I talk to a lot of people about what they eat, and one of the most common themes that comes up is portion control. How much of each thing should we eat? Should we be avoiding carbs? How do we know how much is too much? And what can happen if you don’t eat enough?
Although my response is simple, it can take time to work out what’s right for you, depending on a lot of different variables such as your body, your lifestyle, your home situation, and your emotions.
As a rule, my view is that we shouldn’t deny ourselves any food groups as our body needs them to function properly. So we should be eating carbohydrates, protein and fats. These things aren’t the real issue, with regard to the growing levels of obesity in our society. The high sugar, high fat, processed meals, snacks and takeaways are the real issue, as these are the things that have become the norm in people’s diets due to their low cost and high availability.
Anyone wanting to know where to start with regard to being healthier, can do one simple thing. Go back to basics.
But what does this mean? Cut out anything processed, sugary and ready made, along with anything with a huge list of unrecognisable ingredients. Make things from scratch using lean proteins, wholegrain carbohydrates, and lots of fresh vegetables. Eat some fruit, but not too much due to its sugar content. Our bodies deal with natural sugar in the same way that it deals with granulated sugar. Or can’t deal with it, as is often the case when our diets are overloaded with it.
With regard to portion sizes, American cup measures are a really useful guide. For your main meal, aim for one cup measure of cooked carbohydrates, a half cup measure of lean protein, and then bulk your meal out with lots of fresh vegetables. For your other meals, two slices of wholemeal toast or a cup measure of cooked porridge oats is acceptable for breakfast for example, soup with a roll would be a good lunch, and some fruit, raw veg, nuts and seeds in between as snacks. And you’ve got yourself a healthy day. If you aim for this, added to choosing healthier options as detailed above, it’s an easy visual way of eating, which makes it flexible for when you’re outside of your comfort zone of home.
Often it’s not what we eat for our actual meals that is the problem. It’s what we snack on in-between times that add empty calories (calories with no beneficial nutrients). So it might be worth trying to identify the reason for the snacking; boredom, stress, tiredness, feelings of depression. Maybe try to keep a food diary where you write down what you eat as well as making a note of how you were feeling, as there is more likely a different reason for the eating other than hunger.
Which leads me on to water. Drink lots of it! Aim for a glass with each meal, and a glass in-between mealtimes, then it’s not too daunting. We tend to think we are hungry, when our body is just telling us that we need water. Our bodies are made up of lots of water, which gets used up by daily life, so it makes sense that it needs to be replaced, so that our bodies can function properly. If you exercise, you will need to drink more too!
And exercise….! Move your body in a way that makes you happy, and then you’re more likely to do it regularly. If you don’t like running, don’t run! If you like dancing, do that instead! Try to work up a sweat for about half an hour three times a week doing something that you love, and you’ve got yourself an exercise regime!
And don’t forget to sleep. Not just because you’re tired, but because your body needs time to properly rest and restore. It’s hard work being a human body!
If you need help working out what’s right for you, my Be Healthy Challenge is weekly menu planning with recipes and shopping lists, plus a closed Facebook group for daily support from me. And it’s only £10 per calendar month. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.