I was recently asked to write a blog for a company for their Wellbeing Week regarding Taking Notice about what we are eating. This is a really important point, especially for those that are trying to lose weight as I often find people are guilty of mindlessly popping food into their mouths whilst they are busily getting on with their lives BUT this may be impeding your goals – read on to find out what I mean….
There are two main problems I come across in clinic with clients wanting to lose weight but seemingly eating a healthy diet. The first is portion control. If you want to lose weight, eating well-known healthy foods is a fantastic place to start of course but eating unlimited amounts of these foods will not help shed the pounds in the long run.
Take avocado as an example, a staple of the fitness elite on Instagram and an excellent addition to salads, smoothies, wholemeal toast (#avoontoast) – full of good healthy fats and vitamin E BUT 100g of avocado has a whopping 234kcal (an average avocado is around 150g) and contains 21g of fat.
Another example is nuts – a handful of nuts is a great healthy snack, full of protein and can help to keep the wolf from the door between meals, but be cautious, 10 Brazil nuts contains 330kcal and 33g of fat – around 1/6 of the recommended daily calorie intake for a woman.
With both these examples, I don’t believe avocados or nuts should be removed from a healthy balanced diet, quite the opposite, but it’s worth being more conscious before you add a whole avocado into a smoothie or mindlessly devour a handful of nuts between meals.
When constructing a plate of food, I suggest to clients that it should be roughly 50% vegetables (of a variety of colours – non root vegetables can be eaten in unlimited supply), 25% good quality protein (fish, lean white meat, eggs, seafood, lentils, fermented soy products, chickpeas, beans) and 25% whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, oats, barley, millet). Making sure you eat protein with every meal will help keep you satiated in between and prevent needless snacking. Carbohydrate heavy meals with fill you up but can make you feel hungry again sooner. If you feel you need to snack between meals, pick wisely and don’t overindulge. An apple with 4/5 cashew nuts or a tablespoon on hummus with some carrot batons is plenty to keep you full until your next feed. Click this link for the BANT Wellness Solution Healthy Plate.
Eating protein as part of your snack (like nuts) rather than just simple carbohydrates (like an apple) on their own will help keep the cravings at bay and prevent blood sugar spikes and dips which can lead to feeling hungry again quickly and therefore eating more.
Secondly I encourage mindful eating. What do I mean by this? Read my top tips below to find out:
- Sit down to eat. Eating standing up or ‘on the go’ means you are not giving your full attention to what you are putting in your mouth. Sitting down is a more rested state and the body can focus on digestion
- Turn off phones, TVs, tablets and laptops. Eating whilst distracted leads to gulping down food and overeating
- Chew your food thoroughly. I can’t stress this one enough. The process of mastication is the first important stage of digestion. Not spending enough time doing this could make the food harder to break down further down the digestive system.
- Pick your portion size and stick to it. Don’t offer yourselves unlimited supplies – you can and will eat more than what a portion should be. For example have you had a bag of nuts in front of you or a punnet of grapes and realised before you knew it, it’s half empty?
- Wait 10 minutes before eating more. If you really feel that you have not had enough to eat, wait 10 minutes and see if you still feel hungry – most people don’t.
- Keep a food dairy for a week. Note EVERYTHING. People are often surprised about the little mindless extras – a biscuit here, a bite of the childrens’ food there…
- Be strict but not too strict. Cutting out things you love completely often leads to failure and resentment and less healthy foods are seen as a ‘treat’. Remember a little bit of what you fancy does no harm – just check the portion size!
So sit up and take notice of not only what you are putting on your plates but the portion size, how you interact with food and if you are giving it the due care and attention is deserves – after all, food is what nourishes us and keeps us functioning.