It’s getting tough to know what nutrition rules to follow. Over the past few years being healthy and eating healthy food has become quite in vogue. However, with food rules like ‘clean eating’, paleo, raw, vegan, it can sometimes be difficult to know what is a ‘fad’ and what’s not. I have provided my top nutrition guidelines that will help you make healthy food choices, without getting caught up in ‘food fads’.

1. Avoid refined sugar

Its fast becoming common knowledge that sugar is not good for you. Understanding why it is so bad for you, might give you more oomph to try and cut it out. The things we know about sugar are:

  • It’s addictive.
  • It’s is the leading contributor to obesity.
  • Over time, it causes people to consume more calories because it has a poor effect on satiety (how full you feel after you eat). Sugar contains no essential fats / proteins/ minerals or vitamins and is basically ’empty calories’ for your body.
  • Sugar can cause insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes and metabolic syndromes.
  • Sugar is high in fructose. Fructose is not produced by our bodies in any significant amount. Our bodies don’t have a high demand for it. Fructose is metabolised by our liver, where it is turned into glycogen. There it is stored to be used at a later time. If however, glycogen supplies are full, it turns into fat. Ultimately, sugar puts a high demand on your liver and can lead to fatty liver disease and other metabolic problems.

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As a general rule it is best to avoid refined sugars. What about sugar substitutes?  With so many ‘sugar alternatives’ on the market it is really tough to know what are the best options. Many sugar substitutes contain high percentages of fructose, and essentially aren’t good for you.  Cutting out sugar completely can be extremely challenging, and opting for sugar substitutes can often be a better choice. Different sugar substitutes will have different benefits. Some are lower GI, others are ‘more natural’, and some contain less fructose.

Substituting sugar in your diet will take some experimenting. I don’t guarantee that ALL of your recipes will work out the first time you try. However, if you find a ‘like product’ to substitute your sugar, you create home made goodies whilst minimising sugar.  Some sugar substitutes  include:

  • Dates (Medjool dates are preferred)granola
  • Bananas – or any fruit for that matter
  • Natvia
  • Stevia
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Coconut sugar (keep in mind it has a ‘grainier’ texture than normal sugar)
  • Rice Malt Syrup

As a general consensus, the best sugar substitute you can opt for is Rice Malt Syrup. You can find it in the ‘health food section’ of your supermarket. It is cheap, it does not have an overpowering/overly sweet flavour and contains 0% fructose! You can use it in smoothies, granola, muesli bars, cakes and stir fry dishes.  Also, be aware of ‘lite’ or ‘low fat’ food options. Often the fat is replaced by sugar to maintain the taste. You do need to be mindful of the types of fat you consume, but replacing fat with sugar is NOT a healthier alternative.

2. Eat more vegetables

juice It is an alarming fact that 95% of Australians don’t eat enough vegetables. Vegetables, legumes, fruits and grains should make up about 70% of what we eat.  My top tips for increasing vegetable intake into your diet are:

  • Juicing – put a heap of veg into a juicer / thermomix/ nurtibullet / blender, and you will be surprised how many vegetables you can consume with very little effort!
  • Add vegetables to every meal.
  • Eat vegetables for breakfast! Think eggs and vegetables – omelettes, frittatas etc.
  • If your opting for toast, consider changing from a regular ‘spread’ to something like avocado and tomato.
  • Blend them, grate them, cut them – however you do it, ADD THEM!

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3. Fresh first

It is a simple rule, and I am yet to see anyone argue against it. Fresh is best! Every time that you can opt for a fresh food item over a packaged item you will be making a better health choice. High nutritional value comes from real food – SIMPLE! You don’t have to go all out ‘paleo’ but if you follow the basic rule to eat as much real food as possible you will definitely be heading in the right direction. Think Vegetables, Fruit ( ideally limit to x2 serves / day) seeds, nuts. Basically if it comes from a tree, an animal orout of the ground it is a good food to eat

4. The 80/20 rule

Personally I can not cut out 100% of foods that aren’t considered ideal for our health. I go by the 80/20 rule which is 80% ‘real foods’ and 20% whatever I want. This makes eating by these guidelines more achievable and sustainable. Unlike ‘diets’ that have people yo-yoing on the scales, and indulging in binge eating habits, healthy eating should be a lifestyle. By following these 4 simple rules, you will see improvements to your health that give good long term benefits.

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