Updated: Aug 6, 2022
Eating for health should be easy! The cavemen did it and wild animals do it without well known super markets, so where are we going wrong? Mixed messages? Education? Marketing? Availability? It’s all so confusing for those that are trying to have a healthy balanced diet and my line of work, I hear new and questionable things every day but are they good…..? I’ll take you through the basics.
A calorie. What is it?
A calorie is a basic unit of energy. Simples. Without enough calories, we can not function at our best and with an excess abundance of calories, fat will be stocked up and more often than not, converted into toxic waste (yuck!) and lead to fatigue and weight gain.
After mentioning the above, which units of energy (calories) are your friends and which are not?
Well… for each gram of fat there are 9 calories and for each gram of protein and carbohydrate there are 4 calories, so you can quite clearly the see the out runner on this one. (Please note….There are 2 types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are high in refined sugar and are non-nutritious and often referred to as empty calories. Complex carbohydrates keep a person full longer, take longer to digest and stabilize appetite levels.)
Needless to say, a nutritionally rich diet of protein and complex carbs, maximizes energy production and the body works to maximum efficiency. However, foods low in calories may not be full of nutrition. For example, gram for gram, nuts and seeds can have the same calorific value as cake or chips but you only need a small handful to get a big nutritional help!
Modern diets have became top heavy in processed and refined foods such as ready made meals, white breads and pastas, biscuits and fizzy drinks and one of the main reason is that they are easy to buy, prepare and consume. Energy rich diets are not about following set ‘diets’ and menus, its about replacing empty calories with more nutritionally dense foods.
How do I know if I have an energy rich diet?
Does your plate look like a rainbow?! More often than not , naturally colourful foods are packed with nutrition where as processed and refined foods are often dull beige (and tend to be simple carbohydrates…)
Divide your plate evenly into six sections: three sections should be coloured veg, two sections a starchy veg, pulses, fruit and cereals and one section should be meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts or seeds.
Coloured Veg: peppers, beetroot etc. These foods are generally low in natural sugars and fat but nutrient rich.
Starch Veg: Potatoes
Pulses, Fruit and Cereals: Lentils, Apples, Oranges (those on the high colour spectrum), Brown breads and rices.
Meat, Fish etc: Lean Meat and Skimmed Milk
The important thing to know about energy is once you put it in your body, you need to use it. Eating has a feel good factor and as you eat your release feel good hormones, but the energy it generates needs to be utilised or you’ll eventually feel tired, lethargic and it will lead to weight gain. So instead of running on empty and binging on chocolate, substitute them with nuts, seeds and dried fruit (yes there are also conveniently sold in snack packs in store!) and get short term and long term benefits!