Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/4/2019 (280 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Food can have many different meanings.
Depending on the person or situation, it can be nourishing, delicious, prescriptive, cultural, an obsession, difficult to access or a combination of all these things.
As a dietitian with 25 years of experience, I have encountered many aspects and meanings of food and approaches to eating. I also have seen the messaging around food and nutrition become complicated, confusing and even contradictory. That said, eating and feeding yourself or your family does not have to be complex. What if we got back to basics and ate similarly to how your grandma (or great grandma) did?
I’m not advocating for cooking in lard and eating only from a canning jar. Grandma’s food choices were more seasonal, limited and, at times, even scarce. There is also something to be said for modern-day conveniences such as ready-to-use chopped lettuce or store-bought bread and advances in science and medicine. I am advocating for people to eat nourishing, wholesome food and meals prepared, eaten and enjoyed more often at home in the company of others around a family table. It’s time to simplify eating.
These food fundamentals my grandma taught me still align with current evidence and practice. In fact, some have emerged in the new Canada’s Food Guide eat-well messaging:
• Stick with what you know. Our bodies are made to eat food, not food-like substances. Grandma used recipes and techniques her ancestors taught her. She did not stock her cupboards with foods that have long, unrecognizable ingredient lists. She also did not need some new media headline, nutritional trend, food marketing or celebrity to tell her what to eat or not to eat. More and more evidence is showing it is not necessary to eliminate certain foods or conform to a single dietary pattern to achieve a healthy diet.
• Prepare foods with thought and care. Grandma needed to budget and meal-plan. All parts of plants and animals were used at some point; often canned or frozen for later use. Today, many fruits and vegetables don’t even make it onto store shelves because they’re not perfectly appealing. In 2017, the National Zero Waste Council conducted research on household food waste in Canada and found 63 per cent of the food Canadians throw away could have been eaten.
• Serve and eat just enough. Portions were smaller and she ate servings that were personally satisfying. Grandma may have wanted others to "eat, eat," but she didn’t count calories. Instead, she tuned into the eating experience and her own body’s intelligence about how much to eat. Today, this concept is called mindful eating and is supported in the new Food Guide. Mindful eating has been shown to improve meal satisfaction, decrease binge eating, decrease non-hunger eating, promote sustained weight management and improve blood-sugar control.
• Eat local and seasonal. Grandma grew it, raised it, used the corner store or knew the farmer down the road. She probably didn’t realize she was strengthening the local economy and supporting the environment. Her diet may have been less varied due to availability — not from extreme eating or concerns about hormones or "best-before" dates.
• Understand food skills are important life skills. Grandma didn’t rely on restaurants, "on-the-go" eating or meal delivery but rather was a role model who took opportunities to teach and share food skills — including eating within a food budget. In the International Journal of Consumer Studies, 2018, local dietitian and researcher Joyce Slater determined there are critical food-literacy competencies (food knowledge, values and skills) required by youth as they transition to independent adulthood. Many youth today are lacking these competencies.
If your eating patterns have become complex and you’d rather rediscover eating based on the simpler style of Grandma, speak with a registered dietitian.
Dietitians are a phone call away by calling Dial-a-Dietitian toll free 1-877-830-2892 or 204-788-8248 in Winnipeg. Registered dietitians are passionate about the potential of food to enhance lives and improve health.
Coralee Hill is a registered dietitian with the Provincial Health Contact Centre’s Dial-a-Dietitian program located at Misericordia Health Centre.
Updated on Friday, April 12, 2019 at 6:40 AM CDT: Adds photo