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Where to Start with Healthy Eating

by Sonia Chartier, on 14 June 2014, Healthy Eating
Where to start with healthy eating

Healthy eating is the foundation of good health.  It is the way to simply promote wellbeing, prevent illnesses and maintain (or reach) a healthy weight.  As it is usually true for most things, balance is key.  For good health, you must not only eat right, but exercise is also essential.

What is eating right?  Well it is not all about good food or bad food; it is about regular diet and habits.  What you do not want is to develop “orthorexia nervosa” which is the obsession of eating only the right foods.  Then you lose the fun of eating and make yourself and people eating with you miserable. Michael Pollan sums up healthy eating in his book Omnivore’s Dilemma by saying:  eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

There are all kind of diets advertised everywhere, aiming to help with weight loss: the Atkins diet, the Paleo diet, the cookie diet, the no-carb, etc.  You should not to get carried away with diets that suggest something other than a balanced diet. Over the past 90 years, nearly 23 000 different kind of diets have been published and apparently none of them works on the long term to maintain health and weight.  What are the chances that the next one will?

It should not be about following a weight loss diet that just targets reducing your calorie intake but rather about adopting healthy eating habits, and exercise regularly.

Calorie intake can be misleading.  A common mistake for people who drink soft drinks is to switch to diet drink for weight loss.  Yes the calorie intake will be less, BUT eating or drinking anything sweet triggers the body to wanting more.  When you drink a sugary drink, you do get your appetite stimulated but the calories in the drink also satiate it.  If you drink a diet soda, your appetite is stimulated and wants more and more because it is never satiated.  We are not saying that regular soft drink is good but rather stating the fact that diet drinks do not help with weight loss.  A regular can of Cola (354 mL) contains 34g of sugar…that is the equivalent of 17 white sugar cubes!!

Studies have linked refined carbohydrates like sugar, to heart disease and obesity.  You should make a habit of reading labels because sugar is added most processed foods, even where you would not expect it: in crackers, soups, canned tuna…  One white sugar cube is equivalent to 2 g; it helps to make a quick calculation and evaluate if you can do without that much sugar when reading labels. Ingredients finishing by “ose” are usually sweeteners for example fructose, glucose, and sucralose.  If you look only at the nutritional table, you do not get a true picture of the sugar content because some food, such as fruits, have naturally occurring sugar that will show up in the same category as added sugar.  It is important to know how to read food labels.

There is also some confusion about fat.  A low fat diet is not necessarily healthy; if you are eating foods that are naturally low in fat such as beans and veggies it’s good, but if you are choosing “low fat” or “fat free” labeled foods such as salad dressing, it usually means that there are high contents of sugar, salt or starch to make up for the taste.

Some fats are essential.  Choose vegetable oils such as olive, flax or canola oil for cooking and salads.  Avoid partially hydrogenated oils that contain Trans fat.  A good balance between Omega-6 and Omega-3 is important for your health.

What should your plate look like?

It should look fresh, colourful and appetizing!  When shopping for your food, go for fresh.  Avoid processed foods.  It is easy to cook healthy meals with fresh ingredients and it does not have to take long – all you need is a few easy yet tasty recipes.

Fresh fruits and veggies should make up half of what you eat.  During our long winter, opting for frozen veggies is a good idea.  They are frozen while ripe and fresh and did not have to be picked while still unripe and travel around the world to make it to your plate.

A quarter of your plate should be grains; whole grains such as whole-wheat, barley, whole-wheat couscous quinoa, oats, and brown rice.  Foods made with whole grains like whole-wheat pasta do not affect blood sugar and insulin as much as white pasta, white rice, white bread, etc.

The last quarter of your plate should be protein:  beans, nuts, fish and chicken are the best options.  If you are a red meat lover, try to limit how often you eat it.  The worst options are processed meats such as sausages, bacon and cold cuts because they are not only fatty but also very salty and full of preservatives.

If you are used to thinking about what to make as a side dish to accompany your meat, it is a twist to start thinking about what protein or meat you will have with your vegetables.

Actually, if you have your 5 servings of vegetables, 4 servings of fruit, 1 of nuts, around 15 g of fibres from whole grains, you will not be all that hungry for a big portion of meat!   You should also include probiotics to your diet as they have great health benefits for digestion and absorption of nutriments.

How Sprouts Are Good For Health

Sprouts may not look the part but they are chock-full of nutrients.  Its as if all the benefits of the vegetable are concentrated into its little sprout. It is easy to get fresh sprouts all year round from supermarkets but it is more fun is to do it at home.  Once you put the seeds to germinate, you can harvest the freshest sprouts within a few days.

Kids usually prefer sandwiches with sprouts that they grew themselves in a germinator, than with “boring” lettuce.  You can even choose some mixed seeds containing radish to add some serious zing.

Low Sodium Diet

Canadians love their salt!   Generally speaking, our prepared foods contain more salt than their US counterpart and that is following consumer taste panels.  Salt is the culprit in many illnesses including heart disease and stokes.  Most of the salt we consume comes from prepared foods and restaurant.  When we cook for ourselves, we salt much less.

Sodium, which constitutes about 40% of table salt and of sea salt, is both essential and detrimental to our health.  Our body needs 1500mg of sodium per day and Health Canada recommends that we do not go over 2300mg per day:  that is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of salt.

There are alternatives to regular salt to enhance your food.  Herbamare is a sea salt infused with a mix of herbs and vegetables that is so tasty, that you will no need to use as much as you would regular salt.

Some people have to follow a strict diet containing little to no sodium to maintain their health.  Herbamare sodium-free  is a great tasting alternative to salt to use in cooking.  It is made of Potassium chloride mixed with herbs and vegetables.

 Coffee

Coffee is a stimulant that most of us would hate to part with, especially in the morning. A cup of coffee per day is not going to affect your health.  The problem can stem both from the amount of caffeine consumed – especially when you add up coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks and from the artificially flavoured additives that make your coffee taste like something it’s not.

Many of us drink 2-3 or more cups of coffee throughout the day.  Alfred Vogel, in an effort to help his friends reduce their coffee intake concocted what he called Bambu coffee substitute.  It is made of cereals, acorns and figs and is a bit bitter yet very mellow.  Like coffee, it can be enjoyed hot, or frappe.  Your kids will be happy to share a cup with you.

When you start to cut down on coffee, you may feel very tired, which shows you just how much effect coffee actually has.  This tiredness only lasts one or two days and then you feel much more focused.

Overall, you should have a no-nonsense approach to food.  No one food in particular is going to make us healthy.  It is better to get our vitamins and minerals from the food that we eat than try to compensate with supplements.  Normally, with a good balanced diet, there is no need for supplements.

We generally must eat less sugar, less fat and less quantity.  We tend to forget about portion size and eat way more than we need to.

Drinking water and exercising will always be beneficial and go hand in hand with a balanced diet.

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