Your grandparents or great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents knew what a good diet was. They knew it through and through without even the slightest shade of a doubt. A good diet was what people always ate. A good diet was about plenty of wholesome food. Good health was about more than just a good diet though. It was also about healthy living. Over the past few weeks posts we’ve talked at length about the details that made up the diet our grandparents recognized as healthy and how that diet differs from a modern diet, whether it’s average or perceived as healthy. Today’s guidelines are mostly about that part of health that granny would have called clean living.
What was clean living in the view of our grandparents? Well, it included being optimistic, sleeping well, not overdoing, keeping clean, enjoying time outdoors, having a forgiving attitude to both yourself and others, and remaining relatively sober ;-). These things were just as important to good health as a good diet was. Notice there is no mention of extreme exercise here, or periodic fasts, or juicing, or annual diagnostic screenings, or maintenance medications, or vitamins, or any of the other things we moderns tend to view as vital to good health. Grandma and Grandpa saw good health as being as simple as plenty of good food, good rest, a good attitude and a bit of good luck.
Now we come to the last five principles of a good diet …
Cook only in stainless steel, cast iron, glass or good quality enamel.
This is pretty simple and self-explanatory. Avoid aluminum and teflon coated cookware. Stainless is good, I like glass for many things and cast iron is very traditional.
Use only natural supplements.
Virtually all supplements claim to be natural. Remember, the word ‘natural’ has no legal meaning on a label. They could put it on car wax if they wanted to! So then what do I mean by natural supplement? That would be a supplement that is actually food, food that has a very high concentration of a particular nutrient or group of nutrients. Things like cod liver oil, or high vitamin butter oil, or dehydrated liver pills … well you get my gist. I do think that in our modern food environment there is a place for vitamin pills, but that place is when things go wrong. They aren’t really part of a basic good diet.
Buying supplements can be a very tricky affair. I approach it with extreme caution making sure I do all my homework before making a choice.
Get plenty of sleep, exercise and natural light.
Sleep, the most underrated restorative alternative treatment of the modern era! If you told Granny you were ailing the very first things she would have asked if you get enough rest and enough food. In that order. And rest included sleep as well as restful times and pleasant recreation. Both of these sayings apply here “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” and “burning the candle at both ends”. Both popular clichés of the mid-century. Clichés like this are distilled common sense … things everyone took for granted as true. Both working too hard and playing too hard were seen as certain to undermine your health. A balance of work, play, quiet restful times and good solid sleep were seen a vital to good health.
Contrast that with current times where the ideal is to work long and hard, then play hard with competitive sports and vigorous exercise followed by staying out late on the town, or less ideal on the internet or watching tv till you collapse in exhaustion. Then get 6 hours or so of sleep and wake super early for the morning commute. It seems no one in our culture has a natural sleep pattern anymore, not even little kids. They have a morning commute too. I feel livid when I see tiny 1st graders waiting for the bus in the mornings an hour before the crack of dawn! Not at the parents, mind you, but the school that set the starting hour for class so early that it’s necessary to get up this early to make it on time. Not even little kids are immune to this madness anymore.
Spending some time outdoors without sunscreen is vital to good health. The exercise you gain while working in the garden, walking or riding a bike, playing a game, swimming and such is invigorating not exhausting. The sun exposure is required for the production of Vitamin D. We’ve been made to feel afraid of sun exposure, but Granny would have called that fear hogwash. If the sun was gonna kill us it would have done it long ago ;-).
Think positive thoughts and minimize stress.
“Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side, keep on the sunny side of life” as Mother Mabel Carter put it, would help ensure a healthy and happy life for you and yours. There was no point in dwelling on wrongs done you, or accidental injustices you may have suffered. There was nothing positive to be gained by making drama out of it all.
This attitude of easy-going positive acceptance is one I remember well being urged to adopt by my elders when I was a teenager. I was given to typical teenage angst and thought their advice silly … I now know it was I who was silly ;-).
A life filled with bitterness and anger is an unhappy and unhealthy one. Learning to practice forgiveness for yourself first and then others goes a long way to reducing stress. Breathing a little space into the situation and a little humor can help lighten things up. This is hard for all of us … just part of being human :-).
That’s all 20 guidelines for a good diet! I hope you’ve found this series helpful in figuring out how to feed yourself and your family well.