Updated: Nov 5, 2021
There is a wealth of information available on healthy eating and diets. Everyone has their own new “magic” diet which promises you the world and more. Where do you go? Who do you believe? How deep down the rabbit hole of nutritional science do you want to go?
Chances are that if staying up to date with the latest nutritional research isn’t really your thing, you would prefer to keep it simple and follow an easy, manageable eating plan.
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So, where do you start? Well, here:
1. Stay hydrated.
The most commonly preached “first point of nutrition”. Stay properly hydrated! There is a good reason for it though. Water is vital to life. Our body is approximately 50-75% water, so it is vital to stay topped up. Let’s look at some reasons to stay properly hydrated with WATER (not juices, coffee, sodas, alcohol!):
Being slightly dehydrated can negatively affect physical and mental performance. This is important if you are trying to lead an active life and training frequently, and if you have a mentally demanding job or lifestyle.
Staying hydrated helps keep the body cool. In warmer months (they are too few and far between here in London) we should be drinking more water than we think as our demands increase. We lose water as we sweat, but, interestingly enough, we lose the majority of water through breathing!
Water helps the skin stay supple and youthful. Dehydrated skin loses its elasticity and can lead to wrinkles. While drinking lots of water won’t help to get rid of wrinkles, it is a good idea to do so as a preventative measure.
Drinking water frequently can stop you from overeating and over-consuming calories. The body sometimes confuses feelings of thirst and hunger, and often having a glass of water when you are feeling peckish away from mealtimes can help to relieve symptoms. One reason you may feel hungry when you are, in fact, low on fluids, is if you crave fruits as they are high in water - this is an evolutionary mechanism we still have.
Most importantly of all, water helps keep you alive! Kind of important if you ask me…
Always opt for plain water to avoid consuming unnecessary calories from sugar. If you drink from a bottle, ensure it is either glass or BPA-free. Aim to consume 2-3 litres of water per day from a glass or BPA-free vessel. Adding lemon, ginger, herbs or sliced fruit to your water is a good way to jazz it up if you get bored.
2. Consume a variety of different coloured vegetables
Vegetables and fruit provide us with many of the essential minerals and vitamins we need for healthy function. While both fruit and vegetables are equally nutritious on a micro nutritional (minerals and vitamins) basis, fruits contain more sugar which, even if it is “naturally occurring”, we should aim to avoid, or at least reduce the consumption of.
Different coloured vegetables contain different micronutrient profiles so aim to consume sources of every colour. The darker the colour, the richer the source of minerals, vitamins and polyphenols.
3. Eat from nature directly to your plate
For hundreds of thousands of years, we consumed food that came straight from the earth, trees, rivers, lakes, forests - nature, basically. It is only in recent times that our food has begun to take a detour from mother nature to our plate via processing facilities and factories. This food adulteration can reduce the nutritional quality of the food and add unwanted chemicals.
Aim to consume foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Root vegetables, tubers, leaves, berries, meats (including organ meats), fish and seafood should all make up the majority of your food intake. Healthy oils and fats such as olive oil, avocado oil, grass-fed butter and extra virgin coconut oil are an exception to the processing rule.
4. Earn your carbs
Carbohydrates play a role in providing our bodies with instant energy. Throughout your day-to-day life, chances are you won’t need a sudden influx of readily available energy so your body fat stores should fulfil the majority of your energy demands. Likewise, that stretching sessions, long walk, swim or yoga/pilates sessions shouldn’t require an intake of carbohydrates to allow you to comfortably perform them. The only time you would really need energy from carbohydrates is before and after a heavy resistance workout or high-intensity sprint (or other similar intense exercise) session.
In situations such as these, aim to consume a small number of carbohydrates approximately 2-3 hours before your workout and a medium amount within 1 hour of finishing your workout.
5. Don’t be afraid of fat
The notion of the low-fat diet is (finally) beginning to die out. More and more research is beginning to point towards a lower carbohydrate and moderate fat diet for optimal human health, and for good reason. Fat is extremely important to our overall health because:
Every hormone in the body is made from fat,
All our nerves are surrounded by a layer of fat to protect them,
The human brain is approximately 60% fat,
Fat plays a vital role in the transportation and absorption of essential minerals and vitamins,
This includes saturated fats too! While eating a stick of butter a day probably won’t do you many favours (unless you are trekking across the south pole), it shouldn’t be avoided or demonised to the extent that it is. A balanced consumption of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats is ideal for optimal health.
Aim to consume fats from healthy sources such as grass-fed butter, coconut oil, animal fats (high-quality meats), oily fish, olives, olive oil, avocados, raw nuts, seeds (less frequently), eggs (organic, free-range).
Avoid seed oils, fried foods (the oils used become rancid and unhealthy), excessive consumption of roasted nuts, baked goods, crisps, margarine, vegetable oil spreads, vegetable oils.
There we have it. 5 simple tips to help you eat better. Making changes to your habits tends to be the hardest part of eating healthier. We tend to be so set in our own ways we struggle to make changes. Rest assured that once you have made the changes and become accustomed to them it gets easier! In fact, once you start eating healthier you’ll find yourself craving healthy foods. Now, where’s that salad?!
Related Post: 6 Foods For Better Gut Health
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Maitland is a personal trainer with over 13 years of experience. He has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.