I’ve been fascinated with food, nutrition and how your diet affects how you feel and look since I was a teenager. I’ve studied nutrition in London and Dublin, bought endless health magazines and read numerous books on nutrition. But the huge range of diets on the market today is mind boggling, confusing and ever growing.
We’ve moved far from the basic simplicity of food and nutrition and are becoming lost in a maze of calorie counting and restricting ourselves to follow certain limitating diets. This just isn’t sustainable.
Atkins, Paleo, Cabbage soup, Raw, Juicing, Mediterranean, Sugar free, Fat Free. . . Take a look at the cover of the vast majority of magazines and some diet or other is being promoted. Book shops have shelves devoted to various eating plans. Its no wonder people are confused about what to eat and not. Making healthy food choices has become a wilderness. There are so many rules and restrictions.
Believe it or not I think healthy eating is very simple. If we all ate whole foods cooked from scratch we’re on the right path. It’s when we apply the gold standard rules that eating healthily becomes increasingly complex and more difficult for most.
The benefits of eating natural unprocessed foods include stabilising weight fluctuations, increased energy, improved health, a more efficient immune system.
In this post I’ll give you my top tips to get on the right path. Once you get started you can always strive to keep improving your diet.
Eat whole foods, limit processed.
The most important thing when trying to start eating healthier is to eat whole foods as close to their natural state as possible. In today’s fast paced life, it has become the norm to eat mainly processed foods. In fact we eat so many processed foods that some people don’t realise that the food they are eating is not fresh and whole! Consider foods like cartons of OJ or pre made bottled smoothies. If you were to make these fresh at home they’d spoil quickly but in supermarkets they have a vastly extended shelf life. Commercial breakfast cereals, cartons of ready made soup and certain breads are other common examples. By eating whole foods you naturally limit the amount of added salt, sugars, additives & preservatives and other synthetic chemicals you ingest. Examples of whole foods are
- Fresh fruits and vegetables. Frozen are also a good choice and it maybe more practical to start with a mixture of both fresh and frozen.
- Whole unprocessed grains, eg brown rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat.
- Lentils and a variety of beans are also good choices.
- Good quality unrefined oil eg coconut oil. Olive oil which has been cold pressed and stored in a darkened glass bottle which prevents the oil going rancid.
- Nuts & seeds
Cook from scratch
Cooking from scratch initially means setting time aside to plan and prepare meals in advance. However most people find that soon this becomes part of their daily routine and find cooking a satisfying way to relax and unwind. Eating this way you really get to know what you are putting into your body and promotes using whole foods over unprocessed foods.
Read the labels
When shopping, give yourself some time ( to start with at least) to read the labels of the foods you are purchasing. Not just the protein and fat content, the actual ingredients. Once you do this you’ll be amazed how many of the ingredients you can’t pronounce never mind know what they are or what they do to your body. Basic rule – If you don’t know what an ingredient is, don’t buy it! This was a habit I got into years ago when I lived in London. To start with my food shops took a little longer than other people’s but I soon got familiar with how to quickly scan a label and pick out the nasty ingredients.
Portion size over calorie counting
Bin calorie counting. Calories are not all equal. The amount of calories in a chocolate bar is less than in an avocado or handful of nuts. But look at the extra amazing nutritious nutrients that you get, fibre, EFA, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes. These are so beneficial and nesserary for optimal health. Getting familiar with portion size is a much healthier approach to food and diet.
Start to listen to your body signals
Finally by tuning into your body’s needs you’ll naturally start fueling yourself with nutritious wholesome foods that you need to carry out all the various metabolic processes. Eating when you’re hungry and learning to stop when you’ve had enough. Not over indulging. Choosing the foods that agree with you and not expend your energy.
One afternoon, on the go and very busy with two young children I was hungry and had to eat something that was quick to prepare. I grabbed a couple of slices of bread and made a cheese sandwich. Afterwards I noticed my hunger was gone but I had no energy. This meal choice filled me up with saturated fats and high protein that is found in dairy products but it gave me no energy. The following day I devoured an avocado and salad sandwich, much more satisfying! By listening to your body signals like this you’ll easily choose the best foods for you.
My 12 basic food essentials
- Coconut oil
- Raw cacao
- Chia seeds
Now I’m off to the green grocery!! 😀