6 Simple Guidelines for a Healthy Diet

Fruit

Image by V1ctor Casale

Nutrition is a notoriously complex subject. But sometimes we overcomplicate it…

We’ve reached a stage in our technological advancement where we can do some pretty amazing things. We can analyse the millions of biochemical reactions that take place during the digestion of food. We can isolate certain micro-nutrients and figure out their function in the body. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all pretty interesting, but I think that all too often we fail to keep in context the bigger picture.

We don’t get any closer towards finding out what we should be doing to improve our health and the way our body performs.

Your head is probably full of conflicting information. One day it’s carb loading for the win, another day you’ll hear that being a low carb modern-day hunter gatherer is the way to go.

Perhaps the dude next to you at the gym likes to lecture you on the importance of protein in between his sets of biceps curls, bro.

There’s also an endless number of supplement companies out there who will tell you how great their product is, and convince you why you NEED it in you life NOW. Even medical doctors; those we’re supposed to look towards to help us reach our full health potential, often don’t seem to have much of an idea.

It’s hard to know who to trust. For the most part, the world of mainstream nutrition is currently built on hidden agendas, misinformation, poor education, and false advertising; all bundled up together to create a hell of a lot of confusion…

Back to Basics

I’ve tried my best to cut out some of the nonsense and the emotions that seem to surround food, and make things a little more simple. When people have issues with their diet, it usually comes down to the same basic problem:

Consuming an excess of what you don’t need and inadequate amounts of what you do need.

So coming up are some basic guidelines that I have developed, after lots of personal experimentation and trial and error. Now I’m not saying that you should follow these guidelines, I’m merely sharing what I have found works for me.

I’ve stayed away from percentages and figures, macro nutrient ratios and complex biochemistry; there will be plenty of time to touch on these things at a later date. But for now, have a browse through these principles. If you like, incorporate some of them and perhaps you will begin to see changes in how you look, feel and perform.

My Criteria and Guidelines

For me, the diet I follow should meet three criteria:

  1. It should allow me to achieve prolonged health and vitality.
  2. It should fuel my body and allow me to perform to the top of my athletic capability; helping me to maintain a favourable body composition, aid my recovery from workouts, and contribute towards improving all components of fitness.
  3. It should be ethical and sustainable for the planet.

To achieve these three criteria, these are the guidelines I follow:

1. Consume a diet consisting primarily of plant-based foods, in forms as close to their natural state as possible. 

I aim to consume diet sourced primarily from plants. Fresh ripe fruits and leafy greens, other vegetables, whole grains, pseudo grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.

If you want to get picky, foods such as fruits and veg eaten in their raw state generally have the best nutrient profile. Although cooking food can release certain nutrients, for the most part it destroys a lot more than it releases. Steaming is the least destructive cooking method, and I try to minimise frying and baking. But by all means cooked plants are better than none at all.

2. Pay attention to the quality and sustainability of your food. 

I ideally aim to eat a variety of fresh organic produce that is in season and locally sourced, whenever that’s financially available to me. I avoid heavily processed foods, which contain chemical additives, and preservatives. I minimize added salt, refined sugars, and oils.

3. Keep hydrated.

Water makes up around 70% of your body and is essential for all bodily functions. I usually consume around 2-3 litres a day, and perhaps more if I’m training hard (or on the rare occasion that the sun shows up).

I avoid caffeinated beverages, alcohol and fizzy drinks. Besides drinking water, we can also take in plenty of fluids from fresh fruits and vegetables.

4. Many people achieve improved health when they reduce or eliminate their intake of animal products.

The widespread belief that large amounts of protein are needed for you to thrive is increasingly regarded as a myth. A protein deficiency is nearly impossible to achieve as long as you consume an adequate number of calories from a variety of food sources.

The majority of the benefits that you can get from animal products can also be sourced from plants. And a growing number of scientific studies show that reducing your consumption of animal protein (meat, dairy, eggs) and instead consuming a whole food plant-based diet reduces your risk for a whole range of diseases, may lead to increased athletic and mental performance, and is much more sustainable for our planet.

5. Your body is a great feedback mechanism, listen to it.

Although we are all Homo sapiens and theoretically should all thrive off a similar diet, we are still individuals with slightly different needs. I find that I get digestive issues if I eat foods containing large amounts of gluten. Other people nasty allergic reactions from certain fruits, or go into anaphylactic shock after eating peanuts.

My advice would be to listen to your body, and obviously try to avoid the foods that cause your body to respond unfavourably.

6. Eating habits may be just as significant as the food we eat.

Being present, with a clear state of mind and calm emotions when you are eating can have an important influence on how you digest your food. I used to be the person who always finished their meal first, inhaling it off my plate like a vacuum cleaner. Instead, now I make a concious effort to chew my food thoroughly, and I drink some water prior to eating. I often forget, but I’m working on it.

I ideally aim to consume my meals when I’m not in a rush. Instead I relax, take my time to savour the flavours and enjoy my food!

Your turn to share…

So, there you have it! That’s my current approach to nutrition. The guidelines are not perfect, and they’ll likely change a bit as I continue to learn and grow, but for now they satisfy my three criteria and keep me on track.

You may already have found out what works best for you, and that’s great! I firmly believe that the only way you’ll achieve lasting health is by taking responsibility and making your own decisions. These are my personal guidelines, they may not agree with your values completely, and that’s OK! Take what you think is valuable and throw away the rest!

We’ll take a much closer look at plant based nutrition as the time goes by, but sometimes it’s good to take a step back and consider the big picture. No matter how deep we delve into a subject, we should always try to keep the basics in mind – that goes for nutrition, sports, and just about any other situation you find yourself in life.

Do you have any guidelines for nutrition that you follow? If so, share them in the comments section below!


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Luke Jones
Luke Jones is a mover, blogger and wellness enthusiast. He spends his time exploring and sharing ideas in mindful movement, healthy living and adventure.

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