Ebb & Flow -

Imagine this:

You start your day with a nutritious smoothie, have a colourful salad for lunch, and opt for grilled chicken and veggies for dinner; you feel confident that you’re making healthy choices and nourishing your body with all the right foods… or maybe you’ve been diligently following the latest diet trends, stocking your pantry with ‘superfoods,’ and meticulously tracking your calorie intake.

Here’s the question: are you really eating as healthily as you think you are?

In a world filled with clever marketing, conflicting information, and busy schedules, it’s easy to believe that we’re on the right track when it comes to our diets. However, the truth about our eating habits might surprise us. Many of us unknowingly fall victim to hidden sugars, sneaky additives, and nutrient deficiencies, even when we have the best intentions. This blog will separate fact from fiction, challenge common misconceptions, and shed light on the blind spots in our diets.

What is Healthy Eating?

Healthy eating goes beyond simply counting calories, eliminating certain food groups or trying the latest superfood; it involves adopting a sustainable and balanced approach to nourishing our body with the nutrients it needs.

At its core, healthy eating means consuming a variety of whole, unprocessed foods that provide essential vitamins, minerals, fibre, and other beneficial compounds. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods offer a wide range of nutrients that support our bodily functions, promote optimal health, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

It is also about the quality of the food we consume. This means choosing organic produce when possible, selecting lean and sustainably sourced proteins, and opting for minimally processed or whole foods over highly processed alternatives. It’s about minimising the intake of artificial additives, preservatives, added sugars, and unhealthy fats.

Additionally, healthy eating involves being mindful of portion sizes and moderation. It’s about understanding the appropriate quantities of food that our bodies require for nourishment, without overindulging. And lastly, healthy eating extends to our relationship with food. Being mindful of our eating habits, practicing mindful eating, and listening to our body’s hunger and fullness cues, whilst also balancing our energy intake with physical activity to maintain overall well-being.

  1. “Healthy” equals “low-fat” or “fat-free”. A healthy diet should not be low in fat as not all fats are bad for you. Our bodies require healthy fats for various functions, including hormone production, nutrient absorption, and brain health. They are found in avocados, oily fish, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. What our bodies don’t need are the unhealthy saturated and trans fats found in processed foods.
  2. All calories are created equal. The quality of calories matters just as much as the quantity; foods rich in nutrients and fibre, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, provide more sustained energy and better nourishment compared to foods high in added sugars or unhealthy fats. As an example: a mars chocolate bar will provide us with about 230 calories, 30 grams of sugar (equivalent to 7.5 teaspoons) a minimal amount of fibre and hardly any essential nutrients. How about using those 230 calories for a small handful of nuts and an apple, giving us a great combination of healthy fats, protein, fibre, vitamins (such as vitamin E and C), minerals (such as magnesium and potassium), and antioxidants?
  3. Healthy eating means “strict food restrictions”. Some people associate healthy eating with strict diets or eliminating entire food groups (like carbs) or certain foods (like gluten and dairy). While certain individuals may have specific dietary requirements, such as those with food allergies or medical conditions, a healthy eating pattern should be inclusive and balanced. It’s about emphasising nutrient-dense foods while allowing for occasional indulgences in moderation.
Look at it as a pyramid; you want the bottom part to be your micro and macro nutrients, with the small top part being your indulgence. Completely depriving our body and mind from what we like will never be sustainable in the long term. And sustainability is key to long term health!
  • Colours. For many of us, plates don’t have enough colour, and it’s actually very easy to rectify. Fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables and aim to have at least 5 different colours – make this a goal. Maybe try to buy a new fruit or vegetable every week, to add variety and fun to the challenge. This ensures a good intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fibre while naturally reducing the space for less nutritious options. This helpful handout can provide you with ideas on how fill your plate.
  • Carbs. The 3 most common mistakes are that they are too white/refined, they are overused or they are feared. First of all, opt for whole grains alternatives like brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, or whole grain pasta as the source of carbohydrates. These provide more fibre and nutrients compared to refined grains. Carbohydrates are essential for energy production so ideally it is not a food group we can simply avoid. However, while they are essential, they are also often overused, so how about making an open sandwich using just one slice of bread instead of two…?
  • Proteins. This is the macronutrient that is missed most often. Most breakfasts either have a very low amount of protein, or none at all. It’s key to incorporate lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds, or dairy products into our meals. These provide essential amino acids for muscle growth and repair, immune function and mental wellbeing.
  • Enjoy your meal. Slow down and savour each bite by practicing mindful eating. Pay attention to the flavours, textures, and sensations of your food. Eating mindfully can also help you better recognise hunger and fullness cues, prevent overeating, enhance your overall eating experience, and most importantly, it allows for better digestion and absorption of nutrients.
  • Stay hydrated. Remember to drink enough water throughout the day. Staying hydrated supports our overall health, aids digestion, and helps regulate appetite. All the cells in our body need water! Keep a reusable water bottle with you as a reminder to drink water regularly and to minimise endocrine disruptors from single use plastic. And maybe add some fresh herbs or fruit to enhance the flavour and increase your antioxidant intake?
  • Read food labels. Get into the habit of reading food labels to make informed choices. Pay attention to the ingredient list; what are those ingredients you cannot pronounce? After-all, food should be made from natural ingredients rather than unpronounceable chemicals. Reading these labels will allow you to be in control of nutritional information, as well as serving sizes. Look for foods with minimal additives, lower levels of sodium and added sugars, and higher amounts of fibre. Also look for expiry dates; how can a muffin you make last just a couple of days, but the one that you buy lasts for months and months? Natural things are supposed to go bad after a while.