I don’t really follow a defined way of eating. I am not a vegetarian (far from it if I am honest), nor do I eat a paleo diet. I do not eat low carb, low fat or low sugar. What I do ‘aim’ to eat on a daily basis is a balanced selection of ‘whole’ foods.
You will notice I have written ‘aim’. It is my intention to eat mainly whole, unprocessed foods but I am the same as everyone else, I do like my treats; and I will eat my treats. What I won’t do though is binge.
I believe balance eating is about feeding your body with the right nutrients it needs to look and feel great. It is not about a cheeseburger in each hand!!!
There are so many different ‘diet’ theories around and it can get be overwhelming to understand what you should and shouldn’t eat. To help you out a little I’m going to share with you some of my guidelines around healthy eating and a look at what I eat in a typical day.
My balanced eating guide:
Clear out the processed foods First of all to understand what are ‘whole’ foods, it’s good to get an understanding of what food should be cut out of, or minimised in your everyday eating. Personally, I stay away from as much packaged and processed food as possible. I steer clear of foods that are high in sugar and try to minimise ‘white carbs’ like white pasta and white bread (these are usually more processed than the ‘brown’ versions). The more processed a food is, the more likely it will be bad for you. If it has an ingredient list a mile long and you don’t recognise the ingredients as a food source, then it’s probably best to stay away. Also, look at what added sugars and additives have been put in the food. So much food that is marketed as ‘healthy’ has all sorts of added extras that are not only bad for your waistline, but also your overall health.
Ditch the diet I’m a firm believer that ‘diets’ aren’t a good approach to your health and fitness goals. I see so many people go on major deprivation diets, giving themselves metabolic issues, only to put the weight back on after they return to normal eating. My belief is about finding a healthy way to eat that is sustainable over the long term. If you don’t totally deprive yourself of foods, but instead have a little bit every now and then, you can enjoy a balanced diet without feeling as though something is missing. If weight loss is your goal, then make sure you are eating in a way where are losing weight at a healthy rate, but still providing your body with the right nutrients it needs to fuel your body and brain.
Eat whole foods Focus on eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Most of the foods that I buy are not packaged. These include meats and fish that are from the fresh counters of a butcher/fishmonger (although most supermarkets have these as well), fresh fruit and vegetables and nuts, seeds and grains in (or as close as possible) to their natural state. My daily meals are generally made up of lean meat like salmon or chicken, lots of vegetables like dark leafy greens, complex carbs like sweet potato, brown pasta or brown rice, nuts and seeds with some fruit. I will also eat when I’m hungry so I don’t deprive myself.
Eat protein Protein isn’t just for bodybuilders and is an essential nutrient to include in every meal. Your body needs protein to repair and refuel its muscles, making it even more important to eat when you are exercising. As protein is denser than carbs you will usually feel fuller for longer by eating a balanced amount of protein rich foods. Always make sure your protein is from a quality source like lean meat, fish, legumes and free-range eggs.
Don’t be scared of carbs I say ‘carbs are not your enemy’ to people all the time. There is this total myth that carbohydrates make you fat. You need eat carbohydrates, in as close to their unprocessed-self as possible, so your body can absorb protein and you can build lean muscle. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn. In addition, carbohydrates are essential for our body and brain to function properly. However, not all carbohydrates are created equal and it’s important to eat complex carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, butternut squash and oats. Stay away from simple carbs like white bread, white pasta and sugary snacks.
Fat will not make you fat Fats are essential for your body, brain and organs to function properly. Fat also helps rebuild cells, gives you energy and produces fat-burning hormones. That’s why it’s an essential nutrient to include in your daily diet. Especially when you are doing extensive exercise and your body requires ‘longer-lasting’ fuel. However, you need to make sure you are eating the good kind of fat that comes from whole foods like salmon, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds. Try to keep an eye on saturated fats and cut out foods containing trans fats.
My typical day of eating:
Breakfast At the moment my breakfast is usually porridge oats, peanut butter (made from 100% peanuts) and 200ml of semi-skimmed milk. I will add a dash (less than 1g) of dark cocoa powder to give it a chocolatey taste.
If I have exercised I will also drink a glass of semi-skimmed milk to add a few more grams of protein and help me hydrate.
Morning Snacks A banana, an apple and a selection of celery and carrots. If I did more than an hour of exercise I may also include a small bag of crisps to help replenish salts (and crisps are something I would binge on if I didn’t have a small bag every now and again).
Lunch This week has been two eggs cooked in a frying pan together with a selection of vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus and carrots), a quarter of a chopped chilli and half of a clove of garlic. I may also add mushrooms and a bit of stilton cheese to add a bit of taste.
Afternoon Snacks A banana and a homemade flapjack (I’ll post the recipe soon)
Dinner Dinner varies but usually consists of meat or fish, carbs and vegetables. For instance, tonight I am cooking salmon with brown rice, a mixture of vegetables and a homemade tomato and chilli sauce.
For those of you who lead a busy life (don’t we all), this will take approximately 20-25 minutes to cook and that is due to the rice. While the rice is simmering the sauce will be made (more than is needed tonight as the rest will go into tubs and into the freezer for use another day) and the salmon and vegetables cooked in the last 10 minutes.
Evening Snacks I always have a snack in the evening as I don’t like to have my main meal too late. At the moment I am having two squares of dark chocolate. Once again I do like my chocolate so by having a couple of squares most nights stops me binging.
Now I would say that I mainly eat ‘whole’ foods and have a balanced diet between proteins, carbs and fats (in the peanut butter and stilton cheese) and the fruits and vegetables I eat. I have my treats when I feel I want them as I know my food choices, in the main, are ‘whole’ foods. I do not get hung-up on thinking “I can’t eat that”.
Remember, to be your best you need to feel your best, which means you need make sure you are fuelled with wholesome nutritious food. Once you start eating this way and feeling great, your body will continue to crave more good food, making it easier to stay away from the processed and the packaged.
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