If I had a magic time machine I’d go back to the early 90s and have a quiet word with myself about food.
I’d also have a quiet word about hairstyles and picking at spots, but food would be first.
At age 14 I was a terrible pescetarian. I lived on tuna pasta bake, Linda McCartney Country Pies (*instant bloating*) Findus cheese pancakes (oh they were good in a good-but-nasty way), baked beans, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Black, two sugars.
I carried on eating like this into my late teens and early twenties. My repertoire expanded a little when I moved out of home and lived with people who introduced me to houmous and feta cheese.
As you might expect, my health wasn’t exactly dazzling. Every month I had 10-14 days of pre-menstrual tension symptoms of anger, depression, forgetfulness, brain fuzz, bloating and spots. This was followed by heavy painful periods lasting 7-8 days. I ping-ponged through the day on sugar-caffeine highs followed by exhausting slumps, and my bowels could tick off every type of poo on the Bristol Stool Scale.
If I’d known then what I know now, I would have abso-flippin’-lutely eaten differently. The cheese pancakes would have been accompanied by broccoli for a start…
Nutritional gems I’d share with my Pearl Jam fan-girl, Doc Marten wearing, crap-food loving 14yr old self:
Drink some water. I lived on coffee & tea, both of which were playing havoc with my digestion and blocking iron absorption (not a great combo with heavy periods). Drinking at least 1l of water a day would have done my digestion, energy, and skin a whole lot of good.
Eat greens, everyday. Mum always included at least 1 green veggie with our evening meal, however I could have been a lot more pro-active myself. Brassica veggies in particular (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussel sprouts, rocket) are packed with nutrients that support oestrogen processing in the liver – essential for hormone balance and managing PMT.
Ease up on sugar. Adding 2 sugars to every black coffee really racked up my sugar intake and contributed to the bloating and teen spots. Add in white bread, white pasta, and other refined carbs and the sugar total was HUGE! Swapping to herbal teas (which I did in my early twenties) and complex carbs would have made a significant difference to energy, digestion, skin health, and hormone balance.
Eat Real Food. Back then, as a pescetarian I really needed to be eating a lot more fish, eggs, beans, pulses, and colourful fruits & veggies and none of that processed fake food marketed to vegetarians.
Protein, protein, protein! Again, the fish, beans, pulses and eggs would have helped with this, alongside nuts and seeds. I was in dire need of protein building blocks for healthy skin, zingy energy levels, and stable moods, and my diet wasn’t supplying them!
Prep a proper packed lunch. A typical lunch consisted of cheese sandwiches with white bread, cake, and maybe a piece of fruit (maybe). Then I’d come home at 4pm and feast on chocolate spread sandwiches. Blimey, my pancreas was working overtime! Better options would have been wholemeal pittas with salad & fish / eggs / fruit salad with nuts & seeds / houmous / guacamole / and a lot less chocolate spread!
What nutritional gems would you share with your teenage self?
We’ve had some fun discussions about our teen diets over in the Facebook group: come and join us!