Time to focus on healthy food choices in 2021
In our second blog post on supporting your wellbeing by eating well, Claire Sambolino, a CNHC Registered Nutritional Therapist and Communications Manager at the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) offers advice on making healthy food choices:
Never before have our food choices been so important to health and wellbeing. As we continue to live through a global pandemic, the role diet plays on health and diet-induced illness is more and more in the spotlight.
A food-first ethos to health and wellbeing
We cannot deny that our health is intrinsically influenced by what we eat, how regularly we eat, and how much we eat. So, make 2021 the year in which you focus on eating a healthy balanced and nutrient-dense diet. This is very much the call to action from BANT Registered Nutritionists ® who work in one-to-one and group settings to deliver personalised nutrition and lifestyle strategies as a first line of prevention.
Make the food you eat count
Our dietary choices can either support health or contribute to metabolic imbalances and ultimately disease. It is too easy to track calories over content when it is the content that matters most. Choosing fresh whole food ingredients, rich in vitamins and minerals, ensures your body gets the essential nutrients it needs to function optimally. Aiming to eat 7 portions of plant foods daily, 2 fruits and 5 vegetables, is a good place to start. Increasing the quantity and variety of colourful plant foods in the diet helps provide a broad range of nutrients, fibre, and other beneficial active ingredients. Every colour provides a different set of vitamins and minerals so aim to eat the rainbow.
It is all about balance
Build in high quality protein foods such as fish, poultry and eggs, and plant proteins such as beans, pulses, nuts, and seeds. Proteins provide the building blocks for growth and repair and are essential for our muscular-skeletal and metabolic health. Balance this with an intake of healthy fats from cold-pressed vegetable oils, oily fish, and plants containing natural oils such as avocado, olives, nuts, and seeds. Fats are essential to cellular and brain health and omega fats also contain helpful anti-inflammatory properties.
Counting calories only tells part of the story and there is always a risk you fill up on empty calories and foods devoid of nutrients. Instead, aiming to eat a rich variety of seasonal fresh whole food ingredients, and embracing cooking from scratch, is a great place to focus your efforts.
Limit your consumption of ultra-processed food
We live in an age of convenience where ultra-processed foods and drinks are commonplace, produced in response to our busy lives. Studies show these foods and drinks to be detrimental to human health and yet they form the basis of many people’s diets. There are snacks and fast-foods available at every turn, and we see eating habits moving from 3 meals a day to a model of constant grazing.
Many people are simply eating too much, too often and this has led to a continued increase in rates of obesity, blood sugar imbalances, insulin dysregulation and type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Yet these metabolic symptoms can be modified with diet and lifestyle intervention.
Focusing on eating nutrient-rich whole foods and limiting the consumption of these ultra-processed foods and drinks, is the first step in optimising health and wellbeing. So, make 2021 the year in which you prioritise your health and wellbeing with a healthy balanced diet.