The answer to the question ‘what should I eat’ is not an easy one these days. It seems that every day a new book or article is presented with a new idea. We should eat Paleo, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, count calories, eat grains, not eat grains, we should follow the food pyramid one day only to find out the next day that it is obsolete. At the same time almost everybody is gaining weight and nothing seems to really work.
In general people gain weight gradually over the course of years (on average one pound per year). Accumulated over time even modest increases in weight are related to an increased risk for obesity and obesity related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Because losing weight poses tremendous challenges and usually is unsuccessful in the long run it makes sense to strive for weight stability. So a very important step in becoming healthy is to stabilize your weight. This is done by gradually switching to a healthy eating pattern.
To achieve weight stabilization it is very important to know that unlimited consumption of food will cause you to gain weight independently of whether the food is healthy or not. Don’t be afraid of fat and calories in healthy foods. Olive oil, avocado and nuts for example contain a high amount of fat and calories.
Still many studies show that people who eat these foods don’t gain weight or even lose some weight. Of course, the calories don’t disappear. What’s likely happening is that when people increase their intake of these foods, they cut back on calories from other foods.
This is the essential point, when starting a healthy diet slowly exchanging the unhealthy foods like sugary drinks, white grains and processed foods for real, colourful and unprocessed foods. This will slowly stabilize your weight. This doesn’t mean you can never eat a cookie, pizza or hamburger again.
The emphasis lies on a balanced diet, most of the time unprocessed and fresh and once in a while a splurge. Another important point is portion size. Studies show that when you use a smaller plate you will eat smaller portions and this will contribute to an overall healthy weight and good health.
In contrast to what many people think eating fresh and healthy foods doesn’t have to be hard, time-consuming or tasteless. The truth is when you are used to high fat, high sodium, processed foods and highly sugary drinks the change can be difficult.
Unprocessed fresh foods might taste different and may make you feel uncomfortable. This is why gradual change is important. Start with adding one piece of fruit to your meals or start with adding vegetables to your dinner. First choose foods you love but don’t eat often.
Colourful grilled vegetables with fresh herbs for dinner, unsalted mixed nuts or dark chocolate as a snack, oatmeal, berries, low-fat (soy) yoghurt or whole grain/bran toast for breakfast. Making the food look good makes it much more appealing and tasty. You don’t have to be a great cook or spend hours in the kitchen to do this.
If you want to get some inspiration on how to make quick healthy and tasty meals with beautiful pictures, great recipes that are easy to follow check out thestonesoup.com. Which I found very helpful in changing my diet and still gives me great ideas and inspiration.
Try these tips for healthy eating:
Mix and vary and remember that you don’t have to throw out any food groups completely. As research goes on insights on healthy foods may change all the time so the best advice is to be moderate and use common sense. It is safe to limit the use of processed and refined foods, red meats, sausages and sugary drinks and follow these guidelines:
Eat a plant-based diet
This is the healthiest; make sure that half of your plate is filled with fruit and vegetables, the more colourful and the more variety the better. Limit the consumption of potatoes because they are high in fast digested starch that raises blood sugar fast and increases hunger.
Eat a healthy source of protein
Chose fish, chicken, beans or nuts, and an average of one egg a day. Limit red meat and processed meats.
Eat whole grains and bran
Grains are not essential for health although the combination of whole grains and bran is modestly associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Over time, eating whole grains and bran (brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta) instead of refined grains (white rice, white bread, white pasta) makes it easier to control weight.
Use healthy oils
Instead of butter use healthy liquid oils such as vegetable oils, like olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower and peanut oil.
Drink water, coffee or tea and drink alcohol in moderation
What you drink is just as important for your health and weight as what you eat. Water is the best choice and coffee and tea (especially green and white tea) have health benefits. Limit dairy and milk consumption to two servings a day because the health benefits are unclear and high intake might even increase the risk of disease.
Calcium can also be obtained from fortified soymilk, beans, leafy green vegetables and broccoli. Moderate alcohol consumption can have real health benefits for many people, but it’s not for everyone so if you don’t drink you shouldn’t feel like you have to start.
Limit sugar and salt
The body doesn’t need added sugar or salt. While sometimes we add sugar to our food ourselves most of the added sugars come from processed and prepared foods. Foods that contain the most added sugars are breakfast cereals, instant foods, sweets, pastries, sodas and fruit juices.
Salt (sodium chloride) adds flavor to food and is also used as a preservative, binder, and stabilizer. The human body needs a very small amount of sodium to keep the body function properly.
Too much sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Most people consume far more sodium than our bodies need. Most processed and prepared foods like pizza, soups, breads, cheese, snacks, prepared dishes and canned foods contain a lot of salt.