When I was growing up, I used to think that healthy food was boring. My Mom was a woman ahead of her time, or maybe just in tune with what was right, because she refused to feed us junk food. Everything was fresh and natural.
All our meals were served with vegetables, either steamed or in soup. Dessert was always fresh fruit, and cakes were treats reserved only for special occasions. While I was sent off to school with a tuna sandwich and jug of water, my classmates had packaged brownies, chocolate chip cookies, store-bought chiffon slices, juice boxes, and money to buy soda from the canteen.
Needless to say, I felt deprived as a kid and questioned my sorry state. I would often ask myself, “How come I never got the good stuff?”
In hindsight, I did get the “good stuff.” Years before “natural and organic” became trendy, my Mom was practicing its principles.
Return to Natural Food
The term “organic” basically refers to how food is produced. It should be free of artificial chemicals like artificial coloring, flavoring and sweeteners. It should not have genetically modified organisms (GMOS). If it uses meat or meat byproducts like milk or butter, those should have come from animals that were not given growth hormones.
In other words, organic food is really a return to natural food. It starts in the food source: vegetables that weren’t exposed to fertilizers and pesticides, livestock that were allowed to graze instead of given special feeds. Then it continues in our kitchens: making food from scratch instead of using instant, canned food that’s loaded with artificial colors and preservatives.
So when my Mom insisted on fresh, homecooked meals she was absolutely right. I’m now in my 40s and her wise nutritional decisions have had me reaping the benefits of good health to this day. So with that, I am sharing with you the lessons I have learned from seeing my Mom walk the talk.
My Mom knew the best time and place to go to the market for fresh produce. She would go early in the morning and head to the bagsakan, or the back of the market where the delivery trucks would offload their day’s wares. It was not uncommon for her to sometimes buy directly from the truck, before the items even got to the stalls, because she could get them at much lower prices.
Don’t have time to go to the wet market? That’s okay. You can still buy fresh food at the supermarket, where temperature-controlled chillers keep meat, vegetables, and fruits in good condition. However, don’t automatically buy based on first impressions. Make sure to pick up, inspect and smell the produce to check for freshness.
You can also buy fruits and vegetables online. It’s very convenient in this age of traffic and tight schedules, and you even get to source it directly from farmers. I typically pre-order through Viber or Facebook Messenger from friends (Chris Daez of Fresh Pastures and Michelle Lim of MyMomFriday Fresh Direct) who grow their own greens, vegetables and fruits. I get imported fruits through reputable sellers like Crate2Plate. Tip: ask online sellers if they have excess stocks, since they may be happy to off-load them for a good price.
Know Your Source
With the benefit of the Internet and messaging apps, it is now easy to learn more about where your food comes from. Research about the farmers, reach out to them and ask them about their farming practices. Make friends with the people who sell you produce. More often than not, they are happy and quite enthusiastic to tell you about what they grow, how they grow it, or where they source it. Farmers have a strong sense of pride when they talk about their produce, so take it as a chance to learn about the food your family consumes.
Change the way you think about “healthy” food
As I said earlier, I used to think healthy food was boring. But that’s not true! Play with herbs, spices and sauces. You don’t need to stick to the bland monotony of the same steamed, blanched and boiled dishes over and over again.
My recent trip to India showed me that healthy eating can be very tasty and exciting. They incorporate herbs and spices that not only add unique flavor, but actually have powerful health benefits. Go beyond the usual suspects of garlic, salt and pepper. Turmeric (and its active compound, curcumin) is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that can help prevent heart disease and arthritis, and lower your risk for Alzheimer’s and depression. Cardamom and cinnamon are also antioxidants, with one study suggesting that it can lower your risk for colorectal cancer.
Explore other cuisines as well. Korean kimchi is rich in folate and can maintain good gut health, while Japanese edamame salad is packed with fiber and protein.
Take a “fresh” perspective
Healthy, organic eating isn’t a new food trend. Our parents and grandparents bought fresh ingredients, and their home-cooked meals are part of our fondest childhood memories. Today, online shopping apps and Internet recipes make it so easy to buy and cook healthy, delicious meals. If our moms could do it, we can too.
About The Writer
Christine Dychiao is a mom of 3, a consultant and a writer who has contributed to various publications.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.