Monday, April 25, 2016

You are what you eat

If, as they say, you are what you eat, then essentially, I'm a chicken. Oh wait, that's my Chinese zodiac animal! Cluck.

In our household, we eat very well, thanks to our long-time helper who has a fantastic knack for cooking. Her Chinese recipe repertoire, learnt from my mil, is pretty impressive. Anything from stir fried beef and popiah to curry chicken and char siew.

Sweet and sour pork
Kong bak pau
She's equally adept in the western food department, from recipes I've given her over the years. Shepherd's pie, lasagna, boeuf bourguignon - she's got them under her belt. She also makes a mean oxtail stew with mash. Better than the one from Jack's Place, in my opinion!

And just when we thought her cooking couldn't get any better, she ventured into Indian, learning from her friends who have Indian employers. Here was the spread she laid out for a gathering - mutton curry, brinjal curry, fried chicken and chickpea salad with homemade chapati.

So as you can imagine, we're very much foodies in our household. We'd never been part of the healthy eating camp just cos we love our food too much (and so much of what's bad for you tastes so good!)

Only Lesley-Anne was very careful about her diet and that kinda happened by accident. When my kids were young, I tried to impose vegetables at every meal (okay, every dinner). Actually, since we adults weren't so keen on the veggies either, it was usually a half-hearted attempt and if they'd eaten a few strands, we'd let it pass. I know, bad role models, us parents! Andre would eat his favourite dishes first, then plead to be let off his veg. Lesley-Anne however, who believes in saving the best for last, would always eat her veg first even though she didn't like it. Through this habit, she astonishingly enough, grew to love veg, so much so that when we eat out, we have to order veg for her. As time went by, she become more conscientious about taking care of her body. She would religiously work out and watch her diet, especially over the past year.

Then earlier this year, Kenneth's doctor advised him to cut out simple carbs from his diet to improve his health. That's when I realised this constant throwing caution to the wind regarding our food intake could not go on forever. We're not spring chickens any more and much as I would like to deny it, I knew this uncontrolled intake of sugar would only have detrimental effects.

When I suggested we make some changes at home, Lesley-Anne of course, cheered. Quite to my surprise, Andre instantly agreed as well. Influenced by his sister, he had started recognising the benefits of eating healthier. Since my mil lives with us, we had to go slow because I was afraid she wouldn't be used to the new taste. We began by changing white bread to wholemeal bread. My mil didn't take to the grainy wholemeal taste so we found an alternative - Sunshine Extra Fine Sprouted Wholemeal bread. It's still wholemeal but the bread is soft so it works for everyone.

Next was the rice. I wanted to change the rice to brown rice but again, I was afraid I would face resistance from my mil, since she's from that generation that believes unrefined food is inferior. Then out of the blue, one day she told me that if I felt changing to unrefined rice would be better for the family, she was open to it. That taught me never to assume anything! That pioneer generation is hardier than we like to believe.

So we tried the Fairprice Thai Rice Blend - a mix of white, brown and red rice. And whadya know, everyone in the family loves it! Andre declared it tastier than white rice (which he was never a fan of to begin with) and for the first time, started having second helpings of rice at dinner. It definitely has more flavour and more bite.

We're trying to take things one step at a time. More veg, less fried food. I have to say it's a lot easier when you have the support of the whole family. I'm most encouraged by Andre's attitude. First, you need to know that Andre loves food. I mean it - he lives for food. This is a boy who can't remember when his exam is but can recall what he ate at a restaurant four years ago. When we go to Sushi Express, he easily polishes off 17 plates. That's 34 pieces of sushi, by the way.

Pic from 2 years ago
Yet, he has embraced this healthy approach with gusto, for which I'm very proud of him. One Saturday, I brought him and Kenneth to my chef friend Tat Hon's restaurant The Bento People for brunch. I had written a review of the restaurant previously, about how I was pleasantly surprised to find that healthy food could actually taste good!

I was a little apprehensive but I needn't have been. The food there is honestly so tasty that my two boys gobbled it up and were happy campers. Since then, Andre has been clamouring to go back, so we returned again last Saturday.

This is our favourite combi - brown rice, salmon and broccoli in green curry. It's amazingly delicious and satisfying, and fills you up all the way till dinner. I suspect the Bento People will become one of our regular brunch haunts.

As Tat Hon once told me, make the change when you can still make the choice, not when illness strikes and you have no choice but to make the change. This way, the healthy transition will be more painless and once your palate adjusts to the taste of natural foods, you might find that you never want to go back to the processed and refined options.

Slow and steady, we'll get there!


Anonymous said...

Dear Monica, kudos!
Wonderful switch!
May everyone in your family grow healthier!


monlim said...

Thank you, Grace! ♥ ♥

monlim said...

Oh btw Grace, I realise that I'd already previously written on the proposed banding of PSLE here: Hope you'll find it useful!

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