Oscar Franco, a Colombian scientist interested in methods for improving the health of humans, suggested in 2004 that perhaps medicines were not the only way to a healthy heart and vascular system. He suggested that a “polymeal” – “an effective, non-pharmacological, safe, cheap and tasty alternative to reduce cardiovascular morbidity and increase life expectancy in the general population” – was more practical and held more benefits than the “polypill” – a combination of three blood pressure medications, a statin drug, aspirin and folic acid – suggested by British colleagues a year earlier.
This novel approach got Dr. Jonny Bowden thinking on the health benefits of our diet and the realistic possibility of such a meal – resulting in the book, The Healthiest Meals on Earth. In its simplest form, Franco suggested that a polymeal consisted of “fish, garlic, almonds, fruits, vegetables and dark chocolate, all polished off with a nice little glass of red wine.” Bowden explored the theory further to help the average person realize that such meals could be not only healthy, but nutritional, tasty, and family-friendly. The book consists of a variety of meal plans, recipes and even grocery lists for such polymeals, and suggestions on how to create polymeals customized for your family based upon components that promote the health benefits of the polymeal while fitting your particular family’s needs.
Okay, as a single parent, I can guess what you are thinking – there is no way my kid(s) are going to eat THAT! I understand completely. However, Bowden’s suggestions are not as limited as Franco’s. His meal plans include beef, liver and chicken in addition to fish and other seafood. There is a healthy variety of vegetables including a mock “mashed potatoes” (actually cauliflower!) that is an excellent substitute for the starchy culprit that all kids love. Additionally, there is a variety of one-pot menus that can be adapted to the crock pot and obviously do not need as much prep time or cooking attention. They are tasty; they are healthy; and I am reasonably sure that your kids will eat them. There are even recipes for desserts – including brownies!
Bowden relies on two major principals for his meal plans. First, no refined sugar. Second, a concentration on healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids). He quickly educates that omega-3’s are found in more than just fish – and where families are concerned, that is a good thing. Most American families are not predominately fish-eaters. However, omega-3’s can be found in nuts, certain oils and even tasty fruits/vegetables (?) like avocadoes. He includes a list of the healthiest foods and their benefits, a chart detailing health oils and their uses, and a list of places where “specialty” ingredients can be purchased. It is amazing how common ingredients – garlic, onions, broccoli – have incredible health benefits. And there was a reason Popeye ate spinach! Of all the foods considered for their health benefits, spinach is the only one that scores high marks in all categories!
My only concern, from a single parent stand-point, for Bowden’s meal plans are that the “usual” staples for a single parent kitchen are replaced by items such as agave nectar, ginger juice, macadamia nut oil, and dandelion greens. Shopping at a health food store or a natural grocer is not the cheapest way to shop; and like most single parents, I am on a budget. So I decided to find a way to make this work for me.
The end result is that it is very possible to do on a budget! You have to spend a little time in the book and a little time making a list of reasonable substitutes, but it can be done. AND – it is very much so worth the effort considering that the number one killer of adults in America is heart disease! One of my major concerns as a single parent is what will happen to my kids if something happens to me. This diet – I hate that word -; the theory of polymeals to aid in a healthy heart is one that it well worth the effort to alleviate some of the parental worries common to most of us. While the book may not be compatible to the single parent lifestyle as a whole, it is definitely informative, eye-opening and full of suggestions for healthy eating habits that can be adapted to a single parent life. I recommend it for all those who care about the health of their families and their own health.