We grow from a single cell in our mothers’ wombs to fully grown adults with trillions of cells performing many complex functions. Our body has a remarkable ability to convert the food that we eat into us. So, it should be no surprise that healthy eating produces healthy us and vice versa. What we eat explains a vast majority of how robust our health is. Everything else such as exercise and other behavioural and environmental factors pale in comparison.
Contrary to generic, population-level dietary guidelines, the fact is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to designing the right eating strategy. We all have varied nutritional requirements, dietary preferences, health conditions, risk factors, lifestyle preferences, and so on. So, it is important that we distil the scientifically proven dietary guidelines to our individual needs. I know – easier said than done. But, hopefully, these guidelines from The Good Health Clinic (TGHC) will assist you in developing your own personalized dietary plans.
Carbohydrates (carbs), proteins, and fats are the three main nutrients that supply energy and nutrition to your body. Knowing how the body uses each nutrient and achieving the goals listed below can assist you in creating well-balanced, healthy, and delicious meals.
Carbohydrates are sugars and starches that your body converts to glucose for energy. Soda, grains, fruits, starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash), legumes, dairy, and bakery products are all rich in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can raise blood glucose levels. Excessive consumption of less nutritious types, such as added sugars and refined carbohydrates, can lead to weight gain, and increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease. It's critical for diabetics to keep a tight eye on their carb intake.
That said, fibre-rich vegetables, legumes, fresh fruits, and whole grains are some of the healthiest carb-containing foods to eat. Sugars that have been added should be avoided.
Non-starchy vegetables are high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals while being low in carbs and calories. Sterols and stanols, which are found in many plants, can help decrease cholesterol levels. Oat bran, beans, almonds, broccoli, avocado, blueberries, and fortified foods are all good sources.
At each meal, aim to fill half of your plate with a variety of non-starchy vegetables. You don't need to limit portion sizes as you would with other simple sugars or starch containing foods; you can eat as much as you like.
Proteins aid in the development and maintenance of muscle mass. They also makes you feel satisfied. Proteins have a small effect on blood glucose levels but excess protein gets converted into glucose by our liver and can indirectly raise our glucose levels later in the day. Also, excess protein from animal sources can cause fatty liver and insulin resistance, increasing our glucose levels in the medium term. Too much protein also increases the load on our kidneys. Proteins are found in animal foods such as chicken, meat, eggs, and fish as the primary nutrient. They are also found in tofu, lentils, nuts, seeds, and beans, among other plant-based foods.
Your goal is to eat protein with your carbs. This reduces the rate at which blood sugar levels rise after a meal or snack. Try to get your proteins from plant-based sources as much as possible.
Fats are essential for the proper functioning of the brain and neurological system, as well as adding flavor and texture to meals. Fats do not boost blood glucose when consumed alone but again trans and saturated fats can cause insulin resistance which can raise glucose levels in the medium term. Olive oil, avocado, olives, almonds, seeds, and sunflower oil all contain healthy fats. Your goal is to eat meals that are high in healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated). Saturated fats should be limited, and trans fats should be avoided.
Micronutrients, like macronutrients, are not produced in the quantities required by the body, thus a diet rich in vitamins and minerals is needed for good health. Vitamins are organic and can be broken down by heat, air, or acid, which means they can denature when cooked or exposed to air, making it slightly more difficult to guarantee you're getting enough of them in your diet. Minerals, on the other hand, are inorganic and do not undergo this process. This means that the minerals in the land and water where your food was grown are absorbed by your body. Each vitamin and mineral plays a vital role in your body, and eating a healthy, diverse diet is the best way to ensure you're getting enough of them. Micronutrients are important for practically every bodily action and can also act as antioxidants. They safeguard your body from sickness and deficits when consumed in sufficient amounts.
Dietary Guidance: From the American Heart Association
Poor diet quality is strongly associated with elevated risk of cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality. Given cardiovascular disease, mostly in the form of heart attacks and strokes, is responsible for a third of adult deaths globally and rising, it makes sense that we accept heart-healthy dietary guidance as the starting point for personalizing our diet plans. Given the links between heart health, obesity, diabetes, and cancer, it is not surprising that heart-healthy dietary guidance also applies equally well to preventing other chronic metabolic illnesses such as diabetes, several cancers and obesity.
Below are additional guidelines on how to eat on top of what to eat from AHA’s guidance above:
1. Practice mindful eating: Chew your food well and slow. Eating fast can cause bloating and gas. Listen to physical hunger cues and eat only until you’re full. Distinguish between true hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating. Engage your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures, and flavors. Appreciate your food
2. Gut microbiome: Gut health plays a vital role in preventing infections and diseases. Always maintain a clean bowel. Toxins can build up in the body because of constipation. Fluids, fiber, and good fats can help keep your motions regular and smooth. Synthetic laxatives should be avoided.
3. Keep yourself hydrated: Drink 3-4 L of water daily. Water should not be consumed along with meals since it might increase the volume of food in the stomach, increasing the risk of reflux. Drink water before meals instead
4. Instead of fruit juices, eat fresh whole fruits: Fruits should be avoided after sunset, with lunch/dinner, or immediately after lunch/dinner, as they disrupt sugar levels and digestion
5. Bisphenol A: BPA is found in plastic containers, bottles, and food packaging, such as the inside lining of food cans. BPA is particularly damaging since it changes the DNA of cells. Replace all your plastic containers with stainless steel. Canned foods are protected with a plastic coating, limit your intake of canned foods as much as possible
6. Planning: Plan your week's meals and snacks, and make sure you have everything you need. Make a to-do list and follow it. Choose as many different colors as possible, as well as fruits and vegetables that are in season. If you don't shop when you're hungry, you'll be less tempted by impulsive purchases.
Nutrition Labels: An Important Skill to Master
Use your label-reading skills to figure out which options are the best and look for them every time you go shopping. Start by understanding and visualizing how many portions does the packet have for you. Refined (white) flour, high-fructose corn syrup, added sugars (including all its other names such as cane sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, jaggery, dextrose, inverted syrup), hydrogenated oils, preservatives, and artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners should all be avoided. Similarly, look for low Sodium and low saturated fat options. Processed foods are typically higher in calories, saturated fats, sodium and sugars and lack the fibre, vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
Source : www.eatforhealth.gov.au
Handy Portion Guide: Your Health in Your Hands
Please use these images below to develop a visualization for what’s the appropriate serving size for typical food groups such as grains, vegetables, proteins, fats, etc.
Balance your plate
Please use these guidelines below to develop a visualization for what should your plate look like in terms of the major food groups. When in doubt, increase your non-starchy vegetables and legumes!
A - 50% Non-Starchy Veggies = half of your plate
Include: a variety of vegetables like broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, and cauliflower
B - 25% Carbs = a quarter of your plate
Include: Millets like Bajra, Ragi, Jowar, Brown rice, Wheat, potatoes
C - 25% Proteins = another quarter of your plate
Include: Tofu, chia seeds, almonds, peanuts, walnuts, beans, lentils, peas
D - Healthy Fats = just a bit
Include: Olive oil, avocado, olives, sunflower oil, nuts, and seeds.
When following a plant-based diet, some of the healthy fats also double as a source of protein. For example, Chia seeds, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, and walnuts
1 bowl=200 ml, ½ bowl=100 ml, 1 teaspoon (1 tsp)= 5 ml & 1 tablespoon (1 tbsp)=15 ml
Traffic Light of Foods: Best Use of Your Fridge Magnets!
In consonance with the dietary guidance from American Heart Association above, we have developed the traffic light of foods which you can pin up on your refrigerator as easy reference.
Dining Out: Plan in Advance
Restaurant visits are a necessary aspect of life. While eating healthy while dining out can be difficult, it is possible! Here's how to put yourself in the best position to succeed:
Prior to visiting
1. Look over the menu online to assist you make smarter decisions when it's time to order
2. Maintain a healthy diet. Skipping meals only makes you extremely hungry when it's time to order
3. Eat a modest snack an hour before your dinner, such as a piece of fruit with a few nuts or veggies and hummus. This will assist you in making healthier decisions.
At the restaurant
1. Keep your plate proportions balanced: 50 percent non-starchy vegetables, 25% lean protein, and 25% carbohydrates
2. To accompany your meal, select your favourite delicacy - drink, appetiser, or dessert. Have fun with it!
3. Estimate the portion size you'd serve at home. Pack the rest of the food to take home as leftovers
4. Request lower-calorie options such as salad dressing on the side, light oil on pasta and vegetables, and grilled chicken rather than crispy chicken!
5. Chew your food thoroughly and slowly. Enjoy the meal and the social interactions