Sunday, May 31, 2015

Our principles of healthy eating

Recently my daughter has had a health awakening! Sounds spectacular but you know what its like with kids - you feed them the right things, tell them to exercise, get them in the garden, talk about petroleum based products etc but its always you as the driving force.

They still eat sweets and chips by choice, want the hair stuff that makes their hair look like the Pantene ad and add it to the shopping trolley when you are not looking! But somewhere along the line all my modelling has lit a fire in my eldest and it's burning hotter than mine ever did!

So The Healthy Capetonian was born where she documents where she is eating with restaurant reviews of healthy eating spots. She also reviews beauty products and shares her spectacular recipes for smoothie bowls and other scrumptious breakfasts. And exercise...well let me say it's not for the feint hearted!

Delicious smoothie bowls
But her awakening has made me think again about healthy eating. It's not like we slid back into bad habits - we have been eating pretty clean for 12 years now, but I believe that as you receive new revelation you need to move forward. And of course there are always those days weeks when you find yourself not making the best food choices.

So the "Healthy One" and I were chatting the other day about how I cannot make expensive smoothie bowls for everyone in the family - just way to expensive with the superfood powders and berries - but there are some things that we can do to improve the nutrition factors in or home that don't cost a lot but will fill tummies and boost immune systems and over all health.

We have had forays into a 28 day long juice diet and months with Paleo eating, but we always return to the 5 food groups as this makes sense to our family, lifestyle and budget. We will always choose a low or healthy carb option however, as middle age spread :) and Superman's Type 2 Diabetes - which I don't think he suffers from any longer, but if we don't watch out it could be an issue again - means we need to watch the carbohydrate space. However for the rest of it, we do not have major health problems related to food so are pretty comfortable with our basic meals.

Why the 5 basic food groups? No matter what Tim Noakes or Mr William Banting says I find that we have much better blood sugar levels with a bit of carb, protein and veg with each meal. I did loose weight eating Paleo style for about 8 months last year (2014). I also lost a nice chunk of weight before our October trip to the UK on the 28 day juice diet and we still try to incorporate juicing into our eating plan. But neither of these have been sustainable over the long run. (No, no, never fear - not trying to live on juice - just replacing a meal with a juice each day.)

Homegrown carrots
In a world of fad diets and super foods and a whole lot of opinions on how to eat, the old fashioned food pyramid is not as sexy as something new, but it's where we always end up. We apply our "rule" to it though in that we eat food in its most simple form, closest to its original state and always choosing organic as far as possible.

So not because I am a health guru, nor because I have any particular agenda, but just because I feel like scribbling down our food principles and by way of that, sharing them with you.

So here are our basic principles:

Carbohydrates (don't read bread!)

Bread is only one kind of carb, which we tend to eat only once or twice a week,but when we do eat bread we generally mill our own whole spelt grains (or Kamut) but if the mood takes us we also have refined spelt that gives a decent "white loaf". Other carbs we love are pasta...but we eat this only once a week and use gluten free for my son and normal for us. I used to love making my own pasta but this tradition has fallen by the wayside, sadly. Good for the waistline, not for the taste buds.

Everyone needs carbs and the good ones are found in vegetables in their simple understated way. We have swapped out white potatoes for the most part for sweet potatoes as they have a much higher fibre content and are very versatile. We love having these roasted with butter, a simple chicken thigh dish and big salad for supper. Doesn't get better than this!

Soups are a big thing here and any of the compact starchy vegetables are great for soups. Butternut soup is a quick easy favourite lunch for most of us. As far as I can I try to eat seasonal foods in particular corn and only if I can find it as organic. We do eat polenta, barley, millet, rice and bulgar wheat which we get from Nature's Choice. I am looking into buying these in bulk from an organic food company, but will have to phase that in as its pretty pricey to buy 20kgs of organic grains.

Spelt bread dough on the rise

Let me put this right out here - we don't eat dried beans as a protein. They simple do not agree with our family's guts! I will add beans here and there to recipes when I make Mexican food, but as an addition too, not as a meal. So our protein comes mainly in the form of organic lamb, beef, chicken, pork, eggs and recently a bit of goat!

Again, while we love stews and curries, my daughter has been encouraging us to eat "cleaner" with less sauces. Even then my curries are made from scratch using my own herb and spice mixes, homemade beef or chicken stock and vegetables.

My two elder children run a free range meat supply company called Funky Chickens and the chicken, pork, eggs and goat that they sell is organic, although not certified, and the beef  and lamb is free range. I get my beef and lamb from elsewhere which is organic and pasture fed.

We tend to still be big on the animal protein side and lower on the carbohydrates, so I am quite pointed in making sure that our protein is of the best we can get. If I did have a source of organic animal protein, I think I would come a bit unglued...but we would not eat beans to make up the protein portion.

Fruit and Vegetables

This is the tougher area for me to remain organic as for the last year or two I have had to supplement heavily as I didn't have the ability to grow as much as we needed. I think that my new compact planting idea will give us higher yields. But until then we buy from Woolies on their bulk specials, or from PnP, or if I am the Earth Fair market I will support Bees in Boots.

We will never be able to grow our own organic fruit as our plot is too small (and I have one son who can finish a bag of apples in 2 days!). What we do grow we eat, at the moment it is strawberries, granadillas and lemons. We do have two apple trees, two orange trees, two fig trees and different berry plants, but as yet have had no fruit from them.

On the pavement I have planted two Elder Trees which will provide some amazing products when they are grown. And while most wouldn't classify it as a fruit, we have two avocado trees which began producing this year. Over time I hope to explore how to grow more berries and fruit in our small space and am thinking about growing some fruit trees espalier as we have loads of wall space...but we will see.

Beautiful homegrown leeks
Dairy produce

Mmmmh, I know about the  milk debate and as I had two children who were lactose intolerant as babes we are not huge milk drinkers. We use milk in coffee and tea and in cooking if needed however we are yoghurt eaters. Some more than others. Could we do without milk and its products, I think so, however so far there is no real need to.

My elder daughter makes the most delicious breakfast porridge and uses rice milk powder for that, and then we read the label and found that its packed with hidden sugars. Tossing up the two (milk vs. rice milk) I think that buying whole organic milk for tea and coffee and cooking is probably the lesser of two evils.

We do use cheese, but mostly I prefer to use Mysthills' butter and cheese as their dairy herd is free range. Superman prefer's Woolies cheddar, which has colorants in it. But this is used so seldom that I figure the 80/20 rule applies...yes?

Fats & sugars

The debates rage on and on and on about this. Should we be getting our fats from animal source...or from nuts, avo's and oils...or from both?

We do the both option. I don't buy lean meat, skimmed milk or low fat cheeses and yoghurt. But we also eat loads of avocados, a variety of nuts and use cold pressed oils.

Coconut oil, which has been touted as the best oil to use, is now coming under scrutiny by many health pros as they question whether it is truly the miracle food it was made out to be. Personally I use it to make soap and for rough elbows :) My daughter uses it in her smoothie bowls and porridge recipes. Granted it gives the meals a thick luxurious texture and gentle flavour, but as I am undecided about it I keep it for external preparations for now.

Porridge with coconut blossom sugar and preserved peaches
With regards to sugar, as I look back over the years, this has been our weakness. We have loved puddings, cakes, cookies and treats. We have had too much sugar in our diets. About 3 months ago we replaced sugar with coconut blossom sugar when we learned about it from a friend. We use this in all our beverages and baking. There are a few times when the brown colour of it will affect the end product so we do use organic sugar, but very seldom. There is still debate raging on about the health claims of coconut blossom sugar, so my goal is to move more and more towards raw organic honey for sweetness. I do not like xylitol or stevia so probably won't ever switch to those "healthier" sweeteners, which also have their fair share of criticisms to deal with.

So that's our story with food right now. What are your healthy eating guidelines?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Compact veggie gardening

Yes, I last posted 3 weeks ago and have not in fact dropped off the end of the world. I have however been very caught up in life. Too much life and feeling the need to trim back a bit so that the pace is slower, that there is more time for the things I love doing, more time to watch seedlings grow and just breathe.

One of the biggest challenges is that we are redesigning our back yard. It has been perfectly functional for many years, but is a bit grungy and has needed an overhaul to better suit our family's lifestyle for a while. With the older ages of our children we need to give them the space they need which led to us renovating the granny flat to make space for our elder son to have his own room, studio and entertainment space.

This in turn led to a total make over, including a newer, but smaller pool, raised beds for herbs and permanent veg, pizza oven, built in bar (BBQ) and more. This is what the back area looked like last night after 3 weeks of workman. We have at least another 3 weeks to least.

This back area held a fair amount of vegetables in barrels and pots and all had to be relocated. This was the perfect timing to prepare the pavement garden and send the plants out there, along with some new ones. The fig tree fell in two when we dug it up so we carefully put them onto the pavement. The Tea Tree bush was also transplanted as well as the rosemary plants, rosebushes, blueberry shrubs, asparagus, strawberries and herbs.

I think a separate post about the pavement area would be a better idea, but the idea is that this will be an indigenous herb/medicinal plant space...except for the two Elderflower trees which I am very excited about!

All the transplanting has taken up most of my spare time, but I have also had time to keep up with my bi-weekly planting up of a bed. The goal is to do consecutive plantings every two weeks until all the beds are full with the selections of plants.

This bed below is my absolute favourite combination of plants and while I don't think the photo shows its beauty and fullness it will soon be full to overflowing. The drip irrigation that we now have is great for planting in straight lines :) My ideas that I had a few weeks ago to increase production in this space rely on planting in a different way than before.

Down both sides of this bed are onion seedlings. Then there is a row of beetroot, then spinach and then against the trellis, some peas. This is repeated on the other side of the trellis.  I have alternated root and leaf crops (although technically beet leaves can also be eaten.) Pretty crowded in there, methinks!

This next bed is slightly different...this was taken a few weeks ago. On the sides of this bed I have two rows of coriander. Then two rows of carrots, a row of spring onions and against the trellis, broad beans.

The below picture was taken today. Two weeks ago I planted garlic here which you can see. In between I have angel hair chicory and lettuces which are difficult to see. Against the wall are black palm kale.

Other beds have been planted with radish along the edges, then rocket, then beets then peas. Another favourite bed is the garlic, red cabbage, brown onions and broad beans.

By using this method - admittedly as an experimental year - we should be using every inch of space in the soil for roots. I have richly fed all the beds with manure and compost to give them all the nutrition they need.

So whats growing in your garden?