A varied, colourful diet is the key to eating more healthily reports medical herbalist Nicola Parker.
and live on Freeview channel 276
There has been a lot of controversy regarding government advice regarding healthy living recently. On the one hand, we are being encouraged to stay active and maintain a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet.
On the other hand, to boost the economy and the catering industry following the Covid-19 pandemic, discounts for fast food restaurant chains are being subsided by the government, encouraging the public to eat at restaurants that are well known for offering unhealthy junk food.
Staying healthy is about much more than just keeping calories down and exercising to maintain a healthy weight though.
In the face of a global pandemic, many of us are concerned about staying as healthy as we can, so I thought I’d go through some of the common mistakes I see when people switch to a healthy diet.
Eating too much fruit
Fruit is packed full of nutrients and fibre, but it is also packed full of sugar. If getting your five a day means eating a handful of grapes, a banana, a glass of orange and two apples and a fruit smoothie, chances are you are going to struggle to lose weight.
Fruit juices and fruit smoothies are actually junk foods in disguise. Fruit juice, in particular, contains none of the fibre and all of the sugar, so as well as packing a punch in the calorie department, this much sugar can cause diarrhoea, bloating and other digestive issues. Get your five a day from vegetables and add in a portion or two of fruit as a sweet treat.
Not eating enough protein
A healthy diet does not mean a vegetarian diet and not all vegetarian diets are healthy. Protein is essential for tissue repair and brain function.
A common mistake is to assume that avoiding meat and eating only fruit and veggies makes our diet much healthier. In actual fact, a diet low in protein will slow healing and recovery while also making us more hungry. If you don’t want to eat meat, protein-packed alternatives include beans, pulses, nuts, nut butter, fish, seeds and tofu.
Cutting out red meat. Red meat was public enemy at one time, but lean cuts of red meat can be a rich source of essential nutrients like zinc, B12 and iron that can be difficult to get elsewhere.
If that rump steak looks like a little too much to handle, consider using lean mince in a shepherd’s pie, Bolognese or chilli once every week or so. If red meat isn’t your thing, look to dark green leafy veg, shellfish, pumpkin seeds and eggs and make these foods a staple in your kitchen.
Not eating enough
Eating less is a common practice for people trying to lose weight, but going hungry can affect your blood sugars negatively and in some cases actually lead to weight gain rather than loss.
Skipping meals or eating small portions can leave us hungry enough that we start to snack on sweet, high sugar foods between meals or in the evening.
It also makes a diet difficult to stick to, as we feel hungry, miserable and start to experience “hanger” (anger caused by being to hungry)!
Stay full with high fibre and protein rich meals. Pack your plate with veggies and choose wholegrain versions of rice, pasta and bread so that you can stay full while making healthy choices. Don’t eat less, just eat smarter!
Eating low fat, processed foods
Low fat ready meal options often contain a lot of sugar. Fat is flavour, so once the fat is removed from a meal, it can become bland. Instead, processed food companies add extra sugar because nobody wants to buy tasteless food. This means they can market an unhealthy choice as a healthy choice by labelling it as ‘low fat’. So if you’re buying these products, check the labels for sugar content before popping them into your basket.
In my clinic I regularly help people adjust their diet to manage specific health conditions and the mistakes listed above come up time and time again. The key to a healthy diet, is a well rounded, varied diet rich in protein, a wide range of brightly coloured vegetables and eating more wholegrain foods.
For more info, or to book a virtual or in-person dietary consult with Nicola, contact her at her clinic on 01524 413733.