There is a common misconception that being healthy is expensive, time consuming and limiting. Add that to the overwhelming, confusing and often contradicting information that is available and it can be very hard to know where to start. You have paleo, raw, fermented, gluten free, sugar free, fun free diets and superfoods that the majority of the population can’t even pronounce; chia (chee-ah), quinoa (keen-wah). Although I try to keep up, it has taken me years and hours and hours of research to get to where I am now. Still, I often find myself having to go back to the ultimate source of human knowledge (Google) to figure out what is going on with the latest trends.
Recently Nutrition Australia released an updated version of the food pyramid. It truly is such a fantastic way to look at how we should eat.
For me, I believe in moderation in all things. Being healthy is about finding a balance. Food is social. It brings people together. And that is absolutely critical to remember. I do not believe in cutting entire food groups, or completely isolating yourself. Ultimately though, I believe in eating consciously and mindfully to nourish our bodies.
Here are 5 very basic guidelines for health that I stick to.Yes, you will not always be able to follow these. You will have times where you will eat a big slice of birthday cake that has been given to you at a party or you will enjoy fish and chips down by the water with your family. But it is what we do for the majority of the time that makes the difference.
Go for a walk, get out of the house, swim, run, take the stairs, dance, stand up from your desk and stretch every so often. Just move your body. However you can.
2. Minimise refined sugar and grains as well as anything with added ingredients that you do not recognise.
White sugar and flour have basically been stripped of their nutritional goodness. Avoid packaged foods/ ready made meals. Most of these often contain added sugars and massive ingredient lists with the majority unpronounceable, let alone recognisable. Deep fried, packed with additives and unhealthy fats. Know what you are eating. Bake your own cakes and biscuits using wholemeal flour (trust me, with most cakes you will not be able to tell the difference). Make a pasta sauce from scratch and use wholemeal pasta.
3. Don’t drink soft drink.
Seriously. Don’t do it. It is completely nutritionally void. Working as a dental assistant whilst studying I cannot even begin to describe to you the hideous effects of the acid and sugar in soft drinks on your teeth. That is not even going into what it does to your body. Ignore the sugar free, diet, naturally sweetened (an absolutely ridiculous marketing campaign) etc. variations. They are equally as bad. Although I am a true believer in moderation, soft drink is one thing that I would not touch at all. Ever.
4. Eat well. Mostly plants. Not too much.
If you are going to indulge, indulge well. Make it an incredible piece of carrot cake or your favourite flavour of gourmet ice-cream. Savour just enough of these indulgences to satisfy you.
5. Treat your body in the same way that you would treat your child’s.
Feed yourself like you would feed your child. Make sure you get enough exercise and enough rest. Would you let your child sit in front of the TV all day? Not likely. In the same way, would you let them eat just cake for dinner or finish off a block of chocolates? No. You would try to make sure they eat enough vegetables. Would you deep fry their food? Negative. Although we have no problems caring for a child’s body in the way that body’s need to be treated to be healthy and strong, it is shocking how many people don’t regulate their own behaviours in this way.
When anybody that I know wants to start their own journey towards improving their health I always say to make one little change at a time. I did not get where I am at by changing everything at once. It took a long time. For the first week, cut out soft drink or eat breakfast if you don’t already. Everything else can stay the same. The next week challenge yourself to make one more change on top that that. And so it can continue. Remember, each meal is a new meal. Don’t think that just because you have made poor choices for one meal that that has ruined all of your efforts for the entire week and therefore you might as well just give up until next week. It does not work like that. That mindset will get you nowhere.
Health should be a lifelong journey. Not a phase. Because of that, the most important advice that I give is that you should never start anything that you cannot sustain. You will burn out, give up and be right back where you started, minus money and patience for trying to be healthy.
Over the next few weeks I will start to post more of my favourite recipes to show you how simple it can be. You don’t need to impress everyone by trying to add Kale to every meal or sprinkle everything with chia seeds. You can if you want, but it’s probably not necessary. I will introduce you a bit more to how I love to cook and how I love to eat.
There are no excuses to not at least try to get the most out of life. Your body is a precious gift. Health is a blessing. Care for it. Protect it. Love and forgive it.
Enjoy it and make each moment count. You will travel far further that way.