of that serving?

_Calories are the first thing to look at.

_look at the calories from fat.

So if a child should eat 1400 calories per day we can’t give him a chocolate bar that contains 400 calories all coming from sugar and fat.

If we look on the right-hand side on the label we see something called percent daily values, and there’s a bunch of numbers, percentages and then it corresponds to a little note at the bottom there’s starred that says these values are based on a 2000 calories diet, so yours may be different and also your children’s Percent daily value may be different as well if they’re smaller and they’re not eating 2000 calorie diet.

Then if we look at the dietary fiber, less than one gram is not that much so for things like your breakfast cereals you want to see something a bit higher than that.

Down below that we see a list of vitamins and minerals and these generally are good but just remember that just because something has added vitamins and minerals it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s it’s going to healthy for you and you and you definitely don’t need to know what Riboflavin does in order to make good food choices.

Then you look at the fat and the breakdown of the fat content in the food and in general the fats in processed foods are not going to be the healthiest kind of fats, so saturated fats and trans fats are the kinds found in processed food are going to be the ones that increase our risk for heart diseases and that generally we should try and limit in our diet.

Sodium is also something we need to keep an eye on because in processed foods this is usually pretty high as it extends the shelf life.

Below that on the label is an item called total crabs and in general, people tend to fear large numbers of carbohydrates and it’s as with anything it’s important that we chose the right kind of carbohydrates, sugar also tends to be quite high in processed foods, so keep an eye on these numbers as well.

So to summarize, if we start here, we look at the serving size and make sure that we know how many servings are in the package we are eating, that can give us more information, then if we look at the calories per serving and just make sure that isn’t a ridiculously high number, that can be useful information. If we move down and look at the different kinds of fats in the packaged food we want to make sure that these are generally on the lower side if we are comparing to two similar items because these aren’t going to be the naturally occurring unsaturated fats that we know are quite beneficial for us, and then also we want to definitely keep an eye on sodium, we can think of sodium as salt basically because it’s one of the elements in the salt and we should train make sure we choose one that lower and make sure we choose the item that has the lower salt if that’s an option.

Finally, we want to keep an eye on the sugar, especially in processed foods where sugars tend to be really high, we want to look at those and make sure that they are not ridiculously high, then after that even though these vitamins and minerals listed on the label we could consider good for us, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is a healthy one, because many naturally healthy foods don’t have vitamin lists associated with them.

So in general whole foods don’t need these nutrition facts labels so, if we concentrated on those we’re definitely doing a good job we should try and minimize the number of nutrition labels we need to read, but it’s very important to know how to read them.

Yusuf Alaa

ISSA certified trainer