Your guide to eating well


Eating more healthily and getting fitter top the list of New Year’s resolutions, according to a YouGov poll1, yet many people have returned to old eating and lifestyle habits before the end of January.

Most people know what is wrong with the Western diet today – the over-reliance on processed foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats that contain low levels of essential vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre. However, even so-called ‘balanced diets’ can be high in hidden sugars, starches and low in essential fatty acids and therefore increase the likelihood of obesity, diabetes and other health conditions. People who think they are eating a healthy diet may still benefit from dietary improvements.

Although we know what’s wrong with current habits, there is a lot of confusion about making better choices – what is the optimal diet? Is it low fat, high fat, low carb or low calorie? Whilst the answer is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to our daily fare, there are some principles that can be followed that focus on eating nutrient dense foods, rather than empty calories.

We at Cytoplan have produced a new free booklet, available as a PDF, ‘Your Guide to Eating Well’, which outlines the principles and practicalities of a nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet. You can download the booklet here. It is available for you to use yourself or with your clients. The booklet also gives information on portion sizes, a basic shopping list and a detailed step-by-step ‘how to carry out an elimination diet’ for those people who suspect they may have food intolerances or sensitivities. In this blog we outline some of the key points covered in the guide.

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An anti-inflammatory diet is a beneficial way of eating that:

  • Bases meals on a range of different vegetables
  • Avoids sugary foods
  • Avoids inflammatory fats
  • Includes healthy fats daily
  • Includes small quantities of lean meat, fish and eggs (or vegetarian / vegan sources of protein)
  • Reduces or avoids gluten; and
  • Reduces or avoids other inflammatory foods

Base meals on a range of different vegetables

Most people are not achieving the UK Food Standards Agency recommended intake of 5 portions of vegetables and fruit per day. The average intake is 3 portions per day, this compares to 10 that the Victorians ate. Eating large quantities of fruit is not a substitute for vegetables; while fruit has health benefits, including providing fibre and antioxidants, it is also high in sugar

Why are vegetables and fruit important for health?

Vegetables and fruit contain essential vitamins and minerals as well as fibre (important for healthy bowels) and phytonutrients. Research is accumulating showing that vegetables play an important role in preventing chronic diseases. For example, the phytonutrients in vegetables can reduce inflammation. Inflammation is a critical factor in virtually every degenerative disease from heart disease to diabetes, arthritis, obesity, periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

How many portions per day?

Increase vegetables until you have achieved the ‘half-plate rule’ i.e. half of your plate is vegetables (excluding potatoes) at both lunchtime and suppertime. If this is too much initially you can work on gradually increasing the number of vegetables over a period of weeks. Half a plate at both lunch and supper will provide approximately 6 portions of vegetables per day.

Some ways to increase vegetable consumption:

  • Don’t rely on your evening meal for all your vegetable intake
  • Include a variety of different vegetables at each meal;
  • Take a Tupperware to work with raw vegetable to have with lunch
  • Always order a side order of extra vegetables in restaurants
  • Make extra vegetables in the evening and eat them cold for lunch with an olive oil/lemon juice and garlic dressing – add some raw vegetables as well
  • Eat plant sources of protein e.g. nuts and seeds
  • Have a green smoothie for breakfast or for a snack
  • Be persistent with fussy eaters – encourage them to try at least 10 times! Tastes can be changed/trained
  • Make vegetable soups – e.g. pea and broccoli is very quick to make and can be portioned and stored in fridge or freezer

Avoid sugary foods

Our traditional diet of 10,000 years ago was very low in concentrated sources of sugar – estimates suggest people ate around 2kg per year, which would have come from sources such as wild honey. Modern day tribes still consume sugar at this level i.e. around 2kg of sugar per person per year. In the UK, sugar consumption is closer to 1kg per person per week.

So where are we eating all this sugar? A lot of the sugar we eat is in processed foods and drinks. For example, there are 9 teaspoons of sugar in a can of cola. Even foods that are considered healthy may have high quantities of added sugar – for example yoghurts, breakfast cereals (including mueslis), fruit juice/smoothies and cereal bars.

When checking food labels be aware that sugar comes under many names and a food may contain many different types. For example, sucrose, glucose, fructose, lactose, malt, malt extract, syrup and honey are all different names for sugar.

Why is sugar an issue?

The government’s recommendation is that added sugar should not exceed 30g per day (8.5 teaspoons) for adults, 19g per day (5 teaspoons) for children aged 4 to 6 and 24g per day (6 teaspoons) for children aged 7 to 10 years. This is still a significant quantity of sugar and people suffering chronic health conditions should reduce their consumption below this level. Sugary foods are pro-inflammatory and inflammation is an important contributory factor to many health conditions.

Sugary and high carbohydrate diets can also lead to many symptoms such as

  • Poor memory or concentration
  • Mood swings or depression
  • Frequent headaches
  • Feelings of anxiety, irritability or weakness, especially if a meal is missed
  • Tiredness in the afternoon
  • Feeling stressed
  • Difficulty losing weight

The first few days of reducing sugar can be difficult as cravings may be experienced. After this you are likely to have more energy, improved sleep and may notice an improvement in other symptoms.

Your guide to eating well Your guide to eating well Reviewed by HeaNou on May 06, 2021 Rating: 5

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