The ONE thing we should be doing to eat healthy

With so many different and conflicting messages around food, diet and nutrition, it’s no wonder that we’re confused about what we should and shouldn’t be eating. We shouldn’t be consuming dairy. We should be drinking organic raw milk. We shouldn’t eat meat. We should be Paleo. We shouldn’t be eating fruit. We should be eating kale and avocado with every meal. We should be adding spirulina to our juices and smoothies. We should be cooking with coconut oil.

It’s a minefield of information and contradictions but you want to be healthier (and maybe lose a bit of weight while you’re at it) so you read up, get inspiration from Instagram and try some things out. You’re inspired by the poster-people of healthy eating and learning so much about the benefits of superfoods and how good they are for you. Then, when even the Mail Online is raving about chia seeds and spirulina, you know you need to add them to your diet.

So you buy some chia seeds and make one of the breakfast recipes and you hate it (you’ve never liked that tapioca / rice pudding texture in food). However, you try something else, and you still hate it but you know it’s good for you so you keep at it. After a few weeks of trying, you finally decide you’re really not into the gloopy, flavoured frogspawn and it now languishes at the back of your cupboard. Every time you see it you feel a little guilty that you’re not being the healthiest you could be and a little part of you feels like you’ve let yourself down. So occasionally you try again but it’s always the same – that cycle of trial, distaste and then the disappointment in yourself. How many of us feel like this? How many of us have felt like this about chia seeds?*

It’s something I’ve heard from a number of clients about various food and drink, and the accompanying sense of failure and disappointment that they haven’t managed to be the healthiest versions of themselves is sad to see. We need to get over the idea that food is a battlefield that we need to conquer. Don’t get me wrong, some things do get better over time and are an acquired taste (remember when you first ate olives or tried wine?). If you’re starting to reduce the amount of fruit in your green juices and getting used to the ‘green’ taste, keep going, you do eventually get used to and enjoy the flavor of a vegetable-based green juice. However, there are times when common sense goes out of the window in the quest to be more healthy and that’s the area we need to look at.

I say this as someone who is so guilty of this approach to healthy eating. Take coconuts for example. I have never ever been a fan. As I child, I avoided Bounties and anything with coconut in it. Thai curries have never really agreed with me, the coconut milk has always left me feeling a little unsettled and borderline nauseous. I hate the smell of coconuts, never liked coconut water and avoid it in beauty products. All of which would indicate that perhaps coconuts aren’t my thing. You would think I’d pay attention to that.

Over the last couple of years, coconuts have been having their moment in the spotlight. They’re the fantastic dairy free alternative, coconut oil is the perfect saturated fat for cooking and coconut water is super hydrating and full of electrolytes. Not to mention its use as a miracle moisturiser / beauty product and star home cleaning product.

So because I avoid dairy because of its effect on my skin, off I trotted to buy some coconut yoghurt as the perfect dairy-free breakfast, dessert or snack option. I tried the natural flavour a few times. It made me feel slightly queasy but I’d load it up with fruit and seeds to mask the coconut-ness. I then discovered vanilla, less intense definitely but I was still getting that sickly coconut feeling. However, I continued, adding it to breakfast muesli, having it as an afternoon snack, never shaking off the uncomfortable feeling, never feeling nourished and satisfied after I’d eaten it, just a bit sick. But it was good for me right? I had to make myself get over it, so I forced myself and continued this for about 3 months, after which I had this ridiculous epiphany of thinking ‘I hate coconuts, why am I wasting my time when it’s making me feel sick and there are a million other great and tasty healthy things that I like that I can be eating?’.

It was such simple realisation, I feel a bit stupid even telling you about it. However, I was so influenced by all the positive media messages on what I should be eating, rather than listening to my body which was giving me quite strong signals about what I shouldn’t be eating.

And that’s exactly it. The ONE thing you should be doing to eat healthy is listen to your body. Really take the time to consider how different food makes you feel. As Dr. David Katz says, “love food that loves you back”. Yes, we can get inspiration and try out new things, but we don’t have to be eating the latest superfoods to be healthy. We don’t need to be forcing ourselves to eat food we don’t like. All we should be doing is eating tasty, real, unadulterated, unprocessed food that nourishes us deeply from within.

Your Mission Starts Here…

* I’m raising my hands to this one, I have never liked that kind of texture. Let’s have a Chia Seed Challenge. How about we sprinkle them over cereal and salads to add a little crunch? Let’s use them up and then make sure to remember that we don’t like them and never buy them again. #chiaseedchallenge – let’s do this!

Why ‘gluten-free’, ‘vegan’, ‘local’ or ‘organic’ does not automatically mean ‘good for you’

A couple of months ago I was in NYC for a conference and I went to the Whole Foods at the bottom of the building for lunch. As I waited in line for a tea, I took a good look at my surroundings. All around me were signs promoting local, vegan and gluten free products – “local pastries”, “vegan cupcakes”, “gluten free cookies”, “organic crisps”. Standing there, taking it all in, I had a realisation about the power of labels and how much of an impact words have on our choices.

Many people shopping in that store would have seen those labels and automatically presumed those products were healthy. In the ever-changing world of nutrition and bombarded by a proliferation of messages, these are the things we’re currently being told are good for you (just as we were educated about ‘low-fat’ or ‘high-fibre’ foods in the past). And yes, organic produce may be higher in nutrients. There are some people who do have a sensitivity to gluten and removing it from their diets has been beneficial to them. For environmental and ethical reasons, buying local produce can be a positive thing. A vegan approach has had health benefits for a number of people.

However, just because a product has one of these labels doesn’t mean it’s nutritious and the reality is, we need to be curious about the food we eat (like animals who naturally sniff food before they consume it). We need to be looking at the what’s actually inside these ‘healthy’ products and we need to question what we are putting inside our bodies.Continue Reading..

Why Healthy Eating Is Anything But Boring

I’ve been really surprised recently by the levels of criticism and vitriol being experienced by some of the current wave of healthy food advocates such as Deliciously Ella who have been condemned as ‘boring’ for following a gluten-free, vegan way of eating which is free of refined sugars and processed foods. Now, I’m not saying that this specific way of eating is the best approach for everyone because we are all different and bio-individuality means that what enriches one person can be challenging for another. Ella’s approach works for her and she has experienced personal benefits changing her diet in this way.

However, this reaction is indicative of the issues some people face when they want to make the move towards a healthier way of living. Friends and family can be unsupportive as you start to explore different options. You may start to feel like you’re that annoying, difficult person who is asking way too many questions about the menu when you’re out for dinner. You feel like you’re being judged for what’s on your plate, “Oh, no bread? Are you being healthy?” In some cases, people may actively try and persuade you to come off the path you’re following, “Come on, why don’t you just have another glass of wine, it won’t hurt you.” The pressure can make you feel boring and restrictive and having a more nourishing approach to food seems like it’s a negative thing.Continue Reading..

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