The health section of the Sunday paper is something I normally skip as the articles tend to be based on the latest fads rather than anything scientific. Last sunday however I happened to flick through it and was struck by two stories on nutrition which gave completely conflicting advice. I can understand why some people are confused about what they should be eating when magazines and newspapers are churning out a new diet almost every week.
With that in mind I thought I would offer you a few basic principles that if you get these right you’ll be eating a healthy diet by almost anyones definition.
1. Don’t eat anything that contains any ingredient you can’t pronounce or have never heard of.
Read the label of anything that comes in a packet and if it contains anything you can’t buy separately then don’t buy it. For example when was the last time you saw flavour enhancers or hydrolysed corn protein on the shelves in the supermarket? Anything that contains E numbers or preservatives also try and keep away from.
2. Keep to a minimum eating food that comes from a packet.
If you follow this rule you don’t have to worry about rule number 1. The only things not sold in packets are fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat, fish and chicken.
3. Choose foods that are as close as possible to their natural state
For example sweet corn is healthy, corn flakes less so and corn chips definitely not. The more processes a food goes through before it becomes the end product the worse it is for you. Rice cakes are a dieters favourite but the processes used to turn rice into rice cakes renders them a nutritionally empty food.
4. Avoid sugar and artificial sweetners
Too often low fat foods contain high levels of sugar. Everything from jam, muesli, breakfast cereals, cereal bars, sauces, yogurt, fruit juices, smoothies and dried fruit can have sugar added to it. Sugar comes in many different guises; sucrose, glucose, fructose, sugar and high fructose corn syrup to name a few. Manufacturers have responded to the demand for low sugar alternatives and are now making low fat and low sugar versions but the amount of artificial ingredients needed to make a product still taste like the original makes them less of a food and more of a chemical laboratory experiment. Avoid them and choose something more natural.
5. Minimise bread, rice , cereals , pasta and potatoes.
Some diets recommend to avoid these completely others recommend them. The problem with these foods is they are calorie dense and nutritionally sparse. However they can form part of a healthy diet if used sparingly and you choose options that are closer to their natural state. Stay away from white bread and most commercial breakfast cereals as they are almost always full of sugar, low in fibre and highly processed. Homemade muesli or wholemeal or sourdough bread with seeds is a far better option
6. Don’t count calories
Your body doesn’t so why should you. If you follow the principles above you wont need to count calories, your body will tell you when you have had enough. Count up how many times in your life you’ve had that stuffed, bloated feeling after a meal of pizza or pasta or fish and chips. Now count up how many times it has happened after having salad or a bowl of vegetables. You know that sugar overload feeling you get after too much chocolate, sweets or soft drink? How many times have you had that after eating fruit? If you eat the right stuff the quantities will look after themselves.
If you follow those six principles you can’t go too far wrong. Let me go through how a typical day might look.
Scrambled eggs followed by a piece of fruit or
Muesli – home made consisting of oats, seeds and nuts.
Chicken salad – lettuce , tomato, avocado, egg, cucumber, capsicum with an olive oil and lemon dressing or
Chickpea salad with feta , cherry tomatoes , red onion, rocket with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing.
Stir fry – mixture of mushrooms, broccoli, capsicum, chilli, eggplant and meat of your choice served with an oyster sauce or
Salmon served with an asparagus, chilli, avocado, spring onion, parsley, sun dried tomato, lemon juice and olive oil salsa.
Fruit, nuts and seeds.