Whether you want to lose weight or not, healthy eating is important for everyone. And it’s not difficult if you follow the “Eat More/ Eat Less” principles of healthy eating:
- Fresh vegetables – full of fibre, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, vegetables should be the staple of every diet.
And because your body burns energy digesting food, the low calorie count of some vegetables (mostly the green ones like celery, cucumber, cabbage, capsicum and tomatoes) means that you actually burn more calories than you gain from eating them! A vegetable platter with tomato salsa is the perfect guilt free snack.
And you can grow them yourself – check out the vegetable planting guide in the ToolBOX under “Environmental Tools” to find out how.
- Fresh fruit (rather than fruit juice) – also full of fibre, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, fruit is natures candy.
Fruit in its entirety is good for you. Fruit juice removes the fibre, which is a large proportion of the fruit’s goodness. Fruit juice has its place, but eating one apple is much better for you, and much more satisfying than drinking a glass of apple juice.
Think about it yourself. The calories from fruit comes entirely from the fructose (sugar) component which is contained in the fruit’s juice – that’s what makes it sweet. If you eat an apple, you feel satisfied from the fibre and you’ve had a nice little energy from the fructose. Now, if you have a glass of apple juice instead, you don’t feel nearly as full (since there is no fibre in the fruit juice) so you’ll probably still be hungry, and it takes something like 5 apples to make a standard glass of juice, so you get the energy (ie calories) of 5 apples instead of only 1!
If you would rather drink fruit than eat it, try juicing your own. You can leave a lot of the fibre in (and even add some more with a teaspoon of pysillium husk), control the amount of fruit that goes into it and make some fantastic combinations.
You can also add complimentary vegetables like carrot and celery that don’t ruin the taste but add heaps of vitamins, fibre to make you feel full and not many extra calories (veges generally have fewer calories than fruit).
- Whole grains, cereals and foods high in dietary fibre – typically low GI, these foods release energy slowly throughout the day and therefore keep you feeling full longer.
- Lean protein – protein is an essential building block for muscles and the body’s organs. Eating a palm sized portion of lean protein 3 times a day will give you enough to keep your body functioning properly. And protein is slow to digest so keeps you feeling full longer.
- Water – essential for health water has a role in weight management as well [see below for more information].
Good fats from nuts and fish - a handle of nuts as a snack and a fish meal 2-3 times per week is all you need.
Dairy is fine, but if you are lactose intolerant then try the soy products as an alternative. Calcium is vital for good health.
Caffeine – some caffeine is fine, but too much can lead to sleep problems and can affect the nervous system. Have no more than 2 cups of coffee or 4 cups of black tea per day.
Whether you need to eat more or less of these depends on how much you’re already eating – aim for the quantities mentioned above.
- Fried foods – full of bad saturated or trans fats, these are just unhealthy all around. Your body needs some fat, but you get enough from protein, nuts and general eating.
- Salt – salt has an instant effect on your blood pressure (makes it go up), so eating too much in one hit can cause heart stress and lead to longer term heart disease. Some salt of course is necessary, but aim for no more than 2500 mg per day.
- Processed foods – the more processed or refined a food, the less nutrition it has. Eat the raw source instead.
- Sugary foods and Sweetened drinks including sodas/ softdrinks and sweetened fruit juices – processed sugar in modern foods is very easy to digest and convert to energy. Typically this is as one spike of energy, which gives you body mixed messages.
- Green tea or herbal tea instead of coffee.
- Water or unsweetened fruit juice instead of sodas/ sweetened drinks.
- Grilled food, instead of fried.
- Tomato based pasta sauces instead of creamy ones (unless it’s a low fat creamy sauce).
- Side serve of salad rather than side serve of chips.
- Vinaigrette dressings instead of creamy salad dressings.
Of course, the key to healthy eating is balance. A diet made up entirely of brussel sprouts is going to leave to deficient in so many other things.
And it’s also important to get the right spread of calories throughout the day. Aim for 5 or 6 smaller meals throughout the day – ALWAYS eat breakfast within 1 hour of waking up and try not to eat anything within 2 hours of going to bed [have a drink of water instead]. This is all part of healthy eating.
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Water and it’s role in your health
To be healthy, we need to keep all of our body systems functioning properly. The biggest culprit affecting our body systems is dehydration – which is caused by not drinking enough water.
If you’re dehydrated:
- Your kidneys will struggle, which will place additional load on your liver (which is important for metabolising fat), your bowels (leading to constipation) and your heart – not a good thing to do.
- Your body goes into drought mode when you don’t drink enough water, and your body will retain fluid making you look puffy and bloated.
- You’ll feel lethargic, but will often have trouble sleeping.
- Your skin and hair will feel dry and horrible.
- Your pee will be dark yellow or orange – you should be aiming for very pale yellow pee.
So drinking enough water is an essential part of maintaining good healthy eating. Females should drink 2 L per day and males, 3 L per day – more if you exercise or if it is hot. And caffeine drinks don’t count as water – they are a diuretic and will just pass straight through.
Also watch your intake of sports drinks – unless you are running marathons or doing extreme levels of exercise and need rapid rehydration, sports drinks offer little benefit other than an energy boost (ie calories!).
Do you or don’t you need to take supplements?
The theory is that, if you are eating a perfectly balanced diet, you will be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need from the food you eat. In reality though, we usually end up eating some processed food (which strip the majority of vitamins and minerals from the food).
It is therefore wise to take a multivitamin supplement to ensure you’re getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals as part of healthy eating.
Goals for healthy eating
When setting any goal, it’s important not to take on too much at one time – and particularly if you’re changing from fundamentally bad eating habits, it takes time to form good healthy eating habits – so just tackle one thing at a time.
If you use the eat less eat more approach to health eating, setting healthy eating goals is easy.
Example goals for healthy eating might look something like this:
Get the basics:
Eat breakfast within 1 hour of waking.
Drink 2 L of water per day – have a glass of water before and after every meal and snack.
Take dietary supplements as required to minimise sugar cravings and for general health.
Continue with Week 1 goals, plus:
Eat More Fibre and whole grains – have oatmeal for breakfast; use whole grain bread for lunch and brown rice for dinner.
Eat Less Salt – Throw away the table salt shaker; Buy low salt food options when available.
Continue with Week 1 and 2 goals, plus:
Eat More vegetables – have vegetable fingers pre-cut in the fridge for a healthy snack; aim for 5 serves of vegetables per day (may want to start with less and work you way up to 5 full serves if you aren’t used to eating so many veges)
Eat Less fatty food – no more fried foods or fatty fast foods. Choose low fat alternatives instead.
Continue with Week 1 to 3 goals, plus:
Eat more lean protein – eat a palm sized portion of lean protein 3 times per day. Eat fish 2-3 times per week.
Eat less processed foods – replace processes meats with lean protein as above. Select wholegrain breads instead of white.
Continue with Week 1 to 4 goals, plus:
Eat More fruit – eat 2 serves of fresh fruit per day.
Eat Less sugar – replace sweet snacks with fruit as above; drink water or unsweetened juice instead of soda/ soft drink or sweetened drinks.
Try the above healthy eating program for 6 weeks – I guarantee you’ll feel much more energetic and health, and may even have lost some weight too!
Or try some of these
healthy eating diets…