What do I need to eat?
There are 6 basic parts that are essential to a healthy diet. These are:
But we will look mainly at the first three:
Carbohydrates – 1 gram = 4 Calories:
This is the best source of fuel to power the movements of our body. Around 50-60% of our diet should be carbohydrates. You can divide them into “simple carbs” (natural and refined sugars) and “complex carbs” (mostly found in foods that are plant based, as opposed to animal based). Eating plenty of complex carbs are not linked to any illnesses, but eating too much simple carbs is linked to type 2 diabetes and dental problems. Common sources of simple carbs are: fruit, milk, honey, sweets. Common sources of complex carbs are: whole grain seeds, veggies, dried peas & beans, seeds, cereals, potatoes.
Protein – 1 gram = 4 Calories:
This is what is turned into most of the soft tissue of our body (muscles, tendons, ligaments etc). Around 10-15% of our diet should be proteins. Common sources of proteins are: meat, dairy products, eggs, fish, beans, seeds, nuts, whole grains.
Fat – 1 gram = 9 Calories:
Along with other roles, stored fat is by far the bodys largest store of energy, helps insulate and cushion the body and play vital part in making our nerves actually work. Remember, fat is essential and should make up 25-30% of our diets. We can divide fats into “saturated” (comes mainly from animal & dairy sources and is solid at room temperature) and “unsaturated” (comes mainly from plant and fish sources and is liquid at room temperature). Saturated fat has a strongly linked to getting Chronic Heart Disease, so choose unsaturated fats whenever you can. Common sources of saturated fats are: beef, lamb, pork, chicken, coconut & palm oil. Common sources of unsaturated fats are: olive, sunflower and fish oils.
10 basic rules to live by
1. The less processed the better.
As a general rule, the less processed the food, and the closer it is to its natural state, the healthier it is for you. When food is processed (when it has additives, colours, preservatives & flavours added, or its texture is changed) it usually looses lots of its goodness, and has sugars and fats added. For example, a simple baked potato is much better than its processed version, a bag of crisps. Wholemeal versions of bread, pasta etc are better than their processed, white versions.
2. Include colourful fruit & veg in every meal.
Complex carbs in the form of veggies should be a major part of every meal. They are low in calories, contain loads of vitamins & minerals and help fill you up. The different coloured veggies have different vitamins & minerals, so more colours mean a healthier, tastier meal! Stage 1 is to ask yourself this simple question each meal – “How can I add more colourful fruit and veg to this meal”.
3. Include lean protein in every meal.
Proteins are the building blocks of our body. When we have plenty of them in our diet, we are less likely to “cannibalise” them from other parts of our body. Also, protein makes us feel “fuller” for longer. So we are less likely to feel hungry a few minutes later.
4. With meat, the fewer the legs, the better.
As a general rule of thumb, fish (no legs) are very good sources of lean protein. Poultry (2 legs) are good depending on how you prepare them, while you should be more choosey with dairy & pork products (4 legs). These tend to have much higher levels of “bad” saturated fats.
Use the previous rules and make sure you have a good breakfast every morning. This meal sets you up for the rest of the day, gives you an energy boost so you don’t spend the morning feeling run down and slow. It has also been shown time and again that people who have a proper breakfast can control their bodyweight much easier.
6. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full.
It sounds a bit silly, but listen to your body. If you are hungry, eat some food. But don’t just keep going without thinking. Every few mouthfuls, ask yourself “am I still hungry?” And whether you have finished the food or not, if you are not hungry…stop eating! This will help you get in touch with your body and it’s actual needs, instead of just blindly following a habit.
7. Learn how to use the kitchen.
Some of the worst foods we have are “convenience” foods such as fast foods, take aways, sugary/salty snacks and drinks. By preparing our own meals we can make sure they are much healthier and much cheaper. It also makes the next rule much easier…
8. Make packed lunches.
Spend 10 minutes and make yourself a packed lunch and some snacks for the day. This will save you lots of money, you can make sure its healthy and will make sure you are able to eat little and often throughout the day, boosting your metabolism. Being prepared with your food is one of the greatest habits you can have.
Everyone is different, but in the British climate, it is recommended that we drink 1.5-2.5 litres of water every day. Avoid fizzy drinks as these tend to have loads of sugar and artificial additives in them. Remember the first rule – “The less processed the better”.
10. Break the rules once a week.
Be honest, but if your eating habits have been good throughout the week, then give yourself a special treat and break the rules. Go out for a celebratory slap up meal with your family/friends and let your hair down once a week. But remember, this is a treat, and they are only special if they are rare! If you like this article, you can print, email or share it using the buttons below, or you can subscribe tothis blog via RSS or email using the buttons at the top right of the page. If you have any questions about fitness and how you can improve it, contact us for a free consultation.