When it comes to improving your health and wellbeing, we all know that a healthy balanced diet is an absolute must. However we also know that there is so much confusion and different opinions on what food is best for you that we sometimes don’t know where to start, so let’s try simplify it.
With reference to the attached sheet ‘Making Healthy Meals’, produced by the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute they give a great visual of what a healthy plate should look like.
1- Prioritise vegetables, half your plate should be full of nutritious veggies, this will ensure your body is nourished to give you energy, keep you feeling full and significantly reduce your risk of disease.
2- Pick a protein (refer below to ‘What is Protein’), be aware of the portion size as it is easy to eat too much, a fist size or a quarter of your plate can be a good reference.
3- Next pick a Low GI carbohydrate (refer below to the ‘What is Carbohydrate’); again the focus needs to be on quantity as it is easy to go over the top with the carb serving, aim for a palm-sized amount.
4- Lastly add a form of healthy fat (refer below to ‘What is a Fat’).
What Is Protein?
Protein is essential in everyone’s diet as it provides the building blocks for your muscles. Protein helps regulate blood sugar levels, provides antibodies to boost your immune system, supplies the body with enzymes to aid digestion and can be a source of energy.
It is important to get a healthy variety of protein in every meal throughout the day. Some optimal sources of protein include fish, skinless chicken, turkey breast, lean red meat, lentils and eggs.
Remember 1gram of protein contains 4 calories.
What Is Carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates (Carbs) main role in the body is to supply energy, which can be quickly used in the form of glucose. They also aid in the optimal function of the thyroid, fuel the brain with energy and protect the muscle tissue from being broken down and used as energy.
Carbohydrates can get a bad rap these days and are blamed for the increase in the poor health of the population however ‘carbs’ are essential in the body so our focus needs to be on the type of carbohydrate we are consuming and how much.
The healthiest options when it comes to carbs include the following; sweet potato, quinoa, wholemeal pasta, brown rice, rolled oats or grain based bread.
Even when we select one of the healthier options (as per above) it is easy to go over board on the quantity. As mentioned above aim for a palm sized amount of carb in each meal.
Remember 1gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories.
What Is Healthy Fat?
Healthy fats are essential in the body and can actually aid with fat loss. Fats provide energy, which help with absorbing nutrients, enhance the feeling of being full, boosts testosterone and maintains core body temperature. Again we must be aware of portion sizes to ensure we aren’t consuming too much. Some examples of healthy fats include olive oil, avocado, nuts, cheese and oily fish.
Remember 1gram of fat contains 9 calories.
When thinking about nutrition it is important to take it right back to the simple formula of calories consumed via nutrition calories used by the body.
Calories simply refer to energy. The body requires a certain level of energy (via food) each day for all the systems of the body to function optimally.
When we consume more energy than our body requires each day then the surplus amount is stored and this is how we slowly gain weight.
So how much energy does our body actually require each day? The answer is going to be different for everyone but it’s important that we have an idea of how many calories this is.
Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories you would burn for the day if you didn’t leave your bed. From here we need to add an activity factor, which takes into consideration how active you are throughout the day, excluding exercise sessions. Finally we need to add in exercise sessions, so essentially on the days you do a workout, you will be burning more calories than usual.
To gain an estimate of what your daily calories burned will be I have included a link below to a website with a calculator based on your sex, age, weight, height and lifestyle.
Once we have created more awareness around what our likely breakeven point will be each day we can then look to make more informed food decisions.
Weekly Challenge – Creating Awareness
The Photo Food Diary
This week’s challenge requires a lot of action. For all meals, snacks and drinks consumed over the next 7 days I want you to take a photo of what you are about to consume.
The purpose of this challenge is to create awareness around what your diet looks like over the complete week. The more you put into this challenge, the more you will get out of it.
My Fitness Pal
My Fitness Pal is a great phone app that you can download for free. The app allows you to input all your food and drink consumption into the daily tracker and will give you a fairly accurate reflection of the nutrients and calories you have or haven’t consumed throughout the day.
This will require a level of time commitment to ensure you are inputting everything you consume into the app but you will certainly reap the benefits of greater awareness and education around your daily intake and where positive changes can be made.