Covid-19 and lockdown in many places across the world has meant that staying fit and healthy has been harder than usual for many people. There are many possibilities for this from inability to get shopping deliveries, products selling out, inability to go to the gym or dance class etc., feeling anxious and depressed and not motivated due to the issues surrounding lockdown and covid-19, to name but a few. It can be draining for people to have to put so much effort into getting a food delivery with limited slots, and only to find many of their regular products have already gone. It can be difficult for people to find motivation to create a home exercise routine, and indeed some people do exercise better with others or externally from the home. I work with as a therapist and coach to many people with eating disorders, and it has been hard for some to get their ‘safe foods’ or not to tighten the eating disorder behaviours further under the stress of covid and all that goes with that. Indeed, keeping on top of health and nutrition has been difficult for many people during this difficult time across the world.
As things open up a bit more, and we have more options for health and fitness as well as medical treatment, people may be wanting to begin to get aspects of their health improved. I am going to be offering regular posts on different aspects of health, wellness, nutrition, body – image and related areas. Today, I am starting with basic nutrition. Here’s a reminder of the very basics of nutrition in order to create a healthy and balanced food intake.
Instead of thinking too much about foods being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, let us think more about a balance of needed nutrients, about getting the healthier nutrients the body needs, and the other things to be left to have in moderation. Of course, there are foods that are not so good for us, like refined sugars, and saturated fats. This does not mean you cannot indulge in a pastry now and then or some sweets…balance and moderation are key. You can also live healthily without these foods. The choice is yours on that one.
Think of food as a type of maintenance medicine and a strengthening medicine. Getting the right nutrients gives you energy and health to accomplish what you need, and to your better ability. Nutritional deficiency can affect mood and brain function, can make you tired and lose focus.
Here are the six main groups of nutrients, of which we need all six in order to be healthy:
Sometimes in literature, we see a seventh added – fibre. Getting enough fruit and vegetables and complex carbohydrates should meet fibre requirements.
Fats are divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and trans fats. Trans fats are not good for us and so need to be eaten in moderation. Mono and polyunsaturated fats are essential nutrients and must not be avoided – we need some fat for healthy functioning, and fat is not the enemy! It is about focusing on the healthy mono and polyunsaturated fat over the trans fats. Trans fats are found in things like pastries and commercially friend foods. Trans fats can cause clogging of the arteries if you eat too much of it. Look out for the term ‘hydrogenated vegetable oil’, as this is the source of trans fats.
The average adult needs between 2000 and 2500 calories a day. We need around 1200 just to maintain organs and baseline functioning without any walking, moving, studying and so on. The brain alone needs around 300-500 calories a day to maintain itself. Make sure you don’t go more than a few hours without food (unless sleeping). Some people are OK on three meals a day, some are better with 5-6 smaller meals, or three meals and two snacks. Don’t skip meals.
Here is a succinct write – up of foods in the six main groups, how much we need, and why we need them:
Using this information and these guidelines, you should be able to create meals that are balanced, or at least get all food groups in a day.