What is a healthy diet? At its most basic level a healthy diet should consist of good quality protein from an array of different sources, low GI carbohydrates, healthy fats, and a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. All of these will work together to keep your blood sugar stable and stop those sugary carbohydrate cravings that we all get when we need a quick energy boost.
In this post I will show you the right foods to eat for a healthy well-rounded diet, and more importantly how to combine them together to make every meal and snack ‘complete‘ to keep you full and satiated for longer. The other advantages of this will be stable blood sugar which is the absolute cornerstone of good health, especially when you consider the damage that sugar can wreak on your body.
Sugar contributes to inflammation, and chronic inflammation is thought to be the root cause of many major diseases, but you can temper this inflammation by changing your diet and making it more plant based.
Many of us have different ideas and beliefs as to what constitutes a healthy diet, and many of these beliefs are, unfortunately, probably misguided. There are so many different diet and eating plans out there and it can all get very confusing. We are obsessed by food and this is more evident now than ever before, what with the new culture of instagram and other social media platforms all awash with pics of beautifully prepared meals.
So many different diets – so little time!
We are in a culture of many different types of diets, such as veganism, plant based, raw vegan, high protein, low carb, fruitarian – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg lettuce – excuse the pun! There are also many different short term diet plans and detoxification systems out there all promising you that fabulous beach body in an impossible amount of time.
It’s pretty exhausting, and can leave you pretty confused, or worse still, completely despondent. But… a little knowledge really is power in this game, and you don’t need to go on some set up to fail crazy diet plan, simply apply small changes that will add up over time. These small changes will help set you on the path for LIFELONG changes, which is ultimately what you need to aim for if you want increased vitality, a stronger immune system, and a longer, happier life. Well worth the effort it right?
The body can heal itself given the right conditions
I started my healthy eating journey many years ago after looking endlessly for a cure for my depression and anxiety (this was back in the dark ages where there wasn’t the help available that there is today). I quickly realised, after finally discovering nutrition, that the body is this amazing tool that can heal itself from most things if given the right materials (i.e. the food we eat), and this PROVED itself over and over again to be something that would change my life forever.
The reason I talk so much about nutrition and mental illness is because it is the single most effective thing you can do to help yourself if you suffer from it. No matter how dark things are, or however bad you are feeling, you should make the effort for nutrition AND exercise.
This post is designed to help you understand the foods you need to be eating for supreme health, the foods you should cut down on, and how to implement correct food combining. Remember, you don’t need to ditch everything at once, just start with a few items a week or make simple swaps as you go along.
FOODS TO DITCH FROM THE DIET
- Anything deep-fried.
- Confectionery such as sweets, pastries, biscuits and cakes.
- All kinds of vegetable oils such as corn, canola, soybean, safflower, sunflower and cottonseed.
- Anything refined such as white bread, white flour, white rice, white sugar and white pasta.
- Fast foods such as burgers, fries, pizzas and takeaways.
- Ready meals/ frozen meals such as pizza, pies, chips and most things in the frozen section. Exceptions are frozen vegetables, fruits, and some ranges of healthier low salt low, fat convenience meals.
- Fizzy drinks and fruit juices.
FOODS TO ADD INTO THE DIET
Fresh Fruits of all Kinds:-
- High carbohydrate fruits – pineapple, papaya, mango, grapes, banana (check out these other amazing banana benefits), pomegranate, fresh figs.
- Medium carbohydrate fruits – melons, apricots, peaches, apples, pears, orange citrus fruits.
- Low carbohydrate fruits – all berries, including blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants.
Dried fruits:- (These are high carbohydrate as their sugars have been condensed)
- Dates, figs, sultanas, raisins, apricots, mango, pineapple, prunes, goji berries
Vegetables of all kinds:-
- High carbohydrate vegetables- potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beetroot, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash,
- Low carbohydrate vegetables – all greens, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, courgette, cauliflower, avocado, peppers.
- Wholegrain bread
- Brown rice
- Wholegrain pasta
- Cracked wheat
- Oats and oatmeal
- Green peas
- Yellow split peas
- Beans – black, pinto, cannellini, butter, chickpeas, borlotti, haricot, kidney beans.
- Beans (beans are both a carbohydrate and a protein, though they do not contain a ‘complete‘ amino acid profile)
- Quinoa (quinoa is one of the few known foods that contains both protein, carbohydrate, omega 3 fats, and a complete amino acid profile so can therefore be eaten alone as a ‘complete’ meal). A true super food!
FOODS THAT CONTAIN BOTH PROTEIN AND FAT
- Nuts – peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, brazils, macadamia, hazelnuts, pine nuts, and pecans.
- Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, poppy, flax, hemp, chia.
- Nuts – peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, brazil’s, macadamia, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans.
- Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, poppy, flax, hemp, chia.
- Olive oil (for cooking)
- Extra virgin olive oil (for using COLD only) – do not cook with extra virgin olive oil as it turns toxic when heated)
- Extra virgin Coconut Oil ( can be used cold AND for cooking at high temperatures, so a great all-rounder).
- Avocado oil (cold only)
- Flax oil (cold only)
- SUGAR ALTERNATIVES (These should be used only in moderation)
- Raw honey
- Maple syrup
- Coconut nectar sugar
- Brown rice syrup
You should also consider adding to your diet some superfoods, to ensure you are getting optimal amounts of all the nutrients you need. The high amounts of antioxidants in these foods will not only help neutralise all those nasty free radicals in your body, but are fantastic for anti aging, and will also keep your immune system strong.
Green Super Food Powders:-
Green superfood powders really are fantastic as they are bursting with antioxidants, phytonutrients, and all kinds of other fat busting and detoxifying nutrients. When your body is in a high state of detoxification it won’t be storing toxins into fat cells, but eliminating them instead – which means the shrinkage of these fat cells and therefore a slimmer waistline for you (hurrah).
There are many different superfood powders available on the market so always be sure to source out the best quality you can find. This will make ALL the difference to how well they work for you. Here I have sourced out the best superfood powders of 2018 so you can browse through to pick the perfect one for your specific needs.
OR, for ease you could buy a blend such as Dr. Schulze’s superfood powder. This has a unique mix of all of the green superfoods and is also processed in a way that gives it a high uptake and absorption rate into the body – meaning it is quickly transported into cells to give you an energy boost within 20 minutes. This REALLY works, I kid you not, and is probably the best super food powder and most powerful detoxifyer I have personally tried.
WHAT IS A HEALTHY DIET?
CORRECT FOOD COMBINING:-
All of the above foods are healthy examples of what you should be eating at every meal and snack for optimum nutrition. I recommend veering towards a more plant based diet and obtaining most of your protein through nuts, seeds, wholegrains, soy, temph, and pulses. Animal products (especially dairy and eggs) are mostly acid forming and therefore will contribute to chronic inflammation in the body, which in turn may lead to accelerated ageing, chronic illness, and disease.
The awesome side effects of a plant based diet:-
Since eating a plant based diet I have seen a lot of changes in myself: I have great skin, more energy, and I notice I never get the aches and pains after exercise that I used to. I also rarely get PMS or hormonal problems, and I can also sleep a lot better. I also haven’t been sick with any colds, flu’s or viruses since eating plant based – not once!
Another thing I have noticed is that the painful knees I suffered with for years (the result of too much running on concrete) have also got a whole lot better since cutting out animal products. This one is for sure a result of less chronic inflammation, there is just no doubt about it.
Too much chronic inflammation can make you sick!
All of those problems, funnily enough (or maybe not so funny), can be a result of too much chronic inflammation in the body, and so this proves my point about animal products (especially dairy) and their role in chronic inflammation issues. It is well worth considering cutting down on these to see how much better you may feel; but always make sure you combine foods properly so you don’t miss out on vital nutrients and amino acids.
HOW TO COMBINE FOODS CORRECTLY
To keep blood sugars stable you should make sure you always have, with every meal or snack, some protein, a carbohydrate wholegrain or vegetable, and a little healthy fat. The carbohydrates and protein should be roughly in a 2:1 ratio. You should also add low carbohydrate fruits and vegetables on top of this ratio for extra nutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals – all of which will boost your immune system, are anti aging, and help fight disease.
A perfect example of a ‘complete’ meal would be a pick from each section of these examples:-
Main meals:- Brown rice, chickpea curry, side salad with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a piece fruit, OR:
A bean/lentil dish with quinoa and steamed greens, piece of fruit.
Snacks:- 2 oatcakes with peanut butter, tahini or avocado. OR
Handful of nuts or seeds with dried or fresh fruit.
Notice how these meals contain all the nutrients from the main 3 food groups of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
In many cases, a single food may contain elements of all the main 3 food groups, and a perfect example of this would be quinoa. Another good example of a food that contains 2 of the groups would be peanut butter (or most nuts and seeds in general) as they are high in protein AND healthy monounsaturated fats. Pulses are an example of a food that contain both protein and carbohydrates.
To keep things simple I have put them into groups of the nutrients they are dominant in, therefore if you choose your meals from all of these groups then you are sure to cover all bases.
Please check out this free 1 week diet plan for more great samples of correct food combining.
A FEW MORE TOP TIPS:
- Sugars are CARBOHYDRATES, so when deciphering food labels you can look in the section where it says ‘carbohydrates‘ and it will tell you the total amount, which will also include the starches. Underneath that section you will find the ‘carbohydrates of which sugars‘ this is the amount of actual sugar in that food. Check whether this is either per 100g, the whole product, or just a portion of that product so you can work out exactly how much is in the amount you are going to be consuming.
- Ideally you want to go for as low a sugar content as possible. I’m talking about the ‘carbohydrates of which sugars‘ here, and not just ALL the carbohydrates in total. 22g per 100 grams is considered very high so that will give you some set point. Try not to go over 10 grams per 100 grams in total. And don’t forget to count this towards your daily amount.
- The average man should consume no more than 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons) of sugar; the average woman 25 grams (6 teaspoons); and a child 12 grams (3 teaspoons).
- Always eat a rainbow of colours every day from the fruits and veggies section.
- Eat fats and proteins alongside carbohydrates (especially the higher sugar carbs like potatoes, high sugar fruits, and the other sugar alternatives mentioned above), this will slow down the sugar release even more to keep blood sugar stable.
- Try not to eat fried, browned, or burnt foods (especially meats) as they are carcinogenic (carcinogens may be cancer causing, especially when eaten a lot and in a diet that contains few antioxidants to counteract the effects).
- It is always good to have a little fat with meals as it helps with the absorption of many of the fat soluble nutrients such as A,D,E, and K.
- If you have decided, as suggested, on going much more plant based with your diet then be sure to add extra calcium in the form of sesame seeds (tahini is great), fresh and dried figs, and lots of leafy green vegetables. All of these are fantasic sources of calcium and some even HIGHER than dairy. Find more on this list of plant based calcium foods.
- On a plant based diet you will more than likely need a B12 supplement, as B12 is mostly found only in animal products.
If you have any questions you would like me to answer about the plant based diet then please feel free to post in the comments section below. Thank you for reading!