I suppose everyone you know is on a crazy health kick post Christmas. Matcha green tea, low fat rice crackers and raw vegan everything are the only foods permitted on this 600 calorie fad diet you’ve seen on Instagram and “eat clean” is seeming like the most used phrase of 2016 – but two months in and you’re already struggling – and so are they. So let’s keep it real, diets don’t work. Period. It’s not because they don’t make your you feel good for those few days or even weeks, it’s because the effects simply don’t last and most diets are what I call restricting. Once the diet is over, your body craves everything it’s been missing in double quantities and you go on a binge for three days straight. If you’re trying to rid your caffeine addiction (sorry Starbucks!) it’s going to take more than a pricey ‘5 day teatox’ you’ve seen on Facebook.
You may not know much about nutrition but think back to biology or food tech lessons in school and you’ll remember the food groups the body needs to function. Mainly fruits and vegetables, protein, carbohydrates and fat. You’ll also know that an adult female needs around 1500 calories a day to maintain optimum health and men around 2000. So how can a diet eliminating all carbs be beneficial to the body? How about a diet claiming you’re wellbeing and waistline will be improved by eliminating all fat? Bold claims.
Essentially, we live in a world where we are drawn into a lifestyle of convenience. Everything must be quick and easy with minimal thought involved. Hence why we buy into fast food chains and bad eating habits. These diets that claim ‘renewed vitality’ and a new physique fail to include all essential food groups, realistic results or even establish how to maintain this new lease of life in the long term. I’ve found it’s much more about balance than anything else and if eating clean is really on the agenda for 2016 then at least do it right. Your body will thank you later and you’ll be clued up on the essentials. So yes, keep grazing on those rice crackers, hitting the gym and drinking your two litres a day, but don’t skip essential fat from your diet like avocado and olive oil or think you can get through a week on zero carbs. Why not eat good, wholesome carbs like brown rice or sweet potatoes?
I must admit, some health nutritionists and authors like Natasha Corrett of Honestly Healthy are paving the way for alkaline foods and plant based diets making it both accessible and achievable for the everyday student, professional or aspiring foodie to get advice on nutrition. Unlike those celebrities who promote quick fix diets (or rather starvation) she talks about making lifestyle changes. Reading up on food, being open minded and trying out recipes at home is the only way to make healthy eating normality.
Here’s a few tips for making healthy food swaps and changing the way you think about food. It may also save you some pennies!
Carbs – lose the processed white bread and pasta. They are literally poisonously to the body. Instead try wholewheat or spelt varieties for cooking. They will fill you up for longer and provide more fibre and less additives.
Sugar – ditch the white sugar in favour of brown sugar, honey of agave syrup. All widely available. Great alternatives to sweeteners and can be used in cooking and baking too.
Fruit and Vegetables – if you’re stuck in a rut for ideas about how to make veg exciting and flavourful, shop by season. Not only are they cheaper in season, you’ll notice more recipes flying around in magazines and in store on how to cook them. Markets are the best place to buy cheap and fresh. Use spices like garlic, chilli and herbs to add flavour effortlessly.
Protein – if you don’t eat meat, there are plenty of alternative ways to get protein. Try out tofu or bean curd, beans and pulses, nuts, quinoa, bulgar wheat or eggs to bulk out your meals. Each offer nutrients to the body and are low fat, high energy sources.
Fats – Believe it or not, good fats are needed for the body! They improve hair, skin and nails and superfoods like avocado and flax seeds aid digestion too.
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Words and photos: Sherelle Lancaster