WHEN it comes to healthy eating, the rules can be pretty unclear. One minute we’re told we should be cutting out dairy and gluten, and the next carbs are the sworn enemy — then suddenly they’re not again.
We asked dietician Helen Bond to explain what she considers to be the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to eating well: 1. Prioritise plant-based foods If you’re still living by the ‘meat and two veg’ mantra, it’s time to throw out the old rule book. “We should prioritising plant foods over animal foods now,” says Bond.
Plant-based diets are high in vegetables, wholegrain bread and cereals, legumes and whole fruits. They can still contain small amounts of lean meats and dairy products.
“I’m not to saying that meat is bad, it’s just not as sustainable and is not as healthy for us as plant-based products, which is why a lot of European cultures who are associated with longevity of life opt for them instead — such as the Mediterranean diet,” notes Bond. 2. But you don’t have to go full vegan “I don’t actually recommend veganism or vegetarianism,” says Bond. “They have lots of health properties associated with them; the more fruits and vegetables you can include in your diet, the better the outcome in terms of cardiovascular health and preventing cancer. However, you can also include some oily fish and lean red meat.” 3. Eat good sources of vitamin D “We don’t manufacture vitamin D, which is linked to immunity and mood, in our skin from September to March as there is less sunlight during this period, so as well as taking a supplement of 10mcg, you need to top up with food sources of Vitamin D.”
Good food sources of vitamin D include oily fish, egg yolks, certain types of mushrooms and fortified cereals and milks. 4. Eat a portion of oily fish per week Oily fish have oil in their tissues and in the belly cavity around the gut. Theses include salmon, trout, sardines and herrings. Bond says you should aim for one cheque-book sized portion per week, as these sea creatures contain important omega-3, which is vital for our brain health, heart health, triglycerides (important for general function and regulating energy levels) and maintaining healthy blood pressure. 5. Make small booze swaps Did you know that alcohol is just below fat in terms of calories? A gram of fat is about nine calories, a gram of alcohol is seven.
“People just aren’t aware of how many calories are in alcohol, and it can be a minefield on a night out,” says Bond. “The best way to tackle your intake is in making small swaps. Alternate between a glass of wine and a glass of water to rehydrate yourself, make white wine spritzers and use low-calorie mixers to reduce the calorie content.” 6. Pre-load with water Bond has a simple trick for avoiding overeating at the dinner table — try having a glass of water before you tuck in. “Overall hydration is really important for slimming down, and there’s been quite a lot of research with regards to pre-loading before a meal,” she says. “If you have a glass of water before you eat, it helps take the edge of the appetite. It’s like having an apple before a meal; an apple is pretty much 85% water, so it can take the edge off your hunger, and the same goes for soups too.”
EAT YOUR GREENS: Dietitian Helen Bond says we should prioritise plant-based foods in our diet.