Want to get your healthy eating back on track post-summer but don't know where to start? These 10 fad-free steps from Nutritional Therapist Eve Kalinik are all you need
Here at GTG we've all got that back to school feeling, with fresh starts in the air - and that includes getting back on track with heathy eating, leaving the baguette habit in Provence where we found it and the margaritas in Ibiza.
But we're not getting all puritanical about it - that way disaster (not to mention grumpiness, unhealthiness and general lack of fun) lies. We've talked about taking a transition period to ease us back in , but what next? For most of us, we just need to be reminded of what's important. We enlisted nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik to take healthy eating back to basics with these ten utterly doable, stick-on-the fridge rules. (Did she say wine?)
Eve says: "There is so much confusion around nutrition and often I hear my clients say that they are totally overwhelmed with advice on what is and is not 'good for you'. So rather than over-complicating things, sometimes it is best go back to basics, sitting down and eating food from a plate with no phone in eye shot for a start so you can start to resonate with the food in front of you is very simple but has more of a profound positive effect than you realise… that's before you even get into the foods themselves.
"Simply eating an abundance of fresh and nourishing foods across the board (with the odd treat here and there) is really where I consider us to have a healthy approach to food. It’s easy to get caught up in the latest fads or expensive powders and potions, but the simple act of chewing your food properly, for example, can instantly improve the way your digestion works. Plus as my dear nan always said “a little bit of what you fancy does you good”. Striving for some kind of eating nirvana is never going to make you happy. She was living proof of that entirely. So with that in mind, you might find that some of these 10 tips can help you to kick start a more balanced and altogether healthier approach to eating that will serve you for the long term too.”
Read on below for Eve's top 10 commandments for a better, healthier approach to nutrition.
1. CHEW, CHEW, CHEW
Digestion starts in the mouth where enzymes in saliva begin the process of breaking down food. If you experience bloating then insufficient chewing may be why - you want food to be liquid before swallowing. Aim for 20 to 30 chews per bite (bite - not heaped fork full). Chewing encourages mindful eating - taking time over meals as opposed ‘inhaling’ food. Eating in a ‘rest and digest’ (rather than fight or flight) state will benefit your gut and your mind immeasurably.
2. THERE IS NO ‘BAD’ FOOD
We really need to be more discerning where ‘vilified’ food groups are concerned and that's true for ALL foods, even the one that has been hailed as the ultimate ‘baddie' - sugar. Understanding the difference between foods in these groups will give you more knowledge but try not to overly fixate, stress or indeed label a food as categorically “good” or “bad” as you might miss out on a whole heap of nutrients and flavoursome dishes for no apparent reason.
With dairy for example, there is a marked difference between processed cheese and traditionally made (ideally unpasteurised) full fat cheese for example - the latter bursting with probiotics and fat-soluble nutrients (plus most would agree it has a much better flavour). It’s the same with gluten - bacteria create the fermentation process in breads like sourdough and as such this produces a bread that is almost ‘pre-digested’ and generally more gut friendly even though it still contains some gluten.
When you think bread requires very few ingredients and you see ‘free from’ gluten-less and often tasteless alternatives that contain a long list then you have to question if it is indeed better than your standard loaf. Carbs in some regards have also been demonised and for sure lots of the highly processed white refined carbs are not so great from a fibre point of view mostly, but high quality sources found in whole grains, pulses, legumes and vegetables should be part of a balanced diet. They provide primary fuel for the brain and crucially support the growth of certain beneficial gut bacteria, among many other things. So try to think more INCLUSIVELY with your food choices as much as possible.
3. UNDERSTAND YOUR SNACK ATTACK
Everyone is different in terms of how ‘topped up’ they need to be throughout the day. But for most of us we do tend to over snack and really we shouldn’t need to snack if we have included some protein in each meal - a piece of organic grass fed meat/poultry, fish, organic eggs, a serving of quinoa/lentils/beans, or even a small handful of nuts. Snacking could be a sign that you are low on energy because you are not getting enough nutrition from main meals that alongside adequate protein intake includes plenty of B vitamins that you can find in wholegrain and green vegetables to name a few.
Snacking can also happen when we mistake hunger for thirst - so drinking water and herbal teas throughout the day is essential. Aim for around two litres, however you may need more depending on your level of activity. But boredom is by far one of the most classic snack triggers, so if you find that you are constantly gravitating towards the fridge distract yourself with a cup of herbal tea or by going for a walk, even putting some music on and shaking it off (literally) can help. Of course, if you are training or have some other blood sugar issues then consult your healthcare practitioner.
4. DRINK WINE NOT WATER
Thought this might get your attention! Staying hydrated is key (we are around 80 per cent water and almost all cellular processes are conducted in a watery environment - dehydration causes constipation and fatigue). Have water between meals rather than with food. Sipping water at mealtimes is OK, but chugging a huge glass can dilute gastric juices and impair the breakdown of food which can lead to bloating (a very common complaint). One small glass of red or white wine can act as a digestive - go for organic, natural and biodynamic varieties where you can. Check out Borough Wines or organicwineclub.co.uk .
5. BE FAT FRIENDLY
It really isn’t the case that eating fat makes you fat (that’s normally due to excess sugar). We need to eat some fat (both saturated and unsaturated) in moderate amounts to support the absorption of fat soluble vitamins such as A, D and E as well as having a positive effect on metabolism, anti-inflammatory processes and even helping to support with hormone production. For anti-inflammatory benefits, ensure a good intake of Omega 3. Oily fish (wild where possible) provide the highest amount, but it is also found in grass-fed meats, organic free range eggs, spirulina as well as chia, flax and hemp seeds.
Good sources of saturated fats are coconut oil, coconut milk, ghee and organic butter. Round this off with nuts and seeds, avocados and cold pressed oils - just don’t cook with those oils and instead drizzle over your food afterwards so that you can reap their nutritional benefits. Heat or roast with one of the saturated fats above as they generally have a higher smoke point.
6. NO RAW AFTER 4
Just like our minds, digestion can get weary towards the end of the day. While raw food is packed full of energy, it also needs a lot of energy to break it down and with a compromised digestive system it can be a bit more hard work. Eating raw earlier in the day can give time for the body to process it more efficiently. In the evenings, lightly steam veggies and have them cold if you prefer to eat them this way. Large meals in general late at night are not the best for our gut as digestion is less effective at night partly due to the fact you are lying down. If you eat a big meal and then jump into bed, you may experience unpleasant symptoms such as reflux or indigestion. If you know you will be eating late, aim to eat lighter. Soup or scrambled eggs with greens can be a quick, healthy and light evening meal.
7. TAKE TIME TO MAKE TIME
This may sound counterintuitive, and probably a bit patronising, but bear with me! Spending a bit of time food prepping can return your investment tenfold. When cooking in the evening, make double portions to take to work the next day. Making food for yourself will likely produce something more nutritious and delicious and it's giving back some time to you too, even if it's just an hour on the weekend creating a bit of a domestic disco and enjoying the process.
Boiling a half a dozen eggs for the week ahead or cooking a couple of fillets of salmon to have cold for lunch are really simple protein options. You also avoid waste - how many of us walk into a supermarket after a long day at work and buy a load of BOGOFs and ingredients that we end up throwing away? Planning means you spend less money too.
8. SPARK JOY INTO YOUR KITCHEN CUPBOARDS
Get the spring clean feeling you have after a wardrobe clean out. Chuck out some of the out of date stuff and somewhat ‘saboteurs' that get us in moments of weakness - yes, that packet of biscuits, I’m talking to you! It sounds obvious but if they are not there you can’t eat them. Instead, pack your kitchen with nutritious and inspiring foods - dried herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage are great added to a quick vegetable puree for a tasty soup. Spices including turmeric, cumin and chilli totally lift a meal ( Steenbergs have an amazing organic range) and just adding them to the most simple of dishes makes a good meal a GREAT one.
I also have cold pressed oils such as olive, walnut, hazelnut and sesame to flavour vegetables and salads. Flours such as coconut, wholegrain, chestnut and buckwheat are fab for making easy pancakes - just add eggs or chia if you are vegan to bind plus some milk and voila! I have plenty of nuts and seeds that I turn into nut milks or add to salads and vegetables. Coconut oil and ghee are always in my cupboard. I’m also not short of some garlic and fresh lemons too as they are super versatile and again can transform a plate of food.
9. IGNORE THE HYPE
Forget diets, detoxes and fads and instead concentrate on nourishing your body with fresh (ideally local & seasonal) great tasting food. Invest in good quality ingredients. Check out farmers’ markets where you can buy the freshest ingredients at a good price and spend time chatting to the producers. They can give you ideas of how to prep your purchases, which important as you become much more involved in the enjoyment and preparation of your food and gain a much deeper connection to your plate. I would also encourage you to do your own critical thinking in a world where we are inundated with so much information on nutrition. Think of how some of the ‘advice’ out there applies to YOU as it won’t be the case for everyone and its important to learn how to trust your own body and mind. You have to understand this yourself on many levels and go through your own personal journey.
10. DON’T BE A PERFECTIONIST
A healthy approach to eating well involves giving ourselves permission to enjoy the things we love - in moderation. Being a nutrition perfectionist and striving for this eating nirvana I mentioned earlier is neither realistic nor fun and just makes us miserable. You can have your cake and eat it - just not every day. The most important thing about moderation is understanding your triggers. Could they be stress - or boredom? If so, try introducing relaxing activities into your day and using mealtimes as pockets of mindfulness and recovery rather than bolting your food down or checking your phone as you eat.
If your triggers are specific cravings, seeing a practitioner such as a nutritional therapist to help you manage the physical side or someone like an acupuncturist for more energetic alignment can help. And if you think it is more of a deeper rooted issue then you should seek the advice of a registered psychotherapist.
Find Eve at www.evekalinik.com and @evekalinik . Eve’s book ‘ Eat Well: How To Have A Healthier Happier Digestion’ is out September 2017 and available to pre-order. Follow Victoria @vwyoga .