Here’s something you can do if you want to waste a shed load of time and never ever sleep again. Google ‘healthy eating’. Or use it as a search term on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other SoMe site.
Because what you get is an absolute minefield of pop psychology, fad foods, promises of everything under the sun and very little that is actually of use.
Everyone will define healthy eating in different ways. For some, it is a plant-based diet; for others it is high fat, low carb; for others it is Nutella on toast. Whatever floats your (steam) boat.
So what’s my concern? Well, it comes back to the kidlet and her healthy lunchbox project that is a focus area of study for this term. For homework this week, she has to draw up a meal plan – seven days of breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snacks.
She had made a great start – two days complete. For breakfast, she had porridge and berries for one morning, and cereal and fruit salad for the next; lunch one day was a salad and ham sandwich, a piece of cheese and an apple, and a couple of sushi rolls with raw salmon, avocado and cucumber, and watermelon for the other. Dinner on one day was a chicken stir fry with broccoli and green beans with noodles, and homemade pizza the next. Snacks included fruit, yoghurt, homemade cookies and ice cream (of course).
It all looked pretty good; it kinda looked liked what we eat at home.
‘I’m stuck,’ she announced. ‘I can’t think of other things to write.’ She refused my idea of repeating some meals – even after I reminded her that her breakfasts on most school days look pretty similar, as do her school lunches.
So, I suggested that we have a look online for some ideas. While she got on with some other homework, I thought I’d try to find some sites that would be safe for her to use. And kids love pictures, so I thought I’d start with Instagram.
Big mistake. Huge.
Photo after photo tagged as healthy eating showed images of green drinks (in mason jars), diet juices (in mason jars), fad foods masking themselves as ‘super foods’, claims of clean eating, boasts of detoxing, restrictive diets. And kale. Bucket loads of kale. The photos were often interspersed with pics of (mostly) women in yoga gear taking selfies in front of the mirror.
And the comments on these photos take on an eerily similar theme. Cult-like declarations of #nourishment and #RawFoodRevolution and #KaleQueen.
This wasn’t about health. This wasn’t about a healthy relationship with food either. This was about restricting food choices and making health claims that are actually not healthy.
I shut my iPad, and walked to the bookshelf where a bazillion cookbooks stand – I buy them somewhat compulsively. I found a couple by Donna Hay and Nigella Lawson, and handed them to our daughter.
‘Here you go, sweetie, let’s look through here. And we may come up with some things to make over the weekend too.’
The recipes included simple pastas, pies, noodle dishes, warming braises, soups and delicious looking desserts. There was a wide variety of ingredients and cooking styles. The food looked great and interesting and tasty.
I know that I seem to be harping on about this at the moment. Part of that is because when there is a ten year old in the house who is spending a lot of time thinking about food in a different way than ever before, I am conscious of how her beautiful mind is shaping a relationship with food that will last her lifetime.
Whilst I may not particularly like what I see when I look at my body in the mirror, this has not manifested into an unhealthy relationship with food. I love food, and see it as a positive, fabulous part of life. How did my mum make that happen? How do I make sure that I encourage the same thinking about food in our little girl at a time when there is so much out there doing its very best to work against me?