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My European Grandmother Would Always Say...

"To Eat Simply Is To Eat Well!"

I have come to appreciate the early programming I received around eating and making healthy food choices in my adult life. I was born into a typical European family. While Mum and Dad went off to work, I spent the first six years of my life under the loving care of my beautiful Yiagia – which is the word for grandmother in Greek. Tending to a large vegetable patch almost the size of the average backyard, raising and nurturing our chickens, making spanakopita from scratch - were all part of our daily living.

I recall how every single week, my great aunts and uncles would visit us and leave with much of my grandmother's homegrown vegetables and cooking. Of course, they, too, would share their delicious cucumbers and tomatoes or 'horta' which are wild greens drenched in olive oil and lemon juice with a sprinkle of salt. Nothing seemed to bring my family more joy. I quickly learnt that generosity, kindness and love were also part of the health benefits of growing and making your food.

I also recall how crates of olive oil would arrive at our home every few months, sent from our relatives living on the olive fields located in the South of Greece. Sharing quality homemade food with love was, and still is, ingrained in our culture.

I could not be more grateful for these teachings. In those early years, I learnt some of the most potent ways to nourish and nurture my body and soul. These memories and lessons have shaped my adult life and fueled my passion for leading a healthy lifestyle.

My grandmother instilled in me that health is not one single thing we do. Instead it is a lifestyle made up of the many simple choices we make that come together to have a significant impact on how we feel and look.

However nowadays, with endless options available to us, I notice how dietary advice can become quite complicated. Though I do keep an open mind on food trends, I often still find myself coming back to my grandmother's wisdom - to keep food simple. I'm cautious of buzzwords or trends that promise the ultimate all-in-one health solution. I believe whole foods combined, are the real 'superfoods', and that there is not one single magic bullet that will give you everything you need. Nature intelligently provides various seasonal foods that offer a complete spectrum of nutrients that the human body needs.

I like to reflect on how cavemen were strong, energetic, and lean - of course they were very active as well, however they had no other choice than to eat simply and direct from nature. This does not necessarily have the glamour of a celebrity's best-kept dietary secret, but just as I learnt growing up there are no secrets, the best advice on having a healthy and strong body is understated - and nature always leads the way.

Another wise statement my mother often uses is to eat 'metrion ariston.' A Greek saying that translates to 'everything in moderation.' Variety, a little bit of everything, will provide all that we need.

Here Are My Top 10 Healthy Eating Habits -

1. Mediterranean influences:

I cook with liberal amounts of pure olive oil, known to be high in antioxidants. Antioxidants contain anti-inflammatory properties thought to be important for minimizing inflammation within the body, reducing the risk of cancer, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and even obesity.

2. Eat until 80% full:

It's a bit like filling up a glass with water; you would never fill it right up to the brim. While I will never leave the dinner table feeling hungry, I also avoid eating until I am full to the brim. Listening to my body is key here. I eat until I feel satisfied. If you find yourself in a 'food coma' after meals, you might be eating above the 80% mark.

3. Limiting chemicals:

Limiting chemicals is essential. Our bodies deal with many daily stressors. Therefore I try to be mindful of selecting food that causes the least harm to my body. However it is just as important to remain considerate to the environment, which involves learning more on the methods that are used to grow our food, in order to ensure we are taking care of the planet we live in through the process.

4. Avoid processed foods:

If it doesn't grow, it's not going on the plate. Simple!

5. Daily greens and fruits are essential:

I notice a positive difference in my digestion, skin integrity, mood, and energy levels when I consume a good variety of vegetables and fruit.

Here are three things that I do to boost my vegetable intake:

1. I like to add a cold-pressed green vegetable juice to my weekly food plan which gives my immune system a big boost.

2. I add a few slices of lemon, cucumber, and some mint leaves into my water bottle for more antioxidants and flavour.

3. I prepare green salads that I blend in my Vitamix, roughly 3-4 times a week to ensure my body is receiving enough vegetables. The blending process makes it easier to digest the vegetable matter and it is therefore less filling compared to eating a whole bowl of salad - think gazpacho soup!

6. Limit soft drink:

Nothing can substitute for that which pure filtered water can provide the human body.

7. Balanced meals:

I prepare meals that include a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and good fats for a complete meal. My body feels strongest and most energetic when I provide these three key components in my meals.

8. Discipline, not deprivation:

I do not believe in denying or depriving myself of something I enjoy. Denying oneself feels negative, as does having no limit on something unhealthy. Instead of saying "I shouldn't eat this" or "I'm never going to eat this," I allow myself to eat a small amount of whatever it is that I might be craving. I have learnt to be disciplined and satisfied with a small amount of something, understanding that it will not undo all of my best efforts to eat well otherwise. The key is discipline and moderation.

9. Don't stress about food:

To not stress about food is just as important as eating well. If I don't always eat as I have described in points 1-7, I do not give myself a hard time about it. I know that as long as I'm eating well, roughly 80% of the time, my body is functioning optimally and efficiently, making it easy to clean up the 20% shortfall.

10. Don't forget to add love:

We have so much to be grateful for, including living in a part of the world where wholesome food and pure water are abundantly available to us - unequivocally one of the greatest fortunes there is.

May we always remember to give thanks for all that we have.

Diana Soul


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