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Record audience at Health and Environmental Sustainability Conference

Record audience at Health and Environmental Sustainability Conference

Assistant Secretary Pip Carew, Stephanie Alexander and Environmental Health Officer, Libby Muir. Photograph by Angela Wylie

A record number of nurses and midwives attending the 2016 ANMF (Vic Branch) Health & Environmental Sustainability Conference heard about inspiring efforts to minimise the environmental impacts of the health sector and how to gather support for environmental action.

As well as sharing information about environmental initiatives in Victorian hospitals, such as chemical-free cleaning and the impacts of climate change on health, conference speakers such as chef and founder of the Kitchen Garden Foundation, Stephanie Alexander, and nurse/wellness coach Kate Borradaile encouraged nurses and midwives to be mindful of their own sustainable health habits.

Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Mary-Anne Thomas, spoke about the Victorian Government’s environmental initiatives and Australian Conservation Foundation Climate Campaign Manager Victoria McKenzie-McHarg used last year’s People’s Climate March, held in Melbourne ahead of the Paris climate talks, as a case study of mobilising people into action. With up to 60,000 people marching, the Melbourne event was reportedly the biggest of any city in the world.

Rural and regional nurses and midwives were attentive to the presentation by Dr Susan Brumby, Director, National Centre for Farmer Health, on the health, safety and wellbeing of farming communities in a changing climate.

Stephanie Alexander gave the 550 conference attendees healthy food tips and spoke about her foundation that has brought the growing and cooking of fresh produce into more than 800 schools around Australia. The author of the popular cookbook The Cook’s Companion said that she founded the Kitchen Garden Foundation 15 years ago with the belief that her infectious enthusiasm for freshly prepared food could be harnessed to counter the poor eating habits that were contributing to obesity.

‘I’m very disappointed when I hear any health professional distinguish between eating for pleasure and eating for health. Every meal should involve eating for pleasure and eating for health. It’s hard to better Michael Pollan’s message: ‘Eat food, mostly plants, not too much,’” Ms Alexander said.

Ms Alexander said that eating foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt should be an occasional treat but ‘special occasion foods should be enjoyed with gusto and without guilt’. Her statement that ‘sometimes we get too busy to think straight and our blood sugar plummets and we must eat at once, whatever is at hand and whatever is quick’ resonated with nurses and midwives at the conference. But Ms Alexander gave some tips for nurses and their families to maintain sustainable healthy and delicious diets, despite busy lifestyles.

Stephanie’s food tips for hardworking nurses and midwives

  1. Acknowledge to yourself that delicious fresh food is a priority
  2. Plan – think about what you’re going to have for dinner at 7am, not 6.45pm. Think ahead about what your day entails so you can buy fresh ingredients along the way
  3. Add your perishable foods: fish, mushrooms etc.
  4. Try to not get too hungry – if you eat when your blood sugar is low, you’ll make poor food choices.
  5. ‘When I leave the house, I have a mental map in my head – “I’m going to be near that shop where I can buy that sourdough bread that I like”, or “It’s a market day so I can go to the market and buy everything I need…’
  6. Keep a container of salad greens in the fridge and top it up every four days.
  7. Have the essentials on hand in your pantry that every food-loving, health-conscious person needs: Australian extra virgin olive oil; good sourdough bread; free-range eggs; vegetable staples (for an easy roast vegetable dinner – pumpkin, carrot, potato, sweet potato, cauliflower); chunk of parmesan; tinned tomatoes; anchovies; tuna; cannellini beans; chickpeas; dried pasta; nuts and seeds, including pinenuts.
  8. Have Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion in the kitchen!