We all know by now that we should eat a healthy diet. But like getting 8 hours of sleep a night and flossing our teeth, sometimes life just gets in the way. As personal trainers though, we’re passionate about eating healthily, not because it’s one of those things we think we should be doing (even though it is!) but because we see the effects of poor diet every day. On the flip-side, we also know just how beneficial a healthy diet can be in transforming someone’s life. To live a healthy life means regular exercise and regular healthy eating. So today, we’re going to have a look at just what healthy eating really means with the 7 components of a healthy diet.
Carbohydrate: A lot of clients bring with them a real phobia of carbohydrates like bread, pasta and potatoes thinking that eating carbs will cause them to put on weight. However, as the body’s main source of energy, you need to be eating carbs to have enough strength to power through your gym workouts. Lack of carbs can lead to lethargy and your body relying on protein and fats for energy, potentially causing high cholesterol. Also, carbs are an important source of fibre. The ‘best’ carbs are the wholegrain variety, so aim to make around one third of your diet wholegrain bread, rice, noodles and pasta. It doesn’t mean missing out either, as you can get wholegrain varieties of wraps, bagels and cereals.
Protein: The body-builders favourite- protein! But it’s not just those wanting to build muscle (which protein does really well) who need protein. Protein is also essential for repair of your cells and tissues (which are largely made up of protein) and overall good health. You’ll also find that when you include protein in your meal, that you feel more satisfied and fuller for longer- great news for weight loss goals. What you want to look for though is lean protein like chicken, salmon, beans and lentils, and grill, bake or steam rather than fry.
Fats: Fats can be confusing, should you be eating them or shouldn’t you? The truth is that the body needs some fat in the diet, but instead of taking this in from foods laden in grease or high fat treats, give your body the essential fats it really wants with nutritious foods like avocado, olives and olive oil, nuts like brazils and almonds, plus oily fish like salmon and sardines, and dairy like milk and cheese.
Vitamins: If you’ve not heard the ‘eat 5 a day’ message, then you must have been living on another planet for the last few years as that has been a core focus for the government to encourage us to eat at last 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Yet only 1 in 4 of us are hitting that target. The reason for eating fruit and vegetables is that they are the primary source of vitamins in our diet and are essential for keeping us fit and healthy. Like vitamin C for healthy skin and bones and to help us to heal, or vitamin E for a healthy immune system. It’s useful to keep a food diary so you can work out exactly how much fruit and vegetables you’re eating each day, and remember that 5 should be a minimum not a goal!
Minerals: We tend to focus more on vitamins, but minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron are just as important to your body. Calcium, which you’ll find in your dairy foods and non-diary alternatives like soya milk is vital for bone health and in preventing brittle bones and osteoporosis. Iron is another vital mineral, and if you’re lacking in it, you’re likely to feel it through fatigue and lack of energy. You can pack in vital iron through green leafy vegetables, chickpeas, nuts and dark chocolate.
Fibre: Digestive health: now they might not be the most glamorous words you’ve read today, but trust us, when things aren’t ticking over as they should be in the digestion department, it can be mighty unsettling, leading to painful constipation. On the other hand, having enough fibre in your diet not only keeps food moving through your body as it should do, but help you to stay fuller for longer. There are the obvious cereals with fibre or bran in the title, but also include skin-on potatoes, wholegrains and plenty of fruit and vegetables. As you’d expect, a serving of brand flakes has heaps of fibre at 7.2g for an average bowl, but just two tablespoons of broad beans has 7.8g of fibre and a medium pear 3.3g!
Water: Last but not least is water and you should be drinking at least 6-8 glasses of pure water a day, more if you’re training. Over two thirds of your body is water, so when you’re not taking enough in, it can affect your vital organs and their functions. Drink enough though, and it’ll help keep you energised, and help bring the whole of the 7 components of healthy eating together into a nice, balanced package