Realistic nutrition should mean a diet of delicious and nutritious food, containing ingredients that you actually enjoy eating!
Realistic nutrition is achievable nutrition. Everyone’s version of ‘realistic nutrition’ and how they achieve it will be different – some people are incredibly disciplined and can commit to a fantastically healthy diet and will undoubtedly reap great rewards from doing so, but others find it very difficult to have a restricted diet and need more relaxed rules. Realistic nutrition should be about doing your personal best to have a healthy diet but eating food you also actually enjoy. Realistically, they can be one and the same!
A balanced diet can improve your energy, concentration, sleep, skin, immune function and weight and is a realistic aim. However, it is unrealistic to expect someone to eat a food they hate, as it will only make them miserable. If you don’t like beetroot, then don’t eat it! That said, we are never too old to try new foods or indeed re-try foods we have decided long ago, maybe in childhood, that we don’t like. I would also consider unrealistic nutrition to be a diet where you are asked to cut out an entire food group such as carbs over an extended period of time. These types of diet can be useful short term but are notoriously difficult to sustain.
REALISTIC NUTRITION DOESN’T HAVE TO BE COMPLICATED
Meals can be simple with relatively few ingredients – an omelette, grilled salmon or chicken with lots of steamed vegetables or a salad, for example, is very quick and easy. Healthy snacks such as nuts can be realistically kept in your bag or at your desk for whenever you need them, so there are no excuses for succumbing to the biscuits when your energy flags mid afternoon! The same is true of green tea or herbal tea, which you can use as a healthier substitute for ordinary tea and coffee.
It’s always helpful to be as organised as possible, planning your meals in advance. Writing a list before you go to the supermarket is always preferable to making random, and maybe less healthy choices, once you get there especially if you’re hungry. For a lot of people this could be their key to realistic nutrition, helping them to avoid the situation where there is nothing in the fridge that they can make a meal from and so they end up ordering a takeaway.
In terms of keeping things simple and making a healthier diet achievable, don’t be afraid to adapt a complicated recipe or substitute an ingredient for one you prefer. Food can be creative, but again, it’s whatever works for you and is realistic for you.
EVERY LITTLE HELPS
Even small changes can really make a difference. For example, if you have two coffees a day, reduce to one and then try to go odd days without any and substitute with antioxidant packed green tea; if you buy a sandwich every day for lunch, change to a chicken or salmon salad instead; try goats cheese instead of cheddar and almond milk instead of cow’s milk; brown rice instead of white. It won’t feel like a hardship to make these small changes but it could improve your overall health and energy levels. All these small changes pieced together can really make a difference.
THE 80/20 RULE
This means a diet that is comprise of 80% healthy eating. The 80% should include a minimum of 5 portions of vegetables, a couple of portions of fruit, some protein and healthy fats, predominately in the form of fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and pulses, and carbohydrates in the form of brown rice, sweet potatoes, oats or quinoa.
VANESSA’S 5 GOLDEN RULES FOR REALISTIC NUTRITION!
1) This is about you. It is about YOUR realistic nutrition and not those of a blogger, an athlete who has different requirements to the average person, or a friend who can happily eat nothing but salads. It’s your diet and your health and well-being, so just do the best that YOU can to stick to a healthy diet.
2) 7-8 portions of fruit and vegetables a day – this really isn’t hard. Berries with porridge or yogurt and seeds for breakfast; an apple mid afternoon with a few nuts; salad leaves with tomato and avocado with some protein for lunch and a couple of steamed vegetables with your evening meal and you’re easily and realistically reaching seven, if not more. (Remember, potatoes do not count towards you 5 a day.)
3.) Follow the 80/20 rule (see above)
4) If you want a treat, have one as part of the 80/20% rule, but always consider the lesser of the evils. For example, organic dark chocolate rather than a milk chocolate bar filled with cheap ingredients and a lot of sugar.
5) Never underestimate how important food is to your health. As Hippocrates said: ‘Let food be your medicine.’ Nutrition can influence how we look, feel and work. In fact, it determines our quality of life and also how long we will actually live. Therefore, taking realistic steps towards a healthy balanced diet is one of the biggest favours you can do for yourself.