7 Tips for Good Nutrition
There are all kinds of diets available, while some seem extreme, many people do see improvements in health by removing certain food groups. However, if you are a generally healthy person and you practice these simple principles most of the time, then you are on the right track. I want to reiterate “most of the time” as people too often fail to continue eating correctly after just one ‘slip up’. If you aim to follow these principles 90% of the time, you will see the results you are looking for.
1. Choose foods that provide nutrient density relative to their calorie content
For example, a cinnamon doughnut will provide you with about 300 calories and little to no nutritional benefit. A banana will provide you with around 100 calories and is packed with vitamins and minerals including B6, manganese, vitamin C and potassium as well as fibre. Bananas also have a low glycemic index which means the energy stored in the banana will release slowly in your body without spiking your blood sugar levels and leave you feeling hungry soon after.
The point here is not to get caught up in calorie counting, but to evaluate the nutrition available in the foods you choose. I am a strong believer in achieving this basic principle, as only people who are looking to achieve extreme physical goals should count calories.
2. Eat wholefoods
Think of wholefoods as minimally processed foods that still resemble their original natural state. Nothing artificial has been added to it, and nothing has been taken away. Some good examples are:
Fruit and Vegetables
Eat these whole foods: fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables, frozen fruits, unsalted nuts.
Avoid or reduce these processed foods: fruit or vegetable juices, fruits canned in heavy syrup, fruit snacks/fruit roll-ups, veggie or potato chips, salted/seasoned nuts.
Eat these whole foods: fresh lean meats, fresh fish/shellfish, eggs.
Avoid or reduce these processed foods: bacon, sausages, chicken nuggets, fish fingers, hot dogs, deli meats like ham and salami. (Fun fact: deli meats contain a preservative called sodium nitrite which is suspected to be cancer-promoting. Moderating these foods in the diet is best to help prevent disease).
Eat these whole foods: whole milk, plain yoghurt, cheese and cottage cheese.
Avoid or reduce these processed foods: ice cream, processed cheese (individual slices plastic-wrapped), and sweetened yoghurt.
Eat these whole foods: Brown rice, rolled oats, quinoa, amaranth, barley, buckwheat, millet, whole wheat, spelt.
Avoid or reduce these processed foods: white bread, white pasta, commercially produced baked goods, crackers.
When you compare foods like this, it’s easy to see how selecting foods in their “whole food state” will have a beneficial impact on your health. A lot of people will tell me that they struggle to eat whole foods because they don’t like to cook. Well, I have news for you: if you want to lead a healthy life then you have to suck it up and get in the kitchen! You don’t have to be a master chef to eat well. Keep it simple, try a few new recipes each week and build on your skills.
3. Keep hydrated
Think about a plant. If we don’t water it what happens? The leaves start to shrivel, the flowers die and it generally begins looking droopy. This is what happens to our cells when we don’t drink enough water, they become less elastic, and the transport of nutrients into cells becomes more difficult. Water is important for the synthesis of proteins, glycogen and other macromolecules. It lubricates the joints, eyes and spinal cord acting as a shock absorber. Water is involved in temperature control — when our body temperature rises we begin to sweat, the sweat beads on our skin cooling us down. As a general rule, you will need 30–40ml of water per kilogram of body weight. So if you weigh 65kg you will need 1.95–2.6 litres of water per day. Don’t forget that you will get up to 1 litre of water per day from food, and if you exercise or if it is a particularly hot day then you will need more. Don’t wait to feel thirsty, drink water now!
4. Opt for plant-based meals
Some of the healthiest and longest-living cultures around the world are those who consume a “Mediterranean Diet”. This is not so much of a diet for these people as it is a way of life. Despite how it may sound, they do not eat loads of pasta every day! Fresh salads and vegetables are the main features as well as fruit, olive oil, legumes, nuts, whole grains and fresh fish. Red meat is minimal — perhaps a couple of times per month.
You can incorporate this into your diet by finding 3–4 salads you love and putting them on high rotation. Having salads pre-prepared gives you no excuses to not eat your vegetables.
5. Source your fresh food locally
We know that once the fruit is picked from the plant it begins to lose nutritional value. Purchase Once the fruit is picked from the plant, it begins to lose nutritional value. Purchase food as close to harvest as possible to maximise its health benefits. You can achieve this by shopping at your local farmers' market or greengrocer. Speak to the grower or shop owner to find out how fresh their produce is. Eating locally also means you will be eating seasonally, it is good for the environment, and it supports local business. Win, win in my eyes!
6. Eat from a wide range of foods
Try not to get stuck in the rut of eating the same thing day in day out. This makes your nutrient intake very limited. Plus, it’s boring! Each week pick a new fruit and vegetable, try a new grain, and add in some nuts and seeds. Look for new recipes to keep you inspired because the wider the variety of food you consume, the more opportunity there is for varied nutrient intake.
7. Don’t overeat
Even if you are consuming a whole food diet, you can still eat too much of it! Eat SLOWLY and recognise when you feel about 80% full. This is a good time to stop as it can take your brain a bit longer to catch up to the feelings of fullness in your stomach. After a few minutes, you will probably realise that you are full anyway and you have just avoided overeating.
Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated. Be sensible, eat mostly whole foods, and follow these tips if you get stuck. Taking small steps towards implementing these principles “most of the time” is enough for the majority of us towards achieving good health.
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