What is a Healthy Diet? – Macronutrients and Food Combining

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 you will learn about macronutrients and food combining to help you achieve a healthy well-rounded diet that will boost your health and vitality to the next level. Other advantages will include stable blood sugar, which is the absolute cornerstone of good health and will also keep you within a healthy BMI range and your weight down.

Sugar and Chronic inflammation

candy store

Sugar contributes to inflammation in the body and chronic inflammation is thought to be the driver of many diseases, but you can temper this inflammation by changing your diet and adding more nutritious plant foods in general.

Many of us have different ideas and beliefs as to what constitutes a healthy diet, and many of these beliefs are more than likely misguided. There are so many different diet and so called healthy eating plans out there that it can all get very confusing. We are obsessed by food, and this is more evident now than ever before what with the culture of instagram and other social media platforms all awash with pictures of beautifully prepared meals.

So many diets – so little time!

complete plant based meal plate

We are in a culture filled with so many different types of diets and ways of eating 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 lots of 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 all so exhausting and can leave you pretty confused, or worse still, completely despondent about which way to turn. But fear not, 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. For instance, swap your usual mid-afternoon snack of biscuits or cake, for a handful of nuts and a piece of fresh fruit; OR, eat less starchy potatoes with your main meal and pile on the green veggies instead.

These small changes, when applied daily, will start building new neural pathways in your brain until in the end they become habit. Change one small thing a week as per example, and just think how quickly this will 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

missing pieces of a jigsaw

I started my healthy eating journey many years ago after looking endlessly for help to ease 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 depression and anxiety is because it is was the most effective tool that I used (and am still using to this day) to help overcome it. I’m not saying I’m cured as it’s a chronic condition, but I now know how to manage it through diet, and VERY importantly, exercise.

If you do suffer from any mental illness it is advisable to speak with your doctor first about your symptoms as you may need other treatment alongside healthy eating and exercise.

Foods to Ditch

This post is designed to help you understand the foods you should be be eating for better health; the foods you should cut down on; and how to implement correct food combining to be sure you are receiving all the nutrients you need 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.

ring dougnut

  • 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 in to your diet

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.

CARBOHYDRATES:

Fresh Fruits of all Kinds

  • High carbohydrate fruits – pineapple, papaya, mango, grapes, banana, 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.

Wholegrains

  • Wholegrain bread
  • Brown rice
  • Wholegrain pasta
  • Oatcakes
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Cracked wheat
  • Oats and oatmeal
  • Corn
  • Buckwheat

Pulses

  • Green peas
  • Yellow split peas
  • Lentils
  • Beans – black, pinto, cannellini, butter, chickpeas, borlotti, haricot, kidney beans.

PROTEINS:

  • Beans (beans are both a carbohydrate and a protein, though they do not contain a complete amino 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 on its own). It’s one of nature’s true superfoods.
  • Tofu
  • Soy
  • Tempeh
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet

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.

HEALTHY FATS:

  • Nuts – peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, Brazil’s, macadamia, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans.
  • Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, poppy, flax, hemp, chia.
  • Avocados
  • Tahini
  • 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
  • Stevia
  • Xylitol
  • Maple syrup
  • Coconut nectar sugar
  • Brown rice syrup

You should also consider adding to your diet these antioxidant rich superfoods to ensure you are getting optimal amounts of all the nutrients you need. The high amount of antioxidants in these foods will not only help neutralise all those nasty free radicals in your body, but are anti aging, and will help keep your immune system strong.

Green Super Food Powders:-

Green superfood powders really are a great addition to any diet no matter how healthful it may be, as they are bursting with antioxidants, phytonutrients, chlorophyll, 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 ultimately means the shrinkage of these fat cells, therefore a slimmer waistline for you.

Superfood Blends:-

spirulina and chlorophyl

OR, for ease you could buy a blend such as Dr. Schulze’s superfood blend. 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, and is probably the best super food powder and most powerful detoxifyer I have tried so far, and I’ve tried many!

Reasons to supplement with a superfood powder:-

  1. A fast energy boost.
  2. Clear, glowing skin.
  3. Twinkling eyes (yes, this really happens).
  4. It’s like the ULTIMATE multivitamin.
  5. Immune booster.
  6. Great for recovery from sickness.
  7. Pure, fast nutrition.
  8. Detoxification.
  9. Anti inflammatory.
  10. Alklanising.
  11. Can boost weight loss.
  12. Low GI, so great for diabetics.

CORRECT FOOD COMBINING

layered salad jar

All of the above foods are healthy examples of what you should be eating at every meal and snack for optimum nutrition. I recommend reading this Beginner’s Guide, and veering towards a more plant based diet and obtaining most of your protein through nuts, seeds, wholegrains, soy, temph, quinoa, buckwheat and pulses. Animal products (especially dairy and eggs) are mostly acid forming and therefore may contribute to chronic inflammation in the body, in turn may lead to accelerated ageing on both the inside and out.

The astounding 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; plus, I rarely get PMS or hormonal problems, and I can also sleep a lot better; more deeply. I also find tat I rarely get sick with any colds, flus or viruses since eating plant based. and if I do it is much shorter lasting.

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, it’s as clear as day.

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:-

sweet potato buddha bowl

To keep blood sugar as stable as possible, you should make sure you always have (with every meal or snack) some protein, a wholegrain carbohydrate 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. And pulses are an example of a food that contain both protein and carbohydrates.

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 point of reference. 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), which 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 (it is shown in some studies that 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 more plant based with your diet, then be sure to add extra calcium in the form of sesame seeds (tahini is a great sesame seed type butter or dip), oranges, sweet potatoes, tofu, fresh and dried figs, and lots of leafy green vegetables. 
  • If you are following a plant based diet then you will more than likely need a B12 supplement, as B12 is mostly found only in animal products.

Thanks for checking out this article today! 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 and I will be more than happy to help.

Stefanie Taylor
Plant based eating is set to EXPLODE in 2019; not just for health reasons, but also to help keep our beautiful planet thriving. I have lived this healthful lifestyle for over 2 years, which is the reason why zestforever was born to share my experiences, trials and errors, how I overcame them, and how to turn to this lifestyle in such a way that you will thrive too.

I have studied, tried and tested healthy foods, superfoods and diets for over 25 years, but nothing has come close to giving me the buzz of wellness that plant based eating has. To expand my knowledge further I have also studied and worked as a Sports Nutritional Advisor, Nutritional Therapist, and Clinical Weight Loss Advisor - all of which can tie in with the plant based diet.

This website is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical diseases or illnesses. It's merely meant as a way of showing you how to boost your health through the eating of more nutritious plant foods in place of junk foods.

I am grateful for your support, and I hope that the tips and guides you find here will help to guide you on your own plant based journey.

12 thoughts on “What is a Healthy Diet? – Macronutrients and Food Combining”

  1. Hi there
    Thanks for this detailed report. I always like to learn more about health and nutrition. I think the more we read about this topic the more we get used to the thought, and the easier it gets buying the right things.
    It is great that people like you are concerned and write deep insightful posts like this.

    • Hi Stefan, I am happy to help you learn more about nutrition and I am glad you’re enjoying it. The more you know, the easier it gets, and a little knowledge can go a long way. And that’s my aim, to try and keep things simple for people to understand, as that way they are more likely to make changes. All the best to you on your fitness journey.

  2. This a great article and timely. My husband and I were just talking tonight that we really do need to start eating better. There is so much information out there that its hard to know where to start. I came across your article at the right time.

    • Hi there, that is just really fantastic to hear and I am really happy I can help you with that. My aim is to make it as easy as possible for people to get healthier and fitter. There are a couple of links in the article such as ‘ and another good one is . Both of these will be really helpful to you too and I thoroughly recommend you take a look. Good luck with evrything, and if you ever have any questions then please just ask.

  3. You have a lot of great points in your article! I forget to incorporate carbs and protein together for a slower sugar release into the body. I enjoy making healthy, organic ramen bowls with veggies and seitan protein. Do you know if the veggies would lose their nutritional content if they are cooked for too long? Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

    • Hi Ciara, thanks for reading and enjoying the article. Your ramen bowls sound absolutely fantastic and I am going to start making my own. As for the veggies, the only time I really cook them a long time is in something like a stew, soup or casserole, where all the juices are staying in the same pot and not getting lost or thrown away in cooking water. Any other time, always cook or steam lightly and for as little a time as possible as heat does destroy nutrients. In fact, there are a lot of people out there who only eat raw food as they say cooking destroys all the vitamins etc. I tried a raw diet for a week once and I have to say I could really tell the difference, and within a day, my skin was glowing and I had just oodles of energy, so that tells me that raw is probably best for our bodies. Having said that it is so hard to do and stick to as we have lifelong conditioning of eating cooked foods. But I’m getting there. For now, just eat as lightly cooked and raw as you can every day and you will still feel the difference.

  4. Awesome. I really like how you laid things out to make it easy to understand. I need that.

    I guess one of my problems is learning what to ditch. They so remind me of another time.

    My favorites are fruits and nuts, vegetables, pulses, grains… they are so filling leave a felling of satisfaction.

    I will have to come back for the food combining again.

    What a great outline. Your effort is appreciated. I feel much more confident in my choices.

    See you later.

    Oh, what are your favorites?

    • Hi Robert, I’m so happy that you have found my post of value. I understand how hard it is to ditch those comfort foods (I still fall of the wagon, especially in winter ha ha). I guess we all have a lot of deep set conditioning going on when it comes to food, and this can be hard to break. The one thing I find really helps is exercise as it kind of makes you disciplined in all other areas of life as well, and this change in behaviour, when I first started exercising regularly, really stood out for me.

      Anyway, back to the point, you will find when you start combining food properly you will keep blood sugar stable and you won’t crave these other comfort foods as much. My absolute favorites for this are avocados, peanut butter and anything to do with coconuts (oil, flesh, milk). All of these are just great low GI foods and good for stopping sugar cravings in their tracks. Hope this helps and thank you for your comment.

  5. Happily I have already purged the “do not eat” list from my diet. I did not know that I shouldnt cook with olive oil, so that will go too. You mentioned that you are closer to vegan, but what is your opinion of the paleo diet given that its quite close to what you recommend. I am not strict paleo myself as I’ve found more benefits in exactly the kind of diet you are promoting.

    • Hi Doug, glad you have got rid of all those bad things on the list :-). Cooking with normal olive oil is fine, it’s the extra virgin olive oil that you shouldn’t heat, just thought I’d better clear that up. I will go back and check that is clear in the post. My take on Paleo is I think it is a lot healthier than the average diet (I did it myself for a while) but I have never felt so good as I do on the plant based. I think it still comes back to the fact that animal products (although they are good sources of protein and other nutrients) are all acid forming which plays havoc in the body. 

      I also believe that we are all different, so what works for one may not necessarily work for another. However, I do have a friend who had all sorts of issues and problems that I won’t go into inflammatory diseases), and she went paleo for a couple of years believing that it would help her and she actually got worse. It is only now she has tried the plant based approach that she is finally feeling better, so this reaffirms  to me again that it is the way to go.

  6. Hi there, I’m really glad you found this post useful. Many people become a bit stuck in regards to what a healthy diet actually is and where to even begin with it all. You may find useful also my post

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