The Truth About Healthy Eating
30 May 2016
The more I read about the food industry, the more I am blown away by the way the world eats. What baffles me even more is the overload of contradicting and in many cases nonsense information that people are fed about what healthy eating looks like. We are told one day that in order to live long healthy lives we should eat a diet low in fat and high in whole grains while the next day a book comes out touting the merits of a high fat, high protein, low carb lifestyle. Who is right? What is the truth? Why is it all so damn confusing!?!
Take a look around you – my guess is someone you are sitting near is drinking a diet coke, someone else is mindlessly snacking on a bag of sugar free cookies while yet another is eating low-fat string cheese. Each one of these people consciously chose their respective snack because someone, at some point, told them it was ‘healthy’ or at least ‘healthier’ than an alternative treat.
I am baffled by this; how did this happen? How these low-fat sugar-free myths were even allowed to persist in the first place! Truth is we need to look forward and not mull over what was. With internet and social media we now have the knowledge and the power to make a change. And its not about radical change, it’s about subtle changes to your diet that will yield long term and impactful results - not only to your waistline but most importantly - to your health.
First and foremost, contrary to what most people think, eating healthily is really not all that challenging – just go back to the basics, that’s all. We all know that a diet balanced with organic fruits and vegetables, responsibly raised and sustainable lean meats, and seafood never killed anyone. Where eating healthy gets dicey is when we need it to be fast and convenient. If we all had the luxury of time and money or a strong desire to cook, eating healthy would be a breeze. Unfortunately though, most of us burn the candle at both ends and want our food to be fast, delicious, and cost effective. The challenge lies in striking the balance between spending your free time in the kitchen preparing meals for the week and reaching for those seemingly "healthy" snacks that come packaged, have a crazy long shelf life, and contain a string of “unpronounceable” ingredients (in many cases, chemicals).
When I was much younger, and first started working towards a healthier and more active lifestyle, I too fell prey to these claims made on common food products and well-known food brands. I would pack my lunch with low-fat cottage cheese, processed deli-meats, protein bars, and sugar-free snacks. I had no idea the food I was eating was not actually making me healthier but in fact was full of chemicals and preservatives. However, I have always had a very strong interest in health, wellness, nutrition and fitness, so I started doing my own research. And with each new study and article I read, the more I came to realise that cheap and readily available supermarket food isn’t really food at all.
I get it though, not everyone wants to comb through blogs and books to discover what the optimal diet looks like. The good news is you don’t have to. Keep your food choices simple, stick to one ingredient wholefoods, and above all listen to your body! We really need to be doing this more. Our bodies are so smart, and they tell us what is good for us. The problem is we forget to tune in.
Below are a few simple guidelines for healthy eating that I have implemented into my daily life for and hopefully, you will be able to do the same:
- Try to eat most of your meals containing foods that have a natural shelf life (i.e. eggs, organic produce, lean meats). The easiest way to accomplish this is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. The perimeter generally contains food that tend to go bad within 7-10 days so it ensures you are eating as freshly as possible!
- When grocery shopping or eating out, choose items that are presented in their truest form - avoid "low-fat, reduced sugar, etc.) - generally speaking, when one part of a food is taken out, it's replaced with something else that can often times be worse for our health.
- Whenever possible, carry extra snacks with you (i.e. apple slices, seeds, homemade date and coconut balls, nuts etc) - most convenience foods available to us on short notice are filled with the junk we do not want in our bodies.
- Try and choose foods that have less than 5 ingredients; the fewer ingredients, the better your chances that the food is actually food and not genetically engineered materials full of additives and preservatives.
- Beware of foods that make health claims. Not all “health foods” are bad, but this is a good general rule that will cause you to check the ingredients before naively believing the claim on the package.
It sounds overly simplistic, but it really is true - eating healthily isn't all that complicated. We are so used to variety, the problem is that the variety we have is what makes healthy eating complicated. So take it back to basics –ask yourself, what grows naturally. What can be found in nature? – and let that be your answer to the foods you choose to buy. Look at supermarkets for what they are – a place where lots and lots of money is made – when you acknowledge this, you will realise that the variety we have to choose from emanates from companies who just want to make more money. Remember, just because something is edible, does NOT mean it is food! Nothing wrong with the occasional treat, but for the most part keep it clean, simple and natural.
Yours in Health Always,