There’s so many opinions out there!
Eat low carbs.
Eat no carbs.
This diet. That diet.
What can I do?? What should I eat? And what should I avoid?
Very recently, U.S. News evaluated and ranked 32 diets with input from a panel of health experts. DASH – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – was ranked # 1 for the fourth year in a row. It was appreciated for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes, and role in supporting heart health.
A good diet should provide plenty of choices, relatively few restrictions, and no long grocery lists of (sometimes expensive) special foods. It should be as good for your heart, bones, brain, and colon as it is for your waistline. And it should be something you can sustain for years. Such a diet won’t give you a quick fix. But it can offer you something better — a lifetime of savory, healthy choices that will be good for all of you, not just parts of you.
Here’s one such. Let me give you a few simple principles for eating a healthy, balanced diet, incorporating best practices from DASH, Mediterranean diet and hormone balancing diets.
1. AVOID ADDED CARBOHYDRATES
Especially refined and processed carbs. This means – no wheat, rice, potatoes, certainly no packaged or bakery goods. Most certainly no sugar, no sugar equivalents, no sugar substitutes. Remember, sugar is POISON. Eat fruit for your sweet craving. Cooked or raw.
2. Eat 9 to 13 servings of vegetables and fruit daily. This will give plenty of carbs for efficient metabolism. Aim for a ‘rainbow’ of 7 colors in food daily.
What is one serving? One cup uncooked, half cup cooked fruit or veg, quarter cup dried. One cup is the size of a closed fist.
Do not juice your fruit and veggies. The fiber, and the fullness it provides, is invaluable. Fruit juice is a source of concentrated calories and causes a sugar spike. Fiber, in addition to contributing to fullness, helps control diabetes, high cholesterol, maintains bowel health, helps maintain healthy weight and eliminate toxins. Recommended intake is:
|Age 50 or younger||Age 51 or older|
|Men||38 grams||30 grams|
|Women||25 grams||21 grams|
Institute of Medicine, 2012.
So make smoothies instead. That is, blend a combination of fruit and veg you like, with no sugar added. It is good if you add a tablespoon of coconut oil to this. It will be creamy and filling, and the medium chain triglycerides in the coconut oil are great for your brain and your hormones.
3. Protein with every meal.
Here I am writing as an almost-vegetarian Indian. Our breakfast, especially, is usually upma poha paratha – all carbs! There’s no protein there!
It’s important to get protein with every meal. Protein is more satisfying than carbohydrates or fats, and thus may be the new secret weapon in weight control. Getting enough protein helps preserve muscle mass and encourages fat burning while keeping you feeling full. Eating carbs makes you hungry soon after a meal. Eating protein keeps you feeling full. So be sure to include healthy protein sources, like yogurt, cheese, nuts, or beans, at meals and snacks.
How much protein? About 1g/kg body weight for an adult, more, around 1.5g/kg for the pregnant or lactating ladies, growing children and those exercising vigorously. How do we know how much we’re getting? Measure! Maintain a food diary. This will give total calories consumed, plus breakdown of major food groups, ie, carbs, protein and fats.
Don’t forget portion size! Meat servings should be no more than 90g, 3 oz, size of a deck of cards. Avoid chargrilled meat as we have seen in a previous post.
This is only for illustration of size; remember we want to avoid chargrilled meat.
Good quality protein – avoid processed, canned, deep fried stuff full of antibiotics and pesticides. Obviously. So no cold cuts. Grass fed, organically raised animals and poultry. If you can, organ meats are good.
4. Avoid snacks between meals. This helps balance hormones and increase insulin sensitivity. If really required, opt for a small serving of seeds and nuts. They contain healthy fats. And protein.
Sunflower seeds are good. Since they have to be cracked open, it takes time, so portion control is easier. In general, portion size is 1 oz, the amount inside a closed fist. Seeds such as sesame can be sprinkled on salads.
So a good way to incorporate all the above, is a large salad, with some fish, chicken, cheese or beans for protein, and some seeds for good fats.
5. Eat your last meal at least 2 hours before you go to bed. ‘Breakfast like a king, dinner like a pauper’ still is the right advice.
Home cooked meals prepared with fresh ingredients, avoiding convenience foods, no need to keep track of portion size – that’s it! What could be simpler!!!!
And don’t forget the exercise!
These diet principles, if followed with discipline, will help us live longer, healthier, free of disease and maintain healthy body weight. The principles work well if
- we are healthy, trying to remain healthy.
- we want to lose weight in a safe, healthy manner.
- we are diabetic. Just limit fruit servings to 1-2/day and avoid high glycemic fruits.
- those who have high blood pressure. Limiting salt intake is not crucial.
- most other health conditions.
As well as lose the football belly!
So a sample menu for the day would be:
Breakfast: Eggs cooked with plenty of butter / ghee/ coconut oil, with a side of spinach / Mushroom omelet.
For the vegetarians among us : sprouts. Dosa or idli made wholly with dal, no rice, and served with sambar and coconut chutney.
Lunch: Grilled meat or paneer with large salad as described above.
Dinner : Soup with plenty of veg, such as minestrone, and added beans or meat. / Thai curry with coconut.
Vegetarians: Paneer, tofu, lentils, dairy, nuts, for the protein. It is difficult to get protein in the proportions required on a strict vegetarian diet, and supplementation is recommended.
For mid- meal snacks when required, choose options like hummus, nuts, dates with shredded coconut, etc. Eating just twice a day allows the body to recover from the glucose overload, and so decreases insulin resistance and also increases growth hormone. Which are all good.
Notice that I have not included quantities. Its not crucial, because the fiber will keep you satiated.
This diet will keep you full, and will keep you healthy. Best, your waist size will drop! I lost 3 kg in 2 weeks on this diet. And I didn’t feel deprived ever!
Simple changes, with great results!