There are usually no black and white answers in nutrition: your diet is as individual as you are. This is why you will often hear me say ‘it depends’ when I am asked a nutrition question without any context or knowing much about you. However, in this month’s article I will answer some of the questions I am often asked.
1. What does a balanced diet look like?
A balanced diet is low in sugar, processed foods and alcohol. It is varied, and high in unprocessed foods. It includes good quality protein (eg eggs, fish, lentils, beans, poultry, meat or dairy, filling one-quarter of your plate), good essential fats (eg nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado, oily fish) and is rich in fibre and non-starchy vegetables (any vegetables grown above the ground, filling half of your plate). The last quarter of your plate (which can also be replaced by non-starchy vegetables) is for carbohydrates (ideally unrefined, such as brown rice/pasta/bread) or starchy vegetables (swede, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes). Good hydration should not be forgotten either but, most importantly, an effective balanced diet includes having a relaxed, enjoyable and healthy attitude towards food.
2. What can I eat for breakfast that is quick and will keep me full until lunchtime?
The magic recipe here is to combine carbs with protein and good fats. Balanced breakfast ideas include: egg and avocado, cream cheese and pomegranate seeds or nut butter and berries/apple on a piece of wholemeal toast; overnight oats or porridge with nut butter, yogurt with berries, apple, pear or plum; homemade smoothies; Greek yogurt with nuts, seeds and berries/banana; spinach and feta omelette, or shop-bought low-sugar granola (The Paleo Food Co., Lizi’s or Bio & Me).
3. Is there a diet for quick but healthy weight loss?
There is no one-size-fits-all diet and certainly no quick fixes! To lose weight and keep it off long-term, slow and steady is the way forward. Get it off and keep it off! Ignore the marketing claims behind magic pills, detox teas or other potions and stick to eating real and unprocessed foods as much as possible. Weight gain is rarely a matter of eating too much and exercising too little (if only it was that simple!). Weight loss often happens as a perk of something else being brought back into balance in the body. Discovering what, and finding the right diet for you, is my job.
4. How can I make better choices when I am stressed and reaching for salt, sugar or fat?
One of the obvious strategies is to tackle stress first, both through stress-relieving techniques (meditation, yoga, deep breathing) and stress-supporting nutrition and lifestyle adjustments. Craving salty foods is a typical sign that you need adrenal support. What about homemade kale crisps or salted popcorn, instead of crisps, as a healthier choice? Eating sugary snacks when stressed can temporarily boost the feel-good hormone serotonin but this quick hit can sadly also contribute to sugar addiction. Other ways to boost serotonin levels include exposure to bright sunlight and exercising. Choosing a snack high in protein is instantly a healthier option. Ever wondered why you cannot resist those Mars bars? Clever food manufacturers have found the perfect balance between salty, sweet and fat, often referred to as the ‘bliss point’…!
Christelle is a Registered Nutritionist, specialising in weight loss and blood sugar management. Need some help with your health? Visit www.keepcalmnutrition.co.uk for more info.