It’s a new year and for many of us, eating well is high on our list of priorities for 2017 – and for a good reason. As Lisa Fitzgibbon, Naturopath and Medical Herbalist at Auckland practice, Oomph Health, explains, what you eat forms the basis of everything that your body does. “Nutrients not only provide the building blocks for our physical structure (our body, organs, skin, hair and nails) but they also ensure that we function optimally (our digestive system, our hormonal system, our detoxification processes),” she says.
“When everything is working together synergistically, we absorb our nutrients more effectively, our elimination pathways work efficiently, our hormones are balanced, we sleep well, and we have more energy. All because we’re healthy! And, when we are healthy, not only do we feel good, but we also look good,” she says.
1. Eat whole foods
While eating a healthy, balanced diet is important, people often fall into the trap of thinking that they can’t eat well because it’s too expensive or requires too much effort, but the truth is fueling your body well is all about keeping it simple. “My idea of eating well is simply eating whole foods,” says Fitzgibbon.
Whole foods are those that are unprocessed and unrefined (or processed and refined as little as possible) and generally, these foods are rich in nutrients and packed full of goodness. Basing your diet around ‘real’ foods such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, lean meat, nuts, seeds and natural grains is the best possible way to ensure that you are fueling your body correctly. Where possible, fresh, local and organic foods are always your best option.
2. Simplify your diet
It’s no secret that we live in a world where more is often more, however Fitzgibbon explains that sometimes simplifying your meals is the best possible thing for your body. “To improve our digestion and absorption, we’re better off eating fewer ingredients per meal (3–5) so that we don’t confuse our digestion with too many different types of foods,” she says.
“We should aim to get a good number of nutrients spread across the whole day – not in every single ‘feed’. Also, by eating fewer ingredients at meal times, it is easier to track what food groups we eat too much of, or not enough of, throughout the week.”
3. Balance your meals
Maintaining a healthy diet is all about balance and if you are looking to improve your health, eating well-balanced meals is key. It’s important to consider what your body actually needs and plan your meals accordingly. “I recommend basing meals around protein,” Fitzgibbon says. “We should then add veggies and some type of fat such as olive oil, avocado, or butter.”
A meal that is rich in protein will help to keep you fuller for longer and will assist in helping you to avoid overeating, while vegetables or other complex carbohydrates will help to ensure that you have sustained energy throughout the day. Experts often recommend eating meals that consist of a palm sized serving of protein, a thumb sized serving of fat and the rest vegetables and green salad.
4. Treat yourself
One of the most common reasons people give up on healthy eating is because they feel too restricted and attempt to adopt a diet that is not sustainable. The key to overcoming this barrier is allowing yourself the occasional treat and not depriving yourself of the things that you love.
“In my practice I use what I call, ‘The Adult Treat System’,” Fitzgibbon explains. “This system is not only designed to ensure that we are well-behaved for the majority of the week, but also to ensure we don’t become health martyrs. Life was meant to be enjoyed. We enjoy life more when we are feeling healthy, but also when we’re not feeling deprived,” she says. Whether it’s coffee, the occasional glass of wine or Friday night ice cream, allowing yourself small treats is all part of adopting a sustainable and healthy approach to eating.
Lisa Fitzgibbon is a naturopath and medical herbalist based in Grey Lynn in Auckland. For more information visit her website.