Paula Southworth

Nutritionist and Health Coach

BSc Nutrition and Sports Science

Massey University, Auckland

New Zealand

You are what you eat.


Spring - a time when we turn our minds to new beginnings and nurturing gardens after the neglect of winter.  Looking after our health is a bit like gardening too.  The quality of the soil and presence of nutrients will determine the quality of our plants. In the same way, our bodies can only be as healthy as the nutrients we feed it. 


When I think of food, I tend to think of it in terms of its nutrient density (how much good stuff it contains) rather than in terms of its calories. So, instead of having a calorie/weight-loss mind set, I like to have a food/nutrient-content mind set.  Examples of nutrient dense foods include nuts, fruit and vegetables. Foods that are not nutrient dense are crisps, chocolate etc (lots of calories but very low on the nutritional value scale).  In other words, if I eat something, I like to make sure I’m getting the most bang for my buck.  I want most things I eat to make a positive impact on my health.  Notice I said ‘most things’; we all love the occasional treat!


Our bodies respond so well to good feeding.  The difference it can make to how we feel is truly amazing. Food affects our mood, our energy levels, skin, hair, bones, immune system and our overall sense of wellbeing.  A healthy, well balanced diet can help you manage and reduce your risk of developing many health/medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, arthritis, anaemia, gout and constipation.


Providing nutrient dense food is especially crucial in childhood, as their bodies are using what they eat to build & grow the bodies they will have as adults.  Think of it as laying a strong foundation for their future.  Good nutrition in childhood promotes growth, health, learning and reduces the risks of developing chronic diseases. Children’s brains are like high-performance engines and for them to be able to achieve their best at school, or on the sports field, they need a well-balanced diet full of nutrient dense foods.  Studies have shown that what a child eats will determine how the physical structure of their brain develops, which affects memory, reasoning skills and attention span. One of the most valuable gifts we can give our children is to teach them how to nurture and feed their bodies well……a free insurance policy.  “Just as each seed we plant has the potential to become something extraordinary, so does every child”  ~ Michelle Obama in her book on the story of the White House Kitchen Garden.  


Speaking of gardens, having a vegetable garden is like growing your own vitamins.  The flavour and nutrient content of spray free veggies, picked & eaten straight away, is infinitely better than those that have been languishing on store shelves.  Even a few pots on the windowsill can bump up the nutrient content of your diet.  Gardening is a great way to teach children about health & get them outdoors enjoying the fresh air & away from the T.V. and computers. 


If you're not sure how to get started, why not join a gardening club?  The Orewa Ladies Garden Club meets on the second Thursday of the month at the Catholic Church Hall, 180 Centreway Road.


Or, if gardening is not really your thing, consider supporting growers at the local Farmers' Markets.  The Silverdale Farmers' Market runs every Saturday from 7.30 am to 12.30 pm and there is also one that runs in Orewa Square on a Sunday from 8.00 am to 12.30 pm.

Attaining vibrant health does not need to include restrictive diets, questionable supplements or complicated food combinations.  Just feed your ‘soil’ well. 


Printed in the Rodney Times on October 22, 2013 by Paula Southworth.