Monday, August 26, 2013

monday musings: on what to eat

Deciding what to eat and what to feed your family for optimal nutrition AND pleasure is no easy feat in these modern times of fake food, misleading marketing and information overload.

Thanks to easy access to research and opinions that conflict and contradict one another we are all highly likely to make food choices we thought were nourishing, or follow a particular way of eating - paleo, vegan, no sugar, to name a few - only to discover a piece of information, or experience an adverse reaction to our chosen path that causes us to change our ways and beliefs.

A couple of ingredients I have gone down this path with are stevia and Bragg's Liquid Aminos. After doing a 3 month medically supervised detox - no wheat, dairy, sugar, salt, caffeine, dairy or alcohol - I jumped on the stevia train and tried to tell myself I liked it. I baked with the powdered version, in the end I had to admit to myself I didn't like the taste or texture it gave to cakes or biscuits. Similar experience with agave. My preferred sweeteners for baking now are maple syrup, honey and occasionally when I bake something that calls for sugar I use rapadura or coconut palm sugar.

We started using Bragg's Liquid Aminos after Dr. Gruba who we did the detox with recommended it as an alternative to salt. From the outset I wasn't mad about the flavour and the more I thought about it the more I thought about how highly processed it would have to be to go from a soy bean to a salty tasting liquid state! Not to mention the food miles coming from America and the plastic packaging. I started doing some research on the net and came across some highly emotive opinions about why not to eat Bragg's and some other more balanced voices too. In the end I decided to trust my instinct and have opted for decent sea salt used wisely is a much better choice.

As for deciding upon a 'style' of eating I've never been a fan of all or nothing approaches such as the quit sugar movement. I agree that over-eating refined white foods is not nourishing and can have a detrimental effect on long term health but I think that all or nothing diets such as the no sugar one, or no carbs, or no cooked food (100% raw) can come with a lot of hype that needs to be analysed. All or nothing diets can cause people to feel like failures if they can't stick with what they set out to do, this sense of failure can affect self-esteem and body image especially if weight loss was an initial goal. What I do think is good about the work that people such as Sarah Wilson and David Gillespie are doing is that they are raising awareness about things like hidden sugars and encouraging people to eat real food over processed food that is great! The highly emotive language that surrounds their message is a bit alienating to me.

Discovering and staying connected to what is nourishing, energising and satisfying for each of us, as unique beings is the aim. And the challenge.

What can we do to decide with confidence the best foods for ourselves and our family?

I've written some guidelines here based on my experience, research and dare I say good old-fashioned common sense! I hope they are useful. I am not a scientist, doctor or nutritionist if you are unwell please consult a qualified health practitioner, but even then listen to what they have to say with an open mind and if it doesn't feel right to you consult another and compare opinions. It can get confusing but just because someone has a qualification doesn't necessarily mean they are the practitioner for you. I would love for you to share your experiences and thoughts on this topic.

A guide for eating well

Trust Mother Nature: organically grown foods from the earth are real, your body will recognise this and soak up the nutrients.

Stick to what is local and seasonal. Consider those food miles.

Whatever you can afford to buy organic do.

If a particular way of eating is promising you the world - more energy, optimum health, ideal body weight, anti-aging and so on. Be curious AND skeptical. Look beyond the hype! Ask yourself is this way of eating sustainable for me and my family in the long term? Or is it more of a short term detox?

Read the fineprint on packaging always. Packaging can be decorated with many 'health' claims that are outweighed by the sugar, salt or trans fat content of a product. These 'health' foods can even be endorsed by high profile health organisations such as the Heart Foundation. Even if a food product claims to be healthy it is still important to always read the ingredients.

When researching, consider the source. Does the person writing or speaking have a vested interest in what they are promoting?

Trust your intuition and judgement, if an ingredient, way of eating, or recommendation from a health practitioner either in the media or one you meet in person genuinely doesn't feel right for you then go with your gut feeling and check out other options.

Useful resources:

I am a fan of Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions. Although, I have to say I don't think it is necessarily the best book for beginners to wholefoods because there is so much information it could easily be overwhelming.

I think that Jude Blereau brings a great voice of reason and wisdom to this topic, in particular I highly recommend two of her books Coming Home to Eat and Wholefood for Children.

A few blogs I love for their recipes and their grounded approach to this 'what to eat?' conundrum are:

Natalie's blog The Little Gnomes Home, visit her facebook page Digestible Kitchen.

Vanessa's blog Slow Heart Sing, Vanessa's facebook page is here.

Meg's blog My Wholefood Romance, facebook page here.

Nutritionist and chef extraordinaire Samantha Gowing's blog Bitter Sweet Sour.

Sonia at Natural New Age Mum, facebook here.

Kristin at Mamacino, facebook here.

**update: My clever friend Renee McCready is a natural medicine practitioner with a balanced approach and just happens to be an incredible creator of scrumptious raw food deliciousness minus the dogma! Find Renee's recipes on her facebook page or in her ebook.

Via Natalie I have found Emma The Nutrition Coach's blog to be really thought provoking, providing great detail and information. From what I understand from Emma's blog her focus is on an individual's metabolism and digestion taking into account hormonal balance and thyroid function, from what I've read this approach makes sense to me.

I'm sure I have left some other places I visit off this list, if I have let me know in the comments, leave a link to your site or favorites.

We all need help and support in making the best food choices for ourselves and our families and although information on the internet can be bewildering it is also a fantastic place for sharing great information and inspiration.

Thanks for reading xx

apologies for no photo today my camera has a grain of sand wedged in the lens and won't open and getting photos off my new phone is proving to be technologically challenging for me! photos again soon.


  1. Thank You so much for all of this info! I've recently made the switch to Bragg's also and have discovered 2 vegan cookbooks that use it in EVERYTHING! SO far so good... Now I have been trying to come up with new ways to replace sugar in cooking/baking too and so far I'm stuck with ideas. I was talking to someone the other day who says that she uses orange juice and its rind in baking which works for her! I'll give that a go... In the meantime I'm going to go through all of your suggestions here Nikki :)

    Thanks again! This has been very helpful :)

    Sophie xo

    1. Thanks for your feedback Sophie, really thrilled with the response to this post it seems to be something we all struggle with. I recommend Jude Blereau's new book Wholefood Baking, Jude does use sugar in some of her recipes but not all, it is a good resource for learning more about sweeteners and how they work in baking. See if your local library will order it in for you if it is not already on their shelf. Orange juice and rind idea sounds interesting. Good luck and share how you go along the way I'd love to hear. xx

  2. Thanks for all these links...I can't wait ti check them out!

    1. A pleasure Michelle. Thanks for commenting x

  3. Thank you so much for mentioning me in that amazing group of ladies Nikki x I couldn't agree with you more - and I have been on the journey, tried the all or nothing approaches and ignored my own instincts on many occasions. Now, I listen to my body and I encourage my children to do so as well. I like to think about food in relation to what I could grow in my own backyard...fruit, veggies, eggs...possibly...exotic and expensive superfoods from South America? Not so much, lol x

    1. That's a pleasure Kristin, I know your blog is not solely about food but I wanted to include you in the list because I feel like you are on the same page as what I am saying here. I hear you on the superfoods, I have written here before that avocado and macadamias are superfoods too! x

  4. Thank you for linking to me :) - oh gosh its a minefield isn't it! Some really great tips here Nikki x

    1. that's a pleasure Natalie I love what you do. Thanks for your comment xx

  5. This is such a sensible, wonderful post! I don't usually comment on blogs unless they really strike a chord, and this one does.
    I also love Jude Blereau's approach and have found her cookbooks highly educational! I realise now, as an adult, how lucky we were as children... my parents had an enormous veggie patch, we ate seasonally, mum made our bread, pickles, preserves, baking etc and thought nothing of it!
    I tie myself in knots sometimes trying to work it all out for my young family but you have reminded me somehow, to keep things simple. Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much Alice for taking the time to comment and for your lovely feedback. Your comment is the reason why I blog, I love having those aha moments when I read other blogs so I am very happy I have been able to provide that for you. sounds like your parents gave you a wonderful wholefood foundation, my wish is that children in these times can have that too. Thanks for reading xx

  6. Hello lovely, wow what a wonderful, sensible and detailed post, love the links and the insight into your journey. I think conscious yet simple steps are so important, back to basics is a great foundation. xxx jay

    1. thank you lovely Jay for your words. It feels important to me to write posts like this that say what is in my heart and head because as the response here shows we are not alone in our thoughts about where the world is at with the foods we eat and how and when and why. I hope all is wonderful with you xxx


Thanks for your comments. I read every one!

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