We should all take the word DIET out of our vocabulary! Let’s make it Lifestyle Change.
Let’s remove diet from the context of the short term, and instead of thinking about it in regards to today, this week or even this month, instead let’s make changes to the way we live, permanently. Of course this doesn’t mean that we can’t ever allow ourselves to fall off the wagon, life is for living after all, but the only way of making real change is to implement it for the long term.
Many studies have shown that dieting, whilst sometimes effective in the short term, is not the solution to ongoing health and weight loss. After all, a lifetime of restriction and denial is both prohibitive and plain miserable. According to the National Centre for Eating Disorders, although diets do produce results in the short term, very few dieters maintain their weight loss, no matter which diet they try.
We need to educate ourselves on how to be as healthy as we can, as often as possible. Making optimum health the objective, rather than a quick fix, will not only help to extend your life, but those other goals such as weight loss will end up being an added bonus.
The easiest way to achieve this is to choose foods that are good for you and that will promote a healthier you. Think about eating everything as close to its natural state as possible, including colour, variety and freshness and reducing the intake of saturated fat, refined sugar, salt and alcohol.
Whole grains are an essential part of a healthy diet. They satisfy hunger, therefore decreasing cravings, and promote energy, endurance and better concentration. Some examples of healthy whole grains are quinoa, brown rice and barley, just to name a few, and with a little bit of practice they can very easily replace pasta, white rice and other less nutritious staples.
Proteins are vital for promoting a healthy mind and body. They stabalise blood-glucose and insulin levels which will help to balance energy levels throughout the day and promote body fat breakdown. They promote the feeling of fullness and satisfy hunger. I recommend including some form of protein in each meal as well as most snacks. Some great sources of protein include lean meat, poultry, fish, dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is also essential for good health. Fibre, folate, vitamin A C & E and potassium are just some examples of the nutrients contained in fruit and vegetables. Some benefits of these are; they can help reduce your risk of diabetes & some cancers; reduce high blood pressure and the risk of coronary heart disease. Fruits and vegetables make a great nutritious low kilojoule snack and provide a great source of energy and fibre. Fruit and vegetables come in a huge array of colours and your diet should contain as many of these colours as possible.
Contrary to popular belief, fats are also important in a healthy diet. They provide energy, help brain development and also help absorb vitamins. Ironically, the ‘Low Fat’ craze that has enveloped Western diets over the last 20 years has played a major role in the obesity epidemic we now face. Often, when fat is removed from food, manufacturers feel that they need to replace it with sugar, salt, thickeners and other nasty additives. It is vital to be label vigilant. A good rule of thumb is the fewer ingredients the better, and in particular look for additive numbers (aim for zero). Next time you’re in the diary aisle at the supermarket, compare the labels of 4 or 5 low fat yogurts. You’d be shocked by how many have a list of ingredients as long as your arm, when all you really want to see is skim milk and cultures.
The main thing about fat is knowing which ones are vital and which to avoid. You should include: Monounsaturated fats (found in avocados and olive, peanut and canola oils), Polyunsaturated fats (found in most vegetable oils) and Omega-3 Fatty Acids (a type of polyunsaturated fat found in oily fish like tuna and salmon). You should avoid having too much Saturated Fats & Trans Fats as they can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.
My last big tip would be to choose foods that are low in GI (Glycemic Index). The GI measures the conversion from carbohydrates in food to blood sugar. Foods with a low GI value slowly release sugar into the blood, providing you with a steady supply of energy, leaving you feeling fuller for longer, whereas high GI foods can cause a rapid but short lived rise in bloody sugar. This can leave you lacking energy and feeling hungry again in a short time. Making the switch to low GI simply means creating new habits. For example, you could swap potatoes for sweet potatoes or white rice for brown rice.
So forget about the word DIET….make it simple. Start eating foods to as close to their natural state as possible; eat a large variety of fruits & vegetables, drink plenty of water and you will start feeling a difference. You don’t need to make all the changes all at once either, but every change you do make to improve your diet matters. So start today, in making a change for the rest of your life!