I’m sure many of us are bored of learning about the ‘EatWell’ plate; it’s usually taught in the lower years of school when we didn’t give a second thought to nutrition or portion control (…having seconds was a regular thing, and don’t even start on pudding!) But, back in those days, most of us could get away with eating whatever and whenever we liked. Partly because there was relatively little peer pressure, and partly because hormones and metabolism hadn’t become these ‘evil’ forces causing acne and overweight issues.
However, most teenagers inevitably learn that their bodies shouldn’t be treated as rubbish bins, and that the constant eating of processed foods causes acne and weight-gain. I can relate to this as I have very honest skin. If I haven’t been eating well, exercising enough, sleeping deeply, drinking plenty of water or even just not getting enough fresh air and relaxation time, oh boy, my skin will let me know. I imagine that a radar goes off beneath the surface of my skin, provoking the most painful breakouts usually smeared across my T-zone, which is also saturated in oil — and don’t get me started on my under eyes!
So, my honest skin is one of the main reasons I am so keen to live a healthy lifestyle. I want to reach out to people who are with me on my acne rollercoaster (where during the most aggressive breakouts, I was sure people saw my acne before they saw me) and help them to appreciate and love their clear skin, as we all did back in those smooth, blemish free kiddy years!
So, I kind of went off on a bit of a tangent. But what can I say? I enjoy writing! OK, where was I? Ah, yes: the ‘EatWell’ plate. How about some stats? Here goes, the ‘EatWell’ plate states that in order for our meals to be classed as balanced, they must contain the following: 33% high carb, starchy food (bread, pasta, rice, potato, cereal etc), 33% fruit and veg (carrot, peas, apple, melon etc), 12% meat and fish – if veggie, beans (turkey, chicken, salmon, kidney beans etc), 15% dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt etc) and – most people’s favourite part – 7% sweets and fat (pastries, crisps or chips, fast food hotdogs, burgers, fries etc).
The most shocking part for me is the tiny amount of meat/ fish; when I think about it, most meals are based around the meat whilst veggies and carbs are simply sides. From the ‘EatWell’ plate, we learn that balanced meals are ones where the veggies and carbs become centre of attention, with meat being less focused on. Wait, slow down! You’re telling me I should forget about the beef for my Sunday roast? Well, kind of. Plant based meals are all the trend right now. With hundreds of food bloggers sharing their plant-based, vegan, raw food, it’s becoming hard not to switch our diets around! Although, I’ve jumped more of the bandwagon of the Hemsley sisters, who embrace whole ingredients such as meat, veggies and butter – unprocessed foods that haven’t been messed with. I think proper, balanced food should be about simple ingredients. I know I sound like the blurb of a healthy cookbook, but maybe I’ve read too many!
The rule of thumb is: if you can’t pronounce the ingredient, it probably isn’t good for you! In addition, when buying foods like chocolate, cereal and snack bars, if sugar (including glucose-fructose syrup) or processed fats (usually palm oil) are in the top three ingredients, put it back on the shelf! Another final thing to note: there IS such a thing as good fats and good sugars. Good fats are unprocessed and unrefined such as butter, coconut oil, avocado, cold pressed rapeseed and olive oil. Good sugars come from natural, raw produce like coconut sugar, pure maple syrup, agave nectar, medjool dates (plus fruit in general) and honey.
So how do I eat balanced? These basic principles should be kept in mind:
- As much as possible, use raw, unprocessed ingredients.
- Make veggies and carbs central to your meal, including a variety – little bits of what’s good for you – lots of different colours on your plate is the way to go!
- Allow one small treat a day.
- Keep your portions reasonable, stop when you’re satisfied, not when you’re full.
- Decide whether you’re actually hungry or just bored, even thirsty.
- Drink plenty of water in between meals to reduce snacking.
- Snack on nutrient dense brain food such as dried fruits and nuts.
The wonderful truth is, we don’t need to eat less, we just need to eat better! Food is meant to do more than just feed us, we should enjoy the ritual, the experience. Eating with our friends and family can be the most wonderful and precious of times. And guess what? It something we do everyday! We really should make a meal of it (pardon the pun!) and I say this having just finished a great family meal which has been cooking all day in the oven and which we all, to varying degrees, helped to get to the table. It’s nobody’s birthday – it’s a midweek school night! But we came together and feasted on good, honest, home prepared delicious food.