Saturday, May 17, 2014

So what to eat for a healthier you?

Here is the simple explanation of my daily plan regarding food. I exercise too, but remember that for me, 90% of weight loss was about what I ate. Exercise makes you fitter, stronger and healthier, but if you are eating too many calories it is very difficult to run away from a bad diet with exercise alone. 

I eat whole foods - fruit and vegetables, nuts, fish, meat, eggs, whole grains, dairy, all that stuff - but I don't eat very much rice, pasta, white potatoes, bread or sugar or processed foods if I can help it. Part of the trick, for people with diabetes like me, (and it works the same for non-diabetic people) is watching the glycaemic index of the food - that is,  how fast your body breaks it down into sugar. If your food has a high GI (pure glucose has a GI of 100) then it goes straight into your bloodstream and pushes your blood sugar up, your body produces insulin to deal with it, your blood sugar goes down again and 1) you're hungry quickly and 2) your body stores the excess sugar as fat. Foods like white bread, white rice, pasta, and potatoes have GI that is high and very close to pure sugar. But lower GI things (say eating porridge for breakfast) takes a long time to break down - you don't get the sugar spike that causes fat gain and you don't get the insulin spike that makes you hungry - so you stay fuller longer and put on less fat. Over time if you also have a calorie deficit (simply you eat less calories than you burn) you will lose fat. The books my specialist recommended are by Prof Jenni Brand-Miller from Sydney University. Their website is the Glycemic Index Foundation and they are also on Facebook and I highly recommend any of her books, particularly the Low GI Diet Handbook. Their books recommends swapping high GI things (like white potatoes) for lower GI things (like sweet potato). White bread for grain bread. That kind of thing. That will certainly make a difference to your weight, appetite, energy and general well-being. Just to be clear, I am NOT talking about no carb diets, or low carb diets, I like to call it a SLOW carb diet :)

These are the pointers that work for me, they may not be right for you. Most of these are based on the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. If you need more specific advice, see an Accredited Practising Dietitian. 

Foods to eat more of:
  • Fish – 2-3 a week fish will decrease your risk of heart disease and decrease calories. Tinned fish (salmon or tuna, sardines or herrings) are also great for lunches.
  • Vegetables – with the exception of potatoes you can eat almost all vegetables and know they are high fibre, low calorie and low GI – fill up on these! 
  • Fruit – some fruit are better than others, but most are fine and full of nutrients
  • Eggs, nuts and avocado – like fish, these contain good fats and in small servings are very good for you, eggs are fine 3-4 times a week, a handful of nuts for a snack or some avocado in a salad are excellent ideas
  • Dairy: yoghurt, milk, cottage cheese are all good sources of protein and calcium and low GI
  • Wholegrains: I can't eat gluten, but I add sorghum and buckwheat flakes to my breakfast, quinoa to my salads etc
  • Legumes- that’s beans, lentils, baked beans, chick peas, kidney beans - add them everywhere!
Foods to eat less of : 
  • Bread – if you love bread then the more visible grains the better (look for the GI symbol on the pack), or real sourdough is another good option, but treat the cakey white stuff as a treat
  • Rice –   Basmati or Doongarra rice is lower GI than white rice, but watch your portion sizes, most of us eat too much. Brown rice is more nutririous but the GI is not much better.
  • Pasta – by itself, pasta is relatively low GI but most of us eat much too much in a serving.
  • Potatoes – white potatoes can be an issue if you're diabetic like me.
  • Fried food, take away food, cakes or biscuits
  • Hard cheeses regularly (they are high in fat and are a great treat but watch portion sizes)
  • Sweets, chocolates etc
  • Refined sugar – I avoid sugar altogether or use honey, pure maple syrup or a little Stevia - I don't use artificial sweeteners but many people do ... I'm not convinced that they are unsafe as such, but I personally don't see the point.
  • “Diet foods” – most foods that are sold as “diet” foods have significant amounts of sugar or fat or processing and will actually make you fatter – don’t be fooled !
  • Alcohol – I’m a fan of red wine and there is good evidence that a small amount is good for your cardiovascular health (YAY!) so I have a small glass of merlot with dinner 4 or 5 nights a week. But watch the size of your servings and how often you drink…. Remember that it is easy to slip into hazardous drinking habits which can lead to all sorts of problems.
A few other pointers:

Eat more fruit and especially more vegetables
Eat more lean protein
Drink more water
Watch your alcohol intake
Eat smaller portions
Don't deny yourself completely- everything in moderation, life should be FLEXIBLE! 

I ask myself a fundamental question when I'm looking at  a food, meal or whatever - can I tell what this originally was? Has this food been so processed that it no longer resembles its original form?  Twinkies don't come from a twinkie tree. Gummy bears don't look like their component ingredients (whatever they are!) But an apple, a piece of fish, a glass of milk, a slice of coarse grainy bread, a plate of beans? I can see what they used to be and recognise them. Generally if I can recognise it, its usually a good thing - just a thought to consider. You don't have to be a puritan, but its a nice principle to think about.

Now the thing some people find challenging is that they want something to call it? Who's diet book is it? Which diet guru or celebrity is it from? Show me a meal plan?  It doesn't work that way. I  am a firm believer that there is no "one diet" that suits every person at every stage of their life, and the key to leaving our weight troubles behind us for good is learning the fundamental principles to eat HEALTHILY and HAPPILY to suit us and our current circumstances in life (I have a post you can read about my "one-size-doesn't-fit-all" philosophy here). So if you've joined my blog to get a 12 week bootcamp plan to tell you exactly what to eat to get skinny fast and fit into a bikini for summer and then ignore it until next smmer, then you may be in the wrong place. If, however, you want to learn to get healthy for life by making sustainable adaptable lifestyle changes that you can live with forever, then stick around, I might be able to help :)

On both the blog and the page I will share a lot of day to day things that help and also share information from others.  Following this kind of plan has helped me lose 55kg (121lbs) in about 2 years.  Slow and steady wins the race in weight loss, don't be impatient, just make small changes that you could live with forever. Hope this helps!


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