This post is a part 2 to my introduction post ‘Eating Clean – How to Lose Weight the Right Way’ so if you haven’t read that first, click here to do so. I’ve tried to keep this post as simple as possible but if you want more information or a personalised meal plan please contact me and I’d be more than happy to help.
So, we’ve talked about eating clean, unprocessed and natural foods, now it is time to discuss food groups and putting them together to create a healthy balanced meal.
The most crucial part of planning and putting together a healthy meal is knowing what to include. Time for a quick science lesson: foods are made up of different nutrients and these can be put into groups based on the way their molecules are structured. Macronutrients (macros) are those that are body needs in large quantities and micronutrients are needed in smaller amounts. Each meal should include the three macronutrients, which are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These are all found in different foods and some foods may contain more than one macronutrient.
Portion control is also very important; having an unhealthy ratio of carbohydrates to vegetables, for example, can leave you bloated and constipated. So those Instagram plates of a mountain of rice and one measly spoonful of broccoli do not make the cut! Neither do those church potlucks meals with rice, roti, potatoes, macaroni AND dumplings! This is why you may feel sleepy immediately after eating; your meal is unbalanced and rather than providing you with the right amount of energy to go about your day, it slows you down. That should not be the purpose of your meal, food is supposed to nourish us to live, not knock us out for a nap. The image below shows a good example of portion control.
The portion of your food groups in your meals should differ depending on fitness goals and activity levels. For example, before an intense gym session it is important to fuel your body with the correct foods, which would be carbohydrates and protein. However, it would not be wise to eat a carb-heavy meal before bed (e.g. cake and custard) as whilst you sleep you are inactive and therefore your body will store the carbohydrates as fat.
So, a good meal includes the right amount of each macro but also the right type.
Protein is not just for bodybuilders and is also not only found in shakes. We need protein for growth and maintenance. Protein can be found in cells, tissues and organs in our bodies and they are constantly being broken down and replaced by the protein that we digest from the foods we eat. The best types of protein are lean sources – those with low grams of fat. Examples are lean beef, chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs. Vegan sources of protein are tofu, hemp, tempeh, lentils and beans.
Carbs. Dun dun dun! I could, and may, write an entire blog post on this but I’ll try and keep it short. Carbs are not evil! The Atkins diet and Beyonce may disagree but after proper research you will find that it is not about avoiding carbs but choosing the right ones. Carbs have such a bad reputation and like many, when I began my weight-loss journey I avoided them. I remember one occasion where my friend wanted me to taste a really nice potato and I honestly believed that potato would lead to weight-gain. Oh how stupid I was! Our bodies NEED carbs but at the right time and in the right amounts.
Our bodies convert carbohydrates to glucose for the purpose of energy. When it comes to losing weight, carbohydrates have negative connotations however; they are essential in any diet. Your brain needs carbohydrates in order for it to work, hence the results of low- carbohydrate diets; low energy, dizziness etc. The important information to know in regard to carbohydrates is which type to eat and how much. Eating the wrong type can cause unstable blood sugar levels and eating too much results in our bodies using only what it needs for energy and storing the rest as fat.
There are two types of carbohydrate groups, simple and complex. Those that are simple have had many of their original properties removed and elements such as preservatives and colouring added. They are still good sources of energy but lack fibre, vitamins and minerals. Complex carbohydrates have had no or few alterations and so still have their nutrients in tact. Simple carbohydrates have a chemical structure that is made of only one or two sugars and so the body can digest them very quickly whereas complex carbohydrates are made up of a chemical structure that is made of three or more sugars and so they take longer to digest. The longer the carbohydrate takes to digest, the more balanced our energy levels will be and the steadier the blood sugar level. Simple carbohydrates release glucose faster and this causes the blood sugar level to rise and drop and become less steady. A healthy diet eats the right type of carbohydrate and only an amount needed.
Examples of simple, refined carbs are white bread, sugar, packaged cereal, white pasta and cakes. Choose complex and unrefined carbs such as wholegrain (brown) rice and pasta, sweet potatoes, quinoa and oats.
Like carbs, fats are thought of as bad for you but again, it is the type and amount that is important. Fats are important in a healthy diet because they provide energy, protect our organs and control our body temperature amongst other things. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are good for you, lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease but transfats and saturated fats are bad for you because they raise your cholesterol and increase your risk for heart disease. Low-fat or fat-free foods mean nothing if they are high in salt or sugar. So that low fat yogurt that is full of sugar? Not good. Your body needs fats to survive but choose the right kind and do not have too much. Good sources of fats are nuts (a handful a day), avocado, flaxseed and coconut oil.
Fruits and vegetables
Include fruits and vegetables as often as possible. Try to include them in every meal. Some vegetables are relatively high in carbohydrates such as potatoes and carrots and some are high in protein such as spinach and kale.
So what can I eat?
Here are some meal ideas that incorporate all these macros:
- Tuna and avocado salad with a wholemeal roll
- Brown rice and chickpea curry cooked in coconut oil with broccoli and green beans
- Oatmeal topped with banana, almonds and hemp seeds.
- Sweet potato fries, a homemade black bean burger and a green peas and carrots.
Comment below if this post was helpful (or am I just writing to myself?) and please post any questions you have, I will definitely reply.
If you want to lose weight, gain healthy weight or simply change your eating habits do get in touch for a personalised meal plan and consultation. I am very passionate about helping others learn more about food and would love to help.