In the Netherlands, when we were children, we ate 2 sandwiches with chocolate sprinkles or peanut butter for breakfast. The same for lunch. And at the end of the day between 5 and 6 pm the warm meal: potatoes, meat and vegetables.
The same every day.
Later, when Tom and I had our son and wanted to be a healthy family, we changed some of these habits. Only fruits for breakfast, sandwiches with cheese for lunch and more variation for the evening meals, alternating the usual Dutch food with rice, pasta, salads and such. Changing the time to a hipper 7 to 8pm.
It is obvious that the heavy stuff was digested at night. Now that we are aging we have a completely different opinion about whether that are healthy eating habits. We want to be both active and sleep well. Food plays an important role in accomplishing that.
Why would you want to be or remain active?
Is it important to stay active when you are aging? I hear so many people remark that they have done their share and are entitled to rest now. Do they have a point?
I don’t have to impose my opinion on others and I am not a missionary, so if anybody feels this way, it’s fine by me. The reason I do want to remain active is that it is my conviction that I will stay healthier and mobile for a longer time that way.
Healthy eating habits strengthen our health and mobility
I suppose everyone changes habits and ideas now and again, don’t you? Whether it’s about eating, exercising or political opinions.
This can be because there is a hype all of a sudden. 40 Years ago the diet of Montignac was such a hype. Nowadays Keto is the talk of the town. And because I want to be flexible in mind I always look into these concepts.
One that has my specific interest is the concept that environment has changed with the speed of lightning and that our primal brain is still in the prehistoric time. As a result of this interest, I am changing my eating habits again.
1. Intermittent fasting
The most important change is the time we eat and how many times we eat. This habit changed more or less organically.
The times of meals in Holland are around 8 am, 12:30 and 6:30 pm. The Spanish eat 5 times: 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm and 9pm. Give or take. Because lunch can just as well be at 4pm instead of 2. And dinner at 11pm instead of 9.
I would never sleep again if I had dinner that late, would you?
Also, lunch is the main meal, with at least 3 courses. Way different from our 2 sandwiches with cheese, isn’t it. We were quite satisfied whenever we had been out for lunch. And had no need for dinner after that.
Eating less seems to be very healthy, so we changed our habit to two meals a day. This is a change we are very pleased with. And one that gives us more energy than eating all the time!
2. Don’t drink during meals
Skip not only the alcohol, but all drinks during your meals. It is necessary to drink 2 to 2,5 liter of water during the day, but don’t drink during half an hour before the meal until half an hour after you finished.
According to Robyn Youkilis in Go with Your Gut you risk diluting the stomach’s fluids that are essential to break down food.
3. Chewing, chewing, chewing
A well-chewed hamburger is even healthier that a hardly chewed salad. Not that I propose eating hamburgers, but to give emphasis to the benefits of chewing!
It does make our meals a bit less social, I must admit. When you are chewing every bite of food at least 50 times, there is no time to talk! LOL
Chewing that much reduces the need for drinking, because if you chew well enough your food will be liquid by the time you swallow. During chewing, the food mixes with saliva, which starts the breakdown of nutrients in the food.
4. As many colors as possible
Variation is one of the most important choices for healthy eating. Our body needs numerous nutrients to function properly and we largely get that from our food.
An easy way to ensure that you get a wide variety of vitamins and minerals is to put as many colors on your plate as you possibly can. Different colors mean different nutrients. I have made a collection of this in a free eBook about colored food.
5. Raw vegetables are healthier than cooked ones
There are raw meats and fish you can eat, such as Sushi or Carpaccio. However, this is generally not recommended for the elderly. Raw fish and raw shellfish and crustaceans can be infected with bacteria, viruses or dangerous parasites. And raw meat can also contain pathogenic bacteria.
For vegetables, they are healthier raw than cooked, provided they are organic. I almost forgot to mention ‘organic’, because it is so obvious to me.
Second best option is to steam the vegetables. Tom – my cook, oops I mean my husband 🙂 – always saves the water with which he steamed the vegetables, to use it for soup, or to steam next days vegetables in.
6. Don’t add salt to a dish that tastes good
The gourmets among us will agree that salt has a predominant taste. That’s why so much salt is often added to fast food and restaurant food. You no longer taste whether the food is really good or bad, because everything tastes the same.
In earlier times, salt was used as a preservative. A good idea, because without refrigerators food will decay after a few days. And until a century ago, people put in so much physical effort that they sweated a lot. The salt was needed to make up for deficiencies in the body.
We never add salt to food, except occasionally in summer at 40C above zero. Lots of food has a natural amount of salt, so with a normal diet you get enough salt.
7. Avoid refined ingredients and prepared (fast) food
There are absolutely no nutrients left in refined white sugar, white rice or white flour. Even some products that are sold as whole-wheat are refined goods with an added color.
I know, at times it is annoying that you more or less must have a degree in dietetics to understand the nutrition facts on every product. Yet it’s a good idea to look at them often to know what you put inside your body.
Being fanatic or just trying the best we can?
We try to find a balance between doing the right thing and occasionally giving ourselves some leniency. Ultimately, it’s better to stick with these healthy habits than to get too enthusiastic at the start and then give up after some time.
If you have any questions, either Tom or I will gladly answer them. Put them in the comment box.