Do you struggle with healthy eating? Maybe you’ve decided it’s time to lose weight and improve your health? Or you’ve been feeling a bit under the weather and want to improve your healthy eating habits? Whatever the reason, you are not alone. Today you’re going to learn the basics of a healthy diet so you can start living better. Healthy eating is important from the day you are born and as you grow, your body’s need for proper nutrition never changes.
Healthy weight loss doesn’t have to be take forever, and you can lose up to 3 pounds a week if you know how go about eating healthy. My introduction to healthy eating is your nutrition starter guide that will help you achieve your dream body! Nutrition is about 70% of your progress so you can’t afford to get it wrong. I will teach you what you need to eat and how to eat to lose fat, get trim and feel amazing!
Note: the eating advice here is an lessened version of the diet guide that I present in my Good Food Guide – this information is based on my personal research, philosophy, and results along with the results of the members of the Afrifitness community who have followed similar guidelines.
Everyone pretty much has an idea of what real foods are – things that grew in the ground, on a tree, came out of the sea, ran on the land, or flew through the air. Meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts are all great examples of real food. These are known as whole foods. As part of a healthy eating plan, you should focus on consuming whole foods that are in their natural state. That means no processing! Although processed foods are convenient, too much will be disastrous for your health and weight.
Now on to the bad foods. These are mainly foods that comes in boxes, a vending machine and has a long list of ingredients on the back. If it started out as real food and then went through many steps to get to the point where you’re about to eat it, it’s probably not good for you. Trust me. It may sound confusing but it’s quite straight forward. To help you, I’ve created a list of whole foods to add to your diet. Take this with you the next time you go shopping and use this as a guide. Download my shopping list.
Now that you know which types of foods you need to eat and which ones you should run away from, the next step is understanding the building blocks on the foods we eat. Foods are made up of what is know as nutrients and a balanced supply of nutrients and macronutrients are vital for a healthy body and weight.
Proteins, carbohydrates and fat – also known as macronutrients – are the main components of your diet and all perform essential roles in your body. Too little or too much of ANY macronutrient may result in poor health. Without healthy eating in your daily life, the energy you use to think, walk, talk, breathe, and perform any other action will also suffer.
The energy it takes your body to do these things comes from two places: fat stored in your body and from the foods you eat. If you don’t eat healthy foods, you will most likely find that you’re storing more fat than necessary or you feel sluggish or weak.
Along with macronutrients, you also need the right nutrients and vitamins to allow your body to function correctly. Hormones and other substances in your body make sure that everything is working properly. If you don’t eat the right nutrients, your body cannot produce these hormones and, as a result, cannot function properly. This will therefore have a negative effect on weight loss.
I hope you’re following so far? Understanding the different types of healthy food your body needs on a day to day basis is vital and we should begin learning this as children. However it’s still not too late. In the next section, we will have a look at the three main macronutrient food groups in more detail.
No healthy eating program is complete without adequate protein intake. Protein is the building block of muscles and without adequate protein intake, you will be impeding your weight loss results.
Protein is essential for growth, tissue repair, immune function and preserving lean muscle. It is also important for producing essential hormones such as leptin which is key for burning fat. Have you ever had problems sticking to a new diet or you always seem to crave junk food? These are indications that you could have some leptin issues. Leptin is a hormone in your body that controls hunger. The more overweight a person is, typically, the higher their leptin levels and high leptin levels have also been tied to high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and stroke.
If you want to make lasting health changes or lose weight and keep it off, you have to fix your leptin. Consuming a large amount of protein and healthy fats first thing in the morning, as soon after waking is key. This promotes satiety and gives the body the building blocks to make hormones. My favourite is a large scramble with 2-3 eggs and vegetables cooked in coconut oil. Protein is also great at keeping you lean. Cutting back on carbs (not cutting them out) and replacing those calories with protein contributes to a decrease in body fat. Protein can also help to keep you fuller for longer and controls hunger especially when eaten for breakfast.
There is a common misconception that eating more protein is only for bodybuilders. This could not be further from the truth. Eating a good amount of protein will increase your metabolism and help to maintain your muscle mass, all of which helps with fat-burning. In fact, your body burns more calories when you digest protein than when you digest either fats or carbs.
Here are my top five tips for adding protein to your diet:
- Consume mainly lean proteins so trim of any excess fat from yu meat
- You should aim to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight
- Consume protein within one hour of waking up to fix leptin issues
- Eat a serving of protein with every meal
- Grill, boil, roast and steam your protein. Do not fry.
Carbohydrates or carbs are your body’s preferred energy source as it’s easily used by the body for energy. Carbohydrates are essential for supplying energy to the brain and preventing the breakdown of muscles for energy.
Carbs come in three basic forms: simple, complex and fibrous. Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly by the body. In contrast to this, complex carbohydrates take longer to break down. Fiber is also considered a complex carbohydrate that is so complex it cannot be broken down.
Simple carbohydrates are called simple sugars and many simple sugars are empty calories that provide no nutrition aside from energy. There are two main types of sugar: naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk or fruit and added sugars such as those added during processing such as sugar added to make a cake.
Sources of simple carbs to avoid:
- Rice (white)
- White bread
- Pasta (whi
Complex carbohydrates or starches on the other hand are rich in fibre. Eating complex carbs helps you to feel full for a longer period of time. Starchy carbohydrates can be found in a variety of whole grains and fibre-rich cereals. However, when starchy carbs are primarily consumed from refined grains such as white rice and bread, your diet may be lacking essential vitamins and minerals. Picking complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates is a matter of making some simple substitutions when it comes to your meals.
Describing carbs as being either simple or complex is one way to classify them, but another concept to guide you is the glycemic index of a food. This basically tells you how quickly and how high your blood sugar will rise after eating the carbohydrate contained in that food, as compared to eating pure sugar. Lower glycemic index foods are healthier for your body, and you will tend to feel full longer after eating them.
Here are my top five tips for adding carbs to your diet:
- Choose complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates
- Choose slow digesting (low–glycemic) carbs for most meals
- Eat fast digesting (high-glycemic) carbs to help recover post workout
- Keep your carb serving so no larger than the size of your fist
- Reduce carbs as the day progresses and you’ll be less likely to store fat
Although fats have received a bad reputation for causing weight gain, some fat is essential for you to stay alive and can even help you to lose weight. For years, doctors have preached that a low-fat diet is the key to losing weight but this isn’t 100% correct. Eating fat does not make you fat as long as you’re consuming the right types of fat.
Fats are essential for providing the body with energy, absorbing vitamins, providing cushioning for your organs and providing taste to foods. There are four main types of fat and it’s important to understand which ones are harmful and which ones are vital for your health.
Saturated fats have been shown to increase your risk for heart disease and cholesterol in your blood but there is still a lot of debate about whether or not saturated fat can be beneficial in the right quantities. To err on the side of caution, you should limit foods that are high in saturated fats.
Saturated fat include:
- milk dairy products
- coconut oil
- palm oil
- animal fat
Trans fat is considered to be the worst type of fat you can eat. Although trans fat can make food taste good, it is very hazardous for your heart. Diets rich in trans fat cause a redistribution of fat tissue into the abdomen and lead to a higher body weight.
Trans fat include:
- microwave popcorn
- puff puff
- french fries
- anything fried
Most fats that have a high percentage of saturated fat or that contain trans fat are solid at room temperature. Because of this, they’re typically referred to as solid fats.
Monounsaturated fats can have a beneficial effect on your heart when eaten in moderation and when used to replace saturated fat and trans fat in your diet. Oils rich in monounsaturated fats contribute vitamin E to the diet, an antioxidant which protects cell membranes.
Monounsaturated fats include:
- olive oil
- canola oil
- peanut oil
- safflower oil
- sesame oil
- peanut butter
- nut butters
Polyunsaturated fat is a type of fat found mostly in plant-based food oils. Eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fats improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. These two good-for-you fats pack tons of nutrients. Besides promoting a healthier heart, unsaturated fat can help you burn fat without cutting calories.
Polyunsaturated fats include:
- soybean oil
- corn oil
- sunflower oil
- herring and
I can’t remember the last time I counted a single calorie and the truth is, it’s not entirely necessary to do so. Not only is it time consuming, it’s also not very accurate because it’s hard to determine exactly how many calories you burn on any given day.
Instead of counting calories, you should become “calorie aware”. This means being aware of how many calories you’re trying to have and knowing roughly how many goes into each portion. To make yourself more calorie aware, read the labels and nutrition profiles of your favourite foods. Learn how much protein, carbs and fats are in each food. You can find lots of calorie information of foods on MyFitnessPal. One you master calorie awereness, you can make better decisions about which food sources to add to your diet.
All you need now is to portion your food correctly so that you are consuming the right amounts of each macronutrient group.It doesn’t take a lot of effort to do this. All you need are your own hands to determine your portion sizes:
- Your protein portion should be the size of your palm.
- Your carbohydrate and fruit portion should be the size of one clenched fist.
- Your fat portion should be the size of your thumb.
- Your vegetable portion should be both hands cupped together.
- Leafy green vegetables do not require a portion size. The more the better.
I know, we’ve all heard this one over and over again. but how many of us really drink enough water? I know it can be difficult but your aim should be to consume half an ounce of water for each pound you weigh. So if you currently weight 200lbs for example, your aim would be to drink 100 ounces of water daily if you want to lose fat. Tracking your water intake daily can be difficult can be challenging so I would recommend using a water tracking app. The one I currently use is Water Drink Reminder. Water Drink Reminder reminds you to drink enough water.
Your body is about 70% water and needs a lot of water in order to maintain its daily functions efficiently. In addition, water helps to flush out harmful toxins, as well as prime your body for fat loss. If your body isn’t getting enough water, it does everything it can to hold on to the water it does have.
Your liver works hard to turn your body fat into the energy that you use but if it is overworked, it simply holds onto the extra fat that would have been burned off if you simply had enough water. And what’s worse is that instead of excreting water and waste products, you body retains existing water to reuse. This is what causes water retention and bloating.
The way to get rid of that excess water, believe it or not, is to take in enough water. This will rid you of that excess water weigh that bloats you, and begin to help your body run more efficiently and priming it to begin dropping body fat.
Once you begin taking in enough water, your body starts dropping weight, possibly 4 or 5 pounds in the first week (mostly water weight). However, doing so optimises your bodily functions, allowing it to run more efficiently and start burning stored body fat for energy.