Top 10 tips for healthy eating – Part 2

Recently I was asked by food blogger, home cook and photographer extraordinaire, Megan Young of Veggies and Me, for my top 10 tips on healthy eating. (Read the whole post here.)

In the previous post and this one, I elaborate on these tips, so you can fully grasp the profound impact that implementing them will have on your health and wellbeing.


Tip # 6. Eat nuts and seeds, not oil, to get your essential fats.

Oils (and vegan margarine) are just empty calories. Nuts and seeds are power packages of anti-cancer, diabetes- and heart disease-preventing nutrients.

As Dr John McDougall is fond of saying, ‘The fat you eat is the fat you wear.’ But it’s a little bit different with nuts and seeds! A substantial proportion of the fat in nuts and seeds is not absorbed by the human body, unlike oil which is 100% absorbed.

In addition, oils and fats have no appetite-satisfying properties whereas nuts and seeds are highly satiating, and eating them at one meal tends to reduce your intake of kilojoules at the next meal.

Why waste a big chunk of your daily kilojoule ‘budget’ on a food which supplies no fibre, protein, minerals and (except for cold-pressed oils) no vitamins or antioxidants, when you could be boosting the nutrition and flavour of your meals with a handful of delicious nuts or seeds – and simultaneously protecting yourself against heart disease, cancer and diabetes?

(If you’re attempting to lose weight, or you struggle to avoid weight gain, keep your daily intake or nuts and seeds down to 30 g if you’re female or 40 g if you’re male.)

Tip # 7. Only eat when you’re actually hungry!

Even nutritious food undermines health when you eat to excess. Most people don’t know what true hunger is; they mistake the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal from unhealthful foods, as hunger. True hunger is felt in the mouth and throat, and is really quite a pleasurable sensation. Get to know and love it – food tastes better when you’re really hungry!

Clients often tell me that they have to eat frequently because they get so hungry, or that they have to eat as soon as they wake up in the morning because they’re ravenous.

I always ask them this one, simple question: “How do you know when you’re hungry?” If the answer is “my tummy rumbles”, “I feel sick”, “I feel weak”, “I can’t concentrate”, “I get a headache” or some similarly unpleasant experience, that’s crystal clear evidence that they are not experiencing true hunger at all. Instead, they’re suffering from toxic hunger.

Toxic hunger is a set of withdrawal symptoms, just like those that alcoholics or drug addicts suffer when they quit. But the addictive substances in this case are those found in food – specifically, low-nutrient foods such as highly processed ‘edible food-like substances’, as food writer Michael Pollan has dubbed them, and animal products.

Consuming these antioxidant- and phytochemical-deficient foods results in a build-up of metabolic toxins such as free radicals and advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These toxic chemicals not only contribute to the development of chronic disease but also provoke addictive withdrawal symptoms (toxic hunger) which drive you to eat too much and too often.

Personally, I can very comfortably go without food for most of the day when required, without experiencing anything other than a great appreciation for whatever I eventually eat! Clients have reported similar experiences to me – even those who were firmly convinced, before switching to a healthy way of eating, that they had ‘reactive hypoglycemia’ (a largely fictitious illness) and could not possibly last longer than 3 hours without eating.


Tip # 8. Plan your meals in advance.

I give my clients a meal planner template, so they can map out what they’re going to prepare and eat, a week in advance. Eating decisions made on the run are far less likely to be health-promoting than decisions made in advance.

Psychologists who specialise in behaviour change put a lot of emphasis on ‘channel factors’ – seemingly minor details or apparently insignificant actions that have a major impact on our choices and behaviour. One such channel factor is the presence – or absence – of a plan about what to eat.

Think about this scenario for a moment: you get home from work at 7 pm, tired and hungry. You look in the fridge, and it’s virtually empty. Your significant other suggests ordering take-away, and although you really want to stick to your healthy eating intentions, you give in to the suggestion, just because you don’t have any better ideas about what to eat.

Now imagine the same scenario, but this time you made a weekly meal plan and shopping list in advance, and you have everything you need in the fridge and pantry to make tonight’s dinner. In fact, you spent a couple of hours on the weekend bulk-cooking rice, beans and other staples to serve as the foundation for your meals during the week.

Now when your beloved suggests take-away, you consider the time it will take for the restaurant to make your meal vs the time it will take you to cook your planned meal yourself; the cost of the take-away meal and the cost of the ingredients you bought that might spoil if you don’t use them up; the health effects of eating take-away vs your home-cooked healthy meal… and you’re far more likely to stick with your planned meal.

Sure, having a weekly meal plan does not guarantee that you’ll always make good decisions, but it really stacks the deck in your favour, allowing you to harness the benefit of positive channel factors.


Tip # 9. Prepare meals with love, and share them with people you love – or if you eat alone, lavish yourself with love by setting the table beautifully.

If you find yourself sinking into the feeling that food preparation is a chore, remind yourself why you’re doing it. I look at preparing delicious, nutritious meals for my family as a powerful demonstration of my love for them. And choosing healthy foods for myself is an expression of self-love, out of which love for others flows.

My healthy weight loss intensive, The LEAN Program, is all about making the shift from trying to punish and deprive yourself into losing weight, to ‘loving yourself slim’. Making and serving meals with love is a key aspect of this overall philosophy. When we choose healthful ingredients and prepare them in delicious ways, we nourish ourselves and the people we feed, on many levels at once.


Tip # 10. Don’t forget the other elements of good health: regular enjoyable exercise, sensible exposure to sunlight, ensuring you’re getting enough good-quality sleep, and loving connections with others.

I have encountered many people in my personal and professional life, who are obsessed about food to the detriment of their relationships with themselves, others and the world. Whether you’re obsessed about getting your next ‘fix’ of junk food, or obsessed with only EVER eating organic/local/raw/whatever your version of ‘healthy food’ is, obsession is unhealthy!

That’s not to say you shouldn’t make good choices, just that they shouldn’t take up much room in your head. Make those good choices and move on to doing all the other things that keep you healthy… and then capitalise on the good health you’ve earned, to engage in a productive, balanced, happy life… which is, after all, the reason we want to be healthy.

In other words, healthy eating (and healthy living generally) is not an end in itself, but the means to an end: to have the capacity to enjoy our lives right through to advanced old age, and to bring our particular, unique gifts to the world in the fullest possible way, with our energy and enthusiasm unhindered by illness.

Read Part 1 of this article here.

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