Are you properly fuelled?
People say, ‘You are what you eat’. Fortunately that isn’t quite true otherwise many of us would look like some kind of bizarre Ronald McDonald/Bertie Bassett cross-breed.
But the fact remains that what you eat and drink has a big impact on how you feel and look. Quite possibly more of an impact than you realise.
Many people are aware that over eating leads to weight gain and the associated health problems. But there is far more to good nutrition than this.
A lack of the necessary nutrients can lead to poor concentration, lethargy and tiredness. Dehydration has an impact on your body’s ability to look after your skin. While stress may make you feel more inclined to just grab a takeaway on the way home it is precisely at these times you are in need of more antioxidants, nutrients essential to help your body tackle harmful ‘free radicals’.
Of course correct diet has become, if you will pardon the pun, a hot potato. If you switch on your television you can see people’s eating habits rubbished and rebuilt by tele-experts in the same way as their garden or home décor.
A TV team can revamp a home or garden and emerge with their manicure unscathed in the time it takes most of us to open a can of paint. And while it may be simple to clear a fridge and restock it with an array of organic delights this doesn’t make celery taste like chocolate or change the menu in the sandwich shop.
What should we be aiming to do? What food will help me run better? How much should I be eating? Should I eat more carbs or should I be cutting out carbs? A reality check is needed. There are a series of steps you can try to take:
1 Eat five to nine portions of fruit and vegetables every day
This may sound hard but simple steps like cutting a banana up on your cereal or adding a few tomatoes to a spag bol can make life simpler. Try to buy a variety of colours of foods as this is likely to lead to a variety of nutrients, and buy a mix of fruit and vegetables. Try not to buy unhealthy food apart from the odd treat. This makes it easier to take the healthy option when you go to the cupboard and if you really don’t fancy it the chances are you weren’t really hungry anyway. You may be surprised at the number of portions recommended but today’s foods, processed and otherwise, contain far less nutrients than those our grandparents would have been eating.
2 Go for wholegrains when you eat grains
Steer clear of white bread and go wholegrain breads instead. Go for wholemeal pasta and rice. Avoid sugary foods (high glycaemic carbohydrates). These lead to a leap in energy followed by a dive leaving you wanting a munch to refuel. Complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread release energy over a prolonged period.
3 Choose lean meats
Animal fats are, well, fatty. And if the fat is from non-organically-reared meats they can contain excessive levels of toxins. Protein, without animal fats, can be found in such foods as lean meats, fish, tofu, beans, chickpeas, nuts, and seeds.
4 Try to get your fats from plants or fish rather than animals
Fat is an essential part of your diet. Good quality olive, flax or linseed oils are good sources of unsaturated fat and essential fatty acids. Because fats have a tendency to accumulate environmental toxins, it is advisable to ensure that vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and other vegetable–based high fat foods are organic. Ideally fish should preferably be wild or, if farmed, it should be organic, again to reduce your burden of environmental chemicals.
5. Choose healthy food preparation methods
Try to avoid processed foods. Processing contributes to a very significant loss of nutrients including vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Don’t overcook your vegetables, and eat plenty of raw foods in the form of salads and fruit.
6 Don’t panic
These pointers may all seem easier said than done. But use them as your targets. Do as many as you can as often as you can and don’t beat yourself up when you fall short of perfection. Don’t panic just because you have eaten one greasy burger or bar of chocolate! Your aim is to have good principles underpinning your diet not to live like the neurotic one from some TV sitcom.
There are other ways of trying to keep yourself on the straight and narrow. If you have children try to eat the same as them. You may feel more responsible and concerned about their diet than your own. You can teach them good diet at the same time as yourself.
Never go on a diet. This may seem a strange thing to say but ‘diets’ usually fail. What is needed is not a diet but a change in eating habits. Going on a diet implies a change that you will change back from. You need to switch your eating habits to something healthy and sustainable.
Try to make a change. Research has found people challenged to try something different each day of the week (for example reading a different newspaper, not just in their diet) can be successful at losing weight or adopting healthier habits. This is linked to the comment about diets. Healthy eating is often as much about breaking bad habits as it is getting into good habits.
Finally consider supplementation. Are you realistically going to hit that figure of nine servings of fruit or vegetables each day? Setting out on a long journey just before some fuel protests were expected I filled up the tank of my car. I thought I’d get there on the half tank I had but why take the chance? And why take a chance with your health? If you are properly fuelled you will be more effective at work, able to relax more easily and also be more able to exercise which will bring even more health benefits.
Are you properly fuelled? Check out our top tips to a healtier diet
Ways to a healthier diet:
Eating five to nine portions of fruit and vegetables every day
Go for wholegrains when you eat grains
Choose lean meats
Try to get your fats from plants or fish rather than animals
Choose healthy food preparation methods
Don’t panic if you do something unhealthy
Consider nutritional supplements
How to keep yourself on the straight and narrow:
Try to teach your children good habits and follow them yourself
Don’t diet – change your habits
Try supplementation to be sure you get adequate nutrients