An ocean of ink has been spilt on healthy eating. The web is crammed with opinion – everything from fads to fasting, from supplements to diets, from superfoods to toxic treats. And consensus is almost impossible to find. Before you throw in the towel though, the basic evidence is clear: good nutrition is essential for a healthy, active life. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Or expensive. Or miserable. Or require hours in the kitchen. And no, you don’t have to live in a health food shop. It’s about building a balanced diet with as much fresh food as you can lay your hands on.
Remember, even small changes count – try swapping that packet of crisps for something healthier. Aim to replace a couple of supermarket meals for something home-cooked. You’ll be amazed by the flavour.
Diets don’t (usually) work
First though, a word about diets. Sadly, for most of us, they don’t work. Yes, you can shed weight, but the gloomy truth is that almost everybody puts it back on again. Up to 95% of people return to their original weight – or heavier.
They can also trigger the dreaded yo-yo effect. The first euphoric days and weeks of rapid weight loss give way to exhaustion and depression. The diet slips, old habits return and the weight piles back on. Repeat.
A lot of diets involve shedding food groups. This can be bad for you, cutting out essential nutrients along with the calories.
So here’s our myth-busting guide to healthy eating for an active lifestyle – with thanks to the NHS and the British Nutrition Foundation.
Eat only what your body needs – this means eating the same calories you burn. Women should be consuming around 2000 calories a day, men closer to 2,500.
Carbs carbs carbs
Starchy carbs are the dietary bedrock of an active life. Bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, cereals – make them the bulk of your daily diet.
Max out on fruit and veg
Aim for that five a day. Dice an apple or slice a banana on your breakfast. Canned fruit counts – so have a tin of peaches for dessert. Tinned tomatoes are a great – and easy – base for a pasta sauce. Try dried fruit as a snack or sprinkle frozen berries onto a scoop of ice cream. Stuff some salad into a sarnie – be inventive.
Go light on sugar and saturated fat
Our bodies need fat – but not too much. A lot of processed foods are stuffed with sugar and fat to add flavour. Biscuits, pies and cakes are major culprits. Try for unsaturated fats instead – olive and vegetable oils. And cut down on fizzy, sugary drinks. Fresh food is generally better for you than processed.
We’ve all overslept and missed the odd breakfast. But don’t make it a habit. Breakfast-eaters are less likely to be overweight, and to binge-eat later in the day.
Drink water. Lots of water. Particularly if you are exercising. Flush out those kidneys, open those pores.
Fish are friends
Particularly if they are oily. Mackerel, sardines, salmon, fresh tuna, anchovies, trout – they are all bursting with good stuff. And if oily fish aren’t your thing, swap fatty red meat for a nice bit of white fish – cod, hake and coley are all delicious.
Eat, drink, move – and be merry
And here’s all that boiled down to a single paragraph:
If you’re on a diet and it makes you miserable, bin it – it won’t work anyway. Eat a good, balanced diet – mostly plant-based. Eat in moderation (with the occasional treat.) And get active. You’ll feel a whole lot better for it.
Whether you want to lose weight, gain weight or maintain your weight, an exercise plan needs to be supported by a balanced nutrition programme. Active Nutrition will guide you through simple steps to customise a plan just for you, with tasty recipes and meal ideas, a traffic light guide to what’s healthy and what’s not, a structured weight-change plane, and even the option to order your shopping list from a local supermarket direct to your door.