There is so much information out there on the internet and in books about food. What to eat, what not to eat, how much to eat, when to eat! The array of diets out there is simply mind boggling: Paleo, Atkins, The 5:2, The Zone, The Dukan, juice detoxes etc. The list is endless and there seems to be a new diet added each day. However, most of know what is type of food is healthy and what is bad for us. The basic principles of healthy eating are actually quite simple: Eat moderate portions of foods from all of the food groups. However, from the Ayurvedic perspective, a balanced diet isn’t just about getting the right amounts of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins – it is also about eating the right food for your dosha. Just because a particular food is good for you it doesn’t mean it is right for your dosha (mind-body type). Take into account how you feel after you eat a certain food. If it doesn’t make you feel good then chances are it is not right for your body type.
The 5 Food Groups - A Refresh
Vegetables and legumes/beans: Whilst you need to eat a variety of different coloured vegetables every day, try to eat more leafy green vegetables (think kale, spinach and broccoli). However, don’t forget orange, yellow and red coloured vegetables (capsicum, carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin and tomato). If you do this you'll get plenty of fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate. Legumes are also included in this group, but can also be used as animal protein substitutes. Legumes are things like beans, lentils and chickpeas. Aim for at least five serves daily from this group. Note: Required servings can be different dependent on your gender and age. The eat for health guidelines has detailed information of what constitutes a serve.
Fruits: Fresh is best, but canned (in juice not syrup) and frozen fruits are also rich in fibre, vitamin C and folate. Berries in particular are chock full of antioxidants. Try to limit high fructose fruits such as grapes, pears, and watermelon. Fructose is sugar, and no matter where sugar comes from, your body metabolises it the same, way. Eat too much of it and it will turn it into fat. Aim for at least 2 serves daily from this group.
Grains (cereal): This includes bread, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, quinoa, barley, oats and other grains. These foods contribute to your daily carbohydrate intake. Not all are created equal. Choose wholegrain, spelt or rye bread and wholemeal or buckwheat pasta over their white counterparts. Brown rice and oats are higher in fibre, B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and iron compared to their more refined counterparts.Aim for at least 4 serves daily from this group.
Dairy and alternatives: Try to avoid low fat versions of foods in this group as they tend to be very high in sugar. It is better to eat less of the full fat versions than more of the low fat varieties. This group provides you with protein, calcium, riboflavin and vitamin B12. Aim for 1-2 serves daily from this group.
Meats and alternatives: This group contains red meat, poultry, fish and eggs. If you don’t eat animal protein, then replace with legumes as they provide many of the same nutrients as lean meat/fish/ poultry/eggs. If you eat animal protein, try to choose lean meat. Limit red meat to up to 455g per week and aim to include fish twice per week. This group provides protein, vitamin B12, zinc and iron.Aim for at least 1 serve daily from this group.
Healthy fats and oils: The eat for health guidelines don't have a specific food group for healthy fats and oils, but rather recommends all Australians include sources of healthy fats in their diet with amounts varying depending on individual energy needs. Healthy fats come from foods such as vegetable and seed oils, avocado, nuts and seeds and are needed in small amounts daily.
Eat from the 5 food groups, simple right? But why do so many of us not eat this way, or make bad food choices consistently? The statistics are alarming, e.g. only 1 in 10 Australians over 12 years of age eat sufficient vegetables in a day and only half eat sufficient serves of fruit! Eating more veggies and fruit lowers the risk of all major chronic diseases. We need to improve our eating habits not only for our own health, but also to set a good example for future generations. There are many factors that influence why we eat what we eat. So, in addition to trying to eat the right amount from the food groups above, we have come up with
7 Tips to Balance Your Diet
1. Eat breakfast: Yep Mum always harped on about this, but it is true. Don’t just eat breakfast, eat a good nourishing, satisfying one. It will keep you full until your mid morning snack or lunch and stop you making poor food choices. Steer away from pre-packaged liquid breakfast drinks on the way to work in the car or on the train! Wake up a couple of minutes early and make an omelette or have a bowl of muesli (yes yes, you are time poor we know, but it is worth it). There are also lots of great ideas out there for prepping your brekkie the night before. There you go, have that 5 minute sleep in now ;)
2. Serving size: Many of us eat the right food, but we eat too much. Ayurvedic principles say that a meal should be able to fit into a bowl the size of your hands put together. It is also important to eat only until you are 2/3 full. This means the stomach is 1/3 empty to allow energy and space for proper digestion. When you start eating this amount of food you may not feel full, a strategy is to wait 5 to 15 minutes to allow your brain to process the food you ate.
3. Make friends with your food: Many of us see food as the enemy. Some of us don’t like veggies or see eating healthy as a pain in the proverbial. Meal times should be joyful. We suggest that you pick a healthy food that you do like and build a meal around that. Change your mindset towards healthy foods, start appreciating it for the nourishment it will give your body. Think of veggies as a contributor to a long and healthful life and you might be more inclined to eat more of them!
4. Make time: We know that in today’s society we are all time poor. But seriously, stop making excuses. A great idea to save time is doing a big cook up one day/night of the week then freezing portions. You can then grab-n-go on your way to work. It really doesnt take long to prepare a healthy meal. Here are some great resources to help you on your way:
- Healthy recipes for under $3
- A selection of quick vegetarian meals
- CERES fair food delivers organic food boxes to your door AND has recipes
- My Goodness Organics will prepare and deliver your food!
5. Variety is the spice of life: If you eat the same thing day in, day out, you WILL get bored. Eating will become a chore and you may start making bad food choices. Switch it up, try new things, your tastebuds and body will thank you. Also, the nutritional content of food differs, so if you just eat a repetitive pattern of foods, you stand the chance of missing out on valuable nutrient benefits. New foods or recipes may mean you need to learn some new skills in the kitchen. You could try watching one of the multitudes of cooking shows for new ideas or enrol in a cooking class. You could also buy a new cook book with step by step instructions or check out YouTube, it is a great resource.
6. Snack: Of course you can snack. However, try to avoid that high sugar snack (especially around 3pm), opt for a handful of nuts/trail mix or some full fat natural yoghurt. Carrots sticks and hummus, a piece of fruit, an energy ball, and rice crackers with cottage cheese are all good alternatives to a snickers or biscuit.
7. Avoid processed and refined foods: Steer away from things like white bread, anything that comes in a packet and has a long shelf life or products with more than 5 ingredients listed (many being just numbers!). These foods are laden with sugar, preservatives, salt, and bad fats all of which are damaging to the body. Remember the mantra: Fresh is BEST!
Take heart if you have read this and are lamenting the loss of cake, chocolate or chips, all is not lost. ‘Diets’ can be restrictive, making them hard to stick to for longer than a few weeks. This means you can quickly revert back to old habits, so, it’s ok to treat yourself occasionally. An occasional treat can help you stick to your new eating plan. Our final pieces of advice are to drink lots of water and keep up the exercise. Water is essential for many of the body’s processes, such as, digestion, elimination, and transport of nutrients. As for exercising, well, it’s great for the heart and makes you feel pretty fantastic!
Western Wellness Team
(Your friendly neighbourhood yogis)