What constitutes healthy eating? There's so much conflicting information out there and ways of approaching the food we consume. Be it Paleo, gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, low fat, no carb, vegetarian, it's often hard to know which way to turn.
Personally I am not a fan of the word diet, as it tends to have connotations that you might be missing out on something. Even when you have an intolerance there are so many ways you can add some delicious alternatives into your meals.
I believe it's very important to recognize that the way someone else eats may not be right for you, and we need to work out what is right for us individually.
The best way to discover this is to really pay attention to how you feel after eating. Keeping a food diary over a period of weeks can be very beneficial. How did your body react? Did it effect your mood in any way? Asking these questions can help us to finely tune our awareness.
Ultimately our food should give us energy, improve our mood and make us feel alive and well.
If you really feel something is upsetting your system and you can't work out what it is, you can try a food elimination diet, where you strip everything right back and slowly introduce individual foods back into your meals to see how you react.
I also think it's key not to be too rigid that eating begins to stress you out. The effect of that can be worse on our systems than the so called perceived bad food itself. If you do indulge, it's those times that you should savour every morsel and most importantly don't beat yourself up over it, you can go back to those green smoothies tomorrow!.
Funnily enough, even with all the contradictory information out there, eating can be pretty simple if you stick to some basic principles of how to nourish your body.
Firstly the biggest key to eating well is "Real Food", meaning wholefoods that are unprocessed, local and organic where possible.
As Michael Pollan says who wrote the best selling book Food Rules, "Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognise as food!"
Vegetables and Fruits - Have a wide range of vegetables and fruits in your meals, preferably organic. Do your best to eat a rainbow of different coloured vegetables as they all provide different vitamins, nutrients, and also contain fibre. In general try to have half your plate as vegetables.
Wholegrains - Eat grains that are unprocessed such as whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, oats and millet, as they are packed with nutrients that help prevent and fight disease.
Organic Lean Meats, Organic Chicken and Unfarmed Fish are all excellent sources of protein, that are building block for our bones, cartilage, skin and blood.
Healthy Fats - Many people are afraid of fat, however healthy fats are essential to keep our brains functioning at optimal level, and your body strong. They can actually improve your cholesterol levels and decrease the susceptibility to Diabetes 2 and heart disease. Avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, oily fish, ghee, nuts and seeds are all fantastic sources of fats that are good for us.
High Fat Good Quality Dairy - If you are dairy tolerant enjoy cheeses, full fat milk and yoghurts that are rich in calcium and healthy fats. Always choose organic dairy, grass fed where possible.
Beans and Legumes are high in protein, minerals and fibre. They're an important part of a vegetarian diet.
Fermented Foods that contain probiotics to keep our guts healthy, such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimichi, miso. You can check out my article on gut health here.
WHAT SHOULD YOU AVOID?
Refined foods such as white rice, white pasta, white bread, refined grain breakfast cereals, where all the nutrients have been stripped out.
Processed foods and in general food that comes in packaging that often has additives and artificial flavours. Even if it's in the health food section there's no guarantee that they're preservative and additive free. Read the labels carefully.
Sugar, in particular fructose, is incredibly addictive and increases our risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, as well as ageing us and leading to weight gain.
Saturated fats found in fatty meats, and Trans Fats found in hydrogenated oils such as margarine and vegetable oil where a chemical process has occurred. Both of these types of fats can elevate cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.
Low fat foods are often stripped of the essential nutrients, and because they change the process of the oils chemically, it can often make them dangerous for our health. Additionally because they lower the fat levels that gives flavour, they pack them full of sugar to make them tasty, and because sugar is addictive it leaves you wanting more. You are better off having a small amount of the high fat food that satiates the appetite, is healthier for you, and will also keep you going for longer.
As I said these are just guidelines, so see what is right for you, but healthy eating need not get too complicated. To keep it simple, stick to real food and cut out the processing!
I am always here to consult and assist you to find out more about the food that is right for you.
Just remember healthy eating can also be delicious!
And most importantly..... Enjoy!