Healthy eating can seem like hard work as it takes time, planning and preparation to eat well. We are faced with multiple food decisions each day so to make life easier (and take some decisions out of the equation) I use certain ‘food rules’. I hope these help you to plan your day.
1. No white carbs
These include white potatoes, white pasta and white rice for example. These are low in nutrients and fibre and thus are broken down quickly by the body causing a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. This sharp burst of energy is quickly followed by a crash as your body produces insulin to remove the excess sugar from the blood, causing low energy, low moods and increased fat storage.
I stick with quinoa, sweet potatoes and vegetables instead which are more nutritious and give a steadier increase in energy levels, and I always include a protein source as well.
2. Eat protein and good fat at every meal, including snacks
This is one of my ‘rules’ that I rarely stray from as it just makes so much sense and makes me feel better. Protein and fat help to keep blood sugar levels balanced and can help to increase the time the body takes to digest food, thus helping to maintain energy levels.
Many people tend to get a slump in energy levels, particular after breakfast and lunch. One common cause is eating a carbohydrate rich meal without sufficient protein. Try adding some eggs, fish, poultry, meat, nuts or seeds to your meals to help you maintain your energy and concentration levels.
3. Stay hydrated
Most people know that they should be drinking more water, but many don’t know why. Every cell and organ in your body requires water to function properly so if you are not drinking enough you can expect lethargy, poor concentration, joint pain, headaches, poor toxin elimination, digestive problems and much more. I always have a bottle of water handy to reach my target of two litres per day.
4. No dessert during the week
I have a naturally sweet tooth and this helps me to curb my intake and limit it to the weekends only. If I really fancy something dessert like I’ll have a couple of squares of dark chocolate.
5. No alcohol Monday to Thursday
I’m not a massive drinker, however I find that drinking can become habitual – ‘I’ve had a tough day, I really fancy a glass of wine’ and it’s easy to consume something every night, even in small quantities. I recently went through a short period of having more drinking days than non – drinking days and I wasn’t comfortable with how quickly I developed this routine or the way it made me feel. Sticking to this plan helps to limit my drinking days to the weekends and has really helped with my skin and energy levels (plus it’s so much easier getting up for a run with a clear head!)
6. No carbohydrates at night
I find this an easy way of maintaining/losing weight without a lot of effort. The way my day is structured means I’m naturally less active at night, so I see it as my body not needing a vast quantity of calories. This is admittedly easier to do in the warmer months when salads are more of a feature than the colder winter months when all you want to do is curl up on the sofa with something warm and comforting.
7. I don’t drink calories
With the exception of tea and coffee I only drink water. No fruit juice, flavoured squash, caramel frappacinos…
8. Include vegetables with every meal
Even if I’m having eggs for breakfast, I will always include something green alongside it like spinach. Vegetables are a great source of vitamins to keep you healthy.
9. I don’t eat wheat
This is a personal choice, but I generally don’t see any benefits to eating wheat. All it does is make me feel bloated and tired. There is nothing that a wheat product provides your body that you can’t get from natural foods.
10. When I induldge, it has to be worth it
As I said, I have a majorly sweet tooth, so I need to maintain some incredible will-power around certain foods. The truth is, unless I LOVE it, I won’t eat it. Cakes I can take or leave, but treats like banoffee pie or apple crumble I absolutely love. There are temptations throughout the day, and if I ate everything then I would be the size of a house. I pick my moments and make sure they are worth it (I exercise too hard for it not to be the case – why undo all my hard work with something I don’t really enjoy??).
Of course these are not ‘do or die’ rules but more of a guideline – it’s important to listen to your body and give it what it wants.