If there’s one thing we all have an opinion on then it’s nutrition. I see that as a good thing; it indicates that we do take, to a greater or lesser degree, an interest in the food we eat.
This post was born out of a question a co-worker asked me a few years ago when I worked in finance, and studied health and fitness in the hours in between all of life’s other requests. Essentially, my colleague wanted to reduce weight and burn more calories. He had the gym-work down, but the food-plan was a minefield. It is for a lot of us. It seems you only have to turn on the TV or read an article to discover that last week’s superfood is this week’s one-way express ticket to the hereafter.
So to help my colleague I wrote down ten tips on nutrition and sent them on to him. Then a cool thing happened. Not only was he really grateful for the suggestions but he wondered if he could share them with the rest of his team? He’d told them what I’d written and they were curious. I was more than happy for this to happen. Before I knew it the email was around the company and staff were as likely to come over and ask me questions on diet as they were about cashflow statements.
Here are the 10 tips. (By the time I still have them you’ll know I didn’t put them together on company time. In hindsight perhaps I could have and claimed I was helping with corporate wellness!) I’ve kept them as close to the original email as possible.
(Note: Whilst I hold a Precision Nutrition certification I do not claim to be a nutritionist. Therefore you may wish to consult your doctor or primary health care provider before making any dietary changes.)
- keep it simple – I believe it’s more realistic to take the view to change 100 things 1% than one thing 100%. Take your time with making any changes. Experiment. If something works for you keep it. If it doesn’t, simply ditch it and move on.
- portion control – This goes for food and drink. It’s about cutting down calorific intake gradually (e.g. 6 coffees a day to 5, 3 bags of crisps a day to 2, pizza only one night a week instead of twice). If this is something you feel you need to do then you may be surprised to see how suddenly something you thought you couldn’t do without becomes manageable (e.g. 6 coffees a day eventually becomes 1, if not zero). Does all the food on the plate/serving need to be eaten? Many people do this, whether through a sense of obligation/manners/guilt, etc. Listen to your body.
- hungry or thirsty? – Often what we think of as hunger could be thirst. Take something healthy to drink. If you still feel hungry 30 minutes later then do have something to eat. Either way, as before, listen to your body. In the same way that one shouldn’t overeat, one shouldn’t over hydrate. Linked to this, one of the reasons people may be prone to overeating is because despite the fact that they have eaten, the body has not been able to begin to absorb nutrients from the food. so the body is still in ‘hungry’ mode. By the time the body has been able to begin to break down the foods an excess has most likely already been consumed. A potential solution to this is to have soup (as a starter); the nutrients are more quickly absorbed by the body and therefore the feelings of hunger dissipate faster meaning that the chances of overeating are reduced.
- choices and options – This is where it becomes interesting. And, possibly, confusing. Processed and ready-made, or buying the ingredients and cooking? Organic or not? White bread or brown bread? Full fat or reduced fat? The list of questions goes on and on. The answers however are usually common sense. Quite literally, go with your gut! An area worth paying specific attention to is the products which advertise themselves as being low in fat. To compensate there is a likelihood that such products are probably higher in sugars, which leads me on to my next point.
- read the ingredients labels – Know what you’re putting into your body.
- eat colourful – Have a variety of colours on your plate. (The flip side of this: if you happen to watch any of the weight loss programmes on TV then, more often than not, when the person’s diet is literally laid before them on a table the overriding colour of the food is brown.)
- cooking methods – Avoid frying if possible, but if you have to use only a tiny amount of oil. Steaming is best, followed by grilled and oven baked. Obviously it depends on what it is you are cooking as to the best method for that item.
- eat properly – This is not about ‘what’ to eat, rather ‘how‘ to eat. To help one’s body absorb the nutrients of food faster always ensure it is properly ingested. (i.e. take time to chew food properly). Sounds easy, yet how often do we rush our meals? This goes back to the over-eating point above.
- discover new foods – This is a personal favourite. Go to a different food shop or supermarket. Or take a walk down differing aisles in your current food store. Find something new and work out what the hell to do with it.
- enjoy your food and drink – In many ways the most important tip. After all, if you feel that what you are choosing to eat is in some way a form of deprivation then it won’t be good for your emotional and mental states. Have fun when trying new, and hopefully healthy, food.
If you find any of the above useful or actionable I’d love to hear how you get on, and if there’s anyone you think might benefit from this tips then please do pass them on.