Being a personal trainer, I tend to get asked a fair bit if I make food plans, and I have to admit that I quietly implode when I’m asked…
Not because I dislike that question, it’s because it’s such a simple request, yet such a complicated solution. In fact I feel so desperately helpless because if it were that easy to provide a solution, everyone who asked me would eat so awesomely, if that’s even a word! Because all I really want is for everyone to be healthy, I’m a pig in mud if I’m helping people make healthy changes. Instead I feel like saying, ‘how long is a piece of string’?
I’m sure I’d get some perplexed looks or come off as an arsehole if I really did say that but the reality is that I just can’t bring myself to make a cookie cut meal plan to give out to people, nutrition and diets don’t work like that. Let me explain.
First of all, food is a pleasure of life, it’s tied in with likes and dislikes, body types, age, hormonal status, activity levels, your health goals, ethnicity, ethics and then we have things like religion & beliefs for certain times of the year! So there’s ALOT to consider when it comes to food. Now can you see what I mean by me asking how long is a piece of string?
I think the most common factor above for most people is around likes and dislikes… So I could go away and make a beautifully designed food plan to my liking and then you might simply look at it and say, oh but I don’t eat fish!
So, if it’s help you need around food, if you need some inspiration because you’re bored or you don’t know what you should be eating I would firstly say, get interested in cooking and preparing yummy healthy food to nourish your body and your mind (hopefully you’re not rolling your eyes by now). Buy some recipe books you like and start playing in the kitchen, it’s all trial and error. And I won’t lie, it takes time, cooking that is. So if you’re really serious about your health and want to make actual change, not just ‘try to change’, then you need to commit to changing your perspective on what food is, where it fits in your order of values and what it means to you and your family.
Then I would say start educating yourself on nutritional science, the amount of research and amazing evidence coming out nowadays is mind boggling! And there’s so many great books out there for people who really have no knowledge to start off. Take me for example, I haven’t completed a degree in nutrition or dietetics, I’m just an avid student of health and nutrition with a personal training qualification and I know heaps(wink).
But if you just want some practical tips to get you moving here are 5 daily practices you can work on to make habitual parts of your diet.
Practice #1. Hydration. If your diet is good, meaning if you eat sufficient fruits and vegetables, you will get about one fifth of your water needs through food. So your aim is to drink a portion of your body weight in Litres of water. Take your body weight in kilograms and multiply that by 0.033. This will give you your daily need in litres. For most you’ll think it’s way too much to manage but just do your best and eventually it may become easy and your body will become accustomed to it having that amount of water on board, plus your kidneys and liver will thank you for it!
Practice #2. Aim for optimal intake of vegetables, that is, wait for it, 8-10 servings per day! Minimum RDI is 5-6 serves. Yup sounds like a lot right… Are you thinking, how the feck am I going to get 8-10 serves per day! It’s not as much as it sounds… If you have 1 metric cup of baby spinach leaves that is 1 serve, I can easily eat 1-2 cups myself in a salad. If you have half a metric cup of broccoli that is 1 serve. Generally 1/2 cup of hard fibrous vegetables = 1 serve and 1 cup of soft less fibrous veggies = 1 serve.
Practice #3. Ensure you’re getting sufficient amounts of protein with each main meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) as a minimal requirement. Better would be 4-5 times per day of 20-30 gram serves of protein. Most of you would hit that target for lunch and dinner but fall dismally short at breakfast. That’s where a protein supplement can be handy to have in the house, to use in smoothies or simply add to water or milk and down on the way out of the door in the morning with your delicious organic sourdough and peanut butter toast (nothing wrong with that). I would recommend a plant based protein because most people already have enough dairy as it is.
Practice #4. Increase your fat intake. You know what I’m going to say… Good fat! It’s widely accepted that most Australians ratio of Omega 3 to 6 are out of whack. Too much 6’s, not enough 3’s. Start with a high quality, high strength omega 3 oil for every day, the whole family. Increase your fish intake, but buy ‘wild fish’, less farmed crap. And you can get Omega 3’s in seeds and nuts I.e. Chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, brazil nuts and cashews. And finally make sure you eat very high quality types of eggs and meat, the animals lifestyle will dictate the quality of fat so don’t go cheap when it comes to meat and poultry, get the good stuff and your future body will thank you for it!
Practice #5. Something which I could tell EVERYONE to do, no matter what their religion or race or likes or dislikes, CUT OUT THE SUGAR!!! Sugar and refined carbs are bad news and will f@*! you up! It is extremely addictive so it may take some time to cut back the sugar but if you want to improve your energy levels, improve your gut health/digestive function, improve your sleep quality, improve your complexion, lose body fat, decrease risk of many cancers, diabetes and alzheimer’s disease (the list just goes ON!) you must stop eating packed food products which contain highly refined carbs I.e. Wholemeal/white bread, white rice & pasta, sugary yoghurt, skim milks, fruit juice, soft drinks, sugary packaged snack foods and that goes for excess alcohol. Instead choose whole grain varieties of carbohydrate based foods and drink water like we’re meant to, not fruit juice.
To add to practice #5 – There’s a fundamental law of human nutrition that goes like this: If a food is in your possession or located in your residence, you will eventually eat it. So it’s a good idea to clean out your pantry and fridge if you’re really serious.