If you’ve been following Freddie’s Food recently you’ll have noticed how I’ve been posting quite a bit about eating REAL food. Limiting the amount of sugar and processed foods in our diet for the benefit of our health and to try and be more sustainable in our approach to food. My playcentre friend Emma Abrahams of Craving Fresh is, I think, the Queen of real food! Her kids lunchboxes are always a delight to look at and when you get chatting to Emma she really is a vast source of knowledge about the how to go about trying to feed you family a nourishing and wholesome diet.
I thought I’d see if she would like to write a guest post for Freddie’s Food and this is what she has put together. An interesting and inspiring read which makes me feel that feeding our family real food really is possible and definitly worthwhile even on a budget and with a busy and sometimes hectic life – something Emma knows lots about with her three gorgeous children! Thanks Emma!
The number one real food priority
As much as we’d all like to feed our families the perfect diet, we are constrained by time, money and knowledge. I can’t give you more time or money, but I can share some of my real food know-how with you. Because the perfect diet is out of reach for my family, I put my focus on including foods that will heal and nourish our guts.
From my reading, I’ve learned that all health stems in the gut. If we eat foods that encourage the right sorts of bacteria to live there (and the wrong kinds to bust a move) a lot of health problems can be avoided. We really couldn’t survive without beneficial flora coating our digestive tracts. They do so much work for us, filtering out baddies and pre-digesting nutrients to make them ready for us to utilise.
These are the five main things I do to make sure our guts are lovely places for these little guys.
1. Add chicken stock to meals
Chicken stock helps heal and seal the gut, and it promotes healthy digestion. The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid. It supports proper digestion because it attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices.
Making chicken stock is one of the easiest and cheapest things to do and it has the advantage of adding depth of flavour to meals while improving gut health. When my second daughter was suffering through reflux as a baby, I fed her chicken stock from a sippy cup and it improved her digestive health no end.
The bottom draw of our freezer is entirely dedicated to chicken stock. It holds containers of already-made stock, as well as plastic bags into which I throw all the washed tops and peelings of our carrots, all the ends and leaves of our celery plants, and the tops and tails of any onions I cut up. I’ve also got bags for chicken bones and raw chicken carcasses in there.
When I have at least two chicken carcasses, I put all my collected scraps into a big stock pot of water mixed with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and simmer it over a low heat for at least six hours.
This method creates a lovely rich, yellow stock. Apple cider vinegar is crucial because it draws gelatin from the chicken bones, and gelatin is one of the most nutritious parts of broth.
I use chicken stock as the base for all our soups and some of our casseroles. I also cook grains like rice, millet and quinoa in it.
2. Eat probiotic yoghurt or kefir
Yoghurt feeds the good bacteria already living in our guts, while kefir populates the gut with good bacteria.
Both are important for good health, so get your hands on an Easiyo maker (Op shops often sell them) or a Caspian Sea Yoghurt starter from someone, plus a milk kefir grain or two.
You can easily stretch one store-bought base yoghurt packet to four litres of yoghurt, giving you an economical yoghurt supply. Greek yoghurt is naturally lower in sugar than other kinds, making it a great choice for the family. It’s nice sweetened up with berries or mixed into a smoothie.
I’ve never used Caspian Sea Yoghurt, but apparently it’s super easy and, once you’ve been given some, you can keep making it indefinitely, so it’s even more economical than Easiyo yoghurt.
I was given milk kefir grains several years ago and still make kefir regularly with those for my daily smoothies. My batch keeps growing so I’ve been able to share grains with friends over the years.
All of these fermented dairy products barely take any time to make – it’s usually just a matter of mixing them up to set on the counter at night, and then putting them in the fridge in the morning.
3. Reduce sugar consumption
Many of us have a fungal infection in our digestive tract called candida. You’ll know it if you crave sugar like a mad thing.
Candida feeds on sugar, which is why many of us are addicted to the sweet stuff.
The only way to kill candida is to starve it, but that can require huge willpower as you feel like you’re fighting against your own cravings to do so.
I’m trying to starve the candida out of my life by eating foods sweetened by stevia instead of sugar. I’ve also cut my fruit consumption way down.
I don’t limit my children on how much fruit they can eat, but I do try to limit other sweet treats.
4. Soak grains, nuts, seeds and legumes
Most of the grains, nuts, seeds and legumes (collectively ‘pods’) we eat come with a protective coating called phytic acid.
It’s there to help these pods pass through the digestive tract unhindered, so they can come out the other end and grow into a plant.
Unfortunately for us, this phytic acid not only blocks our ability to extract the nutrients from most pods, but it also binds to important minerals in our gut like iron and zinc, thus leeching them out of our bodies as it passes through.
This means eating most grains, nuts, seeds and legumes takes an enormous toll on our body, unless they are prepared correctly.
You can reduce the phytic acid in pods by soaking them in an acid medium (like water mixed with kefir, whey or apple cider vinegar).
That’s what I do.
If you read through my Craving Fresh recipe list, you will see a lot of my grain recipes say ‘soaked’ in brackets. These are recipes where the grains are soaked to reduce phytic acid.
5. Eat coconut oil
Extra virgin coconut oil isn’t cheap, but I still make it a priority to include it in our diet because it has so many health benefits. One of those is on digestive health.
The fatty acids in coconut oil contain anti-microbial properties, which have a soothing effect on bacteria, candida and the parasites that cause poor digestion.
Like with the chicken stock, I made sure to feed coconut oil to my second daughter when she was suffering with reflux, and it really helped.
These days I make a decadent (yet healthful) chocolate out of creamed coconut, which is a delicious way to get this health food into me and the kids.
If I could do nothing else in the kitchen, those five things are where I would put my real food energies. What are your real food priorities?