What is a healthy diet anyway?

This can be such a difficult question.  Information is constantly changing as new research develops, and there are so many different diets – CSIRO, paleo, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, ketogenic, Atkins, Mediterranean… the list goes on. 

Healthy eating needs to be a lifestyle, not a short-term goal.  The basics of healthy eating really comes back to eating food in as fresh and whole a form as possible.  This means a focus on fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, lean, good quality proteins and healthy fats (nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado etc) while avoiding packaged, processed and fast foods.  Foods such as pre-baked cakes and muffins, chocolate bars, chips, Maccas etc are not going to give you any health benefits.  But most people already know that!

My personal opinion is that there is not one specific diet to suit everyone, and that as individuals our diet should be tailored to best suit our unique selves. Of course sometimes there are conditions which require a certain type of diet, but in general, I believe that we should experiment a bit and take parts of different ways of eating to find what works best.  We also need to find a way to eat that we enjoy and feel good (not good for 5 seconds after a sugar rush, but good as in feeling energetic and motivated all day).

The one thing I would recommend to everyone - and that all experts agree on - is to eat more vegetables!  Vegetables are packed with a full range of nutrients including Vitamins A, the Bs, C, K, magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium and antioxidants and phytonutrients which are crucial for the health of our DNA, organs, skin and detoxification.  Leafy green vegetables also contain folate which is required for healthy growth and DNA replication – particularly important in pregnancy.  There are reasons we are always told to eat more vegetables!

I also think that balance is important - there is no point restricting yourself as this just sets you up to feel like a failure when you do eat something 'bad'.  Food is a part of socialising and there is nothing worse than being anxious about eating out because it may put you over your allocated calories (I don't agree with calorie counting).  It just needs to be done in moderation.  I think it is important to allow yourself a little indulgence to keep you on track for a life of healthy eating.

A great way to go a bit deeper is to do a diet diary over a week, recording what you eat and any symptoms.  You might notice that you felt fatigued or had a headache one or two days after eating bread, or maybe you had sugar cravings and were hungry all day when breakfast was a piece of raisin toast and a coffee.  Whatever your symptoms are, once you notice a pattern this can help you to work out what foods or practices might be causing it.  You can then try eliminating different foods or adjusting your macros to see if it helps.  For example, boosting up the fat content of breakfast by having an omelette filled with vegetables and topped with avocado might help set you up better for the day.

If you are interested in changing your diet or you need help with working out the foods that are best for you, get in touch as this is what I love to help with!  The more restrictive a diet is, the harder it is to make sure you are getting all your required nutrients so it is well worth doing some investigations to be safe.