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Food for life and the difference we can each have for better health and a healthier planet

, Food for life and the difference we can each have for better health and a healthier planet

I feel I may be treading on dangerous ground with this blog post so firstly, I want to throw in that I am not writing this to offend or to preach. Like you, I sincerely love this planet which we live.

Where to start with this and where will I go? You see, even I don’t have the answer to this yet so I am going to do what I always do. I am going to act on impulse (not always good, trust me), write from my heart and hope to not offend anyone and hope to perhaps inspire someone, anyone along the way. Here goes……….

Firstly, I’ll start with the panel discussion I was invited to last week – ‘Food for life’. Which is probably the main reason why I decided to shout from my little place in cyberspace here. The panel discussion was fabulous and was bought to us by the ‘Learning for Life Autism centre’ – a truly wonderful not for profit organization established in 2003. The entertaining and inspiring panel consisted of Chef and Author, Michele Curtis; Paediatric Gastroenterologist and Allergist and Professor at the Royal Children’s hospital, Katie Allen; TV Personality, Chef and Author, Gabriel Gate as well as Chef, Author & Ambassador for Vic Farmers Market Association, Matt Wilkinson.

In brief, the discussion was about promoting real food, celebrating food and the Seasons and steering away from processed foods and the benefits for doing so. I felt proud to be listening and supporting these panelists. It bought home to me that what I do within my own home is good, what I teach my children is right and what we are doing at Relish Mama is more than what you might think ……….in fact, I think it is more that what I first thought.

Here are a few of the panelists key points, in a nutshell, that were the most poignant for me that I would like to share :

  •  Celebrate food
  • Buy Australian
  • Cook with seasonal produce. Matt Wilkinson added “we have the best asparagus season in the world. Is 4 months not enough for you? Don’t buy it out of season”
  • If you ask someone what their favourite meal has been in their lifetime, they will also be able to tell you who was at their table
  • Australia is today ranked as one of the fattest developed Nations in the world
  • Don’t force feed your children
  • Don’t force feed yourself
  • It takes 15 minutes to have a sense of satiety / to feel you have had sufficient
  • Eating at a table, together as a family slows everything down and stops the ‘hoofing down’ of food
  • Don’t plate up for people – let them take as they need
  • Keep persisting with fruit and vegetables with your children. It can take 6 or 7 attempts for taste buds to get used to a new taste.
  • If you’re child says “I don’t like it” – the correct interpretation could be “I’m not used to it”
  • It is rude and negligent not to inform a restaurant in advance of your food allergies
  • Soft drinks are loaded with hollow calories and can contain more calories than a nutrient rich meal
  • Don’t hide your children’s vegetables. Vegetables need to look like vegetables
  • Making food a battle is not good for anyone
  • Offer sensible food choices or don’t give a choice at all ie. Don’t ask your child if they would like coco pops or broccoli (you know you’re not going to like the answer)
  • A comment that I loved from Gabriel Gate was “Cooking is very much a life skill. It is your key to good health. Give yourself the challenge to learn a new dish each month and master it – cook it again and again. By the end of the first year, you will have mastered 12 new dishes and over ten years, you have 120 ‘mastered’ dishes in your repertoire. This offers great variety and stops the ‘I’m sick of cooking the same thing’ comment.”

 So this is the wonderful morning / panel discussion in a nutshell. How lucky was I to be part of it (Thanks Michele).

Bring back the family meal. Light a candle. Talk to each other. Enjoy each other.

As mentioned at the start, I am not sure where this will go so I am simply going to move to what is linked to all this and in my head and heart. As you all know, good ol planet earth isn’t in the best of health. Our health, as a nation, is not good either. I don’t for a single second think that I have all the answers and I am so far from perfect but here are some of my beliefs, some facts and hopefully a little inspiration to help us and to help our planet and the planet for our children and their children ……….

Processed foods

Okay…….I don’t eat a lot of processed foods. I do eat some but I like to think that I eat less and less every day. For any friends out there rolling their eyes and vowing to never invite me to dinner again, you know me better than that and for the record, I will never have the strength to refuse cheezels at a party – there, that’s said…..let’s move on. My reason for consuming less process foods over the years is because I simply feel better. This is also fuelled by some of the experts on whole foods that teach here at Relish Mama. After listening to them in a class and eating real food, the last thing you want to do is open a box or packet of well, anything (I hide the cheezels at the back of the cupboard these nights). Processed Foods are foods that have been altered from their natural state.  Most processed foods contain trans-fats, hydrogenated oils, high sodium and sugar, all of which can be harmful to your health and can interfere with the proper absorption of nutrients. A little goal we could all try is that on your next shopping trip to buy food, try not to never leave with anything in a box. It’s challenging, I know but if nothing else, it might make us more aware of how much processed foods we are consuming and this is surely a great start. 100 years ago you’d be lucky to leave the market WITH a box.

“How we eat determines to a considerable extent how the world is used,” writes Wendell Berry in What are People For? Is it even possible that a healthier diet, lacking in processed foods is also better for the planet? The answer of course to this question is a resounding “yes.” The food that is healthiest for you -fresh and whole, rich in variety, unprocessed, high in nutrients no hollow calories, is also the healthiest for the earth. Conversely, the foods that are highest in fat and require the most pesticides and fertilizers to produce are also the most energy-intensive and producing them takes the greatest toll on the planet.

We, as consumers have a lot of leverage in the marketplace, just look at how sales of organic products have grown. Look at the fresh food section of our local supermarkets expanding before our very eyes. Try some of these steps when you shop or are mulling over the million dollar question “what’s for dinner”

Eat first from your back yard

To avoid the many miles and the toxic emissions that are spewed from the transport in order for our food to get to our plate, plant some herbs and vegetables and ‘shop’ in your own back yard. Relying on this also means eating in sync with the seasons and therefore your food will taste better and have a higher nutritional value.

Eat organic produce where it counts the most.

Tony Chiodo is a great guy and huge ambassador for organic foods. Just this year, he started teaching some inspiring classes here with us. As a direct quote from one of Tony Chiodo’s books ‘Feel good food’, “Regular, non-organic foods are grown with a veritable chemical cocktail in order to produce the fast-growing, perfect looking produce with a long shelf life in most supermarkets. Certified organic food, by contrast, is free of pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers. Organic foods are also free from genetic modification – a practice of manipulating nature that may well prove to have far- reaching consequences for us all. Organic farming is a way of producing food without chemicals – just as nature intended. “ Tony goes on to say that from his experience, “if the only change you made to your diet were to exclusively choose organic and biodynamic produce, your health would improve. Your body would no longer have to deal with the added chemicals in your diet and you’d be enjoying food with a superior flavor.” Tony suggests starting with organic meat and dairy products first followed by fresh fruit that will taste as it should and then fresh vegetables.

Eat home-cooked meals that you or someone in your family has made from scratch.

Cook your own meals at home with fresh whole foods gives you total control over what is going in to your meal and where it has come from. It is also likely to make you appreciate the food and the simple act of sitting down to share a meal together as a family, which as we spoke of earlier, has a whole host of health and social benefits itself.


I know I have taken two paths here – one of eating fresh and well at home and one of preserving our planet but they are most definitely and beautifully linked. I remember watching Food Inc a few years ago with my husband and we were so inspired and enthusiastic about making a change and we most definitely did make changes and we did talk to our children about the impact we can all have and the difference we can all make but is it enough? I feel we need to do more. I feel we have gotten a little slack again. I want our children to do more and know more and I care so much about our children, their sweet friends, our nieces and nephews and all the amazing kids that come to our school holiday cooking classes to cook fresh food and to learn about seasonal produce and learn amazing life skills and I want these amazing kids to have an amazing life and to enjoy our planet but……we and they need to look after it first.

I don’t know whether this will roll (I am so hopeful that it will) but again, acting on impulse, I am going to start a weekly challenge for myself and my family that I hope you will want to get on board with us. I think it will be a lot of fun to do together. We have quite a gorgeous facebook community at Relish Mama. Many are guests who have been to our classes as adults or children or you may simply like the little friendly community feel we have there. The more our facebook friends rise, the more impact I feel we have to make a change. There are now nearly 400 of us on the Relish Mama page. Can you imagine the difference we could make if we all step up to the weekly challenges? It could be huge. Let’s do it!!! I am excited…… I will post our family challenge each week that I feel will have a positive impact on our health, on our planet and or on our families. Some examples are……..Meatless Monday, Buy one organic food product each time you shop for it that week, Shop at a farmers market, Start a worm farm, Eat together as a family with a candle lit and TV off for as many nights as you can that week, Make a big deal of setting the table, Cook a dinner with your children, Walk to school, Plant a pot of herbs, turn your power points off. I’d love to think you’ll take part, share with friends, perhaps post some photos, inspire each other and have lots of fun in the process. Open to any positive and quirky suggestions for our weekly challenges too – email them to me at ne****@re********.au or make suggestions direct on the facebook page.

I’m pushing ‘publish’ now before I get a chance to re read this and perhaps loose my nerve or worry that I have offended. I will follow my favorite saying that I tell my three gorgeous daughters ……’s just 20 seconds of embarrassing courage.

I thank you for reading. This is possibly my longest Blog Post and so very different from my others so I thank you for sticking with it and with me. It is very much heart felt – let’s make a change.


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