In my article, how to quit dieting without gaining weight, I talked about the things that helped me to quit dieting and create a much better relationship with food and my body. One of the things, was learning to eat in a way that nourishes my cells, keeps me satisfied and supports me in feeling good.
The challenge with dieting is that it teaches you next to nothing about nutrition. Mostly, you learn how to count calories and get stressed out about food. A little basic nutritional knowledge can go a long way towards helping you to part company with diet culture, and to move towards a relaxed and healthy relationship with food.
These are the valuable lessons I learned:
Include healthy fats in your diet – fat is not fattening!
Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are a vital part of our diet. They play an important role in the regulation of inflammation and hormone production. It’s good to get the ratio right because Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory and Omega-3 is anti-inflammatory. Omega-6 is present in a lot of processed foods, margarine, and vegetable oils, so aim to reduce these and increase your consumption of Omega-3.
- Choose Olive Oil (high in Omega-3) over vegetable, sunflower and seed oils. I tend to use olive oil for most things and seed oils for occasional dressings etc.
- Increase your intake of Omega-3. Marine sources are more beneficial to the body, so if you’re a fish eater, increase your consumption of oily fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon. For Vegetarians, good quality sources of Omega-3 are other marine sources like seaweed and marine algae supplements. Omega-3 is also present seeds and nuts like flax, chia and walnuts, but the body finds it harder to use this type of Omega-3.
- Consider having grass-fed butter over margarine and limit your consumption of saturated fat.
Include complex carbohydrates – don’t cut the carbs, instead, get knowledgeable about them.
Complex carbohydrates are important for energy, balancing blood sugars and gut health. You may have heard of carbohydrates referred to as simple and complex. This refers to the molecular structure of the food, how quickly it is broken down by the digestive system, and therefore how quickly sugars are released and absorbed by the body. The more complex a carbohydrate, the slower the release of energy into the bloodstream and the more chance that it contains good amounts of fibre that will stay intact until it reaches the gut. Healthy gut bacteria feed off fibre so including complex carbs in your diet makes for a happy gut.
- Increase your intake of dietary fibre: pulses, beans, grains, oats, and root veg are all good sources. Don’t overlook the fact that green leafy vegetables are also a great source of dietary fibre.
- Choose whole-grain over white products. Brown rice, pasta and bread are far better for you than the white alternatives.
Include a source of good quality protein with each meal – don’t prioritise or supplement protein, food sources are enough
Protein is made up of smaller compounds called amino acids that are vital to our health. Protein starts to get broken down by the body as soon as it hits the mouth, so when we combine protein, carbs and fats in each meal, it slows the digestion of the carbohydrates and the release of energy from them. This helps to balance your blood sugars and contributes to a sense of fullness.
• Aim to include protein in every meal: Animal sources: meat, fish, eggs and yoghurts, plant sources; beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.
Finally, it’s a good idea to get as wide a variety of vegetables as you can on your plate. Your body will benefit from the different nutrients and dietary fibre, and the other beneficial plant compounds (known as phytonutrients) that they can offer. The age-old adage, ‘eat the rainbow’, is good advice because different colours offer up different antioxidants and other goodies.
In my opinion, the simple stuff is always the most effective. Perhaps just pick one thing that you can look to introduce and then gradually introduce others over time.
Any thoughts or comments? I’d love to hear them in the comments….