So January is usually when we hear the dreaded D word. After the (well deserved) excesses and celebrations of the year end, many of us decide that we need to start the year on some sort of a restrictive diet. But here’s the thing - they don’t work in the long term. There’s 2 definitions of a diet: the kinds of food a person habitually eats and a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves. So how can you restrict yourself from your habitual foods?? You can’t of course in the long term and that’s why diets fail, as soon as the diet ends we go back to our habitual foods. What would be more useful is to find a healthy balanced ‘diet’ that you can realistically maintain for most of the time.
Restricting yourself from things that you enjoy eating simply makes you want it more! And restricting calories/fats isn’t always a good thing. Our bodies need fats for lots of reasons; brain function especially memory and concentration, energy production, hormone production particularly in stress and fertility. The type of fat is important, the omega-3 and 6 fatty acids found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil are preferable (in moderate amounts) to processed trans fats found in fried or processed foods such as margarine, crisps, chips, pot noodles, pizza..…so basically anything from a packet that’s ready made!
So what to do? My recommendation is to follow a mainly plant-based whole food diet, something similar to the Mediterranean diet which is one of the healthiest diets in the world. High in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, whole grains, fish and unsaturated fats such as olive oil and low in meat and dairy foods. At this time of year weight loss is a popular trend with gyms and classes packed and memberships enrolled, but just by following this diet and swapping all your refined carbs with complex ones this will help you lose weight (if that’s what you want) without you even trying. It’s not easy at the beginning as it requires a lot more home cooking and planning but it gets easier and believe me it definitely works!!
As a nutritionist I don’t endorse any particular diet for anyone, but in certain circumstances I may recommend elimination diets for a limited period of time to help find the root cause of a symptom and re-balance the gut. So get in contact with me if you would like me to support you in finding the best foods for your needs.
Here are a couple of easy recipes to try instead of making that pasta or buying those breakfast bars all the time!
Berry & Coconut Porridge
Breakfast is sometimes a rushed affair for many of us in the mornings but it really is the most important meal of the day for me. This creamy overnight oat porridge is warming and filling, a good source of protein and a complex carb helping to keep your energy levels stable throughout the morning making you less likely to snack! Soaking the oats overnight make them easier to digest.
Ingredients (serves 1)
Half a cup of porridge oats
Your choice of milk (I use cashew milk)
Handful of mixed frozen berries
2 tbsp full fat coconut milk
Your choice of toppings (nuts, seeds, honey, cinnamon)
Soak your oats in a bowl overnight with the milk and berries. Leave in the fridge
Next morning warm in a pan and stir in the coconut milk
Transfer back into your bowl, sprinkle with toppings and enjoy!
Vegetable Tomato Masala with Rice and Beans
Like many home made curries, the spices in this dish contain potent anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties helping to promote a healthy digestive system. I like to add beans to my rice for a bit of variety and extra protein. It’s also super easy, tasty and good for a batch cook with leftovers for lunch next day!
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 tbsp coconut oil
Half tsp cumin seeds
Half tsp black onion seeds (also called nigella seeds)
1 tsp tumeric powder
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp grated ginger
2-3 chopped green chillis
4 chopped garlic cloves
1 sliced onion
2 chopped tomatoes
2 large diced potatoes
5 large handfuls of green veg (kale, green beans, spinach, cabbage)
260g brown rice
1 tin black beans, drained
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
Put the rice and beans in a pan with the water and cinnamon stick, bring to boil and then simmer on low heat for 30 mins
Heat all the seeds in a large pan with the oil gently until they start to pop
Add salt and onion and fry until soft
Add turmeric, garlic and chillis and stir for 30 secs
Add all the tomatoes, ginger and potatoes and simmer for 25 mins, stirring occasionally or it will stick!
About 5 mins before it’s ready, add your greens and stir. Add a splash of water or veg stock if too thick. If using spinach, add at the end after turning off the heat and stir in. Check on the rice, nearly all the water should have been absorbed now if not keep it on the heat until done.