Healthy eating habits

The fuel – or lack of it – that we put into our bodies is one
of the biggest factors contributing to our state of health. In society today,
we tend to be in such a rush and have so many demands on our time that we have
slipped into poor eating habits. These can range from eating ‘on the go’ or
bolting down our food; eating ready meals full of salt, sugar and additives;
buying less fresh ingredients etc. If you are reading this, you are aspiring to
lead a healthier and happier life. One of the biggest ways you can make that
happen is to nourish your body properly.

There is an old saying: ‘Eat breakfast like a king, lunch
like a prince and supper like a pauper’. This makes perfect sense: despite some
diets’ advice, we do need to start our day by fuelling our body
properly. Our digestive systems are at their strongest at the start of the day:
we have replenished our stomach’s enzyme and acid levels, ready to break down a
hearty meal. By 7pm, our digestive system is all but shut down and the body
will really struggle to process what is for most their main meal of the day.
Some people skip breakfast altogether, others grab just a tea or coffee, most
fill up with sugary cereals. If you look on the back of your cereal packets,
you will probably be shocked: most cereals have between 3-4 teaspoons of sugar
per bowl (4 grams of sugar = one teaspoon). Even many cereals touted as the
‘healthy’ option, like granola, are packed with sugar. You have to look
carefully. In addition to this, there is little nutritional value in these
cereals. Whilst companies will state that they contain added vitamins or iron,
most of these are in a form unrecognisable to the body and therefore unable to
be absorbed.

So, you start the day with a significant
sugar spike – a ‘high’ which your body works hard to balance and then results
in an inevitable late morning ‘dip’, meaning our energy levels slump, you feel
tired and lethargic and often irritable! That’s when you turn to a ‘pick me
up’, and then you carry on the day in this fashion – sugar highs and lows, with
our body working incredibly hard at trying to balance out its blood sugars.
It’s not a coincidence that diabetes type 2 has risen 60% in the past ten years

It’s easy to change this. Firstly, if you
choose to continue having cereals, look very carefully at the nutritional value
and sugar levels in it. Add nuts and seeds to it in order to increase the
protein, as this provides a longer lasting energy store. Try rotating healthy
breakfasts: some other ideas include porridge, eggs, salmon or other fish, good
quality meat, avocados, oat cakes, rye toast, yoghurt (plain), fruit (low GL),
smoothies with a mixture of green leaves and low GL fruit – I ‘bulk’ out mine
by getting extra protein from nuts, seeds, almond butter and a scoop of pure pea
protein powder. Be aware that honey has a very high sugar content, as do many
jams; try almond butter or salt and sugar free peanut butter instead.

GL stands for Glycaemic Load. You may have
come across this term before, or heard of GI (Glycaemic Index). GI measures the
rate at which carbohydrates are released from a food into your bloodstream. Low
GI foods are better than high GI, as they release the carbs at a slower rate,
thus avoiding the spikes and dips that were mentioned earlier. However, measuring
foods in terms of GL is even more sophisticated, as this includes GI, but also
takes into account how much of the
food is carbohydrate. Patrick Holford pioneered this and you can find out more,
along with lists of what has high and low GL on: https://www.patrickholford.com/topic/low-gl. There is also a
great resource which allows you to type in meal ideas and find out their GL
load: http://gl.patrickholford.com

There are some basic rules to follow:


Do not start your day with tea or coffee. They are an assault
on both your stomach and your adrenals. Have a glass of warm water (with lemon
if you wish) first and if you have to have this stimulant then have it with
food.


Try to eat organic. Some crops can be sprayed with
insecticides and herbicides up to thirty times before they reach your plate.


Increase your intake of whole grains, varying what you eat;
try to replace wheat with brown rice, quinoa, oats, barley, buckwheat etc. Any
bread or pasta needs to be brown.


Have 3-4 servings of pulses and beans per week.


Increase your fruit, salad and veg intake past the 5 a day,
to 8-10 a day.


Do not assume that all fat is bad; essential fatty acids are
just that – essential for our bodies
and brains. Nuts, seeds, avocados, eggs, good quality cheese are examples.


Increase your intake of oily fish (wild salmon, sardines,
herrings, pilchards etc)


Avoid refined, processed foods.


Avoid MSG (an artificial flavouring) and Aspartame (an
artificial sweetener). Check out my blog to find out why.


Limit red meat intake to 1-2- servings a week; white meat and
fish are much healthier.


Limit your sugar and salt intake. Foods advertised as ‘low
fat’ are nearly always pumped full of sugar in order to replace the flavour.


Replace sugar with Xylitol, which is plant sourced and one of
the few sweeteners that is neither carcinogenic or neuro-excitatory and doesn’t
feeds pathogenic gut flora.

Healthy snacks include: low GL fruit, nuts,
seeds, oatcakes, rye toast or vegetable sticks with hummus, mashed avocado or
cottage cheese. Avoid dried fruit, as the sugar content can be outrageously
high: a single date has the equivalent to an entire punnet of strawberries!