When people find out I’m a Nutritional Therapist they often tell me that they eat a healthy diet.  But what does that mean?  I have my own understanding of healthy diet and it may not match with someone else’s definition.  To some it may mean they eat as the Government recommends, that they use artificial sweeteners rather than sugar, they eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.  There is so much conflicting advice around now that it has become a real minefield as to what we should or should not be eating to be as healthy as we can.  Should we go Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, low carb, low fat and so on and so forth! Here are my 5 top tips to help you to enjoy a healthier diet.

1. Eat food as close to its natural state as possible
If your Great-Grandmother wouldn’t recognise it as food, think twice before you eat it.  By keeping food simple and as minimally processed as possible the amount of nutrients available to you if maximised along with the co nutrients needed to gain the most benefit.  It also reduces unnecessary ingredients such as artificial sweeteners, preservatives and colours.
2. Eat more plants
Research has shown that people who include lots of plant foods in their diet tend to experience lower levels of serious disease. The fibre from plant foods feeds our gut bacteria as well as helping us get rid of toxins.
3. Reduce your sugar intake
All types of processed sugary foods and refined carbohydrates can contribute to weight gain, insulin resistance (a stepping stone towards Type 2 diabetes) and inflammation.  Small amounts of fruit and natural sweeteners such as maple syrup and raw honey will contribute to the range of nutrients available to you as part of an overall balanced diet.
4. Eat healthy fats
We need fat in our diet, both saturated and unsaturated. Choose organic full fat dairy, olive oil, nuts & seeds, coconut oil, oily fish.   The right kind of fat helps keep our bones and immune system strong, our brains functioning well, keeps our cells healthy and our helps our nerves communicate.  It is now accepted that the fats found in processed foods can cause damage to our bodies and should be reduced or eliminated wherever possible.
 5. Keep well hydrated
We only need to be dehydrated by 2% to start to feel the effects. Not everyone likes drinking water, but it really is the best thing we can have to keep hydrated. Try flavouring water with different herbs, slices of citrus fruit, different fruits, ginger or even herbal tea bags whatever you like. Remember though that herbal tea, green tea, white tea as well as small amounts of tea or coffee all counts. We also get water from our food so actually drinking 8 glasses of water a day isn’t entirely necessary, just remember to get what you need from a variety of sources.

We lead such busy lives now, it can be difficult to find time to cook from scratch to provide the lovely nutritious meals we would like to give our families.  There is also the added complication of who likes (or doesn’t like) what, different schedules making it more difficult to sit down to a meal all at the same time, special dietary needs and so on and so forth.  Hmmm, so what can we do?  Well, as much or as little as you can.  Don’t feel guilty about not being able to cook from scratch every night, but do what you can.  If that means using a ready made sauce choose one with the least amount of sugar and salt and add your own vegetables.  Add an extra portion of fruit or vegetables to each meal.  Add a handful of berries or some banana slices to your breakfast porridge, add tomatoes, mushrooms and a handful of greens to your breakfast eggs.  How about some sliced avocado with your lunchtime salad or a handful of spinach in your soup.  Get creative.  As Michael Pollan says “if it comes from a plant eat it, if it’s made in a plant, don’t!”

Melissa Smith is a Registered Nutritional Therapist.  To find out more about how she can help and support you visit her page in our Therapies Section

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