Navigating healthy eating guidelines is a minefield of confusing and often conflicting information. How much can we trust the Canada food rules? One week dairy is bad; the next week it’s good. The same has happened with coffee. Then, I heard seed oils are bad for us. Should we or shouldn’t we? We’re told everything in moderation is the best solution, but is it really?
For years I’ve not used milk on my cereal because we were told adults shouldn’t consume dairy, and that non-dairy beverages were a better source of protein. What about yogurt? We also know fat-free usually means loaded with sugar. Sheesh! Like a good girl, I switched to nut beverages and for years now I’ve been pouring almond milk on my morning Cheerios and blueberries.
Just the other day I discovered that the almond milk I’ve been consuming with accompanying feelings of extreme virtuousness is not as a good choice as I thought. Almond milk contains a measely one gram of protein compared to eight grams in a serving of milk. On the other hand, milk contains eleven grams of sugar versus zero grams of sugar in my unsweetened almond milk. What’s a girl to do?
My selection of low-sugar Cheerios is even in question now that I’ve read that oats rate high on the glycemic index and as a loaded carb will add inches to my waistline. Jeez! That explains a lot but I’m skeptical. My alternative breakfast of sugar-free spoon-size Shredded Wheat has me questioning whether I should be consuming so much wheat. I really do not feel like eating eggs for breakfast every day although I often make egg salad sandwiches for protein at lunch when I’m not having homemade soup. And, do not even suggest a smoothie for my breakfast. Not going to happen. I need crunch and substance.
I’m pretty conscientious about reading labels but it is impossible to absorb and audit all the information we’re confronted with. My meal plans are generally pretty simple using real and fresh organic ingredients as much as possible but sometimes we have to incorporate something from a recipe that is processed, which brings us to another subject.
Do you still buy cookbooks? On those extremely rare occasions when I feel motivated to try a new recipe, I rarely consult a cookbook. My tried-and-true recipes are filed in a box I’ve had for years. They’ve been cut out of magazines or the newspaper, copied from old friends, neighbours, or family members, often written in neat cursive on yellowed index cards splattered with old egg or butter stains.
One of my favourites came from my friend MaryAnne. Her mother saved a recipe for banana nut bread from The Toronto Star in 1964 and that’s the go-to that we still use. My recipe for dark Christmas cake is more than one hundred years old and was passed down from Mrs. Anderson, the aunt of a childhood friend of my mother’s. The Andersons owned a dairy in our small town where my mother and her friend used to dip their hands into the vat of fresh cheese curds for a treat on their way home from school. No one suffered from their youthful contamination but modern health regulations would never allow that today.
These days, we increasingly rely on getting whatever recipes we need from our online sources. As a recent subscriber to Instagram, I’ve picked up a few new recipes but inevitably the ones I copy or print out from IG never see the light of day in my kitchen. As I said, most are universally unhealthy, and I’m not highly motivated.
I could probably donate or recycle that long row of cookbooks that take up valuable real estate on my bookshelves, but somehow I’d miss them. It’s still fun to browse through them every so often in search of something special, particularly if the recipe is accompanied by a colour photo.
What shocks me most about the recipes I find online is the total disregard for healthy eating. Here are a few of the commonly used ingredients that keep repeatedly popping up:
- Cool Whip
- Canned mushroom or cream of chicken soup
- Pillsbury crescent rolls
- Canned pie filling
- Instant pudding or cake mixes
- Cream cheese
- Instant potatoes
- Condensed milk
- White sugar, brown sugar, sugar, sugar, and more sugar
The list goes on but you get the picture. Open a box of this or a package of that. It’s no wonder North Americans are suffering from an obesity epidemic. I’m slowly finding healthier alternatives online but the inspiration to try new things is waning. My husband keeps hoping that will change and generously encourages me whenever I try to make something new and different.
What to do, what to do?
I may sound a bit sanctimonious about my eating habits but I’m as guilty as the next person of not always eating what is best for me. Despite reading labels diligently, I still make many mistakes as evidenced by my breakfast choices described above. I eat a fresh orange or grapefruit every morning because commercial orange juice is loaded with sugar. Ice cream is my Achilles heel. And, as we all know, nothing beats a steaming Costco hot dog every once in a while.
Most of us really do care about the food we consume. Baby boomers grew up on Betty Crocker cake mixes and Jello puddings but we managed to survive. Despite the introduction of so many unhealthy convenience foods in the fifties and sixties, our mothers still made sure we were fed a square meal of meat, potatoes, vegetables, and fresh fruit every day. Even Mac n’Cheese was always made from scratch with real cheddar cheese. Fast-food outlets were rare back then and few of us could afford to eat out anyway.
Interestingly, we now eat much smaller portions than we used to. Hubby and I often share a small piece of meat (I know—red meat is verboten) or a chicken breast, and our portions are about half what we used to consume. Is it because we’re not going out to work every day building up an appetite? While that may be part of the reason, we must admit it is ultimately a characteristic of growing older.
Some of us still love to cook and get creative in the kitchen although personally I’ve grown tired of it all. It’s always a treat when we’re invited for dinner at the homes of friends who enjoy cooking. The seasons also affect our urge to cook. When fall and winter arrive, we put aside salads and light meals in favour of hearty stews, chili, and casseroles. I haul out the crock pot every October and enjoy being able to get several meals out of one big cooking fest. When we’re tired of several days of pot roast, I turn it into beef barley soup.
How have your cooking and eating habits changed? Are you eating less? Eating differently? Care to share any easy, healthy tips that BoomerBroadcast readers might appreciate? Let’s do a virtual potluck. I always enjoy a potluck because the work is minimal and we get to try new things. Care to share your current favourite food choices?