Food…what should I eat?

The two most common questions I’m asked are ‘what is the best diet?’ and ‘what should I eat?’

Before we look at diets, let’s take a look at ‘why’ we eat.

If we take a step back and look at ‘why’ we eat, it’s really to nourish our body. Nutrition is the process of taking in and assimilating nutrients from the food that you eat that’s necessary for the health and growth of the body.  

For this to happen, we need ‘macronutrients’ and ‘micronutrients’.

Macronutrients are the nutrients the body needs a large amount of. They give the body energy and are measured in calories. Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Micronutrients are the nutrients the body only needs trace amounts of and they help the body convert macronutrients to energy. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals.

So what are macronutrients? They are the nutrients the body needs a large amount of. They give the body energy and are measured in calories. Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Macronutrients are the basis of our nutrition

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Whatever diet you choose or lifestyle you subscribe to, at the end of the day it’s all about having a healthier plate with the right amounts of nutrients your body needs for what you want it to do. 

  • Maybe you’re an ironman or pregnant woman so you will need more protein in your diet, but that diet could be vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo etc., but one of the important the nutrient you need is protein.
  • If you have an office job and don’t tend to exercise much, then you’re going to need less calories (macronutrients) than a dancer or someone who works in a physical job.

Can you see how it’s not the ‘diet’ you choose that’s important, but rather having a better understanding of the nutrients that your body needs so you can create a plate that is right for you?

With that in mind, we’re going to break down more about macronutrients and micronutrients so you can have better knowledge around what goes on your plate, whether your plate is Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian or any other diet you choose.

What are Macronutrients ?

Macronutrients include:

  • Carbohydrates which are the body’s main source of energy because they are broken down more easily. Carbohydrates can be:
    • Simple which metabolise quickly and often can  taste sweet e.g. fruit and provide a quick burst of energy and they’re also things like white bread, white pasta, white rice.
    • Complex which metabolise slower e.g. potatoes and usually taste more savoury and are good for slower release energy
    • Fibre which can’t be digested but helps food move through the digestive tract

Many diets focus on ‘cutting carbs’, but carbohydrates are really important because they are a key source of energy for the body. The brain, kidneys, muscles and the heart need carbohydrates to function properly. They help with fat metabolism and fibre is crucial for your intestinal health. Carbohydrates can be found in grains, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and the not so good carbohydrates which are found in biscuits, cakes, sweets etc.

The problem with carbohydrates usually stems from two things (sometimes both!)

  1. Eating too many of the not so healthy, simple carbohydrates
  2. Proportions or the balance of carbohydrates to other macronutrients
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy.
  • Protein which is critical for so many of our bodily functions. Protein is required for the functions or our cells, tissues and organs. It is used to produce new tissue for growth and to repair damaged tissue, it makes up the majority of enzymes that are used for digestion and immunity and plays an important role in hormones.  Protein is also used as a secondary energy source when carbohydrates aren’t available, because our body saves protein for growth, development and repair.

There are animal based proteins which are found in meat, poultry, eggs and fish and plant based proteins such as quinoa, chia or hemp seeds, sprouts, chickpeas, lentils.

Protein is critical for so many of our body’s functions.
  • Fats which our body needs for maintenance and protection of cellular membranes. They also provide a high density energy source. What do we mean by that?

Fat provides 9 calories per gram; Carbohydrates/Protein provide 4 calories per gram

There was a stage in the 90’s where people thought fats were bad for you and there was a “low fat” fad but that’s turned around as we understand the important role fats play in our diet.  Fats play an important role in helping absorb fat soluble vitamins. They provide cushioning for our organs, insulation of the body and they provide the raw materials for creating Vitamin D and other hormones.

There are 3 different types of fats and they are not all created equal, but that is a whole other topic! Fats can be found in meat, poultry, nuts, seeds, dairy, butter, oils, large fish and avocado which are the ones we want to be eating, and of course the not so good fats such as saturated fats and trans fats which are found in processed foods.

Fats provide a high energy source, but we need to choose the right fats!

So what should you eat?

I love this really simple way to plan how to fill your plate at each meal.  Whatever your diet, it is important that it includes each of these key macronutrients in a healthy balance. If you’re eating whole, fresh foods, many of these will also contain the important micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) your body needs to reach and maintain a healthy body weight, to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs and to stay healthy and strong.

Use this “Healthy Plate” as a guide for how to plan your meals and fill your plate at each meal

You can be a really unhealthy Vegan if all you eat is pasta and raw vegan sweet treat! The diet doesn’t make you healthy it’s what you put on your plate – the type of carbohydrates and fats. It’s about knowing what’s right for you and that balance…..

Need some help with that?

Download my free “How to fill your Plate” graphic and put it on the fridge or somewhere you can see it, as a healthy reminder. If you need help to get on track and make changes to your diet, please book in a free 15 minute chat with me. 

As a Health Coach, this is what I help people with day in and day out, so if you’d like to talk to someone who can help you cut through the confusion and figure out what’s right for you, I’d love to chat.

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