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From part 1 I hope I have established that healthy eating is when you
Mostly eat for hunger and fullness
Eat for satisfaction
Eat a wide variety of foods
Enjoy the social aspects of eating
Although, I believe that all food if chosen to eat for the above reasons fits into a healthy diet, it is still good to have a plan to help increase the variety. One of the main reasons when eating in this way is to eat for hunger and satisfaction and therefore when thinking about meals the 3 main food groups to consider first are those that provide energy to the meals carbohydrate, protein and fat if only one of these is at a meal it often leads to less satisfaction than if all 3 elements are present as each plays a slightly different role in satiety with carbohydrate foods giving bulk to diet and helping to abate hunger initially. Protein helps satiety last slightly longer and fat even longer, another benefit I find from having some fat added is it gives improved flavour. If you want to read a little more on the satiety value of different nutrients then check out Ellyn Satter in her book ‘Secrets of feeding a healthy family which gives a great explanation of satiety in the appendix. Sometimes you may wish to have a meal that contains only 2 of these groups but generally this will leave you less satisfied and ready for your next meal sooner. The carbohydrate foods include the starchy foods like pasta, bread, potatoes, rice and other grains and sugars. The protein foods include meat, fish, chicken, eggs, nuts, beans and can also include cheese. The fat group includes cream, spreadable fats like butter, oils including olive, sunflower and rapeseed and foods that contain fats such as fat on meat, oily fish, nuts, cheese and avocados.
When you are reading this you might be thinking that’s all very well but surely you shouldn’t be eating some foods as they have no value and might cause harm an example of this may be saturated fat in your diet as health guidelines often link it to heart disease and there are good fats that are better for you. Just remember there are no good and bad foods its variety that counts and food pleasure is important to health also. So to answer the fat question even if I believed all the guidelines and portion controls were appropriate there is nowhere that it says that you should cut out saturated fat but rather it should be reduced. So if you follow the variety principle and use a variety of different fats to cook with and add to food and indeed increase the variety of foods that contain different fats then you overall will reduce the amount of saturated fat without feeling any deprivation. The same can be said for any nutrient you consider to be bad by increasing the variety of foods you eat and using a variety of ways to prepare foods you will be decreasing the overall amount of any one nutrient.
After considering carbohydrate, protein and fat then to increase variety it is good to ensure that you add the remaining food groups to your meals these are dairy and fruit and vegetables.
Other things to consider when planning meals as well as the above food groups and what texture, temperature and tastes you want is how long do you want to take to prepare your meals. On some occasions you might decide I have all the time in the world at others it might be I want it now. So it’s good to have a large repertoire of ideas that meet all your requirements.
How do you go about getting your ideas together? Well it is often just a case of trying new foods, new cooking methods, and new recipes a little at a time.
I find that with any changes I am make for myself and my family it is better if they are small and spaced out. I often like to try out new recipe ideas alongside family favourites and even trying out old favourites that have fallen by the wayside as new meals have come to the fore but throughout it all I have found the most satisfaction and satiety at meals are those that contain the 3 main energy giving groups.
So why not get started enjoying your meals but at the same time trying out new foods and ideas. There are so many ideas out there to try but you may wish to check out my facebook page wendymurraydietitian over the next few weeks as I am going to share some of the cooking ideas I have collected over the years. They might get you started on trying out some of your own.