5 basics of healthy eating [family food baby food part 1]

5 tips for healthy living

Everyone has 5 tips to help you lose weight/get fit/be healthy and get happy.  We also have 5 tips, but our 5 basic of healthy eating are more focused on the things you need to understand about healthy living/eating, in order to make lifestyle change permanent.  We include this in our workshop on baby food, since we believe that if everyone in the family is eating the same whole, real, nutritious foods, our entire family will be healthy.  Our kids will grow up knowing what real food tastes like, their brains and bodies will be nourished.  We will put the control of our food back into our kitchens, instead of in the hands of advertisers.  It starts when they are babies, which also happens to be the time when we are setting lifestyle patterns as we ease into the role of parents.  Beyond giving just a few baby food recipes, it is really important to start by understanding our 5 basic principles for good nutrition – which are the same for babies as for grandparents (with the understanding that during each phase of life we may need more or less of certain nutrients).  This really is the quick and dirty workshop version, so stay tuned for more in-depth posts on each of the 5 points, coming soon.

1. Calories vs. Calories

Calories are one of the most misused, under-explained things.  While you do need to pay attention to how much you’re consuming vs. how much you’re using, calories are not equal.  We have to think about what the food is doing to us inside our bodies.  A 200-calorie snack of chips, or low-fat refined granola bar does very different things to us than 200 calories from fruit or vegetables.  The vegetables or fruit gives you vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water to nourish your body.  The other 200 calories depletes these things, causes insulin spikes, mood swings, and cravings.  If we take in more calories than we use we will store the excess as fat.  But rather than fixating on a number of calories as a measure, why not think about getting a variety of nutrients, colors and eating whole foods?

2. Processed vs. Whole Foods

I guarantee that if you cut out the processed food-like products from your diet you will notice a difference – in the way you look, your energy levels, your mental clarity/emotional stability, the list goes on.  Partly this is because with processed foods, the micronutrients are usually missing/have been removed.  These are the vitamins, minerals, essential fats, phytonutrients, antioxidants, enzymes, fiber, water and other things that feed our cells [1].  As many people now point out, we can overeat macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) until we reach obesity, and simultaneously, literally starve our cells of the micronutrients needed to keep us healthy.

Processed foods are also often filled with sugar, salt, and chemicals.  Products containing preservatives, additives, artificial sweeteners and anything you can’t pronounce are best avoided (many, many experts consider them to be toxic).  From the amazing and inspiring nutritionist Meghan Telpner, real foods include: “whole grains, beans, peas and legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, organic meat, poultry, eggs and fish, unprocessed dairy like raw milk and the yogurt, butter and cheese made from it, natural sweeteners including raw honey, maple syrup, blackstrap molasses and Demerara sugar, extra virgin, cold pressed oils including coconut, olive, flax, and walnut [2]”  Eat whole, real food, and I promise you will feel better.  Plus they are delicious!

3. Read Labels

We’re not talking about the Nutrition Facts, but the ingredients list.  They are listed by weight, however sugar is often split up into various forms/names in order to avoid listing it as the predominant ingredient in many packaged foods.  Beware of advertising, and “healthwashing” of foods with buzzwords like “natural,” “healthy,” “organic.”  If your food is coming from a package with labeling, it has been processed (see point #2).

4. Drink More Water

It keeps you from the symptoms of dehydration (headaches, fatigue and sluggishness among others), it flushes toxins, keeps your blood from getting thick and gooey, helps prevent toxin buildup/storage in fat cells (aka cellulite), keeps your skin healthy and often we end up eating when really our body is in need of water.  If this is a hard one for  you, add a squeeze of lemon, brew some herbal tea (and ice it or drink it cold), remember to drink a glass before each meal if you find it hard to find time to drink.  Whatever form it’s in, start sipping (but coffee and black tea do not count since they are diuretics).

5.  Cut Out Sugar

This is a hard one for most people to hear.  Immediately hackles go up and the list of reasons/excuses/declarations of “I won’t” come rolling out.  Here are some fun facts, based on a much more thorough description Megan Telpner gives in UnDiet: when we have more sugar than we can use in our blood, insulin is released to help convert it to stored energy.  With high amounts of insulin working to get rid of the sugar, we experience the “sugar crash” which sets in motion the fight or flight response of adrenaline (you feel hyper-alert, impatient, irritable, anxious), and we usually reach for something to give us a quick-fix boost of energy and the cycle starts all over.  Aside from being controlled by the food and our cravings for it, long-term effects of overworked stress hormones include: belly fat, impaired mental health, suppressed thyroid function, high blood pressure, lowered immune response, increased inflammatory conditions, to name just a few[3].  Very serious stuff.   And sugar is disguised in many forms: corn syrup, corn sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, glucose, fructose, beet sugar, raw sugar, cane sugar, molasses, turbinado sugar, or brown sugar.  It’s all sugar (see #3 again).

Other things we talk about:

focusing on variety, slowing down and eating mindfully (without distractions like TV or computers), enjoying your food, eating three meals and giving your body a chance to digest (rather than continually eating), other reasons we eat (boredom, stress, emotions), wheat, organic, full fat vs. zero crap, and making it a family affair.

These are the building blocks for our approach to family nutrition.

Think about how healthy, clean and awesome you end up eating by following these 5 guidelines.  If your family is eating delicious, whole foods then it makes sense to give your baby the same thing.  Or, put another way, if you are feeding your baby delicious, healthy, nutritious food, why not feed yourself the same way?  Why choose to eat crap, knowing what it does to your body, and knowing that you are modeling unhealthy behaviour (that your baby WILL end up mimicking or consider normal).   Our next post on Baby Food takes these 5 principles and turns them into delicious purees and wholesome finger foods.  The last post in the series will talk you through the ways even super busy people can structure their lives to incorporate healthy eating and nutritionally kick ass lifestyles.


[1] Meghan Telpner.  UnDiet: Eat Your Way to Vibrant Health.  McClelland & Stewart, 2013.

[2] Meghan Telpner.  UnDiet: Eat Your Way to Vibrant Health.  McClelland & Stewart, 2013.

[3] Ibid.