Being healthier is not all about the exercise – food counts too

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Few, if any people will have complete physical, mental and social wellbeing all the time. Trevor Smith, senior member of the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity, will join us every week to talk about health and wellbeing

For the last few weeks, we have been discussing ways in which we can help our bodies to be healthy and boost our immune system. Last week we specifically looked at the new Better Health campaign from the government, which aims to support as many people as possible to lose weight and develop a healthier lifestyle.

Consequently, I thought this week it would be prudent to discuss some of the basics surrounding nutrition, as it is not just being physically active that contributes to a healthier body and mind.

Your body needs lots of different nutrients, from a variety of sources, and in unique amounts. When you hear the word diet, do you immediately think of being hungry and depriving yourself of your favourite foods? I believed this for a long time too. For years there was always the latest fad diet going around at work. Usually the fad diets ask you to cut out a major food group such as carbohydrates or proteins. These can be ill-advised, and care must be taken. There may well be an initial weight loss, however, this is rarely sustained and as soon as the missing food group is returned to the normal daily food intake, the weight that was initially lost does normally return.

The Northern Echo:

Trevor Smith, Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity

I do not think it will come as a shock to anyone when I say that unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for natural weight loss. A healthy, balanced diet with regular exercise is still the best way to maintain a healthy weight or to facilitate natural weight loss of approximately 2 lbs per week.

When I decide to improve my food choices, and I usually end up doing this in January after the Christmas break, what I find works for me is I also use smaller plates. When dishing up your meals you will usually and unconsciously make the portion size appropriate to the plate you are using. Therefore, if you are using a smaller plate and make your portion size appropriate to that plate then you are already consuming less food.

Our body does some of the most wonderous things without us even knowing it. Our food and drink choices can help the body to continue to function effectively or they can hinder it. To give an example, did you know that some types of cancer can occur due to a lack of fibre in the diet? Heart attacks can occur when someone is carrying too much weight, especially around the waist. Arthritis and joint problems can become worse if you are carrying excess weight and high blood pressure (which can lead to a stroke) can occur if there is too much salt in the diet. This is not intended as a scare tactic rather this is information that we should all be aware of. So how can we act to guard against these illnesses? It is all down to the food choices we make.

There are five main food groups but let us just look at the two biggest ones today.

Fruits and vegetables (where you get most of the essential vitamins and minerals). We should aim to eat at least five portions of these every day. It is easier than you think:

Simply add some fruit to your breakfast cereal (I have started doing this and found I stay full for much longer).

Snack on fruit or vegetables (such as carrots or cucumber for example).

Have a side salad with a main meal or on the side of a sandwich.

Add vegetables into a sauce for example bolognaise.

Starchy Carbohydrates (rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals, oats). These should account for about half of your daily diet. Choose wholegrain or high fibre options with less added fat, salt and sugar. Sugars are classed as carbohydrates. Be careful, sucrose (the sugar you might put into your cup of tea) is very easily converted to body fat. It gives your body a quick energy burst followed by a rapid drop in blood sugar levels. This leaves you feeling tired, listless, and hungry. On the other hand, the complex carbohydrates release the energy into your blood stream at a much slower rate meaning you feel fuller for longer and your blood sugar levels remain stable.

This Week’s Challenge:

Considering this week’s information, I would like you to keep a food diary for one week. This will give you an overview to see how much of each food group you are eating. What changes do you need to make, if any, to ensure that your diet is well balanced? Only you choose what you eat, so make every mouthful count.

Share your healthy meals and recipes on Twitter with us @TheNorthernEcho and @TSmith_PE

Trevor Smiths works at Premier Education. He is a senior member of the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity

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