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 these will work together to keep your blood sugar stable and stop those sugar and carbohydrates cravings we all get when in need of a quick energy boost.
This post is going to show you the best foods for a healthy well rounded diet, and more importantly how to combine them together to make every meal and snack ‘complete‘, which will help keep you full and fuel your body for longer. The advantages of this will be stable blood sugar which is one of the cornerstones of good health especially when you consider the damage that sugar can wreak on our bodies.
Sugar contributes to inflammation, and chronic inflammation can be the root cause of many major illnesses and diseases, but you can temper this inflammation by changing your diet to a more plant based way of eating.
Many of us have different ideas and beliefs as to what constitutes a healthy diet, and many may also be misguided. There are so many different diet and eating plans out there that it can all get very confusing. We are obsessed by food, and this is more evident now than ever with the new culture of Instagram and other social media platforms all awash with pics of beautiful meals.
So many different diets, so little time!
We now see many different types of diets and ways of eating, such as veganism, plant based, raw vegan, high protein, low carb, fruitarian, and many more. And then there are the many types of short term diet plans and detoxification systems out there, all promising you that fabulous beach body in an impossible amount of time.
It’s all pretty exhausting and can leave you confused and despondent. But don’t let this be a reason for you to give up as knowledge is power, and small changes all add up and help set you on the path for lifelong changes. Ultimately these small changes you make today will lead to 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. I quickly realised after 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.
This post will help you to understand the foods you should be eating for supreme health; the foods you should cut down on; and correct food combining. If you need some extra help you may find it interesting to read my post on how to clear the junk out of your cupboards, this will also help to change your whole perception around food ‘Clean Eating in 10 Easy Steps’
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 convienience 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 (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!
- Dairy products
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.
- Avocados (Please read ‘Amazing Avocado Benefits’)
- 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 every day some nutritionally dense foods which will ensure you are getting optimal amounts of all nutrients and antioxidants. 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 keep your immune system strong.
Green Super Food Powders:
Green super food powders are great for this as they are bursting with antioxidants, phytonutrients and all kinds of fat busting, 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 a slimmer waistline for you.
There are many of these green powders available and it’s good to have a few you can alternate with, for example – spirulina, wheatgrass, barley grass, and moringa.
OR for ease you could buy a blend such as ‘Dr. Schulze’s Superfood Powder’. This has a unique blend of all of the green super foods and is processed in a way that gives it a high uptake and absorption rate, meansing it is quickly transported into cells to give you an energy boost within 20 minuites. This really works and is probably the best super food powder AND most powerful detoxifyer I have yet to find on the market today.
WHAT IS A HEALTHY DIET?
CORRECT FOOD COMBINING
All the above foods are healthy examples of what you want 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 and pulses. Animal products (especially dairy and eggs) are mostly acid forming and therefore can contribute to inflammation in the body, which in turn can lead to accelerated ageing, chronic illness, and disease.
The awesome side effects of a plant based diet:
In my experience of eating a plant based diet for the last year, 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 get. I also rarely get PMS or hormonal problems and I can sleep better – plus I haven’t been sick with any colds, flue’s or viruses so far….not once.
I also noticed that the creaky 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.
All of those problems funnily enough, can be a result of too much inflammation in the body, and so this proves to me my point about animal products (especially dairy) and inflammation. It really is worth considering cutting down on these to see how much better you feel. But always make sure you combine foods properly so you don’t miss out on vital nutrients and amino acids.
HOW TO COMBINE FOOD CORRECTLY
To keep blood sugars stable you should make sure you always have, with every meal or snack, some protein, a high carbohydrate wholegrain or vegetable, and a little fat. The carbohydrates and protein should be roughly in a 2:1 ratio. You should 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. Here are some examples:-
Main meals:- Brown rice, chick pea 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 dry/ 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. And pulses are an example of a food that contains protein and carbohydrates.
To keep things simple I have put them into groups of the nutrients they are dominant in, so if you choose your meals from all of these groups then you are sure to cover all bases.
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 carbohydrates 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 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. 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.
- Eating fats and proteins alongside carbohydrates (especially the higher sugar carbs like potatoes, high sugar fruits and the other sugar alternatives mentioned above) will slow down their sugar release even more, thus keeping blood sugar more 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.
- It is always good to have a little fat with meals as it also helps with the absorption of many 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. Please read this post for a list of plant based high calcium foods ‘Best Calcium plant Foods List’.
- 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. Thanks