Food has always played a very important part in my life. I am the “live to eat” type of person. It was only a question of time before I dedicate a chapter or a few chapters on Food! The sentence “You are what you eat” simply means that your body will reflect what you feed it with and will define your physical as well as emotional state of being. Exactly like servicing the engine of a motor car to get the best performance, we need to do the same with our body to keep it healthy and able to fight viruses and boost immune system. Although organic food has become a luxury and often an expensive exercise, with a bit of effort and planning, we can have a healthy diet without spending a fortune.
The Art of Healthy Eating
I started seriously looking at my diet after my spine operation as I realized that it was imperative that I keep my bones healthy and my bone mass density at an acceptable level. I have a great passion for food as long as it is good, but not always the healthiest! I really had to make a big effort to incorporate the right amount of green vegetables and right amount of fruits, especially those that have high contents of calcium for my bones. I started reading and researching about healthy eating and how best to create balanced meals. What I did learn was that a balanced meal consisted of the following key four components:
Good Proteins for example; Eggs, Almonds, Chicken Breasts, Oats, Cottage Cheese, Tuna, Lean Beef
Complex carbohydrates and Good Fat: Complex carbs include chickpeas, sweet potatoes, lentils, corn, and good fats include avocado, cheese, fatty fish such as salmon, extra virgin oil, chia seeds
I love carbohydrates! I personally do not see the reason for cutting out carbs totally to have a healthy diet. You just need to be aware of the type of carbs you are eating, as there are whole carbohydrates (the good ones!) and refined carbohydrates (the ones to avoid!). The good carbs are low in calories, high in nutrients, antioxidants and do not have all the refined sugar and grains that are not good for our health. Bad carbs are the ones to be avoided and they are in all the decadent food that we like to indulge in, sweet pastries, soft drinks, white bread and pizzas.
Green Vegetables include Kale, spinach, cabbage, watercress, swiss chard
There is loads of information written on these four components and their benefits that it is rather pointless to rehash these again. What I would like to do next is to share with you some of my own tips and how I plan and organize my meals in order to achieve the balance of these four components.
Planning for a Balanced Meal
I find that the only way I can be sure to have a balanced diet is to plan my meals ahead. It might sound laborious and loads of work, but I can assure you that once you get into it and start the process, you will never look back! I do meals planning for weekdays only, from Monday to Thursday, and leave the weekend al fresco as you also do not want to be too rigid and make it become a chore, which will definitely result in you falling off the “Balanced Diet Bus Ride”! I would normally sit down to do the meal plan on Friday before I go off on Saturday for my weekly grocery shopping. Below is a sample of my weekly plan meal:
|Monday||Homemade muesli with fruits||Whole wheat wrap with trout + green lettuce + cucumber and tomatoes||Chicken curry (defrost) + wild rice + stir fry broccoli||Fresh broccoli|
|Tuesday||Homemade granola with fruits||Monday leftovers||Home made burgers on wholewheat buns+ avocado + coleslaw||Buns, mince meat, avocado and cabbage|
|Wednesday||Homemade granola with fruits||Tuesday leftovers||Vegetarian lasagna||Lentils, aubergine, peppers, Lasagna sheets, ricotta cheese|
|Thursday||Homemade granola with fruits||Wednesday leftovers||Fish with lemon butter sauce + Quinoa and Green beans||Fish, lemon, fresh green beans (get lemons from garden)|
|Friday||Homemade granola with fruits||Thursday leftovers||Dinner with friends!Hooray!|
I will also have a light afternoon snack around 4 pm, which would consist of apple with peanut butter, health bars from good health shops (those sold at supermarkets are usually high in sugar content), hummus dip with vegetable chips, just to name a few. You can get healthy snack ideas from various health food websites and blogs.
Notes from the Meal Plan
I will also have a light afternoon snack around 4pm, which would consist of apple with peanut butter, health bars from good health shops (those sold at supermarkets are usually high in sugar content), humus dip with vegetable chips, just to name a few. You can get healthy snack ideas from various health foods websites and blogs.
- Homemade granola is my staple breakfast. We make big batches with rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, raisins, walnuts, cranberries drizzled with honey, cinnamon and coconut oil and put in the oven to bake for half an hour. You could also make them into snack bars as well. They make a great breakfast and I get my good fat intake from the nuts in the muesli every day.
“Home Made Granola”
- I always make enough dinner to have leftovers for lunch the next day. Why complicate life by having to organize lunches as well when you can make one good balanced nutritious dinner and keep the rest for lunch the next day? Plan accordingly so that there is leftover for the next day! Monday would be the only day when I would plan my lunch as it is the start of the week and after the weekend the chances of leftover from the night before is less likely.
- In my meal plans, I am mindful to incorporate all four essential components, i.e. proteins, complex carbs, good fat and green vegetables. Because I spend some time planning the meals, I can even pre-prepare some of the dinners ahead, for example as my Monday dinner is rather simple (thanks to pre-prepared food in my freezer!), while putting together Monday dinner, I will also pre-prepare the filling for my lasagna for Wednesday which I can then keep in the fridge until I need it. This makes my Wednesday dinner preparation quick and easy and so it goes! I normally do not plan for Fridays, as it is the start of the weekend, and it happens that we are invited to a dinner party or go out. However, if we do stay in, then we would opt for something simple like using all the rest of the leftovers from the week (if there is anything left!) and make a simple Frittata omlette or a simple pasta with what is available in pantry and fridge/freezer.
Al Fresco Eating
On purpose, I always leave Saturdays and Sundays “free of pre-planned meals” as I believe there is a need for balance. The last thing I want is feel is trapped in the rigidity of pre-planned meals with no room for impromptu or alfresco cooking. I like the idea of going grocery shopping on Saturdays and going through the shelves in supermarkets or at a deli and decided on the spot what fresh produce to buy to rustle up a meal at home. You need to enjoy it too!
However, I do make a conscious effort to try and keep the four components of balanced diet even on Saturdays and Sundays, but if I do fall off the bus from time to time, it is not a train smash as I will pick it up again on Monday!
As a rule there are a few basics that I always have in my pantry and freezer which incorporates the four components of balance diet that I can whip out any time to make a basic lunch or dinner which is still nutritious, if I feel like having a lazy weekend.
- Good organic stock (brilliant in stews, soups and give wonderful depth of flavour)
- Grains (pasta, legumes)
- Rice – I stock wild and brown rice, jasmine rice, basmati rice depending on the dish I am making
- Baking staples- if you are into baking
- Necessary Oils, a good extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, etc.
- Good canned foods such as chickpeas, tuna, sardines, lentils (quicker than cooking them), kidney beans, tomatoes
Freezer List – my freezer is my best friend when it comes to planning balanced meals as you can pre-prepare a lot of dishes, freeze them and defrost as and when needed! My key items are:
- Frozen vegetable pack such as broccoli, spinach, carrots and peas
- Frozen fruits, we have loads of them in our freezer, blueberries, raspberries, ripe bananas, they are great for breakfast in mornings, or just to defrost and make a cake
- Frozen homemade pre-prepared meals -always cook extra and keep it in the freezer for the next dinner, e.g. dishes that freeze well are lasagnas, pies, quiches, stews, soups
- Frozen breakfasts such as extra waffles, pancakes, sandwiches, bread, all freeze well
Ten Eating Habits of a Healthy Eater
We could then recap the above by listing the top Ten Eating Habits of a Healthy Eater:
- Hydration – make sure you stay hydrated drinking at least 2 litres of water daily
- Freeze food – use your freezer to its optimum!
- Natural ingredients v/s artificial ingredients – make a habit of reading labels – if the product you are tempted to buy lists a description of ingredients you can hardly recognize, leave it! They are unlikely to be good for you!
- Choose colourful vegetables, like bright peppers, carrots, deep green vegetables
- Smart snacking -choose healthy snacks, if you are buying them. Ensure that you read labels and find out exactly what is in the snack. If in doubt, make your own. You can google this and find tons of healthy snacking ideas to make. With a bit of planning ahead you can make a big batch which can last for a while.
- Plan your meals
- Eat good carbs
- Eat Healthy Fat
- Choose Homemade Food- at least you know what you are really eating!
- Listen to your body! If you feel tired, lethargic or bloated after a meal, then dig deeper and find out the reasons, as you might be intolerant to certain types of foods. Educate yourself and find out more!
I am thinking of introducing a section for recipes on the blog and wanted to find out if readers are keen on this. Please send me an email at email@example.com to let me know and if we get good response, we can start a section for recipes which can be shared with everyone!
Wishing you all good health and see you soon for another chapter of health2bfree.com