Welcome to Kalila’s “Eat Healthy” series.
Our goal is to look at the guidelines, talk about food in general and search for the evidence to help make small but effective changes in our lives and in the lives of our families. We really just want to get to know more about food so that we have the information to help us choose. For those of you who are mums there is growing pressure on us to ensure our children eat well and do the right amount of exercise. Schools are increasingly dictating what parents can put in lunchboxes and we are constantly bombarded with advertising and messages from food manufacturers telling us what to eat. It’s confusing! What should we eat? What should we feed our families?
The saying goes “we are what we eat” so the better the food we put in surely the better we will feel?
In our January article from resolutions to real change we talked about slow and gradual change that will help us make real long term changes to improve our overall health and we referred to the Bant guidelines (British Association for Nutritional Therapists) for healthy eating. Most governments provide guidelines for the general population and these guidelines are for everybody with the goal of improving population health. But as we know we are all unique so it may be we each need something a little different.
Bant state that “Everyone is unique but whatever your goal similar nutritional principles and health and wellbeing guidelines will apply”. So yes we are all unique but they seem to saying that eating healthy foods and knowing about food will have general benefits for us all which seems like a good place to start. Understanding the difference between foods and making our chose based on this information empowers us all to make changes to how we eat.
To better understand my uniqueness I decided to find out my BMI (Body Mass Index). This is a measurement of your body mass (calculated using your weight and height) to determine if you are in a healthy weight range. My came up at 24.3 which is just inside the healthy range of 18.5-24.9. What the BMI cannot do however is differentiate between muscle mass and general weight so if you’re very active with a higher percentage of muscle to fat, your BMI might vary. There are lots of calculators online and I used the one from the NHS (National Health Service) which you can find using this link http://www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Healthyweightcalculator.aspx
For me personally, I like to know where I stand so although I am slightly above the considered healthy range I find it motivating to have a reference. More importantly for me is the word “healthy” as my personal goal is about eating and being healthy rather than weight loss. So I now know that I have some work to do.
Going back to the government guidelines they recommend that women eat c. 2000 calories a day and that these calories should come from different sources; 45-50% from carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, grains), 12-15% protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy), 30-35% fats (butter, oils, meat fat, nuts, seeds, dairy) and up to 5% from alcohol. The trouble is knowing how much of each of these things I eat and also knowing how to choose the good from the less good. I found a number of guides online from governments and leading institutions but each one is slightly different so finding out what is considered healthy can be tricky.
I have returned to Bants healthy eating guide as this gives simplified points on making healthy choices and in the next few articles we will look at eat of the points individually to try and better understand what they mean. They too have a plate showing what we should be eating. Despite all the different plates and the wealth of information the message I have taken out is to begin to understand foods better and to understand myself as yes we are unique. My BMI will be different to yours. My goals will be different. But a general understanding of food can help us all make more informed choices to support our uniqueness.
- Stay hydrated with water, herbal teas, green and black teas. Avoid excessive alcohol, sugary drinks and too much caffeine
- Ensure protein is lean: fish, poultry, eggs and vegetable sources. Limit red and processed meat.
- Include healthy fats: avocados, nuts, olive oil. Cook with healthy saturated fats: coconut oil and butter.
- Choose root vegetables and whole grains (Wholemeal bread, pasta and rice) instead of refined carbohydrates and grains (processed foods such as cakes and biscuits and white bread, pasta and rice): Eat sparingly.
- For Weight Loss: include exercise, limit portion sizes, don’t eat between meals. Avoid: Sugar, artificial sweeteners, alcohol and refined carbohydrates (processed foods such as cakes and biscuits and white bread, pasta, rice).
- Sleep and Exercise are an important aspect in overall Health and Wellbeing and Weight Management.