What can we learn from the Famous Five?

07 May 2012

I read an article published in the Guardian recently that really captured my attention. It’s about the Famous Five and how this team of children, fictitious, but representative of children in the 1940s, were able to eat bacon and ham for breakfast, drink ginger beer and lemonade by the pint and still were able to maintain their healthy glow.

Today, bacon is considered the devil. So, what’s changed?

With a quarter of all children either overweight or obese in Australia, it’s easy to vilify one particular food group and we see it happen often – one week carbs are the single reason people are getting chunky and the saviour to our overweight woes the next.

However, the reality of why our children are experiencing the burden of weight like no other generation before them is likely to be far more complex.

My guess is that it sits somewhere between the way we eat and the environment in which we’re eating it. Recent data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 40% of children aged between 5-14 years spent more than 20 hours each fortnight watching television and one in ten spent the equivalent of a whole week each month playing computer games.

You wouldn’t catch Dick, Julian, Anne and George (and the honorary fifth member – Timothy the dog) lounging at home completing a Hannah Montana marathon. But it wasn’t just the fact they were active that kept them in such good condition, the way in which they ate was also significant. Their actual eating style was a healthy one. Usually the band of five ate together (mostly picnic style) and took time to enjoy the simplicity of their meals. Numerous studies have shown that people who eat together are more likely to eat more nutritious meals, but are also less likely to smoke, feel depressed or develop eating disorders.

It seems like the Famous Five were able to put into practice what we’ve all been aiming for – the holy grail of nutrition. Moderation.

Full copy of The Guardian article can be found here.

Team Detox

07 May 2012

The Food+Life team is proud to bring you our first post on Our Life with Food. By way of introduction, we’re a team consisting of a dietitian, expert in public affairs and regulation as well as health and marketing gurus.

We’ll be sharing our thoughts on the food industry, the state of our health, business and marketing essentials.

For the past two weeks the team has been taking part in a team detox – and since I’m the team dietitian I was responsible for leading the charge. It all started one day at lunch and the team were huddled in the kitchen on one of the rare occasions we found the time to all eat together. It doesn’t take long for the discussion to divert from the escapades of the weekend to food and health. Body recalibration was firmly on the agenda and before they knew it, the team was agreeing to a detox. It was official.

Now, I’m not usually a fan of detoxes, as they’re typically quite restrictive and many commercially available detox diets can’t prove that they’re actually detoxifying your organs. The truth is your body is pretty good at removing toxins on its own, but healthier eating can certainly help them do their job more efficiently. Nevertheless, the call for an intervention was unanimous and I needed to come up with a plan. And here’s how it panned out, in order of importance:

1)    Follow below guidelines for 14 days and nominate one day “off”

2)    Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day (must be an activity that makes you break a sweat)

3)    No meat, including white meat (fish allowed)

4)    No alcohol

5)    No extra (e.g. cakes, biscuits, pastries, lollies and chocolate)

At first the team thought this may be a little too simple, but as they kept track of how they were progressing each day, they started looking very much forward to their scheduled day off.

In the end, the detox was more about motivation than elimination. Sometimes you need a structured plan to break a cycle and inspire you to make healthier choices. It gives you permission to say no to foods that you may otherwise submit to and (hopefully) make you feel better for it. The team successfully completed the detox and noted that weekdays were easier to comply with than weekends and that a scheduled day off provided flexibility for the birthday drinks or family dinners that were scheduled throughout the week.

I would certainly recommend this type of detox over one that requires you to eliminate entire food groups, like grains. It helps you feel better while reinforcing healthy habits that can be practiced long after the detox has been completed.