Healthy Eating – Top 5 Tips in Order of Importance

Eating is one of the great pleasures of life. Either alone or sharing with loved ones, the opportunity to sit still and indulge in the smell, taste and texture of a meal is a moment to be cherished. 

But we all do it so often that it is easy to take it for granted. The average day is so crammed with tasks that eating can become a functional means to an end where habit and convenience rule the decision making about what, where and when we eat. 

Meals have to be quick and easy to prepare (or access) and it helps if they taste great too!

There are so many interwoven, behavioural threads that lead us to eat the way we eat. Our upbringing, education, belief systems and habit loops all play a part in determining what we put in our mouths on a daily basis. Untangling those threads, and then weaving them back together so that we feel and look great from the inside out can be a very challenging and empowering process. 

So where to start?

Here are our top five tips IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE.

1. Remove Nutrient Deficiencies

It’s very common to begin a healthy eating regime with a mindset of what we are going to cut out of our diet. “From now on, there’ll be no more ice-cream, fast food, soft drinks, etc”. While these exclusions would undoubtedly represent a step in the right direction, the problem with this line of thinking is it sets up a mentality of deprivation and scarcity. Healthy eating becomes about what we have to avoid, not what we get to eat. Worse still, if we then “break our diet” we feel like a failure because we didn’t stick to the plan.

It’s much more effective to focus on what we CAN have to significantly boost our energy levels and vitality, which in turn will help us make better decisions about our diet and exercise going forward. It sets up a totally different mindset when we approach our eating with the idea of getting good stuff in, rather than just taking bad stuff out. 

The best way to eliminate cravings is to ensure the body’s nutritional needs are being met.

The most common nutrient deficiencies can be caused by not eating enough protein, a lack of certain vitamins and minerals, fibre, fatty acids, phytonutrients and water. If your energy levels have been consistently low, or you are concerned you may be lacking any of these, a trip to your GP for a blood test is highly recommended to find out for sure. In the meantime, ensure you are covering these nutritional basics by eating a wide variety of whole, minimally processed foods.

Adding vitality to your system is your first priority. If you’re active, you need more fuel and nutrients than the average person so let’s make sure you meet your nutritional needs. 

2. Portion Size

When it comes to finding our own natural, healthy weight, the amount we eat is more important than what we eat. We could be eating a really healthy mix of macronutrients and covering all of our nutritional needs, but if we’re eating significantly more than we are burning off each day, then our weight is still going to go up.

We recommend that you don’t try to count your calories or kilojoules each day. Anyone who has had a go at typing their meals into a nutrition app or like we used to in the old days have the calorie counter book and the calculator in the back pocket will know that it’s a very time consuming and short lived experience. Apart from being a pain in the butt and impossible to maintain, it’s also not very accurate. Studies have shown that the food label information on the package can be out by as much as 25% because of production inconsistencies and variation of ingredient amounts. Not only that but we also don’t know how many calories we are actually absorbing. Estimates suggest that this can also vary up to 25% depending on the state of our digestive health. So for all the work it takes to count calories in the first place and then for it potentially be out by up to 50%, it is really not worth the joyless trouble of it all.

One effective way to get the amount right is to tune into our hunger and appetite cues. 

Now that is easy to say and virtually impossible to do if we are eating packaged and commercially prepared foods. These are rich in refined sugars and starches, highly processed fats, and sodium. They are cleverly designed to be so delicious that they run roughshod over the body’s normal fullness signals, and encourage overeating. So the only way to be able to do this is to eat whole foods that are minimally processed. We’ve all experienced this ourselves. It’s pretty hard to eat more than 3 bananas in a row before you body says, that’s enough bananas, but we can quite easily munch down a huge packet of chips or block of chocolate or packet of biscuits seemingly without finding our stop button.

Next time you’re about to put something in your basket at the supermarket, a good question to ask is, how much human interference has there been between where this food came from and how it looks now? If it’s a fruit or veg or piece of meat or nut or a whole grain then it’s got some vitality to offer you, but if it’s a brightly coloured package with a long list of ingredients then it’s probably more of a product than a food, designed to make money, not you healthy. 

3. Eat Slowly Until Satisfied, Not Full.

Eating slowly is another great way to tune into our body’s natural signals. The intention should be to stop eating when we are SATISFIED which is about 80% full. Many of us have a subconscious expectation or habit of eating until we feel full, as opposed to just satisfied. Remember when mum and dad used to tell us we had to finish everything that was on the plate!

Eating too quickly presents another problem. 

It takes about 20min from the time you start eating for the brain to register that the stomach is receiving food and the satiety hormones to kick in, so when we scoff our food down, we can actually eat far more than we need to eat before we start feeling the need to stop. That’s how we can go from starving to stuffed. Satisfied, was somewhere in the middle, and we’ll only notice that satisfied feeling if we slow down and tune into the natural signals of our body to help regulate our intake. This is such a simple point, but it is so important. Again, you could be eating great foods, but still not be getting the results you should be if you ignore it. 

4. Macronutrient Ratio – What to Eat

The fourth most important point to focus on when cleaning up our diet is what we eat. (Many people start and finish with this point alone, which is why so many diet plans fail to achieve lasting results). The exact macronutrient (carbs, protein and fats) balance that is right for you is unique to YOU and depends on any medical conditions you may have, your activity levels, training goals, gender, age, and genetics. To ensure you are eating the right mix of foods to optimise your health and vitality, book in with a RISE Nutrition Coach for a one on one consultation. 

5. When to Eat

For years dieticians and nutritionists thought that splitting up our daily intake into lots of small meals eaten frequently throughout the day was the best way to go. It was assumed that as many as 6 meals a day could speed up our metabolism and control the release of insulin and cortisol.

We now know there is more to it.

Recent research has shown that there can be great benefits to having larger gaps between meals, which has led to the current move towards intermittent fasting (a topic we will cover in more detail in future blogs). 

So when is the best time to eat?

It’s best to decide when to eat based on our own work, lifestyle and training commitments. It can be one or two meals a day or it can be up to six. Start with a practical approach that is achievable and then tweak it depending on the results we are getting. 

If someone naturally doesn’t feel hungry at breakfast time and skipping it doesn’t lead to poor choices later in the day then we say it’s ok to keep skipping it. Incidentally though, most people we know who don’t feel hungry in the morning, often eat their largest meal at night time so if you’d like to feel “naturally” hungry in the mornings, then try having a smaller dinner for a few nights in a row and you’ll wake up with a good appetite. 

Remember, what we eat today becomes our eyeballs, hair, skin, nails (and the rest) tomorrow. So let’s make our next meal a good one!

Until next time, 

Ruth

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