Nutrition Tips for Optimum Health


Ahi Tuna Steak With Rice and Avocado

In our last entry on GrownUps we looked at food and how food can be divided into three broad groups (fats carbohydrates and protein), and how a balance of each of these groups is important for our bodies to function optimally.

Now that we understand what these groups are and what they do, I thought it would be good to give some general principals about how much of each food group we should eat and some general dietary advice. There are just so many diets out there, some are crazy (for example the lemon diet), some are very expensive (from companies that supply the food or a meal replacement) and some are very hard to maintain in the long term.

The way to keep your body at an optimum weight and functioning at an optimal level is not to diet at all, but rather to eat healthy foods from the groups above and make healthy lifestyle choices.

So what does this look? Here are some general principles;

Portion size

How many times have you been to a buffet restaurant and seen that person with the plate piled as high as a small mountain? As much as their plate is overflowing, I bet if you look closely, their belly is too! When eating the evening meal use a small dinner plate, this will automatically cut down on the amount of food you eat, and no second helpings either!

When you look at your dinner plate you should divide it in your mind into quarters. One quarter should contain lean meat (preferably white meat or fish), one quarter complex carbohydrates (such as rice, pasta or potatoes) and the remaining half vegetables.

Frequency of eating

It is much better to eat small amounts frequently during the day (4 or 5 times) rather than large amounts less often. If you do this then you will feel fuller for longer and be less likely to go for unhealthy fat and sugar filled convenience food because all of a sudden you are hungry. It will also mean you will have more energy consistently during the day and avoid peaks and troughs in your energy levels.

Foods that are healthy to eat

There are lots of tasty options of food to eat from the three food groups that are very good for us. The predominant thing we eat from the protein group is meat. Red meat is very good for us but only in moderation and we should really only eat it twice per week.

When you do eat red meat make sure it is a lean cut with all the excess fat trimmed off before it is cooked. The rest of the meat that we eat during the week should be white meat and fish. This can be grilled, baked, steamed or even fried in a small amount of olive oil.

From the carbohydrate group we can eat the complex carbohydrates such as the vegetables (try swapping kumara for potato), cereals, rice and legumes.

From the fats group try avocado and a small amount of raw nuts. Remember that just because a food is healthy for you that it does not give license to overindulge in it. Look back at the dinner plate analogy mentioned above to get the proportions right.

Foods we should avoid

These are the heavily processed foods that are full of saturated fats, salt and sugar. They are unfortunately the tasty convenience foods that we all like to eat. These foods include things like takeaways, cake, biscuits, chocolate, some dairy products and potato chips.

This group also includes sugary drinks such as soft drinks and juices (did you know that there is more sugar in a small bottle of orange juice than there is in the equivalent volume of Coke?). If abused these foods will cause weight gain and they can also contribute to heart disease and diabetes.

It is ok to have an occasional treat from this group, however the proportion of eating good healthy food to unhealthy food should be 95% healthy and 5% unhealthy.

So that covers a little about what and how we should eat. The other factor to consider here for us to be healthy and functioning at an optimal level is exercise. Have a look back in previous entries on GrownUps as we have discussed exercise and given general guidelines to make it fun and sustainable.