Eating with Agency – Part 2

Today I wanted to share with you a little tweak I’ve made to my food diary. (You can find out about my current food diary in Eating with Agency – Part 1.) Since I set up my food diary, I watched another TV show about health and fitness: 21 Day Body Turn Around with Michael Mosley on Channel 4. I always watch this type of show with a big dollop of healthy skepticism, as that’s just who I am, but what was said chimed with everything I know about health, fitness and biology, plus Michael Mosley is an actual doctor, so I’m predisposed to trust him!

Anyhoo … at one point in the programme, Dr Mosley said that the participants should aim to eat at least 30 different fruits and vegetables a week. That struck me as an awful lot, so I thought I’d see how many different fruits and vegetables I was eating and if it was anywhere near that amount. In the empty space next to Sunday in my food diary, I wrote the numbers 1 to 30 down the page, and, as the week progressed, I listed each different fruit or vegetable I ate. It’s only Friday and I’m already at 32! So it’s not really that hard for me after all. Going forward, I’ll keep listing them and see what other fruits and vegetables I can find to add to the mix.

The other thing I’ve done to my food diary is to split the bottom box into PFs (processed foods) and UPFs (Ultra Processed Foods) because, although I don’t want to eliminate PFs and UPFs from my diet completely, I’d like the bulk of my food to come from non or minimally processed foods. Imagine, if you will, a pyramid with non and minimally processed foods on the bottom, PFs on top of that and UPFs on top of that. In fact, now I think about it, I might actually draw myself a pyramid-shaped food diary in which to write everything down. Just to remind myself what proportion of my diet should be coming from what type of food.

Helping me with all this is the Open Food Facts app. Open Food Facts is a global community with volunteers all over the world. It is supported by a registered non-profit organization headquartered in Paris. Its vision states:

Everyone can improve the food system and reduce the impact of food on our health, environment and society.

and it’s mission is to:

Provide open data, knowledge, tools and support for everyone to empower them to have the greatest positive impact on the food system.

  • For consumers to make better informed food choices.

  • For food producers to identify ways to improve the quality of their products and to be encouraged to improve it.

  • For scientists to improve the collective knowledge of the long term impacts on what we eat on our health, the environment and society.

  • For states to decide on the best public health policies and to help foster their adoption.

  • For individuals, academics, non-profits, startups and companies to efficiently address issues with the food system and quickly deploy them worldwide.

On the app, you can scan the barcode of any item of food to find out more about it. If the item is not on the app, you can submit photos of it and the relevant information from the packaging. What I’m most interested in at the moment is the NOVA score. Nova is a system of grades from 1 to 4 to allow people to simply compare the degree of processing of products. Here are the groups:

  • Group 1 – Unprocessed or minimally processed foods

  • Group 2 – Processed culinary ingredients

  • Group 3 – Processed foods

  • Group 4 – Ultra-processed food and drink products

My aim is to eat mainly from Groups 1 and 2, eat a little from Group 3 and very little from Group 4, and the app makes it very easy to do that. Now, whenever I eat something I haven’t eaten since starting this healthy eating thing, I check it on the app so I know how processed it is.

Next up – I’m going to have to look at portion sizes. I need to eat enough not to be hungry, but not so much that I hinder my health.

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