NutritionNovember 20th, 2013 by David
There is a lot more to good nutrition than getting your ‘5 a day’ and resisting dialing in your dinner too many times a week. Indeed the media presents healthy eating as a minefield of confusion. One minute a particular food is good for you and the next it is blamed for the rise in cancer rates/obesity/in-growing toenails.
Let’s face it – life is complicated enough without having to worry about every little thing that finds its way onto your fork.
Here are some top nutritional tips which are simple to digest, and considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of healthy eating…
Tip #1 ‘The Perfect Plate’ – The bottom line of healthy nutrition is covering all your nutritional needs and there is no better place to begin than sorting through the food groups: protein, fats and carbohydrate. The perfect meal and snack covers all bases – the trick is simply to understand how much of each food group is required.
Protein foods should make up a third of your plate – think fish, meat, eggs, pulses, yoghurt and nuts and seeds. A great tip to remember is that the ideal portion size of protein is equal to the size of your palm.
Half of your plate should be dedicated to vegetables – cover all the colours of the rainbow throughout your day.
The remaining section of your plate may be for any additional carbohydrate foods – brown rice, sweet potato and quinoa are all healthy options. Controlling your intake of grains and potatoes is often recommended for weight loss and management, and generally speaking no more than a few tablespoons are required for the average person.
You may have noticed that fats weren’t mentioned in the above ‘Perfect Plate.’ This was not intended to perpetuate any fat-free trends, far from it. Fats are so important to good health that I deemed it appropriate to dedicate a whole ‘top tip’ to them. Fats are integral to good nutrition, health and even maintaining a healthy weight. Fats do not make you fat – swallow and digest this fact immediately! It is all about knowing which fats to feast on and which to avoid. So where do fats feature in the ‘Perfect Plate’? Oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines are swimming with healthy fats known as omega 3. Avocadoes, olive oil, nuts and seeds are rich in both omega 3 and 6. These foods should all regularly feature on your plate. Drizzle oils over cooked vegetables, chop avocado into salads and sprinkle seeds and nuts over your porridge! It is recommended to eat oily fish 2-3 times a week. Saturated fat found in animal produce is perfectly healthy when eaten in moderation. The fats to avoid are the ‘trans’ fats found in cookies, biscuits and ready meals.
Antioxidants and fibre are found liberally in fruits and vegetables. Fibre is essential for keeping your bowels moving, your heart healthy and your weight down. Eat plenty of vegetables – aim for 5-7 portions a day. Fruit is a rich source of nutrients however also delivers a hefty heap of sugar too limiting your fruit to 2 portions a day is ideal. A portion size of vegetables is a heaped handful, and a portion size of fruit is equal to a medium sized apple.
Avoid sugar! Remember when I said that fat doesn’t make you fat? Well guess what does? Sugar! The good fats (outlined above) are burned as fuel by the body and required for each and every one of our body cells to function. Refined sugar is stored by the body as fat and serves absolutely no nutritional purpose at all. We all know that cake and sweets are treat-only-territory, so it is the hidden sugars you need to watch out for. Soft drinks, white bread, ready meals, crackers and cereals are the worst culprits here. Eat fresh, home-prepared food where possible and learn to understand food labels to avoid sneaky sugars.