Vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo, Breatharian (yes, that is actually a thing), low-fat, low-carb, gluten-free… the list goes on! Don’t eat this. Do eat that. Reduce this. Eat plenty of that. And what about all the juice and shake diets, detoxes, cleanses and fasting? Not to mention calorie-counting, nutritional supplements, calculating macros and an endless list of fad diets.
Aghh, it’s all too much!!
Nutrition is always a hot topic of debate. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what optimum nutrition is. Everyone seems to have an opinion. With so much conflicting information out there, it is almost impossible to know what to believe. It’s overwhelming to say the least and almost always confusing!
So who and what should we believe? How do we decipher fact from fiction? And how on earth do we decide which advice to follow?
What I have learnt over years of trying a bunch of different approaches to diet and nutrition is that nutrition is not one-size-fits-all. It is not the same for everyone. What works for one person might not work for the next. But no matter your individual dietary requirements and food choices, there are some simple rules that everyone should adopt when it comes to nutrition.
Here are 5 of my golden nutrition tips.
1. Eat To Fuel Your Body
Start thinking of the food you eat as fuel for your body. Just like a car that needs petrol to function, your body needs fuel to keep it running smoothly and performing at its best. You wouldn’t put diesel in a Ferrari, you’d only use the top-notch premium unleaded, so if you want your body to look at feel like a luxury model, you have to fuel it with the good stuff! Opt for lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. And ditch the processed foods, refined sugar, saturated fats and artificial ingredients.
2. Balance is Key
A well-rounded, well-balanced diet is one that contains Protein, Fats and Carbohydrates. Balance is key. Physiologically speaking, your body needs all three to function properly. Your muscles need protein for maintenance, repair and growth, your body uses carbohydrates as its main energy source and fats are required on a cellular level.
Not to mention, protein keeps you full for longer so you are less likely to overeat or snack throughout the day and slow release complex carbohydrates (such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains) keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable. Australian nutrition guidelines recommend a daily dietary intake of 45-65% carbohydrates, 15-25% protein and 20-35% fats, with no more than 10% coming from saturated fats. A great rule of thumb for a well-balanced meal is to load up half of your plate with plant-based foods (leafy greens and vegetables), a quarter of the plate with complex carbs (e.g brown rice, quinoa or sweet potato) and the finally quarter with protein. Add some avocado or cook your veggies in some coconut oil for those healthy fats.
3. Keep Your Portions Under Control
You’ve probably heard it thousands of times before, but portion control is one of the most important things to master. Even if you are eating all the right foods, if you are overdoing the portions, you aren’t going to see any shift in your weight – at least not in the direction you probably want. Don’t overdo it. Stop when you are content, not when you are full to the brim, stomach bursting with a food baby. Know your portions, prepare your meal accordingly and don’t go back for a second helping.
4. If You Can’t Pronounce It, Don’t Eat it
Start reading food labels and learning what ingredients are actually in those so-called ‘healthy’, ‘natural’, ‘low-fat’ or ‘organic’ food products you have been eating all this time. You’d be surprised at just how many unrecognizable ingredients, chemicals and preservatives manufacturers sneak in to food products. Simply, if you don’t recognize something on the label, put it back on the shelf and walk away. It’s important to know what you are putting in your body, and I can guarantee, those weird 24-letter words are not natural. The benefit of following this rule is not only that you’ll soon have a broader awareness of food products, but also that you’ll end up eating mainly fruit and vegetables anyway. There is only one ingredient in a carrot. (It’s carrot by the way).
5. Everything In Moderation
You are going to like this one. As much as food is fuel, it is also for pleasure so don’t be afraid to treat yourself every now and then. If you are craving chocolate, have a couple of squares of chocolate. If you feel like some carbs, allow yourself to eat some. Just don’t overdo it. The key is to know when to stop. Completing restricting yourself from certain foods is a sure fire way to make you crave it even more. When you’re ‘not allowed’ something, you think about it more, want it more and therefore you are more likely to have a massive food-coma-inducing binge fest. So as long as you are able to remain in control of the situation, don’t feel guilty for giving in to those little cravings every now and then.
So with these 5 basic food rules as a great starting point, remember to eat to fuel, eat to nourish and eat to keep your body functioning and running at it’s best.
Ultimately, no one knows your body better than you. Find out what works for you and stick to that. Listen to your body, take note of how it responds to certain foods and if/when you find what works well for you then continue to nourish your body in that way. A healthy outside, starts with a healthy inside.
Written by Eloise Smith
One Active Life