If you want to lose weight, or simply eat healthily, here are some guidelines to follow.
I’ve been thinking a lot about diet lately, and about how there’s so much fixation on diet and weight loss when there should really be more fixation on health.
I don’t claim to be any sort of expert here, but since I’m fitter and healthier right now at 45 than I was at 25, I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve found useful.
The way I eat isn’t a diet, it’s just a way of living, and with it, despite having both ulcerative colitis and GERD, I manage to remain drug- and symptom-free. If you eat like this, you’ll be fit and healthy for life, and if you’re overweight you’ll lose it without much effort.
1 Avoid processed food. What’s processed? Anything in a packet or a tin. Anything you remember seeing advertised. Anything mucked about with (sausages, pate, bacon, bread, pasta etc). Much processed food is high in salt, much of it is high in fat or sugar, and all of it is a long way removed from nature. Eat fresh, simple food – shop two or three times a week to stock your larder if necessary.
2 Base your diet on fruits and vegetables. Although humans are able to digest meat, fish and complex carbs, it’s not what we’re best designed to do. We have an enormously long digestive tract, mostly flat teeth and a circular jaw action – all characteristics of herbivores. For most of human history, people were hunter-gatherers who foraged, ate fruit and dug up vegetables, as well as eating whatever bits of meat or fish they came across (much as our nearest rellies, the chimps, do). Agriculture and grain-based diets are relatively recent in the history of humankind, which is one reason that some people find them hard to digest – they lack the essential enzymes to process them. Fruits and veg, though, are easy-peasy for us all to both chew and digest.
If in doubt about a food, ask yourself if you can eat this food raw – if the answer’s no (eg: wheat, potatoes, oats etc), put it further down your list of desireables.
3 Buy organic where you can (it isn’t always possible or affordable). Wash and peel your veg before eating to remove chemical residues.
4 Reduce your daily protein consumption to a gram for every kilogram of body weight. I weigh 55 kilos, so I can have 55 grams of protein – not very much.
5 Cook less. We tend to automatically cook items such as beets, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, but they’re perfectly edible raw – you just need to chew them well (more on this tomorrow). Always eat your fruit raw in preference to cooked.
6 Cook without adding fat. Steaming is probably the best way overall and works for virtually all vegetables (try studding whole shallots with cloves and steaming them, for instance, for a different taste). It also works well for fish – if you usually grill your fish, try seasoning it and wrapping it in foil then steaming it instead. You can also steam light meats such as chicken and duck – just cut up into dice, season and wrap tightly in foil.
Stir-fries also use very little oil – just add a teaspoon or so to a wok and wipe it around with kitchen paper: if the food sticks when you’re cooking, add a shot of water, not more oil. You can even roast without adding fat – when you roast a chicken, for instance, add only wine or water to the roasting dish, and drain off the fat afterwards rather than making gravy from it. A chicken cooked this way turns out beautifully moist and tender.
7 Use little or no salt. This takes some getting used to, but we need very little salt in our diets, and we all know that too much causes hypertension. Try adding just a pinch during cooking, and don’t put salt on the dinner table. Grey, unrefined sea salt is the best, and is also less ‘salty’ than table salt. Beware of salt that doesn’t clump into damp lumps – it’s had anti-caking agent added.
8 Season your food with freshly chopped herbs or ground spices rather than with butter, oil, mayonnaise or salad dressing. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice (not long-life) is also good. Allow your food to taste, essentially, of itself rather than smothering it with other flavours.
Tomorrow: how to eat and what to eat