The 16 basic principles of healthy eating which are a summary of the four posts from Chapter I are:
Most of your diet should be plant-based. That means a lot of different vegetables as well as fruits to a lesser extent.
If your budget allows it – buy from local farmers or buy organic produce.
Be mindful of the sugar content in fruit. Here you can check up the nutritional facts of every food item you encounter, I suggest bookmarking this page.
Avoid sugar from processed sources.
Meat is not your enemy. Lean meat should become a staple in your diet. However, avoid eating processed meat (prepackaged salami, hot dogs, and similar meat look-alikes which you can find in supermarkets) it is very unhealthy.
Add a variety of nuts in your daily diet, however, be mindful of their caloric content.
Fat is not your enemy – olive oil, coconut oil, and oils from different nuts should be a staple in your diet.
Eggs are healthy. Around three eggs per day is the highest amount studies have assessed so far and found no negative effects for.
Dairy is a great source of calories and certain vitamins, you needn’t be afraid of it. Don’t eat it if you’re lactose intolerant.
Whole grains can be included in your diet as well. However, don’t rely heavily on them. If possible, substitute them with vegetables.
Do you work out?
You need less protein than you probably think. A ballpark estimate ranges between 0.8 g and 1.4 g per 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of your bodyweight. Anything more is wasting money and broscience. For elite level power athletes the upper range goes up to 1.8 g per 1 kg of bodyweight.
When reading scientific studies, randomized clinical trials are the go-to study for more definitive answers. Be wary of the sample size (more people means more conclusive information) and statistical significance of a study (p>0.05) – if the p value is over 0.05 then the observation that the study made was likely a coincidence.
You don’t need to eat breakfast if you don’t like it. You don’t need to eat six meals per day. Two to three meals is equally fine, you probably won’t notice any difference, however, if you’re hungry – eat. Eating six meals per day will not “stoke your metabolism”.
Eating more than three meals per day becomes important for someone who is heavily active throughout the day. It is connected to the amount of calories such a person burns and the muscle synthesis that occurs due to exercise.
If you work out – get a good protein source (eggs, lean meat, fish) with or without some carbs after your workout.
Practice intermittent fasting every now and then. Don’t eat anything for a whole day or a 12-18 hour bracket, try doing this a few times per month. Be mindful of what your body tells you – if you’re experiencing negative reactions then stop.
Eat a little less than you need every now and then, this can be substituted for intermittent fasting. It has proven health benefits.
If you don’t mind removing grains – go paleo (eat a lot of vegetables and meat, a little less healthy fats, some fruits, and some nuts), ditch starches, legumes, processed foods and grains.
Which food to eat
- Meat: beef, poultry, pork, rabbit, veal, sheep, goat, wild game, fish
- Vegetables: tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, carrots, squash, bell peppers, eggplant
- Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, pecans
- Fruits: apples, bananas, kiwis, berries, oranges
- Whole grains: bulgur, brown rice, barley, whole rye, buckwheat
- Tubers: sweet potatoes
- Don’t be shy to indulge in dark chocolate (70% cocoa content or more) and red wine.
- Stick to the acronym – JERF (Just Eat Real Food). I suggest keeping in mind that you wouldn’t want to eat something your great grandparents wouldn’t recognize as food.
Which food to avoid
Everything processed that comes in a shiny wrapper. This includes cookies of all sorts, chocolate bars and similar. Different food items I didn’t mention should be avoided.
If you find yourself eating unhealthy food occasionally, it will not kill you – the most important thing is to make a lifestyle change you can stick to. If that means you will eat junk food every once in a while then so be it. As long as the majority of your diet is consisted out of food which is nutrient dense (has a lot of macro- and micronutrients) you will be fine.