Eating fit – The Five Fundamentals of Weight Loss
Fat – less than 10g fat per 100g
Fibre – more than 5g fibre per 100g
Five – regular meals per day
Fruit – at least three per day
Fill up – with protein, quality carbohydrates and less processed foods
A balanced diet is required to ensure that you have all the nutrients you need to be the best you can be. All foods contain Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat in varying amounts. Your body needs all of these nutrients but in different amounts. In order to become a healthy weight a diet low in fat, moderate to high in carbohydrate and moderate in protein is ideal.
FAT packs in over twice as many calories per gram than either carbohydrate or protein. Excess dietary fat is easily stored as body fat around the stomach, hips, bottom, chest or thighs. Although fat contributes more calories it gives comparatively less satisfaction than eating low GI carbohydrate or protein foods. When aiming to maintain optimal health the amount and type of fat can make a big difference. Not only are saturated and trans fats very high in calories but high intakes have been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and forms of cancers. Mono and polyunsaturated fats supply essential fatty acids and along with all fats act as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants. However excess of these healthy fats will also lead to unhealthy weight gain.
All fats can be minimized in order to become a healthy weight at which point they can be re-introduced in an optimal health diet. All foods contain some fat so even a diet which is void of visible fats will still contribute essential fat to your diet while your stores of fat reserves will contribute any remaining fat required by the body.
You will have foods that are part of your normal daily diet that you love e.g. chocolate or cheese! The good news is that all fit and healthy people are not perfect in food choice. It is possible to be a healthy weight while eating higher fat foods when you are in control of how much you eat and when i.e. a few pieces of chocolate after dinner versus eating a block for lunch.
FIBRE is the part of plant foods that is very slow to digest. While fibre is well known for its benefits to the heart and bowel and preventing cancer, its inclusion in meals is very important in obtaining a healthy weight.
A meal high in fibre will be slow to digest releasing energy over a longer period of time, sustaining a longer lasting feeling of fullness and the benefit of needing to eat less at each meal for that feeling of fullness. Fibrous meals are usually less processed, contain whole grains, pulses, beans, fruits or vegetables.
FIVE meals a day keeps your hunger in check. Your blood glucose and insulin levels remain constant suppressing the urge to eat. The nutrients required by your brain to focus and make good healthy decisions are supplied by small regular meals. By having five smaller meals spread across the day you are less likely to overeat and more likely to make the right choices when you’re keeping your appetite at bay. Aim to eat every two to three hours. The idea of doing this is so you can reduce the size of those larger meals of lunch and/or dinner without feeling hungry.
The graph illustrates the effect that meal frequency can have on levels of satisfaction relating to energy levels and hunger.
FRUIT fresh, frozen or canned, carry an abundance of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants - all for very few calories – and the same applies to vegetables. Aim for a mixture of different colors so you receive a variety of different vitamins and antioxidants which are color specific. By including vegetables at lunch and dinner you can easily achieve the recommended 3 servings a day. Fruit takes more planning so we suggest focusing on eating a minimum of three handfuls of fruit per day as part of your breakfast, lunch and morning tea. Eating more than this is fine as long as you keep portion size in mind i.e. the extra fruits replace other sources of carbohydrates within your normal daily meals. (Find out more meal Ideas for losing weight here)
FILL UP with protein, quality carbohydrates and less processed foods. Like low GI carbohydrates - protein takes a longer time to digest. If we add protein to a meal it works hard to fill you up by slowing down the digestion of the entire meal. This means you can eat less while still feeling full. Protein is required continuously to create, maintain and renew our body cells. High quality lean protein foods also contain many nutrients essential to health including iron, zinc, B vitamins and omega 3s. Protein is essential for maintaining and building muscle mass, which is increases metabolic rate – the rate at which your body burns calories.
Carbohydrates have one major function in the body; to provide fuel. All organs including the brain, nervous system and also red blood cells must have a constant supply of carbohydrates in order to keep functioning. The wide variety of carbohydrate containing foods including fruits and vegetables provide an enormous range of essential vitamins and minerals.
The quality of carbohydrate that is becoming increasing recognized as the key to a healthy weight. Low Glycaemic Index (G.I.) and high fibre carbohydrates are slowly digested and released into your bloodstream. These types of carbohydrates help to reduce hunger, keeping you fuller for longer with a constant stream of energy. The result is that you eat less at each meal enabling you to decrease weight without hunger.
By controlling the speed of digestion you place a lower load on insulin. Insulin is a hormone which triggers the deposition of fat while it works to correct high blood glucose levels.
Processed foods include those that have been manipulated in some way to improve taste, texture, transportability, food safety or shelf life. Preserved or frozen foods can actually hold more nutrients then their fresh counterparts that can often be left for days before consumption. However processing foods can add energy in the form of fats or sugars, or increase the speed of digestion by decreasing the Glycaemic Index of the food.
Many of these foods may also have a higher sodium content which is linked to fluid retention, high blood pressure and stiffening of arteries preventing adequate blood flow and also an interference with other essential vitamins and electrolytes. I
n today’s time poor world, packaged pre–prepared foods, while not as good as fresh foods, are an excellent alternative to fast food. Healthy meals can be prepared very quickly with a packet of carbohydrate, a tin of protein and a pottle of salad. So always keep fresh ingredients in the forefront of your mind but don’t feel guilty about choosing good quality packaged foods for your convenience.