10 TIPS FOR HEALTHY EATING
I’m amazed by the number of friends, family and clients who come to me because they’ve lost their way along the path to good health. But I’m scandalised by the number of doctors, medics and professionally trained chefs who don’t seem to know either. So, if you are a busy executive, flitting from conference to cocktails, a busy writer or maker, reduced to a grabbed sandwich on the go or an equally busy retiree – then these pages are for you. Whether you live and eat alone, or have to cook for a household of six – you’ll find recipes and recommendations that you can use. Start today and you’ll feel a whole lot better by Christmas.
Don’t be afraid to ask about the ingredients of your food, go off menu and question your host. It isn’t rude to say that you are watching your diet and enquire whether the bread is wholemeal. Be picky with yourself too. Start to make your own rather than rely on the supermarket brand. It really doesn’t take a long time to rustle up an omelette, or make a chicken salad. You’ll find that once you cut out the junk, you’ll start to savour good foods, even salads, a whole lot more. This might be the year you start cooking more. I’ll be including some really easy recipes in the series.
Concentrate on getting enough lean protein. This is easy for fish-eaters and vegetarians, but more difficult for meat eaters and vegans. We all need about 0.75g protein/kg weight/day. Adolescents and healthy older people need more. That means even quite a petite woman will require three good meals of 15g protein at each meal, every day. I’ll be giving examples of suitable meals in the coming weeks. All you need to know on Day 1 is that red meats are high in fat, processed protein has too many additives and we need to eat a lot of beans and legumes in order to pack in the protein – especially if we don’t eat eggs and dairy.
Rabbits have a lot of fun!
Be curious with vegetables. You’ll have fun. For example, start serving an exotic vegetable with the main meal, take a few root vegetable sticks or mini fruits on a journey and add fresh leaves to a sandwich. Team the Sunday roast with three (or four) different vegetables instead of two. The government suggests we should eat five portions a day of fruit and veg, but scientists have discovered that a much higher vegetable intake can be even healthier. Be adventurous with your vegetable selection. The more variety of fresh produce you eat, the better your nutrition will be.
On the plate brown is good. Avoid carbohydrates that are not 100% wholemeal, brown or wholegrain. Consider bought biscuits, cakes etc as sweets – they are rarely up to the standard of home-made, made with wholemeal flour. 100% wholemeal wheat flour contains significantly more protein, fibre and iron than fortified white flour.
Tickle the tummy
This isn’t a joke. Foods high in fibre are a bit scratchy and literally tickle our gut muscles into action. Other fibrous foods form a sort of gel in the colon which reduces constipation. Now studies are showing that high fibre food improve our chances of dieting successfully. We need to eat about 30g of fibre each day. That means wholemeal and brown grains, potatoes in their jackets, unpeeled fruit and loads of vegetables.
Learn to love a lightly clad salad, with merely a dribble of olive oil. Bake or poach fish instead of frying it; save batter for a very special occasion. Instead flavour food with herbs, spices, garlic or chilli. You’ll soon surprise yourself by the tiny amount of sugar or fat you need to make things tasty if the basic produce is good quality. Become like a bee. Learn to love naturally sweet foods like fresh fruit, edible flowers or milk, which contains a very healthy sugar called lactase. Try to stay away from artificial sweeteners, there is some evidence that they exacerbate a sweet tooth. Sweeteners are factory chemicals; they all count as processed foods. Why give your precious housekeeping money to the chemical industry?
Balance your life
A balanced diet is useless without a balanced life. That means a work/life balance, plenty of fresh air and exercise and about 8 hours sleep each night. Did you know that a large part of digestion, muscle building and bodily repair happens when you are asleep? You lose weight when you are asleep too. You simply breathe out the carbon dioxide, the waste product of fat burning. If you aren’t sleeping well, you can’t get rally healthy. Practice bedroom hygiene, banish the mobile and learn to leave your worries at the threshold.
Let it be
I was taught at school to finish my plate. But, these days nutritionists advise that it is better to leave food that you don’t want. Even better, is to order a half portion, or share with someone else. Don’t eat to avoid waste. Left-overs make great snacks for later. The real waste would be to eat when you are full and thus increase your own stock of adipose tissue! It isn’t alarmist to remember that adipose tissue kills.
Water is delicious, thirst quenching and does us so much good. Coffee and teas are also fine. But forget sweet drinks and anything bubbly including alcohol and artificial products like Coca-Cola. Bubbles leach our bones and rot our teeth. Alcohol lowers our resolve to eat healthily and makes us do silly and sometimes dangerous things. All sweet drinks, even innocuous orange juice and alcohol (which nutritionally acts just like sugar) will find the fastest metabolic route straight to fat. You don’t need three litres of mineral water each day. Hydration comes equally from soups, watery food such as salads and fruit, tea and even coffee. Just drink little and often and keep a glass by your bed and desk.
We should all strive to increase variety in our diet, never restrict it. Humans have prospered precisely because we were able to find nutrition from many sources of different foods, in different seasons and from different food groups. Many people have cut out really healthy foods like wholemeal bread or full milk because they think they are bad for us. In the main they are simply providing unscrupulous manufacturers with extra profits. Don’t self-diagnose – you might be ruining your long-term health. If you’ve given up something (without medical advice) and want to try it again, simply take a little bit first time around and ramp up each time you eat it again. If you think you have an allergy or intolerance, don’t experiment with your health – see your GP.
If you follow the ‘rules’ above you will be eating pretty well. But if you feel you have gone off course a bit, you may need to rebalance by becoming more aware of what you eat. Eating is so often a bit too automatic. Get back to being conscious about your eating habits by taking notes. Find out a simple way of recording your food here: Go dotty!
Personally, I tend to enjoy eating vegetarian foods, but I do eat organic, free range chicken and sustainable fish. Vegans, vegetarians and demi-veg like me will all find plenty to chew over in these pages. I’m sorry you won’t find any red meat recipes here, because I don’t know any, but you will find advice for meat eaters to balance their diets. My understanding is that grass fed, free range meats are best and my Kiwi friends tell me lamb is always a good choice because sheep are stubborn and can’t be intensively farmed!
I am shamelessly borrowing from The Good Life, a TV series from the 70s which many of you will remember, with affection. It was then that we all started to reassess our lives and think about the environment. But few of us went as far as the fictional Tom Good (Richard Briers), to give up his job designing plastic toys for breakfast cereals and with his wife Barbara (Felicity Kendell) adopt a sustainable, simple and self-sufficient lifestyle while staying in their suburban house.
Almost fifty years on, I often wonder whether more of us from that generation should have taken the stand that Tom and Barbara Good so endearingly pursued. If you hanker for the simple life, then where better to start than with your own diet? By changing your diet, you will be able to lose a bit of weight, improve your health and you’ll be treading more lightly on the planet as well. Its importing, packaging, processing and intensive farming that really push up the carbon footprint of our diet.
If you have any questions please include them in your comments. I’ll respond and post the comment asap. I’ll be publishing one section on-line, each week in a lead-up to Christmas. Subscribe at the bottom of this blog-page, to ensure that you don’t miss an episode. And please do leave a message or send me a tweet @rooftopvegplot and tell me what you think and share what works for you.
13 November – Balanced Diet
20 December – Commensality (celebrations, parties and eating with friends)
27 December – The New You