Would you eat a ‘healthy’ snack which has almost 300 calories and 20grams of fat in one serving? That amount of fat is approximately a third of the recommended fat intake for a woman per day (70gram) and is over half of the recommended amount for a child (approx 41gram to 58gram a day depending on age). And if you had two bars you would be heading for a whopping 600 calories …
Yet this is the reality of one of the ‘healthy’ recipes in Gwyneth Paltrow’s new book ‘It’s all good’. She is quoted as saying about her ‘Candy bars’, “All the chocoholics in my house flipped for them – we can’t get enough”.
Hopefully, as a family so keen on eating healthily, they do keep these rather high-calorie, high-fat candy bars as a very occasional treat. But I’m disappointed that there is no nutritional explanation in her book for her recipes. After all, if a cook book is purporting to be healthy then you would expect to know what each recipe provides in terms of calories, fat, sugar and other nutrients.
But putting aside this little detail, Gwyneth’s diet book seems to have spawned yet another lot of fad diets. Forget the starving yourself for two days diet. Having told everyone how she avoids pasta, dairy, sugar, bread and rice – and how her own children follow a similar diet – this weekend at least two publications featured families who do something similar.
One mum – Calgary Avansino – told in The Sunday Times Style magazine how she makes a vegetarian smoothie every morning for her family. Incredibly it contains a mind-boggling 21 ingredients – many of which I don’t think you will easily find in your local supermarket.
“I eat chia seeds for breakfast,” she says proudly, “my kids eat raw fennel and my husband has no choice but to eat vegetarian meals nearly every night of the week.”
Meanwhile the Mail On Sunday has found Inga Dirziute who only feeds herself, her husband and children on a raw vegan diet. I am sure some of it is delicious but luckily concocting this is part of her business (predictably, she has a cafe where you can eat her food to promote) because for example making your own crisps from Kale put through a ‘food dehydrator’ sounds fairly time consuming.
Both families look the picture of health. It’s clear the mums have studied these diets and it seems they must understand how, considering they are cutting out so many mainstream food groups, to ensure their children do have the right amount of nutrients.
I do think as the parent providing the food, you do have a key role to play in ensuring your family eat healthily. However, are these families healthier than any other family who eat all foods and what is healthy eating exactly?
Is it only eating one type of food – from plants and cutting out whole swathes of other foods that are really just as ‘natural’ such as all dairy products, all wheat, all meat, fish and eggs – simply for health reasons?
As a mum myself – and now seeing the results of child-rearing (three very tall, very slim adults who love all food and will eat anything) – I have reservations.
My biggest one is food education. When our children were young my husband and I took them to many restaurants. We’d go on holiday and eat out as the locals did with the kids – at the same time we took them to McDonalds, had pizzas and in fact I never denied them any food.
Once in Italy I noticed our table was attracting a lot of smiles from the locals. It turned out they were amazed to see a British child – our daughter, then aged just three – tucking into a plate of shellfish deftly picking cockles, whelks and mussels out of their shells with a pick.
My concern with such strict diets that these mums seem to imposing on their kids for most of the time, is their children are not exploring different foods, different tastes from different cultures and making their own minds up about what to eat.
There is no tasting venison or crab or different cuts of beef. There’s no eating fish you’ve caught yourself, no sampling the wide variety of cheeses on Italian pasta, or rock pooling for your own shrimps.
The assumption also that such raw food must be healthier is in my opinion misleading. One of the husbands is quoted as saying he hasn’t been to a doctor for two years – well, my family and I haven’t seen our GP for at least five years and possibly ten years! But I would not say that is down to diet – more just good luck so far.
Because unfortunately being smug and thinking you are so healthy because you don’t see your GP for years does not mean you will live longer, you will not succumb to cancer, suddenly drop dead from a stroke or find something in your body goes terribly wrong – and if this doesn’t happen to you that your diet was the reason.
Keeping well isn’t that simple. Genetics, where you live, how much sun you have, what you do for a job, how much exercise you have, how many children you have, how you cope with stress and what tragedy happens in your life (or not) – all of these things, and many other factors, have a bearing on our health.
From where I sit selling real life stories to magazines and newspapers, I see very healthy people who get cancer. Conversely I see people who battle with their weight – yes they might be unhappy and desire to be slimmer – but they carry on alive. Unfortunately Linda McCartney died from breast cancer and she was a pioneer of healthier eating.
I am certainly not disputing that we shouldn’t all strive to improve our diets but everything in moderation should surely be the key. I’m just not convinced a meal of a smoothie with 21 different ingredients (some such as ‘protein powder’ sounding really quite processed) is going to be so much healthier than a meal cooked from fresh meat, eggs, fish, poultry as well as veg, such as we see on Masterchef.
Back to Gwyneth’s candy bars – who is to say they are healthier than the sort of old fashioned traditional sponge cake treat made from fresh eggs (which if made the traditional ‘flourless’ way will have less calories, less fat and less sugar.) The other bonus is you won’t have to source the ingredients from several different shops to make it.
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts below and if you have a special diet for your family, we would love to know about it!