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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 07-Jan-16 12:13:13

Is it really hard to eat healthily?

Is it really that hard to eat healthily? It can feel like a minefield sometimes, with conflicting information and inflammatory headlines flying around. Gransnetter Jennifer Grumbley is on her own quest to try and eat healthily – without forsaking her tastebuds...

Jennifer Grumbley

Is it really hard to eat healthily?

Posted on: Thu 07-Jan-16 12:13:13


Lead photo

Should we take multi-vitamins? How much of a certain wonder food do we need to eat in order to make a difference? Jennifer Grumbley's on a mission to find out.

I completed a course in nutrition as part of the Exercise Referral course, where a GP refers a patient to a fitness professional. The course notes listed all the ideal foods containing quantities of the appropriate vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, etc. It was mentioned that for the frail elderly a referral to a nutritionist or dietician would be appropriate. But for older people it stated blandly that we should simply eat more of the foods that contained the nutrients. There was no suggestion as to how to achieve this, and I actually think that it is an issue, if you are concerned about maintaining good health, and do not want to put on weight. I am also a foodie.

I regularly look through cookbooks by taking them out of the library, and one recent one was waxing lyrical about appropriate eating to prevent IBS, diverticulitis etc. It extolled the virtues in considerable detail of say, cumin. A recipe for 6 people, including 1/2 tsp cumin, duly followed. Are they trying to tell me that that tiny amount of cumin in a dish is going to make any significant difference to my gut health? What sort of quantities were being used in their research? I suspect the research was anecdotal, using a population such as Indians who use a great deal of cumin in their daily cooking, which is probably very different to the way most of us eat or even want to eat.

The seeds were so small they didn't add texture, but being small, they stuck in every nook and cranny between my teeth, and required interdental brushes to remove.

Then there are healthy foods that taste of nothing. If your focus is on maximising health, fine. But surely food, any food, should also contain an element of pleasure? My latest experiment was with chia seeds, as they were reduced in my local supermarket. They are very high in anti-oxidants, I was informed, and very high in fibre. To my breakfast cereal I added chia seeds, which formed a gel-like surface without being cracked (no need, apparently), and they tasted of absolutely nothing. The seeds were so small they didn't add texture, but being small, they stuck in every nook and cranny between my teeth, and required interdental brushes to remove. I really don’t think I can be bothered with chia seeds, however nutritious.

As yet, there is no cookbook particularly targeting the older person, although our nutritional needs are particular. Popping a multi-vitamin is no longer a straightforward solution, as recent research using vitamins A and E indicated that they aggravated cancer. The assumption is that all nutritional requirements should be from the diet alone, so if optimum health is the aim, the diet has to be very good. However, what is a very good diet? We are told often that a particular food is good, and the following week it turns out that it is not so good.

Jamie and Nigella now have new cookbooks out on healthy eating, and I use one by Diana Henry. Being a vegetarian, I particularly enjoy Ottolenghi recipes. But perhaps Gransnet subscribers can suggest hints, tips and recipes to enjoy food deliciously with maximum health benefits, online?

By Jennifer Grumbley

Twitter: @gransnet

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 07-Jan-16 12:15:43


Although, toast loaded with marmalade is healthy isn't it? Please?

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 07-Jan-16 12:17:02

I love her name! I want to be Mrs Grumbley! envy

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 07-Jan-16 12:17:59

Actually, I want her GP as well.

Teetime Thu 07-Jan-16 12:24:35

I thought the 'Trust me I'm a Doctor' programme last night was most helpful and illuminating.

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 07-Jan-16 12:26:52

Oh I missed it! Must watch on catch-up.

Elegran Thu 07-Jan-16 12:30:37

Now I am mentally reviewing all GN Jens to try to work out who Jennifer Grumbley is. I suspect the Grumbley is a nom-de-plume. It is not Galen - she is Jeni with one n.

thatbags Thu 07-Jan-16 15:34:08

It isn't a minefield. We can eat a wide variety of foods easily in this country and that's what we should do. Everything in moderation, including the overall amount.

I think that with the foods choices available to us it's easy to eat healthily. It's also easy to eat unhealthily. Shrug. The price of freedom and plenty.

We worry too much.

M0nica Thu 07-Jan-16 16:53:58

Eat well, not too much, most of it plants is as good and as simple a guide to healthy eating as you can get. Although it is worth adding its corollary if it is made of a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.

The author of both these rules is an American, Michael Pollan.

Maranta Thu 07-Jan-16 17:02:28

Well said thatbags & M0nica

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 07-Jan-16 17:05:41

I would hink it's her real name Elegran.

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 07-Jan-16 17:06:43


jinglbellsfrocks Thu 07-Jan-16 17:08:19

Nothing wrong with a bit of meat. I bought a nice bit of steak from M and S today. And a packet of their creamy/buttery mash.

Granarchist Thu 07-Jan-16 18:00:01

jinglbellsfrocks (I love that name) - my daughter once ditched a boyfriend who, pleading poverty and having a bag of potatoes in his flat, went out and bought ready made mashed potatoes. Final straw!

loopylou Thu 07-Jan-16 18:09:30

Linseeds are just as devilish to your teeth as chia seeds ?

Personally I think a little of what you fancy does you no harm whatsoever, it's eating excessive amounts that screws things up.
I've been doing all my shopping at Lidl recently and am a total convert to their fruit and vegetables as well as the meat and fish - large variety and very fresh (not to mention ££s cheaper than usual supermarkets)

Nothing wrong with sensible ready meals either, they're often nutritionally balanced and cut down on waste.

Come on Jennifer Grumbly reveal who you are!

durhamjen Thu 07-Jan-16 18:14:14

Ana Thu 07-Jan-16 18:16:12

There you are - it's durhamjen! grin

durhamjen Fri 08-Jan-16 00:33:32

You can just download the vfl booklet, by the way.
It's for elderly vegetarians.

WilmaKnickersfit Fri 08-Jan-16 01:09:40

dj that's a great find - thank you very much! flowers

I am always looking for new recipes for one or two people that I can add to my list of meals. wink

Sadiesnan Fri 08-Jan-16 15:37:00

I have porridge every morning for breakfast. We eat a lot of fish, chicken salad and vegetables because that's what we like. Usually we don't have cakes, biscuits etc., in the house, so we can't eat them. Although at Christmas we did have homemade mince pies, Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding.

jinglbellsfrocks Fri 08-Jan-16 16:21:06

I so want to give in and make a jam tart.

NotTooOld Fri 08-Jan-16 16:52:14

Mmm, jam tart. That would be lovely, Jings. I've just had ONE small plain biscuit with my cup of tea and I did a longish walk this afternoon. Now I'm looking at the clock wondering how soon I can have a fishcake and salad for dinner. I'm also thinking - this is totally ridiculous at my age - I should eat what I like and enjoy myself. I'm not much overweight but I don't like the extra roll of fat that has taken up residence at what was formerly my waistline.

durhamjen Fri 08-Jan-16 23:04:12

I am a member of Viva!, Wilma. It's an excellent website, and vfl is an offshoot, when they realised how many older vegetarians there are.
It lists care homes, cruises, sheltered housing, etc.
If you are a member, there is a list of companies that give discounts to members.

WilmaKnickersfit Sat 09-Jan-16 00:25:41

I've bookmarked both sites to have a read dj. I admit I have to be careful with sites like viva, because I find the photos from reports of animal cruelty/mistreatment too distressing. Just being honest.

I think it's brilliant that vfl exists and I wonder what other subjects would benefit from their own dedicated website.

NTO my Mum is 75 and is still trying to lose that last bit of weight that's dogged her for years. She hates her tummy, yet I can see she looks fantastic for her age. She's always looked young and taken good care of herself and I guess it will always be the same. I can't imagine being bothered about dieting at her age.

Marmark1 Sat 09-Jan-16 09:23:51

Yes! It is harder to eat healthily,It takes more time and effort of course.But you can buy veg already to use.And if you try to think natural when your planning a meal,and keep away from processed food.I make a lot of soups.and eat cake as a treat.Im 5 foot 6 and 10 stone,and I take 100gr of thyroxin.