Updated: Jul 25, 2022
It's probably not news to you that when it comes to getting healthier, feeling better, losing weight (if that's relevant to you) and living longer, a good diet is really, really important. But what's less clear is - what actually constitutes a good diet?!
There's a lot of contradictory information out there, and a whole host of strict and/or complicated diets promising you rapid results. But I want to reassure you that a good diet that can help you achieve all of the above and more, can actually be very simple. This is the first in a series of nutrition blogs, which will hopefully give you some answers to the question; what should I eat? Whether that be nutrition foundations for everyone, eating for weight loss, or eating for strength gain.
Nutrition lesson number one is simple and something that should apply to everyone, regardless of your goals, provided you want to feel good and live for a long time. Which - call me presumptuous - but I kinda think you do?
Eat. Real. Food.
Yeah. I said it was simple. Apologies if this feels like I'm teaching Grandma to suck eggs but hear me out.
The majority of your diet - we're talking about 80% - should be coming from whole foods; plant based foods plus a little meat, fish, eggs and dairy if that fits with your lifestyle. Only 20% of your overall intake should ideally be coming from processed foods.
The trouble is, in our modern day society where we have such a lot of choice and all foods are immediately available to us, sometimes the lines between processed and unprocessed can become a little blurred. We're sold many products that are branded as 'healthy' that are actually still highly processed. And whilst these don't need to be banished from your diet, we just want to be aware so we can make sure we're eating the foods that give us the most nutritional bang for our buck.
Processed foods include...
Foods that are often branded as 'healthy':
- Cereals with added sugars like cornflakes, granola.
un(or less)processed options are porridge oats, no added sugar muesli, and shredded whole wheat cereal
- Protein powders and protein bars
fine to consume occasionally if you really struggle with protein intake, but opt for natural sources of protein where possible
- Veggie meat alternatives
if you are looking to reduce your meat intake, opt for enjoying lots of unprocessed veggie protein sources like beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts, seeds, wholegrains
- Zero calorie products like 'zero noodles'
Not even going to be gentle about this one - those zero noodles are revolting. I used to force myself to eat them at the height of my disordered eating and they literally made me vomit. Avoid avoid avoid.
- Diet drinks
This goes for the regular fizzy bevs too, but it's only the diet ones that get given the 'health halo' and sold as good for you. I'm a strong believer that there's no such thing as GOOD and BAD foods, but there are things you should aim to consume less of. And fizzy drinks fall into that category.
Plus the foods we maybe associate with being processed...
- Cakes and pastries
- White bread
- White rice and pasta
- Sugary sauces
Unprocessed foods include...
- All the vegetables
- Beans and legumes
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Wholegrains (like brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats)
- Nuts and nut butters
- Oils like olive, coconut, rapeseed
If you answered that your diet is currently made up of mostly real, unprocessed foods, then you're doing bloody brilliant and I've totally wasted your time with this article (sorry about that).
If you answered that it's currently mostly stuff that's been processed, then we can make our first step towards improving our diet eating more of the real stuff. A good goal would be to include 3 or 4 of the foods on the unprocessed list with each meal, particularly the veg! What you'll likely find as you start to consume more unprocessed foods, is that you are fuller and more satisfied, leaving less room and desire for the foods which don't offer us quite as much in the way of nutritional value.
Whether your goal is weight loss, maintenance, strength gain, or just feeling healthier, make sure that the above is your step one in making changes to your diet. I promise you'll feel better for it.
Stay tuned for step two!
Oh and p.s. if you're reading this and thinking "gosh, I could really do with getting some personal training and nutrition support in Bristol/Weston-super-mare" get in touch.