The following is a guest blog written by Sam Pashley from REAL Online Training and Nutrition.
It’s a New Year, meaning we’ve reached that period of time synonymous with positive change and crazy efforts to make better choices, in particular switching up eating habits (perhaps after a heavy Christmas).
If we’re honest though, it’s a bit of minefield out there… Unfortunately the ‘diet’ cowboys are out in force telling us every crazy thing we should be adding or omitting from our eating habits and promising us the world if we try just this one magic food trick.
That’s not what we’re about.
Instead we’re going to steady the ship and provide you with a simple nutrition checklist to make sure you know you’ve got yourself covered with your food choices going into 2022.
Let’s start by understanding how most diets work, which is by balancing energy (calories in vs calories out) and by prioritising high quality foods.
Some companies might try to pass it off as some sort of magic nutrition wizardry that ONLY their diet has the answers to. But in truth, there are no real secrets in nutrition.
All diets* work (if followed consistently), they might just not work for you. Here lies the problem of people trying to fit themselves into overly restrictive and inflexible methods.
*the word diet in itself has a bad reputation, probably because there are a tonne of not-so-great eating strategies out there, although we’ll purely be using it to describe how someone chooses to eat… Not the fads.
This cheat sheet aims to make sure you’re focusing on the big rocks of nutrition whilst also being able to mould good eating habits to your preferences and lifestyle (no, you shouldn’t be cutting all the fun and enjoyment out of your food choices).
#1 Food quantity.
There’s a lot to be said about this, as the amount of food we eat has the biggest influence on our weight management as well as our energy levels to exercise well and perform throughout the day. Too little food and we’ll most likely feel overly hungry, have cravings and will experience energy dips throughout the day. Too much and we might feel sluggish, lethargic and experience similar low energy symptoms. The key here is to manage your food intake appropriately for your health and fitness goals and bring some awareness to your eating habits. One of our favourite ways to do this is to take photos of absolutely everything you eat and drink throughout the day as this makes it clear what our actual diet looks like (not just what we think it looks like). From here it can be clear where we might need to start from managing portion sizing to food swaps.
You’ll have probably heard every man and his dog shout about keeping your protein levels high, and for good reason. Proteins aren’t just the building blocks of muscle (handy for those of you looking to improve your strength or for muscle tone goals), they’re also important for all tissues, for our hormonal make up and for keeping a healthy immune system. When it comes to keeping you fuller for longer, this is the macronutrient you need. Aim to get a good source of protein at each meal to cover your bases.
#3 Fibrous veggies.
Yeah yeah, I know… It’s not exactly breaking news that vegetables are good for us. But they are. Get a wide variety of fibrous veggies in your diet and your body will thank you in many ways. It’ll stay fuller for longer., you’ll be happier, healthier, and more likely to become a superhero (results may vary).
I know this isn’t really a nutrition tactic, but we’d be doing a disservice if we left this juggernaut of a health ‘hack’ out. We’d go so far as saying going to bed at the same time each evening, and waking up at the same time each morning (provided you have adequate good quality sleep during this time) could be the single best thing you could do for your health this year. We’re not playing around with this one. The impact it has on your overall health and general ability to make positive long term choices is nuts. Don’t believe us?! Try it.
#5 The balance between carbs and fats.
Don’t believe the hype of diets telling you to completely remove either carbs or fats in your diet. Yes, these might provide a short term strategy and make it more likely that you’ll eat less (you’ve just taken out a whole load of foods that you’re not allowed to eat), but this is a short term strategy. Ask yourself, do you think the secret to long term nutritional success comes from learning to include the foods you like and an overall balance, or overly restricting yourself and trying to pretend certain food groups don’t exist?
Final thoughts -
We hope you’ve taken something from this brief overview of nutrition habits. Our goal here was to simplify information at a time when there’s an abundance of confusing and conflicting advice online. Happy New Year!