Healthy Eating, Part Four: Common-sense basics
There are times when I literally throw up my hands in despair and stop reading books and watching films about the food chain, genetically modified food and everything that is wrong about food. If you eat excess meat and acidic foods you will get cancer; too much fat leads to stroke and heart disease; and let us not even talk about carbohydrates: this group has been maligned since it is blamed for obesity and diabetes. While all of the above is true, there comes a point where one becomes immune to the information. Any excess, too much or too little, is bad for us. How can we talk about healthy food in a balanced way without making it all sound so scary? Food isn't the enemy; it is our misuse of products that is the problem.
I am a flexitarian, this means that most of my meals are meat-free but I have days where, pardon the pun, I eat the whole hog. It is a personal decision, much like those who want to be straight-up vegan or bonafide meat eaters. What is on your plate is not my business or vice versa, but it is important that we encourage one another in a positive way to make good choices. This is the point: eating is an individual choice and, like clothes, one size does not fit all. We eat differently due to cultural influences, personal preference, financial reasons and health issues, to name a few factors.
First, healthy eating boils down to simple common sense. If you don't purchase unhealthy foods, there will be less temptation when you get home. So prepare a list; this helps to keep you disciplined. Make sure half of that list is fresh produce outside of your basics. Where possible, buy the leanest meats, legumes such as chickpeas, various lentils, broad, butter and black beans outside of your regular red and gungo peas. Compare calorie content and pick the healthiest version of your preferred foods, such as 1% versus full-fat milk; brown rice instead of white; whole grain pastas instead of regular; oat, bran, whole-wheat breads instead of white. Do you see the pattern emerging? In essence, less of the white stuff, more of the brown.
Instead of rice all the time have sweet potatoes, yam, green banana and pumpkin as a side. Go easy on the beloved dumplings, and make them whole-wheat sometimes. Yes, I am in parrot mode again, but this is especially for new readers who have written in, and a gentle reminder for everyone else. Snacks: do not deprive yourself — just make better choices, primarily fruit, nuts, seeds, grains, and why not have a little dark chocolate — much better than milk; more selections on the market now. Use more olive and coconut oil for cooking and light versions of vegetable oil. No matter what you eat, it needs to be paired with moderate exercise at least three times a week from basic walks to a gym routine, yoga or dancing. Any activity you enjoy, really. We need all of the food groups; just have to be sensible in our approach and do what works best for us.
Here are a few tips to help you. First, portion control is key. Do not buy overly huge plates and large glasses which you feel compelled to fill. Instead, buy regular-sized plates and glasses which were normal before the whole "super size" revolution. Next, visualise your average-sized dinner plate. When you portion out your meals, make sure that half the plate is vegetables, one-quarter protein, and one-quarter carbs. This is the best balance. Secondly, what do you want to weigh? What is the best weight for your height, age, and bone density? One great tip I have learnt from nutritionists is calorie counting. For example, your target weight is 140lbs. To achieve this goal, multiply your goal weight times 10 and eat this amount of calories daily to accompany your exercise regime. So, for someone who wants to weigh 140lbs, daily consumption should be 1400 calories.
I saw this quote on a graphic the other day and thought it would be appropriate to end this four-part series especially for those readers who told me they were feeling in the doldrums. I hope it gives you some inspiration. It said "EXERCISE to be fit, not skinny, EAT to nourish your body, and always IGNORE the haters, doubters and unhealthy examples that were once feeding you. YOU are worth more than you realise." Happy healthy eating!
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