We all know that we are supposed to eat healthy and make sure our kids do too (right mamas?). But what does eating healthy really mean? Is it adding a slice of fresh tomato on top of your children’s cheeseburgers or pouring mineral water into your vino? And how do you know what to buy, what to stay away from and how to cook healthy?
These questions needed answering, so I got in touch with Sassy Mama’s Nutrition Expert, Karin Graubard-Reiter (who you might recall put me on her special vegan diet a while back – and yes, we’re still on speaking terms!) to find out more. Karin, a hardcore healthy mama and certified personal trainer, invited me to join her in her kitchen while cooking up her family’s weekly menu. Karin tries to keep most of her cooking to one day a week, when she prepares the majority of her family’s meals. They all eat the same food by the way – lucky her!
We know you’ve heard it before and that it is hard to do, but the truth is that if food is bought and prepared in advance, you are more likely to keep a healthy habit alive. Besides it is significantly better to eat frozen home cooked food than resort to last minute semi-healthy solutions because you believe it is ‘freshly’ cooked.
Healthy cooking starts with your kitchen tools – I actually never really thought of it that way. So what is the first thing you should consider when moving towards a healthier diet for your family? Your chopping boards. I know, I also thought it might be something starting with ‘organic’. We are all super adamant about washing our hands when we get home and before we start cooking but we can continue using the same old chopping boards for months and months (sometimes even years!). What this essentially means is that you clean your hands and rinse your ingredients but then you chop them all up on a bed of bad bugs! Yuck!
Tip #1: Use wooden chopping boards or even better get the bamboo ones. Change them every 3 months and stay faaaar away from plastic ones. Why? PCPs and BPA (the bad guys) leak into your food from plastic chopping boards.
Tip #2: As soon as your pans have scratches, they need to go to non-stick heaven! Scratches release chemicals into your food, which we don’t want.
Now that we’ve got the equipment sorted, what sort of food should we be browsing the supermarket for? This is a tricky one. Karin is a ‘Pescatarian’ (fancy word for vegetarians who eat fish) but cooks the occasional chicken for her kids. She doesn’t believe in eliminating food groups from your diet and does not support a strictly vegan diet. However, Karin’s family does eat very healthy with the majority of their food coming from vegetables and high quality carbs. But this has been a healthy journey over 10 years and the most important thing to help start a good habit is to make healthier every-day choices.
So will buying organic groceries do the trick? While it certainly is better for you; particularly if you eat meat, buying organic ingredients is not only expensive but they can also be hard to get a hold off. I asked Karin which products we should be buying organic and which ones we can leave and here it is, a list of the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen. Print this off and use it when you go shopping – too easy!
For those fruits and veggies that you end up buying that aren’t organic, make sure to wash them properly. A quick water rinse won’t do! Otherwise part of the good you’re doing by eating healthy will be wasted on pesticides and wax.
Tip#3: Buy a vegetable wash for non-organic foods or make your own (see the recipe below). Easy as pie!
Tip#4: Remember to soak broccoli and cauliflower in salted water for about 10 minutes to make sure the worms come out. Don’t worry…you probably haven’t eaten as many worms as your freaked-out mind is probably thinking right now.
Tip#5: Try to get the ‘real deal’ as often as you can. Any kind of dried beans are better than the canned ones. Just soak them over night and they’re good to go – and actually taste a lot better.
Now that we know the importance of a clean kitchen and what to buy, but what to cook mamas? Sassy Mama to the rescue! Karin has created an entire cookbook for us with healthy and delicious recipes that you can download here at no cost! Awesome! The morning that Karin and I spent together cooking, we made Roasted Tomato Soup, Azuki Bean Spread, Rosted Pumpkin, Green Bean and Balsamic Salad, African Rice and (amazing) Apple & Date Mini Muffins for Dessert (these were a mega smash hit with my boys!). I promise, all of these things are really delicious and very easy to make!
But what about our darling dairy you ask? Why yes you can! The main mistake people (like myself) make, is to eat too much of it. A whole bowl of yoghurt for brekkie is hard to digest and way more than you need. You could try doing a Bircher Muesli instead, where you use just a few tablespoons of Greek Yoghurt (as opposed to a whole tub!).
Tip#6: Cheese, milk and yoghurt made from goat’s and sheep’s milk is much easier for us to digest. Sounds baaaaahd? Choose organic dairy products instead to avoid the hormones, antibiotics and other nasties present in ordinary cow’s milk.
At the end of a very productive day, where we discussed everything from kitchen tools to going organic, the dairy dilemma, and what to actually cook, I asked Karin what the secret is to healthy eating (because we always want to know the secret!).
Karin’s Top Tips:
Making conscious everyday choices like soaking your veggies, changing your chopping boards and trying organic fruit and vegetables.
Take baby steps. Breaking a habit takes time so don’t be too hard on yourselves, every little change counts!
Lastly, get kick-started by cooking some healthy meals (Pssst! You can download your Healthy Recipes Cookbook here).
“Make food your religion and believe in your health, because without it we are nothing.”
– Karin Graubard-Reiter
Home made veggie cleaner
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 cup cold tap water in a spray bottle
Mix, shake well, and apply to your produce. Rinse with tap water before cooking or serving.