Eating the right foods will help you to stay in shape, build muscle and burn fat. It can be hard to decide what foods fit into your diet plan so we’ve come up with a simple list!
There are three major food groups: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Your diet will come from a mixture of these three macronutrients and there are good and bad choices for each group! To help you decide which foods you should eat, we have split up the items in each food group into three categories:
Eat – you can eat these every day
Eat in Moderation – eat these once or twice a week if you like
Avoid – try not to eat these
The bulk of your diet should come from the ‘Eat’ section, with a few items from the ‘Eat in Moderation’ section each week. Try to steer clear of foods labelled ‘Avoid’ – they are labelled that way for a reason and will slow down your progress!
With protein, choosing the highest quality sources is of top priority. We especially want to avoid getting our protein from processed foods such as burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken and any other fast food or junk food. Whilst the protein in these foods may come from the same place as a lean cut of meat, they also come packed full of fats and unhealthy additives such as preservatives, rusk and batter.
The majority of our protein should come from lean cuts of meat, fish, eggs, low fat dairy and whey protein (obviously if you are vegetarian or vegan this may not be possible!). Fattier cuts of red meat and poultry can be eaten occasionally but these tend to be high in saturated fats and omega 6 fatty acids, which we don’t want to consume too much of (more about this later).
Eat – All fish, chicken/turkey breast meat, eggs, greek yogurt, low fat cheese, lean red meat, whey protein powders, tofu/meat substitutes
Eat in moderation – fatty cuts of red meat, chicken/turkey leg meat, full fat cheese, whole milk
Avoid – processed meats, burgers, hot dogs, anything deep fried or battered, chicken/turkey skin
With carbohydrates, our priority is avoiding foods with a high glycemic index as these are more likely to cause us to put on body fat. Carbs with a high glycemic index such as sugar and white bread also tend to be devoid of any nutritional value, which is not very useful to anyone who wants to be healthy!
Try to eat 5-10 servings of fruit and vegetables per day to ensure you are getting the vitamins and minerals that your body needs. The other carbs in the ‘Eat’ category all have a low glycemic index but less nutritional value than fruit and veg. This is not really an issue and these carb sources do not have the same disadvantages as sugars and baked goods.
Eat – rice (basmati, brown, long grain), white potato, sweet potato, yams, oats, all vegetables, salad leaves, low sugar fruits (berries, melon, lemon, lime, apples, grapefruit)
Eat in moderation – brown bread, rice (short grain, risotto), rice cakes, brown pasta, sugary fruits (banana, mango, pineapple, orange, cherry, grape, kiwi)
Avoid – sugars, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, fast food (pizza, fries, etc.), sugary drinks (soda, fruit juice, energy drinks, milkshakes), white bread, white pasta, sugary cereals
Not all fats are equal and some are really good for our health. They are often demonised by mainstream nutritional guidelines, but we must look at fats individually and not bundle them all into one group. We want the majority of our fat intake to come from healthy monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids. Foods we should try to avoid are those containing large amounts of saturated fat and omega 6 fatty acids.
Omega 6 fatty acids can promote inflammation and omega 3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation. If these are in balance then all will be well within our bodies, but if we take in too many omega 6 fatty acids this can lead to an increased level of inflammation in the body. We should try and reduce our intake of omega 6 fatty acids because they are contained in so many of the foods we eat, especially vegetable oils and animal products like meat and dairy (also nuts excluding macadamia nuts can be high in omega 6). This makes it very easy to consume a lot more omega 6 fatty acids than omega 3 fatty acids.
There is a great deal of debate about whether saturated fats are bad for our health. Since eating a large amount of them is not essential to achieving our goals, it makes sense to limit our intake but not cut them out entirely. The saturated fats in coconut are an exception to this rule as they are primarily made up of medium chain trigycerates (MCTs), which are more easily broken down by the body and can readily be used for energy. The foods in the ‘Eat’ category are packed with good fats and should form the majority of your fat intake.
Eat – avocado, raw macadamia nuts, coconut, olive oil, oily fish, olives
Eat in moderation – all other nuts, nut butters, butter, dark chocolate
Avoid – vegetable oil, sunflower oil, vegetable spreads, mayonnaise, anything deep fried.
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