How to feel confident about your diet. I want to spend some time today talking about diets and healthy eating in general. It feels like every time I sit down to a meal with friends, I hear so many opinions and misconceptions about what’s healthy and what’s not that I feel like it’s time to weigh in on the matter. Let me begin by saying that I’m not the perfect eater, far from it. I struggle, I have better days and not so great days. I’ve also fairly recently discovered that, probably due to my hypothyroidism, I have a gluten sensitivity (note that I am by no means a proponent of not eating gluten unless it really does bother you). I can’t eat soy (and I actually really like tofu), so you see I’m also trying to figure it all out. The one constant that I do subscribe to, however, is eating a wide variety of foods and not arbitrarily eliminating any food group.
The absolute worst is going out for dinner with friends and having them all start giving each other permission to eat. This is my official call out. Stop it! While unprocessed, healthy foods are an important components of a good diet, if you are eating in moderation and not overdoing it then there is no reason to avoid specific foods.
HOW TO FEEL CONFIDENT ABOUT YOUR DIET
Let’s get one thing straight, carbs are not bad for you. Sure, over-processed ones aren’t great, but did you know that you will find carbs in:
There are 3 types of carbohydrates:
Sugar (Monosaccharides). You’ll find that there are two types of sugars, or simple carbohydrates, naturally occurring in fruit (fructose), vegetable and milk (lactose) and those that are added to foods table sugar (sucrose).
Starch. These complex carbs can be found in grains like rice, oats, barley and starchy vegetables like peas, beans, corn, potatoes. Now, let’s break the grainy starches down a bit more. Each grain is made up of the following parts: bran, germ and endosperm. We should all be familiar with bran as that is where you’ll find fiber (more on that in a second), as well as minerals and B Vitamins. Germ contains essentials fatty acids and the actual starch is found in the endosperm. This is why we are always being told to eat whole grain foods as they will provide us with maximum benefits.
Fiber. Fiber is actually the indigestible part of plant foods (as in, you won’t find any in animal products). Not only is fiber good for digestion, it can help lower cholesterol and makes you feel full for longer after a meal. Fiber is found in: fruit, vegetables, legumes, beans, whole grains (breads and cereals included), whole wheat and nuts.
So you see, carbohydrates are necessary for a complete diet. It’s really that simple. Your body breaks carbohydrates (sugar and starch) into sugar during the digestive process and your body absorbs them through your bloodstream. Basically, they are the fuel your body needs to function.
For more about carbs take a look at: Eat Carbs And Lose Weight
You can find protein in:
- Meat (all kinds)
- Soy (soybeans, soy milk, tofu etc…)
- Nuts and seed
Simply put, protein is a macro-nutrient that your body uses to both repair and build tissue and is a component in every cell in your body. In fact, your hair and nails are mostly comprised of protein. It is also an important element in your blood, skin, muscles and bones. Stop eating protein all together and you’ll find yourself with low energy, brittle nails and worse still, weaker bones.
In your body you can find protein in:
- Bones. Your bones are made up of calcium, magnesium, phosphates and proteins.
- Keratin which forms your nails and hair
- Haemoglobin which along with iron moves oxygen throughout your body
The quality of your protein matters, make sure you know its source and look for the healthiest options so that your body can absorb the best possible nutrients.
For more on protein and how much your body needs head over to: The Truth About Protein Shakes.
Fat is always such a contentious subject. The very word can throw many of us into an absolute panic, but the truth is that our bodies need fat just as much as they need protein and carbohydrates. Try going on a zero fat diet (I did it way back) and you’ll find that your hair starts to get thinner, your nails start to get brittle and your skin becomes dry and flaky. Remember that just like with carbs and proteins, not all fats are created equal and the quality of your food counts. Fat actually helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, D and K. It also helps to insulate your organs (while they shouldn’t be swimming in fat, they do need some cushioning) and regulate your body temperature (notice how very skinny individuals are always cold). Not only that, but if you aren’t getting enough fat in your diet you’ll find that you are more prone to mental fatigue as well as the possible loss of your period.
While you don’t want to overdo eating fats, even the good kinds, you do need them. They can be found in:
- Olive Oil
- Nuts and nut butters (just stick with the natural versions)
- Fatty fish
- Meats and cheeses, although these you should be keeping to a minimum
There are 4 types of fats:
Saturated fats. These are found in meat, cheese, butter and most of our deserts.
Trans fats. This is a man made fat that happens when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil. It’s solid when at room temperature (helps foods have a longer shelf life) and can be found in stick margarine, chips, baked goods, fried foods.
Monounsaturated fats. Which are found in: avocado, olive oil, sesame oil and peanut oils.
Polyunsaturated fats. Which are found in: soybean oil, corn oil, seafood, fatty fish like salmon, herring and mackerel
If you got through all of this then you hopefully see that it’s almost impossible to really eliminate any major food groups, unless you are on an extreme diet (of course, I’m not including individuals with specific food sensitivities or restrictions). We live in a judgemental society and it can be really tempting to explain what you are eating and why you are eating it. Like I said, I’ve recently had to switch to a gluten free diet and I can’t sit down with friends without having to over-explain it.
Here’s the thing to remember, no one follows you around all day. Maybe you had a slow start and it’s the first meal you are eating that day. Maybe you had a huge workout that morning. Maybe you are on a specific diet and this meal falls into it. You have your reasons for eating what you are eating and they are just that, your reasons. It’s all about choosing your foods wisely and most of all enjoying what you are eating.
Do you find yourself explaining your food choices when you sit down to a meal with friends or family?