Eating well doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing. Understanding the building blocks of food and calculating the energy your body needs is a great place to start.
Healthy nutrition is not about calories
Many modern diets focus on calories. They tell you to eat everything in moderation. To move more and eat less. In this view, healthy nutrition is just a question of balancing your energy input with your energy consumption. But nutrition is not just about calories.
Nutrition is first and foremost about getting your essential nutrients. Proteins, fatty acids, fibers, vitamins and minerals are all essential for you to function. If all you eat are low calorie foods devoid of nutrients, you’ll never be satisfied. A healthy diet is more about the foods you eat than about the foods you avoid. If you focus on eating nutritious food, you will be naturally satisfied making it easier to control your cravings and resist temptations.
In our modern Western diet, starches and sugars make up more than 50% of our total energy intake. These simple carbohydrates are easy to digest and provide quick energy. Unfortunately, they also cause insulin spikes and a craving for more sugar. As a result, our insulin system is constantly overloaded, leading to erratic energy levels and in severe cases to insulin resistance and diabetes.
Sugars and starches have a place in our diet, but not in these huge quantities. When you revert to a lower, more natural carb intake, you will feel more energetic and burn fat more effectively. This is not about avoiding all carbs, but about finding a more natural balance between the nutrients you eat.
Different foods contain different essential nutrients and eating a wide variety of nutritious foods is the key to building a solid foundation of health.
Fruit is the sweet, fleshy, edible part of a plant that usually contains seeds.
It is generally eaten raw but some varieties can also be cooked. Choosing fruits in season provides better value and better quality. Eating seasonally also adds more variety to your diet throughout the year. Choosing different coloured fruits increases the variety of nutrients, which can enhance your health!
Vegetables and legumes/beans
Vegetables come from many different parts of the plant, including the leaves, roots, tubers, flowers, stems, seeds and shoots.
Legumes are the seeds of the plant and are eaten in their immature form as green peas and beans, and the mature form as dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas. Just like fruits, choosing different coloured vegetables increases the variety of nutrients, which can enhance your health!
Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes/beans
Traditionally, the foods from this food group are considered ‘protein rich’ and most Australians have no trouble eating enough protein each day. More importantly however, this food group also provides a wide variety of other nutrients such as: iodine, iron, zinc, vitamins, especially B12, and essential fatty acids.
Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives
A wide range of milk and yoghurt products are available with varying levels of fat. Milk can be fresh, dried, evaporated, or UHT (long life). Soy, rice or other cereal drinks and yoghurts are an alternative.
Because cheese can be high in kilo joules, saturated fat and salt, it is best to limited to 2-3 times a week.
Grain (cereal foods)
Grain foods are mostly made from wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, millet, quinoa and corn. The different grains can be cooked and eaten whole, ground into flour to make a variety of cereal foods like bread, pasta and noodles, or made into ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.