For too many years we have all concentrated solely on calories – anyone wanting to lose weight is familiar with the concept that in order to lose weight the equation must be ‘energy in < energy out’. How many people out there (me included) can rattle of the calorie content of half a dozen items? Everyone knows that in order to lose weight we must have a low-calorie diet, right?
It is so much more than calories in versus energy out – the quality of the food we eat is incredibly important, more so than I think we generally realise.
If we clean up our diets and eat healthily our bodies won’t be craving starches, chocolate, caffeine; if we ate healthily the amount of energy we consume (calories) would, in general, take care of itself; if we eliminated the junk from our diets and ate REAL food (i.e. not processed) we wouldn’t need to worry about counting calories.
Let me give you an example; we are all familiar with the concept of eating a low-calorie yoghurt, something that has had the fat removed or at least drastically reduced. In order to make it palatable and therefore something people will buy, they have to replace the fat with something else – that something is usually sugar or a sugar substitute. So although the low-calorie yoghurt may be low-fat and fall under a defined calorie figure, the carb content from sugar will be much higher than if it had been unadulterated.
And lets just say, I would much rather know what I am eating rather than consume quantities of chemically engineered sweetener whose long-term impact on the human body has still to be determined.
So, in simple terms stop counting calories; improve the QUALITY of the food you eat long before you adjust the quantity.
In my opinion, grains are bad. Put very simply, from an evolutionary point of view we did not evolve to eat grain; in terms of human evolution the cultivating of grain and the processes thereafter are a relatively recent phenomenon and it is no small coincidence that we cannot digest grain in its purest form, it has to be processed in some way to allow us to digest it.
In more recent history we worked out how to mill grain into much finer flour and the ability to create large quantities of white bread was born; today grain is processed and stripped of any nutritional benefit such that we have to fortify it to gain any real benefit.
Apart from my reluctance to eat such processed food stuffs that are a million miles away from real foods the body treats all such starches as sugar and the resulting impact on blood sugar levels and potential fat storage gives me even more reason to stay away from all sources of grain. There is, in short, no nutritional benefit in gluten grains apart from as a source of energy – we can find much better, more nutritious sources than that in a varied, healthy diet.
So, in short if I was to sum up my diet/nutrition principle for grains it would be;
- Dont eat any bread
- No bread products
- No pasta
- No products made from flour
Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are good aren’t they? We can all eat as much as we want of fruit and veg can’t we? Umm no, we can’t. Unfortunately not all fruit and vegetables are created equal and some are definitely much better than others.
Starchy vegetables – tubers, stuff that grows underground. These are converted by the body as sugar and where there is a source of sugar the body will use that as a source of energy, which is fine if you are at a healthy weight but no good for the majority of the population that could do with losing a pound or ten! Simple rule, no starchy veg.
Green leafy veg are good, a healthy source of vitamins, minerals and fibre but we shouldn’t limit our vegetable intake to only green leafy veg. Make sure your diet comprises a wide variety of different coloured vegetables to be sure to get the full complement of vitamins and minerals. A mixture of different coloured vegetables as part of a healthy diet will provide a good nutritional intake and will help stop cravings.
Fruit – everyone assumes that fruit is an unlimited product, that we can eat as much as we want with no real impact but why do we think fruit tastes so good? Could it be any chance be the natural sugars? Theres the clue to why we should limit our intake of fruit – SUGAR!
Eat some real fruit by all means but not six oranges at a time and make sure you eat some protein too – a banana with some almonds or an apple and some walnuts. Both are yummy and make an appearance as part of my snack regime from time to time.
Protein, one of my favourite subjects! I am a complete convert to the idea of eating more protein and I love my meat, eggs and fish. Most people don’t eat anywhere near enough good protein and as far as I am concerned all meals or snacks should comprise an element of carbs (veg, fruit etc) and protein (meat, fish, eggs, nuts).
We eat breakfast cereal (hello grain again!) not because it’s some essential nutrient for our bodies but because we have become socialised to believe that it is an acceptable thing to do – the socialisation has happened because of the power of advertising and the power / money the grain and breakfast cereal companies have.
Breakfast should, as far as I am concerned, be protein based. It will set you up for the rest of the morning, make you feel full, avoid cravings and is full of all round yumminess. But to be honest we should all be eating good sources of lean protein every day – and a carb and salt/sugar heavy Big Mac really doesn’t count!
There have been so many studies that show that all the scare stories about high protein diets are simply that – scare stories. This is one that I came across today Higher Protein Diets that confirms that and also addresses the influence of large companies whose income is derived from carb based products and who influence the media position on protein.
Surely by now we all know that we should drink more water? Can there be anyone left who doesn’t know that we don’t drink enough water – not cola, not squash, tea or coffee but water? Water is a fundamental building block of our bodies after all what is it that we are all comprised of?
Yet many many people don’t drink anywhere near enough and supplement their lack of fluids with chemically processed and sweetened drinks – the answer I always get is ‘I don’t like plain water’. Hello, it’s not as if we came out of the womb with an inbuilt taste for cappuccino, tea or Cola – they are products we grew to like because again we have been socialised that they are acceptable beverages. The power of marketing yet again.
It’s quite simple – drink more WATER. Add lemon or lime but drink more water and consume less toxins – which means less coffee, tea, caffeinated drinks, chemically sweetened drinks and definitely less alcohol
Toxins and Processed Foods
Which brings me neatly onto the subject of toxins and processed foods. There is absolutely nothing good to be found in processed food. End of.
The nutritional value is limited, the salt, sugar and additives ratio is beyond belief and at the end of the day I would rather know what I was putting into my body and have some control over it than hand responsibility over to a multi national with a questionable view of what is healthy.
Lets be honest, large supermarkets or manufacturers do not have a vested interest in getting you healthy – their interest is solely down to the bottom line and if they can persuade you that what you are eating is ‘healthy’ by using dubious logics or statistics they will do so.
Cut out processed foods completely. Eat real food, prepared yourself at home, using real ingredients. Source real, local ingredients that havent been treated to keep them green, use foods that are in season and not flown half way round the world in some chemical artificially induced stagnation.
Real food, local, in season ingredients. Know where your food comes from – and I dont mean which branch of Tesco!
Eat regularly – don’t let yourself get hungry
Anyone on a “diet” knows that the worst thing is that you (a) obsess over what you can’t eat and (b) are either worried about being hungry or ARE constantly hungry. If we all ate a healthy balanced diet, rich in natural sources of protein, fats, good carbs and got plenty of vitamins and minerals we wouldn’t BE hungry!
Dont skip breakfast (how many people think it doesn’t matter?), your body needs a good healthy breakfast to kick-start your metabolism; eat regular meals of real food and notice how your cravings diminish.
Eat well, eat real food and notice how much better your body feels, how much sharper you are mentally. And the weird thing is that the weight will drop off as well!