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Nutrition Basics: Setting the Foundations

Date Posted - March 13, 2017
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These days you can’t open a magazine or newspaper without seeing a nutrition related article, and while this is helping inform us about some of the basics regarding healthy eating, it can also lead to confusion, misunderstandings and constant conflicts in advice or recommendation. This often causes us not knowing which advice to follow and which to dismiss.


What’s fact and what’s fad?

There are many different diets that are becoming more and more popular, the majority are based on some ‘loose science’ that has been tweaked and changed to support the authors concept. Many of these ‘fad diets’ rely restrict of certain foods or food groups in hope that it is these specific foods or groups that causes health issues or prevent weight loss, where in fact removal of these things helps reduce calorie intake which ultimately leads to weight loss or improvement in health. The exception to this is if a genuine food intolerance or allergy has been diagnosed and the removal of a specific foods or group will have additional benefits to health over and above simply the removal of calories.

Fad diets are often overly restrictive and have a set of rules that need to be followed in order to be successful; this can often make them difficult to adhere to and can lead to guilt or feelings of failure if these rules can’t be followed. Another thing fad diets often fail to mention is a balanced approach to nutrition, sadly a balanced diet doesn’t sell books or make the front page of a magazine but the realist is that a balanced approach to the foods we eat not only in food choices or portions but also the balance its plays in our lives and how easy they are to follow or enjoy special occasions with friends and family.


What is a balanced diet?

A Balanced food intake and lifestyle (rather than diet, which implies and start and an end point) provides:

  • A combination of fats, proteins and carbohydrates to adequate amounts based on your goals and activity levels
  • A wide variety of colours, textures and flavours which helps ensure a full range of vitamins and minerals are included in a eating plan
  • The correct amount of foods and controlled portions to be eaten, ensuring you are not excessively hunger, feeling deprived or restricted
  • Flexibility for you to enjoy any food within reason with a specific situation, allowing you to make an informed choice about whether you want to eat something or not.

Two set or guidelines that provide a balanced approach to healthy eating are the Eat well Guide, which are the government recommendations and B.A.N.T guidelines (British association of Applied Nutrition and nutritional therapy). Although they different slightly on their details the main message of both organisations is balanced approach to what we eat is vital for health, weight loss or performance and that no food is truly off limits in eaten to appropriate amounts. Common themes across both sets of guidelines

  • Eat a wide range of fruit and vegetables – The more colourful the better
  • Include starchy carbohydrates and base intake to activity level.
  • Include Lean protein such as chicken, turkey, lean red meat and fish often.
  • Include source or milk and dairy
  • Limit and be mindful about refined foods that high in fat or sugar.

sea bass

Food prep 101

Knowing what foods to eat is one thing, but putting it into practice can be a lot more difficult. We leave in a 24/7 world based around time constraints, work commitments and deadlines. This can make eating healthy a challenge even for the most dedicated person. Sometimes convenience comes before nutrition; this is where meal prep skills are so useful.  Having the ability to shop for the right foods and prepare them in ways that appeal to you more than takeaways and ready meals. The internet is full of healthy recipes and alternatives to takeaways for a fraction of the calorie intake and significantly more nutrition

Mexican Standoff

Meal prep tips

  • Go shopping with a weekly menu in mind, aim to only buy the ingredients required for your menu. This will save you money, prevent food wastage and prevent you from being tempted by specials offers on snack foods.
  • Cook in bulk. Whenever possible cook more than would be needed and freeze the leftovers, this is provides you with a healthy go to option if your short of time and looking for something to eat.
  • Set up a meal prep club. If you and your friends are all following a healthy eating plan why not each cook a meal in bulk and swap them between yourselves. For example, You could cooks a chili and friend could cook a cottage pie and a third friend could make a curry. Now for cooking one meal in bulk and swapping between each other, you each now have three different pre prepped meals for no extra time.
  • Have pre portioned fruit, nuts, high protein snacks available in your ‘danger zones’ such as the office, in the glovebox of your car, handbag or anywhere that is a potential situation your you are tempted to make less positive choices

Protein Pancakes

It’s ok not to be perfect

When people start a healthy eating plan they often feel they have to but only eat clean and 100% commitment otherwise they deem themselves as failing. Realistically, lapsing from an eating plan is normal and having a flexible approach to eating leads to better long term adherence and relationship with food. It’s better to eat well 80% of the time by making mindful decisions about what to eat then trying to eat well 100% of the time but not being able to maintain such a strict eating plan and ultimately failing to create new habits and reverting back to old ways.

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