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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Health For Life Food Pyramid

There's so much conflicting advice out there about what to eat, what not to eat, how much to eat, that it's indeed for the uninformed or untrained individual to really separate the truth from what's mere hype and pure politics.

As a health coach and nutritionist, I have had my share of confusion. After much research and study, here's what my take on a healthy diet plan that would not only help you achieve your desired weight (whether you need to gain or lose weight), as well as stay healthy for life:

1. Eat foods that provide your body with the necessary building blocks to make healthy cells, enhance your body's natural antioxidant defense system, immune system, repair system, while maintaining hormonal balance. That means the focus should primarily be on the quality of the food you eat rather than simply how much is the proportion of carbo, fats and proteins you should take.

2. Debunking the myth of the well-balanced diet. The base of the traditional Food Pyramid recommends 6 to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta, as we have taught that this is our "staple". So, for the Asians, this mean a big serving of rice (mostly white) or noodles, with a small portion of meat and vegetables. I prefer the Healthy for Life Food Pyramid, recommednded by Ray Strand, M.D., author of Healthy for Life.

What he recommends is to have 40 - 50% of your calories coming from carbohydrates, 30% from fat and 20 - 30% from protein.

3. Forget about calorie counting or starving yourself! My gosh, how many of you out there actually counts or is able to count the number of calories in every of your meal? Someone suggested the other day that I list down the number of calories in the recipes given in my Healthylicious Meals website, and my response was: "Whatever for?" As long as the ingredients used are super healthy for us, all we have to do is just eat enough.

Quick weight loss diets that endeavours to help followers lose weight by calorie restriction are simply NOT going to work in the long term. Experience and research has shown that people on such diets are simply unable to stay on the diet for long, and whatever weight they do lose, will come back as soon as they are off the diet.

4. Eat enough and often. What I teach my clients is to learn how to enjoy what they eat - to delight in each bite - rather than to stuff themselves and end up feeling sick from having overeaten! The key is to eat slowly, and savour the myriad sensations of the food you are eating. (You probably can't do that for the hamburger from the fast food restaurant, so that should tell you something, right?)

That way, your brain has enough time to register that you are full already and can stop eating. Start with small portions and just enjoy what's on your plate slowly.

Eating small meals many times a day is better than eating three full meals a day. I eat at least five times a day - breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and supper. People who know me are amazed that I can stay so slim as they see me getting hungry and eating all the time!

5. Eating good carbo. One of the main culprits that have contributed to an alarming increase in obesity worldwide is the amount and quality of the carbohydrates that is being consumed. The base of the traditional Food Pyramid recommends 6 to 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta, 85 - 90% of which are highly processed, with high glycemic index! Your white bread and white rice is even worse than table sugar when it comes to spiking your sugar level. Do you wonder now why more and more people are becoming diabetic?

6. Eating whole foods. Whole foods simply mean foods that mankind has not changed in any way - no processing, minimal cooking e.g. your fruits and vegetables. These would be your source of good carbo. They contain vital nutrients, are mostly low-glycemic and have a low glycemic load, with the exception of white potatoes. If possible, avoid white potatoes; I substitute them with my favourite sweet potatoes, for my curries and soups, or even as my side dish in the form of baked sweet potato.

7. Not all fats are bad. In fact, fats are essential for our health - it is needed to build our cell membranes, brain cells, nerves, as well as many of our hormones. The problem is not in the fats, or even the cholesterol that we take, but really the kind of fats we are consuming. More in a future article as this is a huge topic on its own. For me and my family, I use mostly olive oil and coconut oil.

8. And for me personally - no milk! The common erroneous thinking is that we need to drink milk to get the calcium we need. A great example of the misinformation we have been indoctrinated with for centuries! Your best source of absorbable calcium (and other nutrients) is still your whole foods, and nuts and seeds.

9. Last but not least, you need to supplement for cellular health. Good cellular nutrition is the solution to oxidative stress - the underlying cause of more than 70 chronic degenerative disease like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's.

Exactly what and how much you need can only be covered in another article; suffice it to say that the basics I would recommend are: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, B Vitamins, CoQ10, Glutathione precursor, minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, chromium, copper, manganese.

Watch out for my next article for more details on this. Meanwhile, if you have queries, do write to me at or post a comment here.

Healthy for Life

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