There is much to be said about the change in society as far as food consumption goes from when I was a kid to now. I was raised in a household where take out was rare, white tiger rare. Fish and Chips were the take out but that was when $2 of chips would feed our family of 6 with leftovers. We lived on anything you could make out of mince and pasta. I hated tomatoes as a kid so pasta sauce was out too. I ate it plain with cheese, not even butter. Vomit. Anyway, I digress. Our lunchbox would always be a roll with ham and cheese, even though I hated ham (only started eating when pregnant, go figure), Mum insisted on packing it, apple or banana, muesli bar, some sort of slice/lamington/fruit cake thing and a packet of Colvan chips. The chips were as extravagant as junk food got for us. Lunch orders were a twice a year thing, if we were lucky. I understand now as a parent that we were a household surviving on a low single wage and we just couldn’t afford that, as a kid, I thought we were hard done by.
My best friend through school was the complete opposite of me. Lunch orders were more frequent than packed lunches and her cupboards at home were packed with BBQ and Pizza Shapes, cookies and loads of the good stuff. She wanted more of what I had, I wanted more of hers. We were a match made in lunch box heaven. The one treat we were allowed at home was lollies. Dad had a sweet tooth so would buy the Black & Gold bags of lollies, throw them in a tub and we would eat watching a movie or Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday. Of course we indulged in the obligatory milk bar run as kids with a $2 coin and come home with a truckload of sugar. That indulgence has seen me into my adult years and I would have even gone so far at one point to say that I was a lolly addict. Anyone who knows me well knows I love them and I even have specific rituals and ways of eating certain things. Raspberry twists are best slightly dry so they become chewy. Sour straps, pineapple lumps and starburst babies into fridge before eating. Actually quite a lot of lollies I think should be refrigerated first. Sour worms wrapped around liquorice bullets are the perfect mix of sour and sweet. As I said, addict. I’m in recovery now. I think it happened organically. I just got sick of eating so much crap. It didn’t feel good. I still eat lollies but a bag would last me a week, not a sitting.
I think as I grew up I’ve had a pretty good relationship with food, naturally gravitating to a balanced way of eating, everything in moderation. I’ve dieted and restricted myself at times, which just doesn’t work for me, but never losing entire food groups. Carbs were always the devil. Now, it appears, sugar has taken over. Everywhere I look, I see the ‘I Quit Sugar’ movement. It landed on my desk, literally, years ago. Working in a fashion office, the girls tended to hop on and off bandwagons together. I tried it but just couldn’t handle that I wasn’t allowed to eat fruit. That to me is just fucking insane. I made the sugar free granola and it was so good. It also cost me $45 to make and didn’t even last a week, partially because my husband could not stop eating it. That’s not sustainable unless you’re financially loaded, which unfortunately, counts me out. It has to be said I was also still heavily in addict mode with lollies. I wasn’t ready to give them away so I’m not sure I was ever going to succeed at trying it.
My husband was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic two years ago. It was a complete shock but it definitely spurred me on to not only find healthy options for him but us as a family. I became more aware of whole foods, hidden sugars and the overall effect carbohydrates have on his body. For example, we’ve always eaten grain bread. The grainier the better but through his diagnoses we found sourdough is actually the best for diabetics because of how low GI it is. Like me, he benefits from a balanced diet that it non restrictive. We are foodies. We weren’t foodies before getting together. We became them afterwards. We love good food. Not super expensive, fancy pants, tiny portion on a massive plate food, just food that is made with love. And this for me is where the conundrum comes in. We now live in a society dominated by restrictive ways of eating claiming to be the only ways to eat if we want to live long and healthy lives. Paleo, Sugar Free, Gluten Free… the list is endless. Personal ethical choices surrounding animal products aside, my question is this: Is the national nutrition board of Australia making up the healthy food pyramids as a way to actually kill the human race? I think not.
To me, it feels like the same thing as extremists when it comes to religion. The extremists, in this case, are just radicalising food. It’s as if the modern day pioneers of these movements believe in a conspiracy theory where eating a balanced diet of all food groups is actually going to lead you to a premature death and I’m calling bullshit. The issue is that we don’t eat a healthy balanced diet combined with exercise. We eat too much processed food and are inactive. We can educate people, and from where I stand the message is slowly starting to come through in the younger generations, but I worry about raising children with restrictive eating habits simply because we as a nation seem to lack self control with junk food.
In my household, I’m trying to lead by example. Eating sustainably is important. I only buy free range meat and eggs. Farmers markets are my choice of fresh produce shopping if I can. When it comes to snacks for Baker, I’ve found some awesome stuff in the health isle at the super market. Foodies brand is really good for easy snacks that are natural. I buy him the little bags of popcorn because they are only corn, oil and salt compared to all the added bad stuff in potato chips. I’m also lucky that he isn’t a fussy eater (yet). I’ve also been trying new recipes for sugar free snacks, like bliss balls, cookies and slice, with only one batch going in the bin so far. Quinoa has become a staple over white rice, wholemeal flour instead of white, oats for crumbing chicken, more chickpeas and beans to bulk up meals, homemade sweet potato chips instead of store bought and we don’t eat meat everyday anymore. For me, these are all eating habits that I can easily continue without compromising a food group. I still struggle with cravings for sugar and night times are my weakness so with a little help from a friend’s fiancé, Jade Walker, she has made me up some tea blends and a powdered packet of the herb Gymnema (cannot take when breastfeeding), which is magic. It numbs the sugar receptors so after you hold it in your mouth for a minute, you literally cannot taste anything. I tested it by eating a jellybean straight after having it and it was bland. Not even a hint of sweetness. So for me, this is my go to as a way to manage my sugar intake when my self control warriors have gone on strike. What is the point of eating it if you can’t taste it?
The end goal for me is eating mostly wholefoods. Grow a vegie patch when I get a backyard. Teach Baker where his food comes from. Have some chooks one day that I can collect eggs from each morning. Continue making steps to a better way of living but my intention is never to cut any food groups out. I don’t want Baker to grow up thinking he can’t go to a birthday party and enjoy everything; that we can’t get an ice-cream after the beach because it contains sugar, that he can’t eat sushi (that he loves) because of the rice. It’s just too much, not only for him but for me too. As a parent, we are always in the line of judgement fire. I’ve even felt it before when offering a sugar free child a lolly snake after swim class. I didn’t know he was sugar free but he was looking at the snake like he might be willing to shank me for it and I wanted to make it out alive. I was told by the parent who wouldn’t even make eye contact with me “We don’t allow him sugar”. I immediately felt like I was poisoning my child. After much thought, my standpoint is this. If someone wants to judge me for giving my child sugar or grains or bread, go ahead. No skin off my five-food group-indulging nose.