Saturday, December 1, 2007

Top tips for healthy eating

The best and most balanced diet is one that suits you and your life, and includes important health and nutritional factors. There are no quick fixes or shortcuts to good health. It is a lifestyle choice, not a programme for a designated number of days or weeks. And it is about attitude: you must want to have good nutrition. You must want to eat healthily.

Taking care of your body is not about feeling guilty or disappointed when goals are not reached. Instead, commit to eating right, for most of the time, for all of your life. Being able to eat healthfully is one of life's gifts, which is sadly not available to everyone worldwide. We need to take better care of the privilege.

1. Use the word 'diet' sparingly!

The word 'diet' should not refer to weight loss but to eating for good health. Most people associate weight-loss diets with missing out or deprivation. These diets can and do work for many people, but more often than not they are counterproductive. Often, once you have finished your diet or reached your goal weight, you gradually put weight back on. A good health diet is a lifestyle choice. Healthy eating promotes energy, vitality and vibrancy.

2. Do not focus on losing weight or clothing size

Rather than focus on getting rid of something, why not try focusing on gaining something? Perhaps a good thing to say would be, 'I aim to feel healthy and fit within the next three months: or 'I will be able to complete that 10 km fun run in September: You can still adopt healthy eating habits regardless of your size or weight. Optimum, holistic wellness is a better focus.

3. Eat foods close to their natural form

Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods. The more a food is refined and processed the more essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients are lost. Many of these foods only fulfil hunger needs and do not take into account nutritional needs. Take a typical fast food like hot fries, for example. The main ingredient is potato, but unfortunately you will often find a multitude of additives and hydrogenated oils, not to mention acrylamides (cancer-causing chemicals from high heat, i.e. frying) and salt in this quick snack. You would obtain much more nutrition from the potato without all the processing.

Diet Start

A meal comprised of fish and green vegetables will help enhance a good night's sleep. These foods are rich in magnesium and calcium, both necessary to help the body relax and brain chemistry balance

4. Drink plenty of good clean water

It is often recommended to drink at least eight glasses of water every day. This can be a huge challenge in itself and may not necessarily be right for everyone. We have found the best way to get adequate water into our bodies is to aim to have at least four glasses per day. Or fill a 1-litre water bottle at the beginning of the day and aim to get through it before you get to bed. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake as these contain a higher water content than most processed foods. Look at the humble baked potato above and you will see that it contains a whopping 71 per cent water, as opposed to the hot fries with only 38 per cent. Processed foods not only contain less water but usually have higher sodium levels which, in excess, can cause dehydration and hypertension.

5. Meet your taste buds again!

As you reduce your intake of processed and refined foods, you may think that some foods taste rather bland. This is because you can be addicted to food additives and flavourings like sugar and salt. Trying new, more healthy recipes and introducing new flavours using natural herbs and spices will help you when you try to avoid processed foods. There are many excellent healthy cookbooks on the market or at the library. See the reference section for our recommendations.

6. Eat healthful snacks

Rather than reaching for the typical convenient snack foods, have a handful of almonds and raisins instead. Nuts have an excellent balance of fats, are packed with essential fatty acids, protein, antioxidants, phytonutrients, fibre and energy. A quick digestable snack like a fruit smoothie filled with fruits, milk, water and whey powder or tofu is also an excellent quick source of the essential nutrients your body needs (see page 95). Make a shake in the morning and pour it into a thermos so it stays fresh throughout the day.

7. Listen to your individual needs

We are overwhelmed with diets and books on how to be more healthy. What works for you may not work for someone else. Get in tune with your own needs before you take advice from someone else. When you find something that is working and enjoyable, then stick to your guns regardless of what others may be suggesting.

8. Enjoy the right fat

Fat is an essential nutrient required by the body. The problem arises when people eat too many hydrogenated or trans fats. The best fats to include in your eating are derived from nuts, seeds, avocados and fish. The Omega 3,6 and 9 fats all contain essential fatty acids and can be included in salad and vegetable dressings, smoothies and spreads. When it comes to eating fat for optimum health, the important thing to remember is the type of fat and how much you consume.

9. Plan, plan, plan

One of the biggest reasons for not eating properly is a lack of planning. When you are running late or working long hours, the last thing you want to do is prepare a good meal. It sounds so simple, but if you make something the night before, it will encourage you to eat a good meal at home rather than dine on drive-through. Planning your meals for the week will also keep your food bill at the supermarket down and take the stress out of preparing food. Taking more time in the morning to make your lunch and snacks of wholefoods will also assist in getting good healthy food into your body.

10. Take a natural antioxidant

It is often said that we are overfed and undernourished. Modern diets tend to be loaded with all sorts of processed and refined foods. We are eating more simple carbohydrates, sugar, salt and trans fats that can increase the free radical damage within the body, contribute to weight gain and lessen our immunity. In order to counteract these processes it would be healthful to include a high-quality natural antioxidant daily.

11. Graze, don't gorge!

Skipping meals or not eating for a whole day because you are too busy can be detrimental to your health. When you eat, the body's metabolism rises as the process of digestion begins. Eating four to five small healthy meals a day may suit you more than the typical two or three. It helps keep sugar levels more even and reduces the craving for unhealthy foods. It may also help some with weight loss, if that is your goal. This does not mean eating chips or lollies between meals! Fruit, nuts, seeds, wholemeal bread and cheese are a better alternative. However, if two or three meals a day suits you, then stick to that. In the end, it is not about the number of meals you consume, but about the quality.

12. Educate yourself

Education is power. If you know how to read food labels (see page 120) and understand your body's basic nutritional needs, you will be better able to tell the difference between good information and marketing hype, which is all too often presented to us in the multibillion- dollar food industry.

13. Fad diets

We often get asked our opinions on the many and varied diets available today. The list is endless - from low-carbohydrate or no-carbohydrate to high-protein diets, raw-food diets, liver-cleansing diets and blood-group diets. There always seems to be a new one popping up. Often they contain some good tips and we have kept some great recipes from different diets that we adapt to suit our tastes. But remember, they often don't work for everyone.

Over the years we have both tried many different diet styles, and we agree that it is all about balance and finding what suits you and your lifestyle - and hopefully with the information in this book you will be that one step closer.

If you could plant only one tree in your garden, it should be an apple tree, says famous French herbalist Maurice Messegue. An apple contains pectin and Vitamin C, both of which help keep cholesterol levels stable. Pectin also helps protect us from pollution by binding toxic metals like lead or mercury in the body and transporting them safely out.

Apples are a great antidote to rich, greasy or fatty food. They are great detoxifiers, and those suffering with arthritis or rheumatism should eat raw apples regularly. They also help with diarrhoea and are a great pick-me-up after overindulging or a bout of the flu. Grated raw apple is said to help with recovery from illness, especially digestive problems or infections, as it is soothing and antiseptic. In fact, there are few health problems that cannot be helped or improved by eating an apple a day, including the peel, well washed and thoroughly chewed. This is precisely the reason why we decided to name our book Like an Apple a Day!

A lot of diets are designed for a finite period of time, to either achieve weight loss, cleansing or better health, and some can be very effective. However, the body is such an intricately balanced mechanism that it is unhealthy to eliminate or radically remove any essential nutrient from your diet for a long period of time, so do not deprive yourself. The best approach is to turn to nature and get back to basics. Reduce the amount of refined and processed foods you eat and turn to health-giving wholefoods. This will naturally bring about the balance and vitality you desire. Remember, to achieve optimum health you need to take the holistic approach and look at all areas of your life, because each impacts on the others.

14. Good food, good mood, good energy

Have you ever woken up feeling sluggish, bad-tempered or in need of more sleep? Or hit the afternoon with a huge slump, wondering how you will make it through the rest of the day? Constant fatigue, mood swings and a lack of energy can be brought on by many different factors, but often they are the result of poor food choices. Foods that are highly processed, loaded with sugar, salt or caffeine can alter the way we feel. Even though they may offer a quick surge of energy, they offer little nutritional benefit and can stress the adrenals and digestive system. This can leave us feeling tired or moody. The answer is simple: look at what you are eating to begin with. Opt for foods that give you sustained energy.

15. A moment to say grace

We are often reminded how fortunate we are to have so many different foods available to choose from. It's really true — we are blessed. We believe taking a few moments to say grace — a 'thank you' for the food you are about to eat and a chance to acknowledge the person who has cooked the meal (regardless of how simple it is) — is a powerful gesture. Our children lead the grace now and it makes a huge difference when we all sit down and hold hands around the table with the meal before us. Apart from expressing respect, it can also decrease the chances of indigestion by slowing everyone down before they get stuck into their food! Even if you are on your own, it is a chance to take a deep breath and relax before you begin eating. Here is a lovely simple acknowledgement you could say prior to each meal.

Earth who gives to us this food Sun who makes it ripe and good Dear Earth dear Sun by you we live Our loving thanks to you we give. Blessings on this food.

... andjoyohoxing