Building a Healthy Diet
What does a ‘healthy’ diet even look like?
When referring to the ‘diet’ I am talking about the foods that make up our meals. I am not talking about the ‘diet’ in a fad sense, defined by restriction and sometimes guilt.
What we put into our body profoundly influences it’s every structure and function. The nutrients we digest and absorb from our food literally forms who we are, from muscle tissue to mood. With so much conflicting, confusing information out there, it is important to be aware of basic nutrition. It is much more productive to focus on what makes up the majority of the diet, rather than zoning in on micro-choices - is honey or maple syrup better? Coconut oil or Olive?
So, basics first:
There are few things out there called macronutrients. These include things that are familiar to most of us including carbohydrates, protein, fats and fibre. To keep things simple, we will consider these first when building the foundations of our healthy diet.
A quick word on protein. It’s a necessity. We each vary in our individual requirements for protein, but a safe bet is to aim for 1g of protein for each kilogram of body weight. A little more if you are pregnant or training hard. Meat is what we call a ‘complete’ protein, but complete proteins can also be built from including a couple sources of plant protein in the one meal. It’s a good idea to include some protein with each meal, whether from fish, nuts, poultry, red meat, seeds, beans and legumes.
Some key things protein is used for:
Making hormones that control our bodily systems including sex and mood hormones
Repairing muscles and other tissues after exertion
Helping our liver detoxify foods, drinks and other substances
Maintaining a strong immune system
Making enzymes and energy
Hopefully by the end of this post, any concerns you had about carbohydrates will be out the window. I say this because they are pretty much unavoidable, so it’s time to make them our allies!
You may know that carbohydrates are the body’s go-to for energy production, before protein and fat. Being the main macronutrient in fruit and vegetables, carb containing foods are vital for a healthy diet. In fact, carbohydrates should make up about 50% of energy from food depending who you ask. Go crazy on your fruit and veg – have them make up half of your plate, and boost the quality of your bread and pasta by trying mung bean fettucine, sourdough and good brown seedy breads. Carb-rich foods are often high in fibre, important for healthy bowel function and feeding those microflora that help run our immune system.
Ah, fats. The things we humans demonised before we turned on sugar. Most of us now know that saturated fat (think fried foods, fatty cuts of meat, chocolate) should be consumed in small amounts, trans- fats (movie popcorn, margarine) avoided wherever possible, and those angelic omega-3 fatty acids included daily. We need adequate fat from our diet for a healthy brain, satiated tummy, happy glowing skin, sex hormone production, to prevent inflammation and balance mood. So what are some easy sources of fats?
Raw nuts (cashew, walnut, almond, brazil nut to name a few)
Raw seeds (pepitas, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and the like)
Oily cold water fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines)
Now that we have set the foundations, remembering to include fats, carbs and proteins with each meal, we can hone in on our smaller friends, the micro nutrients. I’m talking about vitamins and minerals, of which there are a mind-boggling amount, all with various roles and quirks.
Diversity is key, here. Try and see how many different foods you can fit in your diet in one day. Aim for between 10 and 20 – without counting things like wheat that tend to sneak in multiple times. By including as many different colours as possible you can be sure that youre getting a wide range of vitamins and minerals from your food. This way you also are including plenty of whole foods, with micronutrients abundant and intact. Some ideas:
Red – cabbage, onion, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon, radish, capsicum, chilli
Orange – sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin, cantaloupe, orange, papaya, mandarine
Yellow – squash, banana, lemon, yellow capsicum, grapefruit, pineapple,
Green – eat as many as possible – spinach, kale, apples, zucchini, cucumber, silverbeet, broccoli, asparagus, beans, peas, pears, celery, kiwi fruit
Purple – cabbage, beetroot, blackberries, grapes, eggplant
White – onion, garlic, leek, parsnip, cauliflower
As you can see, a healthy diet is dependent on including a wide range of foods rather than cutting foods out. The healthy foods mentioned here will end up replacing less desirable foods such as sugary processed foods and drinks, packaged snacks and meals heavy in wheat and dairy.
I’d love to help you move towards a more individualised diet that suits your unique genetic makeup and personal health circumstances. Please make a booking if you are ready to upgrade your diet and your health!
If you have urgent concerns about your health, please seek support from your GP or health professional.