Having spoken about the importance of staying active, it is key to think about our food intake. Nutrition plays a massive role in your energy levels and physical appearance. You are what you eat after all. Often, when many of us try to eat healthy we struggle. We struggle, not because we are unable to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but due to the fact we lack the knowledge we need. Healthy eating is quickly associated with letting go of your favourite meals and replacing everything with salads and smoothies.
There is nothing in the handbook of health that says you have to stop eating your traditional kebab or curries. The key is to keep in mind what aspects of the meal may not be the healthiest option. There are a few small changes we can make that transform the effect food has on our life. Though, rather than looking for a diet plan that constricts you and dictates what you can and can’t eat, it is much more important to inform yourself of what you need to know about nutrition and food. Why? Because then you are free to eat and enjoy whatever you want, without having to google if it fits the diet you are trying to follow.
So, what do you need to know when starting to pay attention to what you eat?
- There are three main food groups: protein, fats and complex carbohydrates. Each plays an essential role within your diet. Each should be eaten in the required amounts in the day; cutting out all carbohydrates or all fats, as some diets require, is unhealthy and not sustainable for the body. A healthy diet should roughly contain 20% fats, 30% protein and 50% carbohydrates – though this is variable depending on each individual’s body goals.
- Complex carbohydrates are things like wholegrain bread, pasta, oats and couscous. These foods gradually release glucose (sugar) into your bloodstream, ready to be used to form energy. Refined carbohydrates, like biscuits and cakes, cause your blood sugar levels to rise and fall dramatically, which makes you tired and hungry quicker – ultimately leading to weight gain and poor performance.
- Protein is an essential part of a balanced diet as it formulates the basis of many parts of the body such as muscles, hair, nails, skin and even bones. We should aim to include protein in each daily meal. Food that is high in protein include Fish, Chicken, Lentils, Beans, Eggs, Yogurt
- Healthy fats have a protective factor on the heart, provides a back up source of energy and is essential in absorbing vitamins and minerals. Foods such as avocado, eggs, fish are sources of healthy fats. Oils such as coconut oil and olive oil also contain healthy fats.
- Drinking and staying hydrated is something so essential to our health. Many of us become dehydrated because we simply fail to drink enough, either because we do not make it a priority or because we don’t like drinking water. Try to drink at least 2 litres of water daily. You can keep count of this by having a big water bottle with you throughout the day. If you are someone who struggles to drink plain water, change the taste by adding in some fresh fruit. Avoid water that is pre-flavoured as this often contains high amounts of sugars.
This is a massive thing to keep in mind. You can have a nice, healthy meal that is balanced in all food groups yet if you eat this in excess it will no longer be beneficial for your body. Everything, including healthy foods, should be eaten in moderation. This means, eating what you need to feel sustenance and stopping once you are full. There are some easy tips to keep in mind to help achieve this:
- Chew slowly: it takes time for the brain to recognise that you are full. By chewing slowly, you reduce the risk of over eating because you are likely to realise you are full without having eaten large amounts
- Smaller plates: When we use a big plate, we think we need to completely cover it with food which only results in over eating. By taking a smaller plate, we instantly have less food to eat. This does not mean you should eat less than what you need, but it helps you keep some control.
- Eating regularly: by skipping meals, you will cause yourself to overeat when you do eventually sit down at the dinner table. This is not a healthy habit nor does it assist with weight loss in the long run.
Are you ready to kick start your fitness revolution but want a helping hand? You can get 15% off online coaching sessions with Aishah for the whole of October using the code MG15. You can find out what is on offer by visiting her blog here.
Aishah is a medical doctor, weight loss coach and personal trainer. She has a keen interest in promoting a healthier lifestyle for Muslim women and blogs regularly on health, fitness and personal development. Aishah provides as unique service, both online and face-to-face, offering fitness coaching to Muslim women all over the world. Visit her blog Grains and Gains and follow on social media: Instagram andFacebook