It is difficult to have a set definition for a ‘healthy’ diet. What is considered healthy differs from person to person, especially when depending on your goals for your body and your health.
A good starting point, I live by this and will say it over and over again, is to stick to real natural foods. You should try to eat foods that are beneficial to your body and improve your overall health and wellbeing. This is achieved through the consumption of natural foods which are packed with specific macro and micronutrients. In other words, try to stick to foods with nutritional value.
I will point out some foods that you should definitely eliminate or at least try to reduce in your diet, and what you can substitute them for. Some foods provide little to no nutritional value and may be doing more damage to your body than you might think.
1. Refined Sugars and Sweeteners
As addictive as they are, refined sugars are no good! Unfortunately they are in a lot of the foods we eat, and are often added and hidden in products that are seen as ‘healthy.’ Yes I know you crave sweet tasting chocolates, desserts and sugary drinks, but you should really cut them out of your diet. Now I’m not saying to go full cold turkey, because more than often that will lead to cravings and binge eating, which is even worse. If it is easier for you, slowly reduce your refined sugar intake. Do not make it too hard on yourself and never set unrealistic expectations.
HOWEVER, sugar can still be your friend, you just have to find the right kind…. it’s called natural sugar. Sadly your body recognises sugar the same way no matter where it’s from, but natural sugar provides your body with a variety of health benefits that you can’t find in refined sugar.
The most common sources of natural sugar are found in fruit and vegetables (which I eat daily) and syrups, such as honey, rice malt syrup and even maple syrup! You will be very surprised with the variety of natural sugar sources that there are, you just have to look! Plus they taste just as good!
2. Trans Fat and Minimal Saturated Fat
Trans Fat is big no! Trans fats have no nutritional value and they are found in common packaged foods such as pastries, cakes, fried foods, biscuits… the list goes on and on.
Harvard Health Publishing explains trans fat as “a byproduct of a process called hydrogenation that is used to turn healthy oils into solids and to prevent them from becoming rancid.”
Fats that are solid at room temp = BAD!
Trans fat also links to many health problems! It raises your LDL cholesterol levels and can increase your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
Saturated fats are not the worst for you, but they are what I consider as ‘sometimes’ foods. I would try to limit these foods in your diet and consume them in small amounts.
Foods commonly containing saturated fats are fatty cuts of meats: (lamb, pork, beef) chicken skin, fatty dairy products (full cream milk, cream, ice cream, butter, cheese), and tropical oils (coconut oil, palm oil).
Good Fats (yay):
Not all fats are bad! Healthy fats are an essential part of nutritious diet. I eat good fats in at least two of my meals everyday, I absolutely love them and they leave me full for longer.
These fats are known to improve heart functioning and lower your cholesterol levels. You can check out The Heart Foundation’s list to view all the benefits of healhty fats.
There are generally two types of good fats:
- Monounsaturated fats:
Avocados, oils (olive, canola,peanut and soybean), nuts (almonds, cashews and peanuts).
- Polyunsaturated fats: (contain omega 3 and omega 6 fats)
Fish (salmon and tuna), Nuts, (pine nuts and walnuts), flaxseed and chia seed, tahini.
3. Refined “white” Carbohydrates
Just like fats, there are bad carbs and there are good carbs. You should aim to eat carbs that have a high fibre content and contain nutrients essential to your bodies functioning.
Carbs that you should avoid are typically “white”, such as white bread, white pasta and white rice. These carbs might taste delicious and be good at filling you up but they lack nutrients as they have been more refined and processed than other forms of carbs.
The good thing is that there is a whole range of foods that contain healthy carbs and are filled with a high fibre content. These include:
A few side notes —
What is my diet?
I grew up with a very well-rounded diet. Even now, there is almost nothing that I don’t like the taste of, however there are many things that I do no longer eat. To sum up my diet, it is a high protein, high fats (healthy fats) diet, with low carbs and low sugar (no refined carbs or sugar), plus low dairy and low gluten.
Calorie Counting. Yes or No?
I personally do not count my calories because I don’t like thinking of food as numbers. (I’m also terrible at maths, numbers have never been my friend). I love food and for me counting calories makes the experience of eating and cooking less enjoyable and spontaneous. However saying that, I do keep my daily calorie intake in mind. There is absolutely nothing wrong with calorie counting, the numbers don’t lie, they will defiantly help you lose or gain weight. If counting calories is your preferred method then 100% go for it. But if you do struggle with a numbers system and most importantly if it has become a hassle and a unenjoyable experience for you, then don’t be afraid to stop and try something different.
Your health journey and lifestyle will be a constant process of experimenting and learning. I’m constantly learning about my body and finding what works for me and makes me feel the best!