What is the easiest way to start eating healthy?
This is also a very common question in people’s minds. You want to eat healthily, but don’t know where to start. While there’s a plethora of readily available information, everywhere you look there’s contradictory information. Some say carbs are the new “evil”, some say carbs are healthy. Some say there’s nothing wrong with saturated fats, while others may still caution you against them. Some say being vegan is the way to go, while others would say that being vegan is going against nature. So instead of being helpful, the internet only serves to confuse you. What do you do then? Who do you believe?
Like many things in life, the answer is very simple but we tend to unnecessarily complicate things. Often we look for the answer is complicated, newer things that we might not fully understand. We think that so far we haven’t been eating healthy, or been of a healthy weight because we do not know about the latest new product or discovery of some ‘secret ingredient’ that we’ve been missing our entire lives. If that sounds like you, you’re not alone. we’ve been led to believe that the answer is a lot more complicated and elusive than it actually is. The truth is that sometimes, simplicity wins.
This is what I mean. You can start eating healthy by simplifying your grocery list.
What do you generally shop for? Do you look for shiny, new things with bright and colorful labels advertised as being ‘healthy’? Do you look for labels that list the newest wonder ingredient to make you healthier? The good news is, you don’t need to do any of that.
Simply look for whole, minimally processed foods.
What are whole foods?
Whole foods are foods that are minimally processed, and retain their natural nutrients and fibre that would otherwise be lost in processing. Examples of whole foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains such as brown rice (instead of white rice) etc.
Whole foods are healthier than their processed counterparts because whole foods retain much of their nutrients that would otherwise be lost during processing. This makes whole foods naturally nutrient-dense, with plenty of naturally-occuring vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre, to keep you feeling full and satiated long after you’ve eaten. This means no sudden slump in energy levels, reduced cravings, and a reduced intake of calories, without even trying (Yay to that!!) !
Whole foods also provide food for the good bacteria in our gut, helping to maintain their population.
Eating Healthy in a nutshell
The components of a healthy diet are :
1. Complex Carbohydrates:
These are present in unprocessed plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes and whole grains. Processed plant foods such as white rice or white bread are refined and have lost many nutrients and fibre and so they are no longer healthy. The complex carbohydrates from whole foods are slowly digested, keeping your blood sugar levels steady, so you do not experience any of the negative effects of eating a diet rich in refined grains which are quickly digested and raise blood sugar levels rapidly.
If you’ve heard that carbohydrates are bad, let me assure you that complex carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables (even starchy ones), whole grains and legumes are very beneficial to health and do not pose any health risks. In fact, many studies have found complex carbohydrates as being beneficial in improving insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance in diabetics, and good for heart health.
A healthy diet includes high quality, complex carbohydrates from unprocessed fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds and legumes.
Proteins do not exist in isolation, but come pre-packaged with other micro-nutrients and fats. I’ll explain what I mean by that. Protein can be from either plant-based or animal sources. Plant-based sources of protein, such as nuts and seeds, beans and legumes and whole grains are pre-packaged with complex carbohydrates, lots of fibre, vitamins and minerals and GOOD FATS. Animal sources of protein, while being more easily digestible, are pre-packaged with no fibre, and usually SATURATED FATS (except fish, which have good fats). This is why plant-based sources of protein are a healthier option.
Whole foods protein sources include unsalted (and preferably raw or lightly roasted) nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, pumpkin, flax and chia seeds, etc. Nuts and seeds contain plenty of good fats, protein and fibre.
Beans and legumes are also a good source of plant-based protein that also provide complex carbohydrates, several vitamins and minerals, some good fats and lots of fibre. Try to choose dry legumes and make them at home from scratch after soaking them and cooking to a high temperature. If you do not have time for that and must choose canned or baked beans, choose a brand with less sodium and no added sugars and other additives.
A healthy diet includes primarily plant-based sources of protein from nuts and seeds, beans and legumes and whole grains as they come ‘pre-packaged’ with lots of fibre, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Healthy animal sources of protein include unprocessed fish, and some unprocessed lean meat.
3. Healthy fats
These are fats that are essential to the proper functioning of our body. There are four types of fats that we get from our diet – Saturated fats, Trans fats, and mono and polyunsaturated fats.
Unsaturated fats, specifically polyunsaturated fats from plant and marine sources reduce the risk of heart disease, especially when they replace saturated fat or refined carbohydrates. Unsaturated fats are present in plant-based foods such as nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, whole grains, sea vegetables such as algae, as well as fatty fish such as salmon.
Saturated fats come primarily from animal sources such as dairy products, eggs and meat. Recent dietary guidelines advice to restrict saturated fat consumption to less than 10% of total calories per day.
Trans fats are produced by hydrogenation of unsaturated oils or by biohydrogenation in the stomach of ruminant animals. Trans fats are also produced by refining unsaturated oils and frying in unsaturated oils. Studies have linked trans fats to health problems such as insulin resistance, heart disease, cancer, obesity. Hence, a healthy diet should avoid trans fats as far as possible.
A healthy diet includes good fats such as mono and polyunsaturated fats, limits saturated fats and avoids trans fats.
It’s no secret that plant-based foods are healthier for us. Plant-based foods have more antioxidants, fibre and healthy fats and are less inflammatory compared to foods from animal sources. This is the reason why foods from animal sources should ideally be limited to only a few servings a week, avoiding processed meats (the consumption of processed meats is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, colon cancer and diabetes).
However, it is important to note that just eating plant-based foods does not automatically imply a healthy diet. A plant-based diet can also be unhealthy if it includes too many processed foods containing refined grains, added sugar and trans fat. Thus, in order for a plant-based diet to be healthy, the same rules apply – whole, minimally processed foods!
- Fill up half of your plate with colourful vegetables and fruits.
- Fill a quarter of your plate with whole grains and foods made from whole grains such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, barley, wheat etc. Choose whole grain bread or pasta instead of white bread or pasta made from refined flours.
- Choose healthy proteins from plant-based sources such as beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, or fish and chicken. Limit red meat and avoid processed meats altogether.
- Choose healthy fats and oils, limit saturated fats and avoid hydrogenated and trans fats.
- Choose water for hydration and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.
In addition to this, I would just like to add that as far as possible, cook meals from scratch. If you must buy packaged goods for convenience, look for ones with whole grains and containing only few ingredients, additives and little to no added sugar and trans fat.
Start eating Healthy Today!
HEALTHY SNACK Recipes
Start eating healthy and avoid binging on the wrong foods!