Friday, 31 January 2014

My Staples for a Healthy Diet

With so much info out there about what health is and how to get it I find it so hard to decide what's legit and what's another health fad. What to eat, what NOT to eat, when to eat it, how to cook it...or not cook it at all, how and when to work out, how hard/fast/intense you should exercise, even what you should consider as healthy at all. I've come up with a few basic rules to follow for a healthy diet. Or at least my version of a healthy diet.

1. Eat at least 5 fruit and veg a day... but aim for 8. This seems like the most obvious and it's the first point for a reason. Eating 5-8 portions of fruit and veg a day provides a good basis for getting all the vitamins and nutrients you need, I use the Foodle app on my iPhone to get an idea of the vitamins each food provides. Try to eat a mix of different coloured fruits and veggies as each represents a different nutritional profile and try to steam your veggies whenever possible as this retains the most vitamins.

2. Eat sources of Omega-3 fatty acids like nuts, seeds, oily fish like Salmon and Mackerel and eggs. You really want to get enough Omega-3s as our diets are already too high in Omega-6 fatty acids as these are far easier to come by. Omega-3 fatty acids help to lower blood pressure, prevents blood clots, maintain heart health, reduce inflammation and help brain and nerve function... to name just a few benefits! Chia seeds are one of the best sources, containing roughly 3 times the Omega-3s per gram than Salmon! You can get them health food shops or I get mine from

3. Eat enough protein (includes you too girls- it won't make you bulky- Testosterone will). This obviously depends on who you are and what you do (your weight and activity levels, for example). A rough guide for sedentary people is 0.8g of protein for every kg of body weight or 0.36g per lb of bodyweight. So a 10 stone inactive person should aim for around 50g of protein a day.

Those who exercise a lot need more protein, exactly how much is a bit more complicated though. A rough guide for peeps trying to add muscle a guide is 1.8g protein for every kg of bodyweight or 0.8g for every lb. So a 10 stone person would need over 110g of protein a day to maximise muscle protein synthesis (welcome to the gun show in other words).

It is really important to eat enough protein if you are wanting to lose fat too as it keeps you fuller for longer and will reduce the risk of you losing muscle rather than unwanted fat. Here's a great blog post all about protein and how to much to aim for from Mark's Daily Apple.

Extra points on protein = eat a source with every meal, make sure some is a complete protein with all 9 amino acids and eat more after training. Boost your daily intake with a whey protein shake like Pro-10's Whey Protein Concentrate. Post on protein to come soon.


4. I try to eat some complex carbs with every meal. These can be non-starchy veggies like broccoli, lettuce, onions and celery. We digest these carbs slowly and so they also keep you fuller for longer and don't create huige spikes in blood sugar like simple carbs do, so you will maintain consistent energy levels throughout the day= no mid-afternoon slump.

5.  Try to reduce the amount you eat as the day goes on as your energy requirements also decrease. If you are hungry before bed then it's best to eat something high in protein because it will digest slowly and help repair your muscles overnight while you rest.

6. I aim to drink at least 2 litres of water a's nearer to 3 litres in really. Water lubricates your whole body so you'll work like a well-oiled machine, the brain is 75% water, blood is 92%, muscles are 75% and bones are 22% water, you get the idea. You need to replenish those stores throughout the day because it helps lubricate joints, protects vital organs, delivers nutrients throughout the body, converts food to energy, cushions joints and more but to save this blog post turning into a lecture into how bloody great water is, I'll leave it there. I carry my Bobble water bottle around with me so that I am sipping away at the good stuff all day (it has it's own in-built filter so you can keep fresh water that's free of impurities with you all day!).

7. Follow the 80/20 rule. Living by the 80/20 rule means that 80% of your food is healthy and nutrient-dense and isn't high in sugar and calories. You're then free to eat pretty much what you want for the rest of the time. I find this a great way of thinking about your food because it pushes you to eat a healthy diet most of the time and gives you some leeway to indulge too.

8. I take a multi-vitamin and omega-3 supplement every single day, regardless of how well I ate or otherwise (supplements are only meant to fill in the gaps of the nutrition your diet provides, they are not designed as a food replacement). I also have a daily Probiotic containing at least 5 billion cultures and a vitamin D3 tablet every other day (I knock this down to just twice a week during the summer months). I will also do a full post about my supplement routine soon!

So, that's it. My basic rules for a healthy diet. It's not rocket science and I am not an expert either, these are just a few guidelines I find useful to stick by to ensure I am getting a decent level of nutrition. I hope you find some of them (or all of them!) useful too! What do you see as healthy and what things do you do to reach it?

Amy x