Eating Healthy – A beginner’s guide.


It can be so confusing when you are trying to eat healthy. With so much information going around about different nutritional strategies to “burn fat” and “blitz the belly” – it’s no doubt people lose hope in ever succeeding when there is a constant bombardment of information.

So then, just how should you approach eating healthier? To keep it simple – the best way to position “healthy eating” in your mind is thinking along the lines of predominately eating foods were grown or from animal sources. Along with this then you have to be able to enjoy some of the food outside of these sources too – the things you enjoy, the foods typically less nutritionally valuable – but tasty !! After all, if you completely restrict yourself from the things you like – you are a lot less likely to “fall off the wagon”.

So with this in mind then think of meats (red / white / fish etc), dairy, fruits & veggies. This is what predominately should make up your day to day intake of food. Maybe think back over the last three meals you had – how much of it was grown or form animal sources?

Now – there is a way of eating which has grown in popularity over the past years called Paleo – which looks are certain natural sources as your required eating – I am NOT talking about going Paleo. As mentioned in the start – your focus isn’t about sticking to a “plan” – it simply about making healthier choices day to day.

All food types are made up of three main nutrients which are Proteins, Fats and carbs. Each of which our body uses in different ways. There are a lot of diets which focus on high fat, low carb, high protein or some variant of this – again, this is not required for the average person trying to make healthier choices. Focus on the source of your foods initially. Carbs are probably one of the most spoken about food types as people will try to “avoid” them as they will make them fat. WRONG. Over consumption of calories – from any food source, can cause weight gain. But eating Carbs at night will make you fat right? WRONG – your body will not suddenly decide, oh its 9pm that means I will stop working and store everything as fat. Equally eating Fat won’t make you fat – fat from natural foods in particular has many vital roles to play within the body. And finally Proteins, these are often hailed as the “good” food type – indeed protein (predominately found in animal sources) is a key part to maintaining healthy muscle – however as with Carbs & fats – should be eaten as part of a balanced eating approach.

So then – what about calories? Yes, calories can be important – as mentioned, if you over consume calories then this is where you will see weight gain if you remain in a calorie surplus. (this simply means if you consume more calories than you are using). For somebody who is overweight by a few stones however – to start out with I wouldn’t even focus on the calories at the start – if can become to obsessive recording every last gram and calorie you consume. Instead, keep a very simple food diary showing the foods you eat and what you drink – that alone will give an excellent insight into your main areas for focus.

So then what about cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks and all that tasty stuff – should you ban them completely? My opinion – is no, you definitely shouldn’t. Through my own experience and having worked with hundreds of people over the years – the one thing I know to be so important is not to be overly restrictive. It’s usually these foods however people will find more challenging to control – and depending on how much you struggle controlling your consumption of these – may lead to different approaches (see my previous post on binge eating). For myself, knowing I can go home in the evening have a cup of tea and a slice of cake, or few biscuits is something I really look forward to. It’s part of my ritual now to unwind, relax, and have something I really enjoy. Enjoying however also means in moderation – not to the extent whereby you will feel guilty about things. If like me you have a very sweet tooth maybe try having something like some fresh sweet fruit a half hour before your tea in the evenings, and then you will probably find the cravings has eased a bit by the time you have your tea and then you can still enjoy your treat – and hopefully wont over consume on it.

Equally, if you are going out for a night – then go out for the night – enjoy yourself, don’t over analyse everything you drink or eat – you HAVE to let your hair down now and again for your healthier eating to be sustainable. If, however you are going out every weekend downing the pints, cocktails, takeaways – then you probably need to re-evaluate your commitment to change, as this behaviour won’t support your goals.

So in summary, for someone starting out or restarting – just think, is the food I eat predominately from natural sources. Am I enjoying a small amount of the foods I like and am I getting some level of activity in each day? This activity can be as simple as a short walk – aim for a minimum of 20 minutes each day – getting yourself to the pace whereby you feel slightly out of breath but can still talk and aren’t gasping.

And remember, you will still have days where things don’t go to plan, you will have days where you think you have ruined everything – STOP, you haven’t these days happen us all – and what is important is focusing on the next meal / snack and making it a healthier one.

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© Paddy Cunningham