Three Nutrients, Just One Choice – small steps – easy!
In the blink of an eye, one year ended and another began!
Did ‘eating healthier’ find its way onto your list of New Year’s resolutions? What on earth does ‘eating healthier’ mean? It’s particularly tricky during holiday season when the resolution is made! Where do you start? What is the most important food or habit to change?
It’s complicated! We all have different bodies, different habits, different tastes and different motivation. What is THE food that you should change?
My answer is whichever one you like, as long as it’s in the right direction!
Sometimes small steps are the best way to kick start a new habit. Here’s a few suggestions, and some great books and links to read as well! See whether one of them will work for you. Let’s see how we go!
There are three macro nutrients in our foods – fats, proteins and carbs. That’s it! We eat them in different combinations but these are the three. Dr Tom Cowan says it simply when he describes that fats and proteins build our bodies, as well as help hormone synthesis and strengthening our immune function. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, fuel our body movement and exercise.
- Know your Fats
Fortunately, good fats are making a resurgence in the world of diet and nutrition. Not so much with many of our western medical doctors, but definitely with health specialists for whom nutrition is an important part of their knowledge. One part of this good-fat-resurgence is recognising the difference between manufactured fats and natural fats. Manufactured fats are industrially produced using heat and chemicals for extraction – not so good for our bodies to consume! Natural fats can be acquired ‘naturally’ without these industrial processes.
Steer clear of manufactured fats and stick to the natural ones
As a first step, this means using only vegetable oils which are naturally extracted. Vegetable oils are the liquid ones that don’t go hard in cold weather or in the refrigerator. They include olive oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil, canola oil and flaxseed oil. If the oil has been naturally extracted, the labels will say ‘extra virgin’, ‘cold pressed’ or ‘expeller expressed’. If you can’t find these words, they do not deserve a spot in your panty. The oils without these words on their labels will most likely have been industrially produced with high heat and chemicals to try to extract remaining oil from the seed. The heating and chemical processes make them rancid and generate free radicals that seriously compromise our immune system. Some bottles use the words ‘a blend of …’. It’s likely that this ‘blend’ is mainly industrially produced and is not helpful to a healthy body. Avoid canola oil altogether. I’m pretty keen on removing industrial oils as a high priority option.
***Choice #1: Maybe your one single change could be throwing out all vegetable oils in your pantry that do not have ‘extra virgin’, ‘cold pressed’, or ‘expeller expressed’ written on the label? This would be a fabulous step towards healthier eating – easy!!
Once you have replaced these industrial oils with natural versions with the magic words on their label, go ahead and keep using them liberally for making mayonnaise and salad dressings or pouring onto pasta and veges after cooking. Anyone who has visited Italy and Greece will know how important olive oil is to their diet. Mostly it is consumed cold, poured on foods after cooking. It can also be used for low heat cooking but other options are safer if you are unsure of the cooking temperature.
An easy way to remember which oils are best for cooking is to use the ones that go firm in cold weather and in the fridge. They have a high smoke point and tolerate heat without destroying their structure and generating free radicals – an excellent reason to choose them in my opinion! Coconut oil and butter are easily available options and they work beautifully for medium heat cooking. Harder to find are ghee, beef tallow and pork lard. They are the best options for frying or cooking on the higher heats such as searing meats and cooking roast veges.
***Choice #2: Maybe this could be your one change – cook with fats that firm up in the fridge or in cold weather. This would be a fabulous step towards healthier eating – easy!
- How many Carbs?
Eating too many carbs means we put on extra weight. Most of us want to avoid this scenario but we find it difficult to really know how many carbs we should eat. I like Dr Tom Cowan’s explanation. It’s a really simple way to think about the quantity of carbs we should eat. It’s based on the amount of movement or exercise in a day. Carbs fuel our body to allow us to exercise. If you sit all day then about 60 gms of carbs is sufficient. If you are a marathon runner, then he says 300 gms of carbs is probably what you need. This recommendation is based on the role of insulin in the body. Insulin is produced when there are excess carbs running around in our body. When we eat extra carbs that we do not burn off with exercise, then the insulin will store these excess carbs as fat for later use. When we eat less carbs than we burn off with exercise, then insulin is not produced, and our body starts to burn off some of that stored fat. So, to lose weight, we need to eat less carbs than we are burning off. How do we do that?
Eat whole foods to find good carbs
A great way to reduce your carb consumption is to eat whole foods rather than processed foods. You’ll eat a lot less carbs and they’ll be a lot healthier for your body. Whole foods contain the fibre, minerals and vitamins as well as complex carbs rather than simple sugars. This slows down their absorption and reduces the level of insulin production, therefore reducing the amount of stored fat.
Vegetables tick this box very well. They are a whole food with great carbs. The body absorbs the carbs much slower, reducing the production of insulin. Adding butter to your steamed veges and coconut oil to your stir fry, will add fabulous flavour and also means that you will feel satisfied at the end of the meal, instead of looking for another helping.
***Choice #3: Maybe your one change will be adding an extra vegetable to your dinner plate along with some butter or coconut oil. This would be a fabulous step towards healthier eating – easy!
Make a little extra and take last night’s left overs for lunch. This is an easy way to avoid processed foods and higher carb levels. This would be a fabulous step towards healthier eating – easy!
I used to buy orange juice for our family. My mother used to say to me, ‘Why don’t you just eat an orange for breakfast? It would be a lot better for you’. Mothers often know these things but I took little notice back then. Now I understand!! A small glass of freshly squeezed orange juice has only ¼ of the fibre of an orange and it has 50% more sugar (because more than one orange has been used!). That increased sugar will go straight to your blood stream at a rather fast pace. There’s even more sugar and less fibre in most processed orange juices. In addition, if you are not exercising that day, then 20% of your daily carb requirement has been consumed right there in one glass of juice. That’s a lot in a short space of time for your body to cope with!
****Choice #4: Maybe your one change will be swapping an orange juice for a fresh orange or other fruit in the mornings. Add some full fat yoghurt (check for no added sugar!), and your body will thank you. Oh, and also … avoid those juice bars!! This would be a fabulous step towards healthier eating – easy!
What about proteins?
Proteins are the third major nutrient required for healthy body function. They build and repair body tissues. Hence their important role in muscle recovery after exercise. Proteins also make enzymes which accelerate chemical reactions and are critical for metabolic pathways in the body including the production of hormones and other body chemicals. They are also important building blocks for our bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.
Choose whole foods with natural proteins instead of protein powders and drinks
Good quality grass fed meats and wild catch seafood are healthy choices of protein. Other excellent options are eggs from pasture-raised chickens as well as hard cheeses and full fat natural yoghurt.
There’s great protein in lentils and beans. They are best bought dry and soaked for 12-24 hours before cooking for highest nutrition.
Avoid soy as a protein source unless it has been fermented, such as tofu or traditionally fermented soy sauce. The Weston A Price Foundation promotes the consumption of traditional foods as a healthy, natural way to improve our modern eating patterns. They are very outspoken when it comes to soy, stating that its traditional consumption was always fermented and that modern use of soy milk, soy lecithin, and soy protein powders causes an imbalance in our hormones, recommending strongly to avoid this source of protein.
***Choice #5: Maybe your one change will be swapping out a carb based breakfast of fruit juice, bread and cereals, and swapping in a protein breakfast of eggs with butter, or full fat natural yoghurt with one piece of fruit. If time is the issue, boil up an egg the night before, and put some yoghurt in a small container in the fridge ready to grab as you walk out the door. This would be a fabulous step towards healthier eating – easy!
So that’s the long version. Now here’s the short option!
Here are five easy choices that you can make. Pick just one change towards healthier eating to start with today!
- Go through your pantry and find your olive oil, avocadco oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, and flaxseed oil. Throw them out if they do not have the words ‘extra virgin’, ‘cold pressed’, or ‘expeller expressed’ written on the label. Replace with the naturally extracted options. (Avoid canola oil altogether.) Once done, use these oils to make mayonnaise and salad dressing or pour over your meal after cooking – easy!
- For easy choices with all your cooking, swap to coconut oil, butter, ghee, beef tallow or pork lard. All these fats go hard in cold weather or in the fridge. If it’s firm in the fridge, that’s a simple way to remember which ones to use for cooking – easy!
- To feel full without eating simple carbs, add an extra vegetable or salad to your dinner plate. Include butter or coconut oil with the extra vegetables; include cheese and olive oil with the extra salad items. This gives you heaps of extra flavour, helps you feel full and stay full for longer – easy!
- Replace the high sugar hit of a glass of juice, with a piece of fruit topped with full fat yoghurt (with no added sugar). The fruit will give you all the sweet taste that you need, and the fat in the yoghurt will slow down the sugar absorption – easy!
- For an on-the-go breakfast, swap out cereals, processed bread or packaged protein drinks and replace with the natural protein of eggs from pasture-raised chickens, perhaps spread with butter on sour dough bread, plus full fat yoghurt (no added sugar), packed in the fridge and ready to go. You will also stay full for much longer – easy!
To find out more about food and healthy eating, here are a few recommendations.
“Nourishing Traditions”, by Sally Fallon
“The Big Fat Surprise”, by Nina Teicholz
“Eat Fat, Lose Fat”, by Dr Mary Enig
Wise Traditions Podcast # 112 “Fasting for weight loss and better health”, Dr Tom Cowan
The Wellness Couch Podcast UC#156 “Eat … Think … Heal”, Margaret Bridgeford
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