Good food, simple food: 4 easy guidelines to live by

Eating as a minimalist. Have you ever thought about it?

I’ve never been a fan of food guidelines, but as far as they go, this is about as good as it gets for me:


I want to suggest a few ways to simplify eating well in what seems an increasingly complex world. Every day there seems to be a new diet, or new guru, telling us what to do and how to eat. So much BS! I’ve found, over the years, that going back to the basics is the best way to keep away from all the insanity and stay simple.

Here are four easy guidelines to clear the clutter in your kitchen, and help put those ridiculous diets where they belong (in the garbage!).

1. Ditch the unhelpful food pyramids.

Governments seem to be crazily keen on food pyramids, and food categories. So for the last few decades we’ve had the trend of foods being neatly boxed into “dairy”, “meat”, “fruits and vegetables” and “grains”.

The problem with that, of course, is that so many foods are a mix of groups. Better yet, a lot of foods we’d think of as one thing are quite the opposite.

Take those single serve yoghurts, for example. We’d think of them as “dairy”, which means “healthy” in most peoples’ minds. But they’re usually junk food, with most of their calories from processed sugar. May as well give your kid a chocolate bar and have done with it.

26g of fat? Yep. I'd call this junk.
26g of sugars? Yep. I’d call this junk.

I like thinking of food as “real” and “fake”. If it has a brand name and a package, it’s probably fake. If it comes in its own packaging or is edible as is right from the ground, like an apple or a stem of broccoli or a piece of fish, it’s real. If it needs refrigeration and consumption within a few days, it’s real. If it will keep for years, it’s probably fake.

There are a few exceptions, of course. Honey from the tombs of the pharoahs is apparently still edible (although I wouldn’t want to eat it) 3000 years later.

And home-preserved fruits and vegetables are real food too, although they’re often very high in sugar or salt (ever made jam? I have – and poured KILOGRAMS of sugar into my jam pan in the process!). Just because something is home-made doesn’t mean it is good for you. The world is full of fat home bakers, all convinced their treats are “healthy” and their genetics (or bad luck?) are putting the pounds on them instead.

2. If it lasts forever, or has a very long shelf life, it’s probably not good for you.

When McDonalds burgers can last for years, I’d say eating them regularly probably isn’t a good idea.


3. Classify eating out as “junk food” in your mind. Always.

As for eating out, I classify it all as junk food. There’s been a big shift towards restaurants attempting to make their fare healthier, but the fact is that when you eat out, you can’t control ingredients OR the energy levels of the food you’re eating.

Over here in Dunedin, Pita Pit is becoming popular as a “healthy” choice for lunch. But a typical pita wrap will set you back between 700 – 1000 calories – about the same as a KFC burger, fries and drink combo. You think you’re making a good choice, and wondering why you’re losing the battle of the bulge.

It’s a no brainer when you do the maths. For me, as an active bodybuilder, one pita wrap takes up over half my calories for the day, and three days worth of fats. If I ate there every day, I’d soon look more like a sumo wrestler than a bodybuilder! And pita pit is one of the better places to eat out. If you prefer a place with noodles, stir fries or burgers, you’ll be eating even more calories, almost certainly. This is why the only way to think of eating out is to consider is all as junk, and not healthy, not ever.

4. Eat and cook at home. From scratch.

I’m convinced that the number one reason we have an obesity and health problems epidemic on our hands in our society is because people are eating out more than they eat at home. We’ve given up responsibility over our food and, consequently, our own bodies.

I’m also convinced that the depression epidemic we’re seeing is directly related to poor diet.

When you cook meals at home, you can see what you’re eating and what goes into it. I don’t believe we all have to be great cooks (I’m not!) but a basic meal which includes a fair amount of veggies (especially green ones!) is something we owe our kids, and ourselves.

I think we should be bringing back cooking lessons into all schools, and that we, as parents, should be teaching our kids how to cook food and prepare it safely. My kids (age 10 and 8) can both make their own lunches and breakfasts, and they’re learning how to cook dinners. And as a last word – boys need to learn how to cook too! 🙂

All kids need to learn to cook - boys too! Image from Camelot Day Nursery.
All kids need to learn to cook – boys too! Image from Camelot Day Nursery.

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