Food Basics – What Should We Be Eating?

Basic CMYK

This week I have been going back to basics of what we actually should be eating.

We all know that we should be watching our calories but just as important is where those calories come from.

You know the guideline about eating “5 a day”? This comes from the NHS EatWell plate which highlights the proportions of different food groups that make up a healthy diet.

In truth the “5 a day” is an oversimplification – it actually suggests a minimum  of 2 portions of fruit and  3 veg – along with portion guides for carbs, protein, dairy and even fats and sugars.

When it comes to fruit & veg, they should ideally be eaten whole and include the skin where possible.  Unfortunately juice only counts as 1 portion no matter how much you drink! A fresh smoothie on the other hand is great way to include more in your diet. Try using lots of different coloured veg to maximise the nutrition benefits.

Carbs include bread, pasta, potatoes and rice – the healthiest option is to avoid or limit any white carbs – so think more about using whole meal bread, pasta and rice and use sweet potatoes and squashes instead of white potatoes for your mash, roasts and chips.

Protein should come from a variety of sources, so limit red meats such as beef (which are higher in fat) and try to eat fish at least twice per week, as well as including some non-animal sources like nuts and beans.

When cooking try to steam, flash fry or bake in a small drizzle of oil (either olive or coconut) and avoid boiling and deep fat frying as these methods lose the most nutrients.

Try to cook from fresh when possible and avoid pre-made sauces which often contain lots of sugar.

In terms of Dairy use the lower fat varieties and for a bit of  good news – fats and sugars do form part of a healthy diet so you don’t need to completely avoid crisps and sweets to be healthy – it’s about getting the balance right!

This is why I don’t like “diets”  – they ban the things you enjoy, can restrict your calorie intake too much (to the point of starvation) and can leave you lacking in vital nutrients. While they may help in losing weight at the start, inevitably you end up hating the restrictions and (as they are usually temporary) go back to how you were eating before and put the weight back on – but more on this another time….for now, going back to basics, it is far better to eat a balanced diet that matches your body’s needs.

Getting back to the EatWell plate – the number of portions you should have, depends on your daily calorie requirement – for the average male and female with moderate activity levels this works out at approximately 2500 and 2000 respectively. If you are more active, you would need more or if you are a little more sedentary then you would need less.

If you want to calculate your individual calorie requirement you could use an online calculator such as this: Daily Calorie Calculator

Which takes into account gender, age, height and weight as well as activity levels.

A lot of people struggle with portion size – to make it easy you can use your hand as a guide: a portion of protein (eg meat) should be the size of your palm, a portion of fruit or veg the size of your open hand and a portion of carbs the size of your fist.

That’s it for the basics – if you need more help, phone apps like My Fitness Pal or VirtuaGym’s Calorie,Carb & Fat Counter can help track both your calorie and nutrient intake, and the web is full of videos and recipes for quick healthy and tasty meals – or you can even get in touch with me 😀

In a future post I’ll look a little deeper into macro nutrients, supplements, food choices/alternatives and my dislike of diets 😉

Until next time…..

Healthy food infograph

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Wk 5 Stats update – baby steps

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Like a baby learning to walk – so it is with my improvements……

Diet:  No real change – no cheat days – no massive nights out… (that will change next week – ha ha) I’ve started using the “My Fitness Pal” app to track my diet/calorie intake and I’m consuming an average of roughly 2000 calories per day. Considering the daily guide for men is 2500 as well as doing exercise I should be dropping weight – but on the other hand if I’m looking to build muscle then I need to be eating more!! I’m going to continue to use it and will post a full review once I’ve used it a few weeks.

Exercise: Yay! Back to 4 sessions – Body Pump, Body Combat, Home session (30mins x-trainer 20mins free weights), Gym session 😀  Feel much better for it – starting to get used to “Pump” and remembering what weights to use for each of the tracks etc. I do need to find an easier way to keep a record of it all though and make a proper “plan” for the gym/home sessions rather than just making it up depending on what I feel like.

Weight:  Lost again this week – now at 69.4kg – seems getting back to 4x exercise sessions and “normal”  food/drink intake does make a difference – it’s easy to think that “Just this once….” won’t do any harm – how wrong that can be!

Body Fat:  down to 14.3% – Loving seeing this come down each week – I must be doing something right!

Measurements: No real changes – HOWEVER – finally lost half inch off my waist !!!!!  Didn’t think it was ever going to happen.

BP/HR:  133 over 82 and 64 bpm – slight increase in my BP but still within “normal” range if at the higher end.

Steps:  Continuing to use my activity tracker and I’m now averaging 5300 steps per day – I even had one day that was just 300 steps short of the “required” 10,000 – if I’d checked it earlier in the day I would have done something to do the extra steps – lol.

Sleep:  Have really been focusing on my sleep this week – going to bed at 11pm weeknights and by 1am on weekend and I’ve been averaging 7 hours a night with around 3 hours of deep sleep (according to the tracker). I also tried using a herbal sleep-aid – which also seems to have helped as I haven’t been waking up during the night like before – the one night I didn’t take one  – I ended up waking up and lying awake for half hour. I will continue using them again this week – but then I think I will need to stop as I don’t want to start needing to have them.

Overall then – I’m quite chuffed yes they may still be baby steps – but that’s how we all start and as we start to grow in size and knowledge we learn and are able to make leaps and bounds.