LiveWell diet: good for the planet, good for your health and good for your wallet. In these times, who wouldn’t agree to that? As somebody who takes the environment seriously and as a mother of two, I’m definitely in, but will my kids and my husband, Mr H – who can be quite picky with is food – accept LiveWell? The initial challenge of changing what you consume clearly outweighs the short-term absence of familiar brands but it comes at a cost. This is how I got on with the original guidelines over six weeks.
Eat more plants (try to keep fruit and vegetables seasonal): There are a few really good fruit and vegetable shops in my area all of which sell only what’s in season. OK, so it takes a bit more time to do the weekly shopping but they really taste so much better. I started reading a few blogs to find out what’s in season as it is something I forgot from my school days.
Enjoy a variety of foods: This is actually harder than you might think. When I had my first child – and really felt pushed for time – there was a temptation to make one or two big dishes for the day and keep at them. But, I started to realise that it wasn’t so hard to diversify the diet and draw inspiration from my friends and travels. I now have a really big problem when food gets boring, and if variety is good for health, then all the better.
Moderate your meat consumption, red and white: This ended up not being as much of a problem as we thought. I almost qualify as a vegetarian. The kids are still young and as long as they get a sausage from time to time they’re fine. But for my husband Mr H – fussy eater, true Belgian, born and raised in the countryside with a physical job – we needed to use a bit of psychology.
The problem isn’t to convince him that the way meat is raised and processed is bad for the environment and his health. He knows this part; after all he’s been married to me for five years. The issue is that his food culture is based on Boulets à la Liégeoise with fries and vol-au-vent. In a nutshell, meat should be on the menu, at least once a day.
As I’m the queen in my kitchen and we have a traditional separation of tasks – and also because I can cook and he can’t! – I’ve already started working on this. I cook smaller meat portions and a vegetarian version for myself, which the kids tend to love too.
So meat is still present and it will stay on the menu; after all people have been divorced for less! But the area where I can make some change is the ’quality’ of this. Not that I ever serve any heavily processed meat, but until now I have often bought frozen meat from the supermarket. Although I know that the pork will be from some big industrial farm and that beef will have been fed on imported GMOs soy, it’s easy to buy. But, this needs to change. I’m now trying to pay a visit to our local butcher more frequently. I will also check some of the local meat producers who sell directly to consumers.
Waste less food: We are lucky in Belgium in that we separate waste, but it is shocking how much food we throw away. Apart from separating our waste, we keep all the organic left overs for our garden in the back. We don’t use the best before date as the only indicator of when food has gone off. You tend to get a few days more than what is suggested on the label.
East fewer foods high in fat, salt and sugar: Given that I invest more time in the kitchen as it really is one of my hobbies, we don’t have too much processed food. I find it is too salty and sweet and we can really do without it. If you plan out your meals for the family, you can make things from scratch and in bulk instead of buying them frozen or pre-made.
The biggest challenge for me is when my two little kids grow up. I know they will be exposed to the food habits of other families when they have sleepovers or parties and pester power can be difficult to put up with. I don’t have any cokes or sugary drinks in the house and it will be hard work telling the little ones they can’t have what their friends are having. But, I will deal with this when the time comes.
Buy food that meets a credible certified standard: This can be hard; sometimes there are so many signs and stamps you don’t know what’s what. I feel you really need to be an expert in nutrition to know what goes into the box as it can be quite a mystery. Also you try and do the right thing and buy ethically produced stuff but who can tell the difference between Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance? Are you supposed to assume that all coffee and tea has got some good certification. Anyway I’m trying my best.
I’m starting to get my head around what MSC certification of fish means. Not all fish are the same and you wonder what you are supposed to do with fish called Hoki. Still it fits well with some of our more traditional fish dishes. I understand that I should be asking the guy in the fish stall in the shopping centre if the more traditional fish I buy are from a sustainable stock. Unfortunately they don’t always understand.
Moving on with the LiveWell diet
I’m a little worried about the future. My kids really do seem too hooked to food advertising. While this has not made shopping a chore yet – as I’m able to stop them filling the trolley full of snacks and sugary goods – there will be a day when it will be difficult to stop them. Some goods are targeted so aggressively at them that they can in turn put a lot of pressure on their parents to make the wrong choices.