Stabilise Your Blood Sugar Levels
Carbohydrate containing foods contain sugars, which are released into the body once digested in the form of glucose. Proteins can also be broken down to glucose. Our body needs this glucose as its main source of energy and it is delivered to where it is needed by the blood. Keeping the level of glucose in the blood within strict limits is very important for our body to maintain health – it will regulate itself to keep within these limits. During imbalances – when low we might feel quite tired and the body will stimulate a feeling of hunger or even a craving for sweet foods. When it is very high, it may slow down your circulation, and the body will release insulin to store the excess glucose as fat. TIP: Never get too hungry! Eat a healthy low sugar breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus healthy snacks in between, if necessary, to keep your levels stable. Choose Complex Carbohydrates as your main source of slow release energy!
Eat Protein with Every Meal and Snack
Protein is absolutely essential for the body to grow and repair, as it forms enzymes, antibodies, hormones, hair, nail, bone, teeth, haemoglobin (blood protein), neurotransmitters and skin etc. It also keeps you feeling fuller for longer, keeping hunger pangs at bay and stabilises blood sugar levels – leaving you less tempted to snack on sweet foods. TIP: Include protein-rich fish, chicken and lean meats or beans, pulses and nuts with your meals and snacks.
Eat at least 5 portions of vegetables and fruit every day
A portion (80g) is approximately equivalent to a small apple, or the palm of your hand. Fruit and vegetables are amazing sources of vitamins, minerals, fibre and plant chemicals that help regulate all bodily processes. Try to include some raw plant foods for added variety and maximum nutrition. Aim for 75% vegetables and 25% fruit. TIP: Add extra vegetables to casseroles, salads and soups to easily achieve your 5 a day. Try to make one main meal with a ½ a plate of vegetables, by increasing salads & steamed vegetables. Pulses & vegetable or fruit juices do count, but only as one portion – whatever you eat. Potatoes do not count!
Bulk up on your Fibre!
Food should have character and substance, and offer some resistance when you eat it. Whole foods and whole grains have much, much more roughage than their white processed counterparts and still contain B vitamins, which we need for energy production and stress control. Vegetables and fresh fruits should be the nutritional cornerstone of every diet. Pulses are some of the healthiest carbohydrates you can eat – they provide energy to your muscle cells and brain many hours after a meal, and they are loaded with soluble fibre that keeps your colon healthy and populated by healthy bacteria. Fibre also helps to slow digestion and lower cholesterol absorption. TIP: Increase the fibre content of your diet by choosing wholegrain bread, brown rice, oatcakes, barley, kamut, quinoa, rye, oats and millet, and simply adhere to the 5 a day principles.
Stay Hydrated – with Water!
Our body is made up of 70-80% water. As the primary fluid in the body, water serves as a solvent for minerals & vitamins and plays a key role in the digestion, absorption, transportation and use of nutrients. Water is the medium for the safe elimination of toxins and waste products and whole-body thermoregulation is critically dependent on it. There is no system in the body that does not depend on water. TIP: We metabolise some water from the foods we eat – as long as your diet contains a lot of fruit and vegetables. Sip water throughout the day from a refillable water bottle, which is easy to carry. Aim for 1.5Ltr per day (or 6 medium glasses). It is best not obtained from fruit juices, tea & coffee. Only water hydrates, cleans and detoxifies like water.
Eat the Essentials!
Omega 3 and 6 are essential fats, which cannot be made by the body and therefore need to be included in the diet. They supply us with EPA & DHA that are important for brain function, vision, counteracting inflammation and reducing the risk of blood clots. Sources of omega 3 fats include – hemp seeds, flaxseeds (linseeds), pumpkin seeds and their cold pressed oils. Larger quantities of omega 3 are found in oily fish. It is believed that our diets contain enough omega 6, but sources include – sunflower, safflower and sesame seeds & their oils. TIP: Eat nuts & seeds raw and avoid cooking with these oils as they are easily damaged by heat. Include at least 2-3 portions of oily fish in your diet weekly. Think SMASHT – Salmon. Mackerel. Anchovy. Sardines. Herring. Tuna (fresh).
Don’t be Afraid of Fat
There are good fats and bad fats. Good fats are essential for the body to function well and support the weight loss process e.g. fat from oily fish, avocados or unsalted nuts. Bad fats on the other hand should be avoided, especially trans, or hydrogenated and most saturated fats found in many biscuits and cakes and other baked goods with a long shelf life. TIP: Read the labels to avoid these fats and choose low-med saturated fat quantities.
Ideally don’t drink coffee or black tea, especially first thing, but if you do keep it to one cup a day and have it on a full stomach. Stimulants such as tea, coffee, red bull and cola consumed for an energy boost actually have the opposite effect and can also be damaging if consumed in high quantities. They give you an energy rush, followed by a corresponding dip, leaving you lacking energy and looking for your next caffeine ‘fix’. TIP: Choose diluted fresh fruit juice, water, or herbal teas as healthier options.
Deal with Stress
Stress is incredibly damaging for the body! It wreaks havoc with hormones, affecting your metabolism and making the body store more fat – especially around the middle. Did you know that stress has the same impact on your body as eating sugar? Stress causes cravings for the wrong foods, particularly salty, high fat and sugary snacks. TIP: Try to relax when you eat, chew your food and focus on what you are eating rather than reading, watching TV or using the computer. Take in some stress busting relaxation hobbies, like yoga, or meditation.
When we are tired we eat more and reach for instant energy fixes from caffeine, sugar and fat. Try to get to bed early or deal with sleep problems should you have any. A good night’s sleep is really important for overall health, repairing the body, as well as weight loss. TIP: Aim for a full 8hr sleep, relax before retiring and avoid watching TV in bed.
This is crucial for overall health, energy and mood, as well as a support to maintaining a healthy weight. Start slowly with a brisk walk in the park, take the stairs instead of the lift or get off the bus a few stops earlier than normal and walk the rest of the way. Just 10 minutes sustained exercise that gets your heart beating faster is amazingly beneficial. TIP: Aim for 1.5 hrs of moderate intensity exercise per week, either in 5 x 30 min, or 15 x 10 min bouts.