Nutrition these days can seem pretty complicated, especially if you’ve ever spent more than 5 minutes on social media.
Fortunately it doesn’t have to be.
For most people nutrition is simple.
People online just like to make it complicated because it sells.
(ever notice there’s always a secret or a villain? Funny how people telling you this stuff always have something to sell…)
The way I like to look at nutrition is simple:
Cover the essentials, and then get on with living your life.
Below are the things that you can focus on to make sure you’re not only giving your body what it needs to survive, but also thrive…
Not particularly exciting, but it’s amazing how many people forget to drink enough water.
You don’t have to go mad and drink 3 litres per day, just make a conscious effort to stay hydrated.
Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning and a glass with every meal.
2) Make your meals protein-centric
Whenever you’re putting a meal together, start with a source of protein.
Protein will not only make you feel satisfied, but it’s also important for recovery and the maintenance of muscle mass (which is important for health).
3) Include carbs and good fats
There is absolutely no need to demonise any of these macronutrients.
They all play their part in providing our bodies with what they need
Make sure to include them with every meal.
4) 4-6 portions of fruit and veg per day
This one’s a classic.
For some people this seems like a lot, but when you realise that things like onions and peppers count it seems less daunting.
Think of ways you can include fruit and veg into meals you enjoy. Some examples I like are:
- Adding tomatoes and peppers to baked beans for my breakfast
- Throwing in some frozen veg to my stir-frys
- A side of sweetcorn with some cajun herbs sprinkled in if I’m having wraps
- Grate some carrot, mix some light mayo and some hot sauce or spices to make a ‘coleslaw’
Getting a variety of fruit and veg is essential as they’re packed with fibre and micronutrients.
Eating more fruit and veg will also help make you feel more full, which means you’re less likely to feel the urge to snack or overeat.
Optimal health is more about avoiding deficiencies than it is about trying to super-dose with vitamins.
The best way to avoid these deficiencies is to make sure we have a varied diet.
And the easiest way to ensure this is to make sure we vary the fruit and veg we’re eating by consuming a mixture of different colours.
As a bonus, our guts love variety too, so if you want to look after your gut then this is something you’ll want to focus on!
If you focus on point #3 then you’ll have this one covered.
Fibre is incredibly important for health.
And like the point above, fibre is also incredibly beneficial for our gut.
7) Eat 2 portions of oily fish per week, or supplement with high strength Omega 3
Omega 3s are pretty wonderful.
They help with both physical and mental health, so make sure you’re either getting them by consuming oily fish or by supplementing.
8) Minimise hyper-processed foods
(These are different from processed food, as most food is processed to some extent and the definition of “processed” is a bit blurry)
Note I’m not saying “avoid”.
The odd bit of hyper-processed food won’t make your limbs fall off.
But we want to ensure that the points above are covered, and hyper-processed food tends to lack things like fibre and micronutrients, and is also typically hyper-palatable, meaning it’s really easy to overeat on.
The good thing is, if you focus on the points above then this one should take care of itself.
9) Eat in alignment with your energy needs
This is a tough one because there isn’t an easy way to measure this or figure it out.
But it’s worth noting.
If we consume too much energy (calories) on a consistent basis then this energy will be stored as body fat.
Now, body fat alone isn’t an issue (we all have body fat and it’s a necessary part of being alive).
But if done consistently for too long, too much excess body fat can cause issues.
Especially if that body fat gathers around our organs (this is known as Visceral fat).
Holding too much body fat can also lead to health complications like diabetes.
Equally important though is making sure we’re eating enough.
Not eating enough can affect your energy, mood, ability to sleep, recovery and a loss of period in people who menstruate.
Calories are essential to keep your body operating, so we want to make sure we eat enough not only to survive but to thrive.
10) Remember that how ‘healthy’ your diet is, is more about averages than absolutes
Eating a chocolate bar doesn’t make you ‘unhealthy’.
Eating nothing but chocolate bars… not so great.
Eating a bag of Haribo won’t make your arm fall off.
Eating nothing but Haribo probably will.
Your diet should include all the nutrients your body needs.
But it should also include foods you enjoy.
And despite what some ‘iNfLuEnCeRs’ will tell you, you’re not going to drop dead if you eat a bagel.
Cover the points above, give your body what it needs, and then get on with living your life.
Because life is too short to be constantly overthinking and stressing about your nutrition.