What the ‘wellness’ bloggers are not telling you about happiness

Hasn’t the world of healthy eating become boring lately. With all the emphasis on particular ingredients, exacting methods of preparation and overwhelming ground rules, there’s just not much space left for food to be fun.

Remember the good old days, when you could tuck into a piece of Sara-Lee cheesecake and just enjoy it? Not any more.

These days it has to be a homemade raw cheesecake, made with organic ingredients that you’ve sourced ethically then churned and milled yourself. And the results are yummy, but the method so onerous that some of the enjoyment seems to slip away.

Cooking has become the latest way to prove your superiority, your discipline, your martyrdom. Despite our luck at being surrounded by so much plenty, we apparently need to abstain. Food seems to have become the latest guilt stick with which we are supposed to constantly beat ourselves.

And beat ourselves up, we will. Because, let’s be honest – who has the time to live with such holiness? It’s just not possible in my real world.

For each post I read about some an essential health concoction that I MUST make for my kids to thrive, my guilt increases as I inevitably end up in the supermarket buying the Friday night fish fingers (not every week – just the crazy busy ones). And I’ve kind of had enough of it.

For a thought provoking read, grab a copy of “The Gluten Lie”. I don’t agree with all of it, but it is an interesting reminder of how food messaging has twisted. There is now so much fear and guilt around this whole topic. We’ve lost perspective entirely, as we get caught up in the specifics of tiny nutrients – as if particular enzymes or antioxidants are the key to a happy life.

Just enough omega 3 and all your woes will be gone. You’ll get that job, have nicer children, be sexier.

And of course it’s not true.

When I started this blog, my focus was to find recipes that got fussy kids eating vegetables and enjoying healthy food. And as the years have gone by, it sort of hasn’t been ENOUGH anymore. But what about fermenting vegies? Or activating nuts? Am I considering salicylates? What about protein supplements? And how dare I use a teaspoon of sugar to make something more kid-friendly? Don’t I love my children? Don’t I want the best for them and my family? Don’t I want happiness?

But it turns out that I am quite happy. Focusing on positive and inclusive attitudes to eating has changed two formerly-fussy kids into ones who now enjoy a huge range of good food. We eat with glee. We relish life and all it’s bounty. Basic healthy eating and home cooking gives us the energy to walk on the beach, swim in the ocean, huddle together in cafe booths (enjoying whatever treat we want). We talk. We fight. We piss each other off. We achieve stuff as individuals and as a family. We get stuck into life with as positive an attitude as we can. Because food isn’t the only way to happiness in our household – balance is.

And even as the wellness movement dominates the food world, the fact remains that only one in 20 Australians eat enough vegies, so it seems to be a shame that the basic, simple message to eat right, has been hijacked. In our quest for individual health perfection, we’re losing bigger health war.

For me, healthy eating has become too complicated. And it just doesn’t need to be. Just eat lots of delicious food, full of good stuff. Every day. With joy and gratitude.

Here’s five basic recipes that introduce a bunch of vegetables that can start your kids onto a lifetime of happy (and guilt free) eating… (click the pics to visit the recipe)

Basic multi-veg mash.

Basic multi-veg mash.

mini meatloaves

These mini meatloaves are a complete hand-held meal (and they freeze well).

Noodle salad

Noodle salad for a flavour burst.

Easy to make. Easy to eat. Chicken pasta bake.

Easy to make. Easy to eat. Chicken pasta bake.

And I can see what vegies are in here, too, but the kids can't.

Cute little fish cakes – perfectly sized for toddlers.


If you love slow cooking, you'll love my latest e-book!

If you love slow cooking, you’ll love my latest e-book!

26 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Amy Gibson said,

    Amen! I am heartily sick of the ‘rules’ involving food and eating. The term ‘clean eating’ now sets my teeth on edge. Thank you, for a bit of common sense and being a moderate voice.

  2. 2

    Kirsty said,

    Well said! As much as I like to provide/eat healthy for our family of 8. Some days I just want potato chips and chocolate. But so what! And I already have to cater for allergies of wheat, nuts and eggs. That is hard enough let alone all those crazy diets/fads out there pushing their agendas. (I do understand for those that have serious health issues but that isn’t the vast population) Whatever happened to the healthy food groups and eating in moderation.

  3. 3

    Sarah said,

    The thing I love most about you is that you’re real! You understand the everything in moderation rule and your recipes are fun and easy to do. I’ve looked through a lot of wellness blogs especially when I was on my weightloss journey and you’re right it’s all one big fat guilt trip. I have now gotten into the habit of seeing something in a wellness blog then immediately looking for a peer reviewed scientific study to (dis)prove it. Often I find science completely refutes the claim.
    We have a lot of doctor diagnosed allergies in our house (all between my husband and I) so just being able to find food that ticks the boxes is hard enough I can’t imagine why anyone would do it for the sake of it.

    Keep up the good work! You have given this mum some fantastic recipes which I love cooking. Despite us already being a veggie loving family I still consider your books the best recipe books I own

  4. 5

    Lisa said,

    I love this and totally agree. Love your recipes and your honesty- in a sea of sanctimonious nut-activating, cabbage-pickling nonsense, you provide great ideas that the kids might actually eat and enjoy If a squirt of ketchup is what it takes to get my kids enjoying a meal packed with veges, it’s a win in my book.

  5. 6

    Barbara Good said,

    Oh, I just can’t read it anymore. And if that raw cake is made with a dozen avocados I seriously question the tasting good bit. The texture is just weird and have you seen the price of avos at the moment? Not to mention majool dates (is that what they’re called), chia seeds, macadamia nuts and on and on. I couldn’t afford to make these things for my kids (who would no doubt reject 90% of them anyway) even if I wanted to. I’m happy giving them whole fruits straight out if the fruit bowl, no arduous prep here, or a piece of banana cake that takes me 15 mins to whip up with the inevitable squishy bananas at the end of the week.
    And having gone back to work as well as studying this year, I’ve now resorted to one pre-packaged snack for school lunch boxes. It’s usually a museli bar, a packet of rice snacks or some pretzels. As much as I’d love to make everything I also need to cut myself some slack, knowing one of these snacks is not going to cause a life time of misery or I’ll health.
    We too resort to fish fingers when the day has gone pear shaped and your mini meat loaves have been a big hit. I love that it makes enough for the freezer as well (for us anyway) and that the kids eat all sorts of veg without issue. Though for the little one it’s more of a challenge to get her eating meat then veg, but she does eat these.

    • 7

      wendyblume said,

      I’m sure you’re doing an amazing job Mrs Good! I think it’s an amazing truth that for every time a mother beats herself up about producing a processed snack, there’s a man nearby who doesn’t even realise….

  6. 8

    Mrs P said,

    I was once OTT with what my children consumed… Then I had a third child. Thankfully the business of life with three forced me to relax and go back to basics. Real food, cooked simply. My kids are happy, I’m happy, and I feel like the pressure has been relieved!

  7. 10

    Annie said,

    And once again, I am so thankful to have you “in” our lives. Moderation people. That’s it. No harder than that. I too am sick of people giving me dirty stares and comments when my kids are eating something I made at home because it might have some choc chips in it. We cook (nearly) everything at home from scratch (and thanks for your post a few months ago regarding whole foods. I too was surprised to learn that I have been doing it forever.) Your recipes for increasing the veg intake are invaluable especially to us creatively challenged parents. You’re the voice of reason and practicality (an your de-guilting skills are ace).

    • 11

      wendyblume said,

      Thanks Anne! Lovely feedback. It does make me sad when I hear of kids having home-made treats confiscated at childcare. I can understand how they have to implement these policies though. Sounds like you’re doing a great job!

  8. 12

    Stacey said,

    OMG!!! Someone had to say it!! So very very true. I used to love cooking and I remember loving cooking with Mum and sharing a meal with family and laughing and not at all worrying about super foods, sugar or fat content or whatever. It was a true pleasure. Now it’s just stress & stress and guilt. It’s not fun. I felt terrible buying fish fingers just trying to get my kid to eat something. Thank you for the reminder!!!

  9. 14

    Mel said,

    I loved this article! I love your approach and your attitude! Thank you for keeping it real! Thanks for putting yourself out there! Thanks for all your contributions to us without even knowing it!

  10. 15

    Seana Smith said,

    Quite agree, the no sugar idea makes me rebel big time! My kids are super active and need both fat and sugar at time ie doughnuts.

  11. 17

    Carly said,

    And that’s why I come back to read your blog week after week. You’re so right about food becoming the next thing for people to feel superior over others about, let’s just get back to remembering food is for fuel, taste, coming together with people we care about and love. Like you said I am so sick of the ‘rules’ and fads around what should be eaten. By all means let’s be happy to know more and more about nutrition but let’s also keep some perspective and relish the joy in a slab of Sara Lee chocolate Bavarian once in a while. Thanks for another great post.

  12. 19

    I agree with some of what you have said Wendy and we are much the same in our family. However, you are probably also lucky that none of your family have allergies or health problems. Unfortunately there are a lot of people out there with issues and I applaud them for using food as medicine. So if gut healing broths and fermented foods are helping their kids stay off medication, then I think it’s a good thing.

    I think the mainstream public get the wrong end of the stick. Why would you activate nuts unless you need to? I know I can tolerate nuts in small amounts but if I start eating too many, my tummy lets me know. Why avoid salicylates unless you react? It’s all about fine tuning your diet to what works for you.

    Why is there so much talk about diet lately? Well because as a nation we are sick and obese! People are starting to learn that processed food is contributing and are looking for alternatives to get them well again.

    I know some blogs and people get a bit intense, but I just unfollow them and follow people I resonate with instead! There is certainly not martyrdom or superiority in a lot of them. An example would be Quirky Cooking – authentic, real and sharing info that is working for them and that may help other people.

    I don’t feel the need to be pressured to do what other people are doing or feel inadequate if I don’t! I just do the best I can and feed my family healthy food most of the time.

    • 20

      wendyblume said,

      I love your blog Sonia – I think you get a right balance. And you’re right – I don’t deal with allergies – just my own lactose intolerance which is easy to manage. I can see how difficult it is for worried parents to get the balance right when dealing with more severe issues – they definitely can be overwhelming. x

  13. 21

    Abbe said,

    There’s so much to be said for being a bit too lazy to get passionate about a special diet or the latest fad. Way too lazy in fact. I’d much rather cook yummy food, eat chocolate guilt free and feel a bit smug when I con my kids into eating well.
    Totally agree with all you’ve said.
    Tuck in!

  14. 22

    Christine said,

    It would be so much easier to relax if food manufacturers actually made food healthier! If things don’t have too much sugar they have too much salt or weird ingredients. I love this blog and your relatability! In fact I often gift one of your books to new mums, every house needs it! We all go through that stage of picky eaters! My kids still don’t know there are veggies in the chicken sausage rolls!

  15. 24

    Sally Hart said,

    Thank you! I really needed to read this. You are so right….as a person who isn’t a huge fan of coming up with meals each night to feed my hubby and 3 little ones (only for them to reject it 😦 ) I am putting too much pressure on myself to achieve great things in the kitchen each and every day. Via social media I am being bombarded with over achievers! I love your books and recipes and will grab them out tomorrow to meal plan for the week!

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