Seven Principles For Improving Your Nutrition

Making good nutritional choices on a daily basis can be a real struggle.
Consider adopting the following principles to transform your own nutrition and health!

1) Keep Hydrated Throughout The Day
Your body is approximately 60% water and as a result, there is no substance that the human body requires more in order to survive and function efficiently.

Research is clear and indicates that dehydration has an adverse impact on the body in a number of different ways including dizziness, headaches, muscle cramps and a reduction in muscular strength.

It can be very easy to forget to drink – especially with the business of life. One of the best ways to ensure you are drinking enough is to purchase a large water bottle and have it on you at all times. – sit it at your desk, take it with you to the gym and have it beside you on the sofa.

While water is the best fluid for maintaining hydration, other drinks such as squash, milk, and fruit juice will do the job. Alcoholic drinks do not count, however, as they actually cause the body to urinate more frequently and reduce the amount of water retained by the kidneys which may lead to dehydration.

Depending on your physical characteristics, you may require a greater or lesser amount of water – everyone is different. However, the recommendation is to consume a minimum of 2 litres (the equivalent of 8 small glasses) per day.

The best way to judge whether or not you are maintaining hydration levels is to assess your urine colour. Clear urine indicates proper hydration whilst cloudy or dark urine indicates poor hydration.

2) Eat Protein With Every Meal
There appears to be a misplaced fear that a high protein diet is harmful to the body however, this could not be further from the truth.

Protein is the macronutrient which is responsible for growth and repair within the body. In simple terms, your body experiences a degree of stress and strain on a daily basis and therefore must repair itself. A high protein diet will allow the body to recover and continue to function at an optimal level.

Other benefits that have been associated with a high protein diet include reduced blood pressure, weight loss assistance, maintenance and development of muscle tissue, increased metabolism, increased satiety (fullness), and improved bone health.

Some of the best sources of protein include:
Chicken, Lean Cuts of Meat, Poultry, Seafood, Dairy, Legumes, and Nuts

Measuring Protein Portions:
Per Meal: 2 palm-sized portions for men, 1 palm-sized portion for women

3) Eat Healthy Fats
As with the high-protein diet, fats have been demonised over the years. Eating fat makes you fat, right? Wrong.

Fats are another macronutrient which is essential for maintaining proper body function. In fact, they are so important that there are even fats known as ESSENTIAL fatty acids (or EFA’s). These EFA’s are vital for maintaining health and have also been found to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases – specifically heart-related.  

However, while there are healthy fats that can have a positive impact on the body, there are unhealthy fats to be aware of. These unhealthy or “trans” fats can have adverse effects on the body in the long term and can increase your risk of developing disease.

Processed food is the main culprit when it comes to “trans” fats; food products such as baked goods, snacks, processed meats, and fast food all contain trans fat.

Healthy Fats can be found in a number of products such as:
Eggs, Nuts, Seeds, Avocados, Plant Oils, and Seafood

4) Eating Carbs
Carbohydrates are the final macronutrient of three and once again, they have developed a bad rep over the years.

Carbs, like fats, are not detrimental to the body and should be considered a vital part of everyday nutrition. This is highlighted by the fact that the UK Government’s recommendation is to include a starchy, carbohydrate component with every meal.

There are two types of carbohydrate to be aware of – simple and complex carbs. Simple carbohydrates can be broken down quickly in order to provide the body with a quick burst of energy however, they do lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber which the body requires for completing a number of functions.

Complex carbohydrates meanwhile are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and provide a slower, steady release of energy throughout the day. You should look to consume many complex carb products throughout the day and restrict simple carb intake.

Simple Carb Foods: Sweets, Soft Drinks, White Bread and Baked Goods
Complex Carb Foods: Wholegrains, Fruits, Vegetables, Oats, Pasta, Beans and Lentils

Measuring Carb Portions:
Per Meal: 2 cupped handfuls for men, 1 cupped handful for women

5) Eat Fruit / Vegetables At Every Meal
The health benefits associated with daily consumption of fruit and vegetables are well known and it is recommended that we consume a minimum of 5 portions per day. The benefits are so great that health authorities are considering up-ing that number from 5 to 8 per day!

The main benefit of consuming fruits and vegetables comes down to the high number of vitamins and mineral (or micronutrients) which are contained within. These micronutrients play a supreme role in promoting health, maintaining function and preventing disease.

Those who are struggling to lose weight, by restricting the number of calories they consume each day, should pay particular attention to this point. This is because fruit and vegetables are high in fibre – a substance that cannot be broken down through the digestive process. Foods high in fiber can help to leave you feeling fuller for longer and therefore may work to reduce any cravings that you may have throughout the day.

Measuring Fruit / Vegetable Portions: – 2 closed fists for men, 1 closed fist for women

6) Eating Wholefoods
The health and fitness industry is sadly fully of “quick fixes” which quite simply do not exist. Avoid being drawn-in by “detox” diets, liquid diets or “special” dietary supplements – the vast majority of which will not lead to long term success.

You do not need these types of diets or quick fixes which, more often than not, end up having a detrimental impact on your overall health.

Instead, focus on consuming wholefoods which come from a good, natural source as these will have the greatest impact on your health. This means reducing the number of processed foods and simple carbohydrate products that you consume per day – as touched on earlier.

7) Break Bad Habits and Make Conscientious Choices
Over the years, we all pick up bad habits – whether it be a can of fizzy juice at lunch break or that family-sized bag of Maltesers in front of the TV in the evening.

Breaking a habit is never easy however, I encourage you to assess your day to day living and pick out habits that you can look to change.

The best way to do this is to replace your current habit with a better habit. For example, swapping that fizzy juice for a diet drink with no calories; or even better than that, replacing it with fruit juice or water. Or maybe, picking up a bag of nuts to eat in front of the TV instead of the family-sized bag of Maltesers.

You may be surprised at how much of an impact these seemingly small habitual changes can have.