After the excesses of Christmas and the New Year many of us are waking up to the reality that it is time to embrace a healthier diet.
Some may have made this their New Year resolution and may be adjusting to this new lifestyle with varying degrees of success. Others may have good intentions of starting but have not turned over that new leaf yet.
Liz Nolan, a local nutritional therapist and practitioner of Patrick Holford’s Zest4life nutrition and weight loss programme, says when starting a healthy eating regime it is a good idea to try to stay in tune with the seasons.
“Let’s face it, a cold salad of lettuce, cucumber, and tomato isn’t going to tick the boxes for us in terms of satisfaction. Going too low fat doesn’t do it either as we are left craving fat and before we know it another diet fails!
“On the other hand a good hearty root vegetable and bean soup enriched with a little coconut cream or coconut milk will make us feel satisfied and it is good for us.” (See recipe ).
She stresses breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
“Those of you who leave the house without it in the morning are most likely to eat sweet refined carbohydrates when you get the chance - probably when the trolley comes round at break - because your blood sugar levels are so low.
“Your blood sugar is low when you wake up and a breakfast of coffee and white toast and marmalade will only temporarily make you feel better. You will soon be looking for more sweet foods or caffeine to bolster you up.”
She recommends eating porridge made with water and topped with milk, a tablespoon of ground seeds and a dessertspoon of maple syrup or honey.
“The oats are slow releasing carbohydrates which will keep you satisfied for longer. The seeds contain essential fats which your body needs for its cardiovascular system, joint health, good skin and hair quality. It also contains protein and soluble fibre which is so good for your digestive system.
“If you have terrible memories of being force fed porridge as a child then choose some good wholegrain bread topped with an egg instead. The wholemeal bread is also slow releasing and the egg will provide you with sustaining protein and essential fats needed for proper brain function. An egg a day is a good thing. Alternate between the egg and the porridge each day.”
Snacks are important
If you are an early riser you may find your energy levels plummet later in the morning. A mid-morning snack is the answer. Liz says oatcakes with light cream cheese or peanut butter or a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts or seeds or yoghurt with fresh fruit are healthy choices.
“By having a snack mid morning you are less likely to overeat at lunch. Overeating is bad for us on so many levels. It overloads our digestive systems, leading to poor digestion - indigestion, bloating and flatulence, causes inflammation and of course weight gain, not to mention what it does to us emotionally.
“Most people, when they overeat, don’t feel good about themselves and this can lead to a vicious circle of comfort eating in an attempt to feel better. Learning to eat only as much as our body needs, listening to it and even being able to leave food behind on the plate are all empowering techiques which help us feel in control around food and good about ourselves.”
Acid and alkaline foods
Eating 80 per cent alkaline and 20 per cent acidic foods is healthy, explains Liz. She says most people today eat “the other way round” with lots of dairy and animal produce and just a few vegetables and fruit.
Acidic foods include meat, dairy, sugar, caffeine and most refined foods. Alkaline foods include most fruits and vegetables and unrefined foods.
Lunch can be varied including soup with pitta bread and hummus or chicken or fish with salad. It is good to eat some raw food every day but combine it with something warm during the winter.
Limiting energy dips
Many people do not have their evening meal until six or seven o’clock or later. So, it is important to have a snack similar to the morning snack mid afternoon.
“This is a very powerful tool as it reduces the likelihood of an energy dip late afternoon when we may reach for a chocolate bar or a sugary drink. Being free of energy dips during the day is a wonderful feeling. It also ensures you don’t end up eating bread or biscuits when you get home, too tired to cook a healthy meal.”
What should you eat for your evening meal? “You could have a large portion of vegetables filling half your plate, with a smaller serving of protein, the size of the palm of your hand of meat or fish, filling a quater of your plate. The last quarter of your plate could be a carbohydrate like brown rice or wholemeal pasta, quinoa (a seed which cooks like rice only quicker and is very nutritious ). Try these instead of potatoes a few times a week. Unrefined carboydrates fill you up and take longer to digest keeping you fuller for longer. They also contain more vitamins and minerals as their outer skin hasn’t been removed.”
Less carbs in the evening
It is wise not to eat too many carbhydrates in the evenings especially if you tend to take it easy and not do anything too strenuous after six.Your body cannot use up the energy produced so it gets turned to fat. If you exercise in the evening then you will need your carbohydrate portion for energy.
Eat little and often
Your target each day should be to eat three small meals and two snacks, recommends the nutritional therapist.
“Include lots of seasonal vegetables, unrefined carbohydrates, less protein but make sure you do have a little protein at each meal and snack. Trying to follow the 80 per cent alkaline and 20 per cent acid food rule will help you to increase your energy levels by balancing your blood sugar, lose weight, increase your energy and most important of all - gain health!”
Mildly spicy vegetable soup
with coconut and butterbeans
Two red onions chopped up finely
Three sweet potatoes peeled and chopped
Three parsnips scrubbed or peeled and chopped
Three carrots scrubbed and diced
Three cloves garlic crushed
One inch fresh ginger peeled, grated, and finely chopped
One heaped tablespoon Pataks cumin and coriander paste
One teaspoon turmeric
One tin of unsalted organic butterbeans including water
One tin of coconut milk, organic if possible
A head of savoy or green cabbage finely shredded
Salt and black pepper to taste
In a large saucepan with a lid heat some coconut oil or olive oil. Add the onions and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the Pataks paste and turmeric and stir around. Add the garlic and ginger then the rest of the vegetables. Cook for five to 10 minutes on a medium heat with the lid on so that the vegetables sweat a little.
Add the butterbeans and their water and top up till the vegetables are just covered with water.
After 20 minutes or so when everything has softened add the tin of coconut milk.
Cook for a further 10 minutes and then season to taste.
This is delicious served chunky but you can liquidise it if you prefer.