It seems like everyone has a view on nutrition. For those who have struggled with eating healthily and/or losing weight, there’s a plethora of opinion on the best and quickest solution. Debate rages around the various benefits (or otherwise!) of high fat, low carb, high protein, vegan, paleo, keto, gluten free, sugar free….the list goes on. This blog aims to address some of the myths and simplifies the nutrition story.
Just like in the business world where there are endless ‘experts’ selling the ‘get rich fast’ message, the nutrition and diet industry represents a multi billion dollar global business that, for the most part, sells empty promises. It is true that many of the solutions can deliver on weight-loss, even if they don’t meet the ‘healthy eating’ criteria, but the question is how sustainable are they really? We are all human and life messes with our best intentions. How long, in reality, could you live on just shakes or steaks?
In a world of ‘on demand’, it is natural to want a quick fix. Many clients wonder whether seeing a nutritionist would be helpful. They imagine that he/she might tell them something they haven’t heard before or reveal a big secret. When I question them further, they are, in reality, quite well-informed but have not been able to find the strength of purpose to put it into practice…consistently. The gap between that knowledge and practice can be a very large one. Addressing it is the starting point to success.
5 things that all nutritionists agree on
Having read extensively around the topic of healthy eating and weight loss, it seems to me that there are some common prinicples that no nutritionist would challenge. It is here that I advise people to start. Pick one thing that you feel will make the biggest difference to you individually and commit to it. If you find that too challenging, then break it down further into action points that you can achieve. Do them consistently until it becomes second nature before moving on to the next. Remember, every small step adds up to a giant stride. What’s more, you are laying down good habits as you go that will remain with you and serve you well.
1. Processed food – wherever possible replace food that has been processed, whether it be ready meals or otherwise ‘modified’ food (eg by adding salt, canning, or pre-cooking), with fresh food that is as close to its natural state as possible. Rediscover the joy of cooking your own meals. They can be just as quick to prepare as a ready meal or takeaway and at least you know what you are putting in to your body. Plus, there’s probably a money saving incentive too!
2. Sugar – sugar has little nutritional benefit. It is addictive and affects the same part of the brain as drugs, giving us an artificial high and, often, a corresponding low. It is no coincidence that manufacturers add sugar to lots of products that you would not expect with the simple aim of increasing consumption. Also like drugs, we crave more and more sugar which can lead not only to weight gain and obesity, but also to type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety. I can say categorically that this is the case as, since giving up sugar, I feel the effects immediately if I go off the straight and narrow!
3. Refined carbohydrates – ‘carbs’ can often get a bad press. What is often forgotten is that they are pretty critical as an energy source. The brain in particular needs a steady flow of fuel in the form of glucose and failure to provide this can affect cognitive function and performance. However, it is important to try and avoid the spikes in blood sugar caused by refined carbohydrates that have had much of the fibre stripped away. Far better to eat unrefined carbohydrates such as brown rice, wholewheat pasta, and oats which contain more fibre and take the body longer to break down. The added benefit is that they will also keep you fuller for longer. Check out the GI index to see how different foods compare.
4. Protein – essential in building and repair of tissues and in muscle growth, as well as playing an important role in hormone production. It is not unusual for our protein requirements to be overlooked. The recommendation is to eat 1 gram of protein for every 0.8 – 1kg of body weight. So for someone who weights 11 stone that would be 60-70grams of protein. For reference a salmon fillet contains 20 – 25 g of protein. Other good sources include chicken, turkey, all fish, lentils, and cottage cheese.
5. Vegetables – packed with vitamins and minerals and one of the few things you can enjoy just about limitlessly! Traditionally maybe not the most exciting thing to eat but it doesn’t have to be that way. On our recent retreat in Portugal, Claudia, the Me Spot chef cooked up some of the most delicious food, much of it focused around vegetables. When she suggested a starter of broccoli and green beans, even I was a little concerned that it might be one healthy step too far! I couldn’t have been more wrong. It turned out to be one of the favourites of the whole week. So, if you needed any more convincing, here’s her recipe:
Broccoli, green beans and pomegranate salad (Serves 4)
150g green beans
1 pomegranate seeded
2/3 bunch coriander
2/3 bunch parsley
1/3 bunch mint
2 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
1. Blanche the broccoli and green beans until cooked but still crunchy and set aside.
2. Blitz the ingredients for the dressing in a blender. Add a little water if necessary if the consistency appears too thick.
3. When you are ready to serve, saute the vegetables in a hot pan with a little butter and salt and pepper to taste until they are warmed through and lightly brown.
4. Plate and drizzle with the dressing then top with the pomegranate seeds and serve.
If, over time, you can master the 5 things listed in this article, you’re guaranteed to be healthier, happier, and have way more energy. No nutritionist required!
Enjoy the salad. Let me know what you think!