Eat yourself Healthy
Healthy eating is very simply going back to basics. If you use fresh ingredients for at least 80% of your diet, you really will be achieving better health. It is common sense. Food that has been put together in a factory is going to have less nutrients than pure food. Treat your food with respect. Your health is so important and it is only when we get older we really appreciate this.
My biggest concern is for our children. Without the good, healthy foundations in place, they will develop ill health far quicker than other generations. According to the Dept of Health, direct costs caused by obesity are estimated to be £4.2 billion per year and forecast to more than double by 2050 if we carry on as we are. Parents are getting accustomed to seeing obese children so they are becoming less aware of their own child’s weight problems. A study by Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, revealed that three quarters of parents failed to recognise their child was overweight. 33 percent of mums and 57 percent of dads considered their child’s weight to be ‘about right’ when, in fact, they were obese.
Are you getting enough?
We all need to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. We have seen the government campaign but do we really understand what it means and why it is so important. I did a workshop at a primary school and I was horrified that the teacher believed 5 a day was a maximum! It is actually the minimum we should consume. Please ignore the marketing ploys to encourage you to buy junk food in order to get your 5 a day. There really is no way a chewy bar contains the same nutrients and phytonutrients you find in a fruit or vegetable.
Did you know?
Potatoes do not count as part of your five a day
What is a portion?
2 small fruits, such as satsumas, kiwi or plums,
1 medium fruit, such as apple, pear, orange or banana,
½ a large fruit, such as melon, grapefruit or pineapple
30g of dried fruit
4 heaped tablespoons of green vegetables
3 heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables such as carrots or peas
3 heaped tablespoons of pulses or beans (baked beans do count!)
150ml of unsweetened fruit or vegetable juice (further glasses of juice don’t count toward your total 5 a day)
100% fruit or vegetable Smoothies count as 2 portions
Why do we need a minimum of 5 a day?
Fruit and vegetables contain health busting vitamins and minerals as well as essential phytonutrients which help protect you from diseases such as cancer and heart disease. They contain fibre which can help keep your bowel healthy and happy, and they also help create a balanced diet.
When serving food, we tend to load a plate and overeat. Try using a smaller plate and you will soon be cutting calories without really noticing. Use the same principle when feeding your children – they often feel intimidated by an overloaded plate. Far better to give them less and enjoy hearing them ask for more, rather than watch them struggle with a large meal.
Chew Your Food
Digestion start when the food enters your mouth and chewing is a vital part of our digestive process. Chew your food slowly and enjoy the taste of your food. Giving yourself time to eat will allow you to start to hear your body telling you when you are full. If you shovel in the food quickly you will ignore this signal.
Sit at a table, not in front of the TV
This is not about etiquette. Your digestion will work better if you are sitting comfortably at a table, plus your attention will be on your food. Paul McKenna ran an interesting experiment by feeding unsuspecting cinema goers with stale popcorn. No one noticed what it tasted like as they were too busy watching the film, yet they all finished their large pots. The idea is conscious eating – if you are aware of every mouthful, you are less likely to make bad food choices, less likely to binge and more likely to listen to your body when it tells you its full.
Dump the remote, hide the car keys, and do all you can to keep moving. Not only are you burning calories, you’re also increasing your heart-rate, expanding your lungs and moving your muscles. Try to be more active during the day as a slow metabolism holds on to weight. If you exercise in the hour prior to eating, your metabolic rate is higher, which means that any calories taken in will be burnt off quicker. Activity will not only help you shed pounds, it will also help strengthen your heart. Aim for at least 20 minutes a day. Try swimming, walking, cycling or even join a dancing class. Whatever you choose make sure you have fun.
Many people confuse thirst signals for hunger pangs. Drink plenty of water (not fizzy drinks, tea or coffee!). This will help re-hydrate you and will also keep hunger and headaches at bay.
Ditch the frying pan.
Grill or oven-bake instead of frying your foods. If you love chips, try baking potato wedges coated with paprika and spray with olive oil for a healthier option. I fill a spray container with light olive oil, ready to spray food or pans as this works well and reduces the oil content.
You can tell at a glance whether a meal is healthy or not. Healthy food is full of colour and vibrancy. Junk food is biscuit coloured. Fill your plate with a variety of colours for a healthy and nutritious meal. You can choose your food by their colour – for example, side vegetables, you could opt for green cabbage, vibrant orange carrots and yellow Sweetcorn. Great creative with your food colour palate.
Don’t skip meals.
Eat three nourishing meals a day. It is a complete myth that you will lose weight if you skip meals. All you will do is get a slump in your blood sugar levels, headaches and generally feel grotty…all the more reason to grab the nearest chocolate bar and wallow in self-pity. Instead, eat more, but choose your food with care. Pack all your meals with nutritious wholegrains to avoid sugar slumps and cravings. Organisations such as Slimming World and Weightwatchers include foods that are point free or free to eat with their diets. These are usually fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, so there is no excuse, even when losing weight, to go hungry.
Smiling and laughing increases production of your feel-good endorphins. Not only will you feel better and more positive, but those around you will also benefit as smiling is contagious.
Ditch the caffeine and opt for the healthier substitute. Start by switching to decaffeinated teas and coffees, but for ultimate health, cut down or ditch them altogether. Green tea is packed with powerful antioxidants which can help lower cholesterol, boast your immune system and lower blood pressure.
Cut the Fizz.
Fizzy drinks are packed with sugars and chemicals – even diet/sugar free drinks are bad for you. If you like the fizz, try sparkling water mixed with fruit juice or natural cordial or even better a slice of lemon.
Avoid fast food.
Fast food, Junk Food, Processed food – they are all the same thing. These are packed with unhealthy fats, salts, sugars, chemicals and very little nutrients. They also cost more than home-cooked meals. So why do they account for approximately 70-80% of the average family food shopping? Change your processed food habit and opt for easy to make, home-cooked meals.
Time for you.
Step out of the rat race and find some time in your busy life. Set aside some time every day just for you, even for only five minutes. This could be reading, relaxing, a pampering session or just enjoying your favourite hobby. It may sound like a simple thing to do, but how often do you actually have time to yourself?
Respect your food
Learn to treat your food with respect and to get the most out of them. Food processing and cooking can destroy nutrients. Therefore buy fresh ingredients and cook home-cooked meals. Think about how you can get the most benefit from your food.
Nutrients, particularly vitamins are lost when you boil your vegetables. Buy a steamer to ensure your vegetables are packed with nutrients. They will taste better too. Invest in a wok and stir fry to lock in flavours and nutrients. Slow cookers are also a great tool not just for convenience but also for making nutrient-rich soups, casseroles and one-pot meals. Raw foods are also good for you. This could be salads, smoothies, juices or simply eating some fresh fruit or vegetable sticks.
Back to School.
Hobbies can improve you mental and physical health. Learn to cook, exercise or even knit (known to lower blood pressure). It will also help build confidence and make friends.
One of the biggest reasons we overeat is due to emotional stress (the other big reason is boredom!). Be aware of your emotions. Vitamin B supplementation and St John’s Wort can help ease stress and depression. Unhealthy diets, particularly processed foods, can upset your natural balance and can often lead to emotional health problems. Changing to a nutrient rich diet, whilst adding some interim supplementation should really help.
Look after your teeth
Good teeth help you look younger and healthier. Have regular check-ups with your dentist. Brush and floss teeth twice a day to avoid gum disease – the major cause of losing your teeth. Some research suggests that flossing your teeth daily can help increase your life!
Yes, sleep is one of the best health promoting activities. try to aim for a good 8 hours sleep a night. During sleep your body maintains its own glucose and insulin levels as well as growth hormone levels – which is why you don’t wake up during the night craving a tasty snack. Disturbed sleep not only makes you grumpy but can have an serious effect on your metabolism. Shift workers, particularly those who vary their shift patterns can suffer more from weight fluctuations and mental health problems.
Teach your children well
This is the most important legacy you can ever leave your children. Teach them to enjoy, respect and know their food. Start them young by feeding them wholesome foods as soon as they are weaned. Children don’t need specially formulated kids foods, or tempting with cartoon characters. They just need to learn to love food for what it is. They will emulate their parents, so if you love good food, they will too.
Sarah Flower is a leading Nutritionist and Author. www.sarahflower.co.uk