Monday, January 25, 2016

5 A Day - Getting Five Fruit and Vegetables a Day

In these health-conscious times, most people know health officials recommend we all have at least five servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Unfortunately, most of us have no clue what counts as a portion or how we can easily incorporate these key elements of a healthy diet into our daily routine.

The benefits of adding more fruit and veg to your diet are well documented. Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fibre, all of which play an important role in keeping people healthy. To get the greatest benefit from your fruit and vegetable intake, it’s recommended that you purchase fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

First, it’s worth clarifying what counts as ‘fruit and vegetables’ so that you can try to count your daily servings:

1. Fresh, frozen, chilled, canned, 100% juice and smoothies.

2. Dried fruit and vegetables.

3. Vegetables in soup, stew, sandwiches and so on also count.

4. Potatoes and other starchy vegetables don’t count.

5. Fruit and vegetable-based vitamin supplements don’t count.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, how do you know when you’ve managed to get a full serving? As a general rule, a portion is around 80 grams. We’ve listed some of the most popular fruits and vegetables here for your reference:

1. Small fruits: two plums, satsumas or kiwis; three apricots; six lychees; seven strawberries; or 14 cherries.

2. Medium fruits: one banana, pear, orange, nectarine, or apple.

3. Larger fruits: half a grapefruit; one, two-inch slice of mango, papaya, or pineapple; or two, two-inch slices of mango.

4. Dried fruit: one tablespoon of raisins, currants, sultanas or mixed fruit; two figs; three prunes; or one handful of banana chips.

5. Tinned fruits: these should be measured more or less the same as their fresh counterparts.

6. Juices: one 150ml glass of 100% juice counts as a portion – however, juice only counts as one portion of fruit/veg each day.

7. Green vegetables: two spears of broccoli; four tablespoons of kale, spring greens or green beans; or eight Brussel sprouts.

8. Cooked vegetables: three heaped tablespoons of cooked vegetables such as carrots, peas or sweetcorn.

9. Salad vegetables: three sticks of celery; one two-inch slice of cucumber; one medium tomato; or, seven cherry tomatoes.

10. Tinned and frozen vegetables: these are measured more or less the same as their fresh counterparts.

11. Pulses and beans: three heaped tablespoons of baked beans, haricot beans, kidney beans, cannelloni beans, butter beans or chick peas. Remember that beans and pulses only count as one portion of fruit/veg each day, no matter how much you eat.

So, how do you get five portions of fruit and veg into your daily diet without rushing back and forth to your local greengrocer? Below are a few quick, easy steps you can take to add more fruit and vegetables to your diet:

1. Remember to count fruit and vegetables, and even herbs, in all your dishes – from pineapple on your pizza to vegetables in soup, they all add up.

2. Drink a glass of 100% juice or a fruit/vegetable smoothie each day.

3. Add a handful of peas, carrots or sweet corn to your soup.

4. Slice a banana or a few strawberries over your cereal in the morning.

5. Replace your mid-morning snack with an apple.

6. Swap celery or carrot sticks for crisps in the afternoon.

7. Add sliced cucumber or tomato to your sandwich.

8. Put extra chopped vegetables into your pasta sauce.

9. Throw a large handful of fresh herbs into your pasta, salad or homemade bread.

When you’re trying to add fruits and vegetables to your existing diet, remember that the best nutritional benefit comes from eating a variety of fruit and veg. One way to ensure you consume a good variety is to sort your fruits and vegetables by colour, and aim to eat at least one item from each group every day.

The groupings are:

1. White/yellow: onions, garlic, lemon and parsnips.

2. Orange/red: peppers, tomatoes, carrots, apricots, mango and satsumas.

3. Purple/red: aubergine, dark grapes, red cabbage, blueberries, plums and raisins.

4. Green: spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, watercress, parsley and mint.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

You Are What You Eat!

Though the phrase ‘you are what you eat’ has been around for ages – appearing in English in adverts during the 1930s, and was the title for nutritionist Victor Lindlahr’s seminal work, You Are What You Eat: how to win and keep health with diet – it’s nutritionist Gillian McKeith’s series on Channel 4 that most people identify with today.

The you are what you eat principle is as simple as it sounds – if you fuel your body with junk, it will perform accordingly. The You Are What You Eat programme is geared toward showing ordinary people the results they can achieve by making simple, sensible changes to their daily diet.

For the You Are What You Eat television programme, McKeith gives candid advice and a dietary makeover to a person, couple or family with nutritional needs. Typically, her advice centres around eliminating highly-processed foods such as fast food, take aways and ready meals from the diet while simultaneously increasing the amount of whole grain, fresh fruit, vegetables, seeds and lean meat consumed. McKeith also encourages participants to establish an exercise regime, and challenges them to stick to it. You Are What You Eat episodes often feature follow ups where McKeith returns to previous participants to catch up with them and see how they’ve progressed with keeping on track within the You Are What You Eat system.
McKeith is a big proponent of fresh juice and smoothies, so much so that she promotes a specific line of juicing equipment suitable for use at home and has published a number of recipe books with a significant number of recipes for drinks, rather than food. She also lends her name and the You Are What You Eat label to a range of breakfast bars, and snacks. All of which are based on fruit, nut and seed components to promote healthier eating, smarter snacking and informed nutritional choices.

The main rules for following the You Are What You Eat diet are:

1. Eat early (eating late may lead to weight gain as your body is more likely to store food while you sleep).

2. Abandon refined and processed foods.

3. Combine foods appropriately (do not mix proteins and carbohydrates, etc).

4. Drink eight glasses of water each day (water is a natural appetite suppressant and the body needs an adequate supply of water to eliminate toxins).

5. Avoid full-fat milk, cheese, cow’s milk dairy products and margarine (some people find these foods harder to digest).

6. Avoid sugar (sugar lowers the metabolism by causing peaks and troughs in insulin levels).

7. Cut down on wheat (eliminate it altogether if possible).

8. Eat “good” fats, avoid “bad” fats (good fats that stimulate the metabolism can be found in avacados, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fish, nuts and vegetables – saturated fats, considered “bad” are found in red meats and some dairy products).

9. Always eat breakfast (the best way to raise the metabolism is to stimulate it at the right time of day – eating breakfast does this as your stomach and spleen are strongest at the start of the day; plus, you have the whole day to burn off the calories consumed).

10. Don’t skip meals (skipping meals releases stress hormones that stimulate the brain’s natural defences against food scarcity – this can lead to muscle tissue being shed, which in turn leads to your body stockpiling fats to protect against starvation).

Friday, January 15, 2016

The South Beach Diet

The South Beach diet is another low-carb eating plan. The thing that sets South Beach apart from the other low-carb diets is the fact that the South Beach plan limits carbohydrate intake, but also keeps control over fats by recommending lean meats and dairy products in place of the fat-laden options promoted in other low-carb diets.

In the mid 90s, Miami cardiologist Arthur Agatston developed the South Beach diet by focusing on eating the right carbohydrates and fats. The theory behind the South Beach programme is that controlling your blood sugar levels will enable you to better control your hunger.

The South Beach plan is divided into three general phases. Phase one bans most carbohydrates. Though reports vary, it is estimated that dieters can expect to lose between eight and 13 pounds during the first phase of the South Beach diet here.
Phase two of the South Beach plan involves reintroducing ‘good carbs’. South Beach defines ‘good carbs’ as those with a lower rank on the glycemic index. In the third phase of the South Beach diet, a wide range of ‘good carb’ and ‘good fat’ foods are gradually reintroduced to help sustain a healthy weight for life.

Though the initial phase of the South Beach diet is quite restrictive, the South Beach diet is generally thought to be flexible enough for the whole family to join in – meaning an easier ride for whoever is cooking the meals as there’s no need to prepare a separate dish for the dieter(s) in the house. The diet is thought of as easy to follow because South Beach doesn’t require calorie, carbohydrate or fat gram counting – rather, there is a list of ‘allowed’ foods and a list of ‘banned’ foods. South Beach dieters have three meals and three snacks a day, during which they can eat as much as they feel they need of any ‘allowed’ food for their particular phase.

South Beach operates on a very simple structure, with a few basic rules:

1. Eat three meals and snacks each day.

2. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

3. Take a calcium supplement.

4. Eat until you’re satisfied – portion sizes aren’t limited, but you are advised not to gorge yourself.

5. Monitor your saturated fat intake, and wherever possible, opt for monounsaturated fats.

6. Limited alcohol consumption is allowed after phase one, with a preference for wine over any other tipple.

7. No refined foods or sugars are permitted.

The critics claim that the first phase of the South Beach diet might leave participants feeling weak or lethargic, and point out the high potential for failure as the first 14 days require serious dedication and willpower. Other criticisms of the South Beach diet are that the recommended weight loss in the initial phase is dangerous, that the foods recommended in the South Beach diet is expensive and that there isn’t extensive research or support to back up the claims made in the diet as it is relatively new.