Diet & Lifestyle Tips
Stabilise weight and improve energy levels, by balancing your blood sugar levels
Carbohydrate containing foods contain sugars, which are released into the body once digested in the form of glucose. Fats can also be broken down to glucose in the absence of carbohydrates. Our body needs glucose as its main source of energy and it is delivered to where it is needed by the blood. Keeping the level of glucose in the blood within strict limits is very important for our body to maintain health – it will regulate itself to keep within these limits. During imbalances – when low we might feel quite tired and the body will stimulate a feeling of hunger or even a craving for sweet foods. When it is very high, it may slow down your circulation, and insulin will store the excess glucose as fat.
- Choose low sugar, or savoury breakfasts, healthy well-balanced lunches and dinners, plus healthy wholefood snacks in between, if necessary, to keep your levels stable.
- Choose complex carbohydrates, or starchy vegetables as your main source of slow-release energy!
- Combining protein and carbohydrates will also help.
- Keep carbohydrates to a ¼ plate at meals to ensure you don’t overeat.
Eat 7-10 portions of vegetables and fruit every day
A portion (80g) is approximately equivalent to a plum. Fruit and vegetables are amazing sources of vitamins, minerals, fibre, plant chemicals and antioxidants that help regulate all bodily processes, improve digestive health and our microbiomes, and help reduce toxic load. Try to include some raw plant foods for added variety and maximum nutrition. Aim for 75% vegetables and 25% fruit.
- To easily achieve your 7-10 a day add extra vegetables to casseroles, salads and soups and make all meals with a ½ a plate of vegetables, wherever you can.
- Pulses & vegetable or fruit juices do count, but only as one portion – whatever you eat.
- Potatoes and other starchy tubers do not count!
Eat protein with every meal and snack
Protein is absolutely essential for the body to grow and repair, as it forms enzymes – that breakdown food, antibodies, hormones, hair, nails, bone, teeth, haemoglobin (blood protein), neurotransmitters – brain chemicals and skin. Dietary wise, protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer, keeping hunger pangs at bay and helps to stabilise blood sugar levels – leaving you less tempted to snack on sweet or fatty foods. Complete proteins contain the nine essential amino acids, essential to health, that need to be obtained by the diet.
- Include fish, chicken, lean meats, soya, or other vegetarian or vegan complete proteins with your meals and snacks.
- Grains, pulses, nuts and dairy, whilst good sources of protein, contain a lot of carbohydrate and fats and not all are complete, so be careful how much you include.
- Make your plate ¼ filled with good quality complete protein.
Bulk up on your fibre
Food should have character and substance, and offer some resistance when you eat it. Whole foods, pulses and whole grains have much, much more roughage than their white processed counterparts and still contain B vitamins, which we need for energy production and stress management. Vegetables and fresh fruits should be the nutritional cornerstone of every diet, whilst pulses are some of the healthiest carbohydrates you can eat – they provide energy to your muscle cells and brain many hours after a meal, and they are loaded with soluble fibre that keeps your colon healthy and populated by healthy bacteria. Fibre also supports digestion, remove toxins and lower cholesterol absorption.
How much do I need?
Current advice says adults should aim for at least 24g fibre a day, although up to 35g daily would be more beneficial.
- Increase the fibre content of your diet by choosing wholegrains (x 2) – brown rice, barley, kamut, quinoa, rye, oats, millet and pulses (x 1) and simply adhere to the 7+ a day principles.
Eat the essentials
Omega 3 and 6 are essential polyunsaturated fats, which cannot be made by the body and therefore need to be included in the diet. Omega 3 supplies us with EPA & DHA that are important for brain function, vision, counteracting inflammation and reducing the risk of blood clots. Sources of omega 3 fats include – hemp seeds, flaxseeds (linseeds), pumpkin seeds and their cold pressed oils. Larger quantities of omega 3 are found in oily fish. It is believed that our diets contain enough omega 6, but sources include – sunflower, safflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds & their oils.
- Include at least 2-3 portions of oily fish in your diet weekly.
- Think SMASHT – Salmon. Mackerel. Anchovy. Sardines. Herring. Tuna (fresh).
- Vegan sources of EPA & DHA can only be supplied by marine algae that needs to be supplemented.
- Avoid cooking with omega 3 oils as they are easily damaged by heat.
Saturated fats? – The truth about saturated fats
Saturated fats are also beneficial in small amounts – they are present in every cell membrane and, can help to support liver function, immunity and hormone production. Yes, they are still responsible for promoting high cholesterol, especially when eaten in large amounts, but it is important to highlight beneficial saturated fats.
- Virgin Coconut Oil is mainly made from Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) – used by the body for energy (not stored) and is great for stir-frying.
- Duck fat is high in beneficial unsaturated fats, and its chemical composition is closer to olive oil than butter and is great for roasting.
- Butter has beneficial oils and fat-soluble vitamins; especially grass fed and is a healthier choice than margarines or spreads.
- Ghee has all the health benefits of butter without the dairy and has a higher smoke point than butter – it is good for curries and stews that are highly flavoured.
- No fat should be used in large amounts including coconut oil.
- Department of Health guidelines state that fat intake should be 35% of total food energy or less and saturates 11% of food energy or less.
Include probiotic foods every day
Probiotics help to balance the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system that helps to support improved digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients. Help reduce symptoms of certain digestive disorders such as preventing and treating diarrhoea, help re-populate the gut after a course of antibiotics and may help support your immune system, helping to prevent colds and flu, by supporting correct gut function – the barrier from the outside environment. This may help you lose weight, by helping prevent the absorption of dietary fat and helping the gut feel fuller for longer by increasing levels of certain hormones. Studies have also shown that probiotic foods synthesise vitamins in the gut, such as vitamin K and B12, as a by-product of their metabolism.
- Include foods such as bio yoghurt, natto, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, miso and tempeh and prebiotic foods such as chicory, artichokes, garlic, celery, onions, leeks and asparagus.
Eat less salt! – Salt causes ill health
The daily maximum amount for adults is 5g a day (a teaspoon – not in one go…!) (sodium x 2.5 = salt amount). Most people don’t know how much they are having and go over this amount. Doctors believe that the average is between 10-15g/daily. Eating too much salt increases the risk of high blood pressure, even in young people. How does it work? Sodium works with chloride and potassium to maintain fluid balance in the body. Too much salt in the diet means the kidneys cause your body retain water, as it keeps the amount of fluid circulating in the body higher than it should be, increasing pressure on the blood vessel walls.
- Avoid Red (High), traffic light salt rated foods and choose mainly Green (Low), or the occasional Amber (Medium).
- Foods like breads and cereals may not taste salty, but can be packed with sodium.
- Labels promising “reduced sodium” or “unsalted” may still contain more than you need.
- Add less salt when cooking or use low sodium salt, low salt stocks and sauces
- Don’t add salt at the table your taste buds will adapt to the taste
- Experiment with herbs and spices to add extra flavour – low salt foods needn’t be tasteless or bland.
Stay Hydrated – with Water!
Our body is made up of 70-80% water. As the primary fluid in the body, water serves as a solvent for minerals & vitamins and plays a key role in the digestion, absorption, transportation and use of nutrients. Water is the medium for the safe elimination of toxins and waste products and whole-body thermoregulation is critically dependent on it. There is no system in the body that does not depend on water.
- We metabolise some water from the foods we eat – as long as your diet contains a lot of vegetables and fruit.
- Sip water throughout the day from a refillable water bottle, which is easy to carry.
- Aim for 1.5Ltr per day (or 6 medium glasses).
- It is best not obtained from fruit juices, tea & coffee, although herbal teas are fine.
- Only water hydrates, cleans and detoxifies like water.
Ideally don’t drink coffee or black tea, especially first thing, and not after 12pm. Keep caffeine containing beverages to no more than 3 cups per day and ideally on a full stomach. Stimulants such as tea, coffee, red bull and cola consumed for an energy boost actually have the opposite effect and can also be damaging if consumed in high quantities. They give you an energy rush, followed by a corresponding dip, leaving you lacking energy and looking for your next caffeine ‘fix’, whilst robbing the body of essential nutrients.
- Choose decaffeinated beverages, or herbal teas as healthier options.
Deal with stress
Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences, but chronic stress can be incredibly damaging for the body! It can affect every system in the body and wreaks havoc with hormones, affects metabolism – making the body store fat. Did you know that stress has the same impact on your body as eating sugar and also robs the body of essential nutrients? Stress causes cravings for the wrong foods, particularly salty, high fat and sugary snacks further compounding the problem.
- Try to relax when you eat, chew your food and focus on what you are eating rather than reading, watching TV or using the computer.
- Take in some stress busting relaxation hobbies, like yoga, mindfulness or meditation.
When we are tired, we eat more and reach for instant energy fixes from caffeine, sugar and fat. A good night’s sleep is vital for overall health, as it helps to repair the body physically and psychologically, as well as aiding in weight loss. Try to get to bed early or deal with sleep problems should you have any. We need 5 full sleep cycles throughout the night that can be achieved by sleeping for 7-9 hours.
- Tip: Aim for a full 8hr sleep, relax before retiring by reading a book or taking a bath.
- It is essential to avoid watching TV, using mobile phones in bed and stop the use of blue light devices for up to 2 hrs before retiring.
This is crucial for overall health, energy and mood, as well as helping to maintain a healthy weight. Start slowly with a brisk walk in the park, take the stairs instead of the lift or get off the bus, or tube a few stops earlier than normal and walk the rest of the way. Just 10 minutes sustained exercise that gets your heart beating faster is amazingly beneficial.
- Aim for 1.5 hrs of moderate intensity exercise per week, either in 5 x 30 min, or 15 x 10 min bouts.