Bring balance back to your diet

If every Monday morning starts with great intentions to get fitter, healthier and become a new and improved version of yourself, but by Saturday you are chastising yourself for another failed diet, then maybe it is time to change the way you think about food.

For many of us food means dieting, restriction, watching calories, carbs, fat or sugar, often followed by a blow-out when we have ‘been bad’ or eaten something we think we shouldn’t have.

What if there was another way? What if healthy eating could be a way of life instead of just a quick fix?

:: The headline diet

My philosophy on health, nutrition and wellness (and most things in life) is 80:20. If we can eat well 80 per cent of the time, we are doing pretty well, don’t you think? Last week’s headlines screamed about low carb diets shortening our life span, not enough salt being bad for us and the ‘carnivore diet’ being the next fad to hit our lives.

These headlines can be confusing and sometimes downright damaging, often contradicting solid research and nutritional advice that we know has an impact on our health.

:: Eat real food!

Around 50 per cent of the food we buy is ‘ultra-processed’ junk food. We are eating junk. Is it any wonder that our rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other life changing health conditions are on the increase?

Often, we are seduced into buying junk food disguised as health food, labelled with promises of weight loss, lower calories, higher protein or any number of health claims.

Take a look at the ingredient lists of some of those foods you have in your trolley. If they read like a science experiment, then they can be classified as ‘ultra processed’: foods dreamt up in a lab by a food technologist packed with additives, preservatives and bearing little resemblance to the food we might cook at home.

Let’s take yoghurt as an example. The ingredients list of a well known brand of yoghurt aimed at weight loss reads like this: Reconstituted Skimmed Milk, Skimmed Milk, Strawberry (12 per cent), Skimmed Milk Powder, Fructose Syrup (1 per cent), Modified Maize Starch, Gelatine, Colour: Anthocyanins, Stabilisers: Pectin, Guar Gum, Flavourings, Sweeteners: Aspartame, Acesulfame K, Acidity Regulators: Calcium Malates, Citric Acid, Yogurt Cultures.

Compare this to the ingredients list of a pot of natural yoghurt: Yogurt (Milk).

I know which one would end up in my basket!

Our health is taking the hit from all this crap food we are eating – and we need to do something about it. We have reached a crisis point. We need to get back to basics and eat real food.

Instead of waiting until Monday morning to make changes that we only stick to for a few days, we can start with a few simple, healthy changes today.

Small changes that are easy to achieve and become a healthy habit are far better for our health that yoyo dieting.

What can you do today for the good of your health? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

:: Fill at least half your plate with vegetables.

:: Eat at least one green leafy vegetable every day.

:: Eat a rainbow. Pack as many different coloured fruit and vegetables onto your plate as you can.

:: Eat oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines or herring at least a couple of times every week.

:: Have a handful of unsalted nuts and seeds every day.

:: Drink a few glasses of water every day.

:: Replace some of the white foods in your diet with wholegrains like wholemeal bread, brown rice or oats.

:: Eat less carbohydrate.

:: Eat some ‘good’ fats every day – nuts, seeds, avocado, oily fish, olive oil.

:: Cook your own food instead of buying ready meals and processed foods.

This blog post first appeared as an article in The Irish News on Saturday 30 August 2018.