When the Hubster and I started sharing a home and a kitchen, there were a few “rules” we immediately knew we wanted to enforce, simply to ensure that we maintained our health and sanity in the best way possible.
So, when we started setting boundaries around how we rotate chores, we also set some ground rules for the way we wanted to eat and shop. Making sure we were not only buying good food and not breaking the bank, but also buying food that would keep us healthy, keep our moods and energy stable and basically hold us accountable to each other to be as healthy as we could – physically and mentally.
Some of our kitchen “rules” were conscious decisions, others just evolved naturally, out of what felt good and what didn’t. And that has, with time, evolved into stuff that’s just normal for us now:
We shop once a week for essentials and primarily stick to the outer edge of the grocery store:
What does that mean? All the fresh produce is located against the periphery of the store – fruits, veggies, eggs, fish and meats etc – while packaged, boxed, processed and frozen goods tend to be in the aisles. This simple rule means we spend most of our shop on fresh produce that we know has limited preservatives and additives in it.
We cook 5 days a week – from scratch:
In other words, we don’t have takeout nights in our home. Because we spend a lot of time out, in restaurants and at friends places over the weekends, we tend to be pretty strict about a no take out policy in the week.
It’s not meant as a restriction technique, but more a preference for eating home cooked, healthy meals as often as possible, so we feel our best as often as possible. And this way, on those occasions when we do feel like we want to get a pizza or have a burger, we can, without the bloat-hangover of too many nights of fast food. So, the choice feels less like we’re eating “bad” food and more like just an option that we have the freedom to take.
We don’t have a junk food cupboard:
The very fact that we’d have a special place in the kitchen for food that was deemed “unhealthy” just felt like way too much of an unnecessary temptation for us. It felt like it would trigger us to feel obligated to “fill” the cupboard, and we all know what happens when that cupboard is full – you gotta empty it right?
The concept of having a separate place for “junk” food also just made it feel wrong and neither of us like to buy into the idea that certain foods are wrong for you.
So, instead, when we want to get a few snacky things, we specifically go out to buy them. Because they are not part of our usual weekly grocery shop, we buy limited quantities and can make better choices about what to buy – getting only the stuff we really really feel like.
That being said, most of the time our snack choices are as close to real food as possible:
I have a savoury preference, so instead of binging on Nik Naks all the time (because there is definitely a time and a place for a Nik Naks binge, trust me!), I often choose cheese, crackers and nuts to solve those cravings. I also like hummus, A LOT. So, I often make my own, as nice alternative to cheese. More on cheese later on.
The Hubster has a more of a sweet tooth and over the years, has developed a love for good quality dark chocolate. Sometimes I can twist his arm to get the salted kind – my fave!
Then, there are also a few things we just simply don’t buy anymore, out of trial and error. Again, much of our approach to eating has always been born out of what makes us feel good and what doesn’t. And sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part the below are things we keep entirely out of our weekly shop and might only buy them once every 3 or 4 months, as a once off when we really feel like it:
White starch – pasta, bread, rice and potatoes:
This has been a conscious house rule since forever. I didn’t grow up eating much white starch, or sugar for that matter, so it felt fitting to take that rule into my own home later in life.
White flour and starches are more refined and higher in glucose than unrefined starches, meaning they spike your blood sugar sooner and inevitably that spike crashes soon too. Which can often lead to you needing another “hit” soon after.
So, in the spirit of doing what we can to feel our best, we choose more unrefined, complex carbs.
We don’t buy wheat bread for the house and prefer to do low carb bread options. Our favourite vendor is We Love Low Carb – a Cape Town based small business, who do the BEST low carb bread. Trust me on this one, I’ve done the leg work, their shits’ amazing.
When we find a great sourdough though, all bets are off!
We prefer to buy whole wheat, organic pasta, wild, organic brown rice and sweet potato instead of their refined, simple carbohydrate cousins.
Eating less refined carbs means we stay fuller for longer and need smaller portions to feel satisfied.
Seed Oils and any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats (i.e. margarine):
When Tim Noakes banting craze hit I was naturally curious about his philosophy, so I bought the book. Being genetically predisposed to diabetes, I found it extremely educational and truly bought into a lot of what he was on about.
The most profound part was his explanation of seed oils and margarine and their inflammatory effects on our bodies. These oils are high in Omega-6 acids, which often block our bodies from absorbing healthier, anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats.
Omega-3s are known for promoting healthy heart and hormone health, whereas inflammatory promoting foods often lead to putting our bodies at higher risk of contracting dangerous lifestyle diseases.
As a result of this, we started using plant-based oils from then on – Olive and Coconut oil for low heat grilling, dressings and adding to smoothies and Avocado oil for everyday roasting and cooking.
We’ve also sworn off margarine (yes, even the one with the heart healthy label), and buy salted butter instead.
A few years ago, as I was doing a lot of research on coming off the oral contraceptive, I discovered that not only was hormonal oral contraceptive one of the identified carcinogenic substances identified by the WHO, but so was processed meat. In fact, processed meat – think viennas, deli meats, bacon – is in the same carcinogenic category as Tobacco.
Yep (!) you read that right: Basically your hot dog has the same likelihood of causing you cancer as smoking a cigarette does.
This scared the shit out of me because we used to do hotdogs and bacon very often. It scared me so much, I can count on my hand how often we’ve eaten hot dogs in the last 4 years, lol!
After spending a week in Paris in 2017, eating all the cheese (and all the pastry), we both came back a few kgs heavier, but I came back severely constipated. Disclaimer: We talk about poop on this blog sometimes. It took almost another full week for me to recover after that trip.
The first thing I did was cut out milk and any flour-based carbohydrates. At that point, we were drinking full fat cows milk and full fat yoghurt almost everyday, and eating whole wheat pasta a couple of nights a week.
So, to give my digestive system a bit of a break, I cut out milk and cheese and it made the WORLD of difference. After 3 or 4 days the bloating subsided and I was able to go the bathroom like a normal person, lol.
After about 2 weeks of this reintroducing milk upset my stomach a lot – I wasn’t even able to drink Whey protein (which is the protein part of the milk that is often powdered for protein supplements).
And, it was that simple – I no longer ate dairy at part of my daily diet. I took a while, but we eventually found a great substitute for our morning coffee in Blue Diamond Barista Blend Almond milk – it’s a fave.
Because I LOVE cheese, this is a tough one to give up entirely. But, we’ve gone from buying a bulk block of cheddar every week, to only buying a good camembert for a pre-braai snack platter.
We’re constantly evolving our food shop based on what makes us feel good. And to be honest, it gets easier with age – My 35 year old stomach lining will let me know REAL quick when something isn’t sitting right, lol!
Do what makes you feel good.