Do I have to give up treats to be healthy? 

You hear people saying that you need a healthy balance, but what does that mean? I believe this means something different for everyone but understanding why you eat and implementing simple ideas can have you well on your way to a balanced diet.


Why do you eat? Because it tastes good!! Well yes… But why do you NEED to eat? To provide our bodies with all the different minerals, vitamins and other nutrients it needs so we feel energetic, reduce the risk of disease and live longer.


When I talk about a balanced diet, I mean enjoying all the different food groups. Your body relies on macronutrients and this includes carbohydrates, fat and protein. Depriving yourself of a particular macronutrient can be harmful to your health. For example, how often do you hear to ‘cut out the carbs’? Carbohydrates are vital to your health, energy and a functioning body. Instead of cutting out an entire macronutrient like carbohydrates, a better choice would be switching from white or refined carbohydrates to whole grain carbohydrates, which are low GI - but I’ll save this topic for an entire blog itself (Carbophobia)!


I believe you can have a balanced diet and still enjoy the simple pleasures of life… like CHOCOLATE. Here’s 3 key points to get you started and remember, one step in the right direction is better than no step at all, just focus on one thing at a time and avoid overhauling your fridge & pantry in 24hrs.


VARIETY

Eating a wide variety of food not only means you’re enjoying a diverse range of foods & flavours, but you’re also providing your body with a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Your best source of nutrition will come from eating from all the macro groups:

Protein (meat, fish, eggs, beans, soy); Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt);

Carbohydrates (low GI (glycemic Index) carbs are best for you, I will do a blog about carbs and low GI very soon)


Healthy fats such as the unsaturated fat from olive oil or avocado.

On top of this, a good quality multi-vitamin can top up any vitamins or minerals that aren’t covered in your diet on a daily basis.


PROPER PORTIONING

I would recommend the age old ½ a plate for fruit/vegetables, ¼ for whole-grains and ¼ for lean protein as the best way to balance your nutrients (unless you’re eating from a plate the size of your dining table!). If you feel you eat too larger portions, try to slowly reduce it over time. A few other tricks to avoid overeating may be:

Finding a smaller plate to serve your meals on (your brain will love a plate that looks full!).

Put your vegetables on the plate first, not last, to ensure you get your 50% portion of vegetables and then you only have space for a balanced amount of grains and protein.

Serve your dinner and pack leftovers for lunch the next day (healthy lunch tomorrow sorted!!)

Slow down and enjoy your meal. I aim to stop eating when I’m 80% full as a good trick, it takes time for your brain to receive the message that you are full, often by the time you feel full, you have actually over eaten and within 15 minutes you will feel uncomfortably full.

It’s important to remember we are all individual and our bodies all react differently to foods. Play a bit of trial and error and find what works best for you. Alternatively, when this gets all too much, speaking to a professional about finding the best eating plan for you can make a huge difference and put you on the right path.


ENJOY THE FOOD YOU EAT

Did Sally next door tell you that spinach is healthy but you absolutely hate spinach? Guess what? You don’t have to eat spinach! You can find those nutrients in other foods you actually enjoy. Making changes to the way you eat is challenging at the best of times, let alone forcing yourself to eat something that makes you gag. We are so spoilt for choice with food, I would recommend trying different things and experimenting to find what works best for you.

Enjoy your ‘happy foods’! How do you know what a ‘happy’ food is? I call a happy food something that you find delicious, but is nutritionally empty in calories. I have my happy foods when I really feel like them. Perhaps not as often as I used to and in smaller quantities now, so when I do have my happy foods I take the time to enjoy every mouthful. Think about 1 or 2 items that you couldn’t live without, for example for me I can say no to donuts, hot chips or chocolate cake quite easily, but offer me a glass of Shiraz and I would feel really deprived if I said no thanks. I try to eat well 90% of the time and then really enjoy my happy for the other 10%.


Lastly, remember it’s okay to not be perfect all the time, as long as you aim to be better than you were yesterday, you’ll see improvements. Enjoy social outings with friends, eat your happy food like chocolate (just not the whole block) and enjoy eating a wide variety of foods. Have fun with your food!


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