I have written this post to try to help people become healthier. While for some of us eating healthy is a way of life, for many others it becomes a life long battle. I was lucky that I grew up with a mother who has always been incredibly healthy and she taught me the importance of cooking everything fresh. Ready made meals and a microwave were banned in our house and I will never forget when a friend microwaved me a cup of tea. I was utterly shocked! In the following paragraphs I will talk about why I do not believe in diets but do believe in food intolerance tests and the importance of having a healthy relationship with food.
The Importance of a balanced diet
It is so important to fuel your body with the correct nutrients if you want it to function properly. This is why a balanced diet composed of carbohydrates, proteins and fats are essential! I know so many women who are absolutely petrified of the word “carbs” but they shouldn’t be. First of all I am not talking about your refined carbohydrates like sugar, white pasta, bread, pies, cakes and biscuits. I am talking about complex carbs like sweet potatoes and brown rice. Carbohydrates are necessary for energy and endurance. Proteins are important for muscle repair and healing, especially after exercising. Good sources include: tofu, lean organic meats, eggs, lentils, chickpeas and quinoa. When I say fats I do not mean bacon and sausages. I refer to healthy fats – omega 3 known as essential fatty acids which are vital for healthy brain function, joints, tendons and cardiovascular health. Good sources include: wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, avocados, flax, chia, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, almonds.
When studying nutrition at college I was taught that half of your plate should always consist of either vegetables or a salad and that protein and complex carbs should be the size of your fist and no bigger. Your good fats should be just a quarter. This is the rule that I always follow and I find it works very well.
Foods that I would avoid like the plague are all ready made meals and fizzy drinks that have zero nutritional value. Try to cook everything fresh so you can see exactly what goes into your food. Use fresh herbs and spices which are very good for you and add flavour to your cooking. If you fancy something that is not healthy like a burger or fries cook them from scratch yourself. It will always be healthier than a ready made burger or those awful frozen fries that damage your health. I will always say to try to buy organic especially when it comes to meat, as it tends to be injected with hormones and antibiotics and it is so important to know what meat you are buying.
Acid – Alkaline Balance
It is so important to keep your body alkaline to protect you from the onset of disease. The ratio I follow is 70-30 which means 70% of the time I am super healthy. An over acidic body will cause your hair and skin to look dull, you may experience headaches, loss of memory, insomnia, joint pains, gout and you can even go on to develop more serious diseases like cancer. The best alkaline foods include: kale, watercress, parsley, celery, endive, cabbage, asparagus, papaya, melons, dried dates, lemons and limes.
Food Intolerance test
I advise all my clients to take a food intolerance test. You may be eating a food that is healthy but it may not be good for you and you are not aware of it. Signs and symptoms may include: bloating, headaches and migraines, joint pain, irritable bowl syndrome, fatigue, acne, eczema or itchy skin. Every Food can be both good or bad. We are all individual and no diet plan fits all. What is good for one person may not be good for another. A good company that do food intolerance tests is: www.yorktest.com
Why I do not believe in diets
Not only do I not believe in diets but do not like the word ‘diet’ at all! All these fad diets just mess up your metabolism and create an unhealthy obsession and relationship with food which can often result in eating disorders. You should eat to be healthy and not skinny. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. You can be petite, tall, curvy. athletic and still be beautiful. It is so important to love and accept your body shape and be realistic. Beauty and youth fade but health remains for ever if we look after ourselves. And it is our health that will be the most important! We live in a society where young girls grow up wanting to look like celebrities or models they see in magazines. Reality is all those pictures are retouched.
I believe in eating healthy. I have three meals a day and 2 snacks. I have been the same weight for years. So many young girls think that by starving they will lose weight and I see them smoke and drink coffee all day. Well this is a recipe for disaster. By starving yourself you will only end up looking emaciated and old faster than you can blink. I don’t think women like Sofia Loren and Monica Bellucci starved themselves, do you? So always be sensible.
Why it is ok to have a treat
My motto has always been everything in moderation. Yes I am very healthy and I exercise daily because for me it’s a normal way of life and I totally enjoy it. I feel great. Does this mean I never enjoy a treat? I do not have a sweet tooth so rarely eat many cakes but being Italian I can never quite give up home made pasta, pizza, pecorino and parmesan cheese. I am dairy intolerant so rarely have cheese but when I am in Italy I will occasionally indulge in a delicious home made lasagna or pizza without feeling guilty because I know that 70-80% of the time I am super healthy. Treats once in while are ok as long as you are not living off of your treats. Be sensible, if you fancy a biscuit have one not the whole pack.
How do I start being more healthy?
For some people like myself eating healthy is normal. For others it can be a real struggle. For those kind of people I will never say go and have a glass of wheatgrass as it will probably put them off being healthy for life. I always study my clients and offer a realistic diet plan based on the individual in front of me. Here below are some simple guide lines I normally offer clients that are not too health prone:
Do not eliminate coffee completely but slowly cut down till you drink no more than 2 cups a day.
Limit alcohol consumption especially if you enjoy your alcohol too much. Again do it slowly. Simply cut back. Ideal would be 1 glass of organic red wine with your meal but we have to be realistic. if you are drinking 2 bottles a day cut it down to 1.
Avoid fizzy drinks at all costs. They remove calcium from the bones and can lead to diabetes.
Avoid all ready made meals. Cook everything fresh yourself even if you are cooking something unhealthy, it will always be better than a ready made meal full of artificial colours and flavourings.
Try to include more fruit and vegetables slowly into your diet. Find the fruits and vegetables you like. Even if the only fruit is an apple a day it is a good start.
No cooking food in the microwave.
Always have good quality protein with your meal as this will help to regulate blood sugar levels.
Try to eat fresh and whole foods.
Avoid deep fried foods. Sautee your food instead.
Try to eat more oven baked or steamed foods.
My pantry staples
Fruit and vegetables
Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
Almond milk and almond butter
Raw cacao powder
Buckwheat, spelt and millet pasta
Chia and flax seeds
Spirulina, wheatgrass, baobab and maca powder
Books I recommend
There are so many excellent books out there. Here I have included some of my favourites:
Fats that heal, Fats that Kill by Udo Erasmus.
The china Study by Colin Campbell.
The Nature Doctor by Alfred Vogel.
Say No to Cancer by Patrick Holford.
I hope all this has helped. Remember that life is short and food is one of the many pleasures it offers so it is to be enjoyed!