Diet, your mood and health
What is healthy eating?
Healthy eating, or a healthy diet, means eating a variety of food (from all the different food groups) served in healthy sized portions while avoiding eating too many high fat or sugary foods. Processed or junk foods are best avoided and regular eating patterns are recommended. All these factors can greatly contribute to good health and a positive mood.
- Carbohydrates which includes bread, pasta, potatoes and cereals.
- Fruit and vegetables which can be fresh, frozen or canned.
- Milk and dairy which includes, cheese and yoghurt.
- Meat, fish, eggs, poultry, nuts and seeds.
We should limit the consumption of fatty and sugary foods which include, cakes, sweets, biscuits, cream and butter.The salt issue
Salt is one of the components necessary for life. Potassium and sodium (salt) are two of the main electrolytes in your body, and these elements have many functions.
We need salt to help transport nutrients and oxygen throughout the body, to send nerve impulses to and from the brain, and to help muscles function correctly.
We are constantly reminded that it's healthy to keep our salt intake down but you must be very careful not to disrupt the balance of these electrolytes. As far as energy is concerned (and health for that matter) too much salt is not a good idea, but so is too little, as this can interfere with potassium chemistry, hinder the body's waste disposal cycles and cause other health complications. This in turn can lead to poor nutrient absorption and stagnation.
In susceptible people, oedema or fluid retention can be caused by excessive salt in the diet, but it is more likely to occur when you get older. You should try to get adequate levels of both of these important minerals in your diet, unless you have been advised by a physician to do otherwise of course.
- Avoid a diet high in salt (no more than 6g a day)
- Eat less saturated fat.
- Eat regular meals (don't skip meals, especially breakfast)
- Drink plenty of water (avoid lots of sugary or fizzy drinks)
- Avoid excess alcohol.
The problems of excess body weight
One avoidable cause of weight gain is that we constantly put too much emphasis on eating food.
Although there's no special occasion, we may spend the day dreaming of a meal to create for the evening.......what to eat?......different and exotic maybe? Where could we go for a good dine out?........we could go there!...............they give generous portions.
You may call in at the supermarket feeling hungry, your eyes bulging at everything that looks delicious and end up buying more than you can eat. Your thoughts can become preoccupied with food which causes you to constantly nibble on snacks.
The three possible reasons for behaving like this are greed (sorry reader), boredom, or you are one of the lucky ones who never gains weight so never has to worry.
The greed factor can be overcome with simple self control and discipline. The boredom factor however is more complicated, and in some cases deserves sympathy.
The pressures of a hard day's work, relationship difficulties or an empty life with nothing to look forward to can leave us looking to food for comfort.
The cure for this is to find new things to give you pleasure and comfort. A hobby or an interest maybe, look forword to settling down to a good movie or a favourite programme at the end of your day, or set up activities with your partner or with friends. These will give you hours of pleasure rather than the short fleeting enjoyment you get while eating a meal.
If you have a problematic relationship which is draining your willpower or self esteem, this has to be addressed first. You can find help with this problem in the Relationships section of the site
If you are carrying excess weight and it's lowering your mood, surely feeling bright and happy about yourself is not worth sacrificing for this short span of food pleasure.
Losing weight and feeling good about yourself is exhilarating, and you can still enjoy food.
Another key reason for weight gain is the labour saving comforts of modern life. It's too easy to sit about and be lazy with all our entertainment gadgets. Food is also much more varied and readily available to many of us than ever before, and we are too willing to indulge. Therefore obesity is becoming a serious problem in some countries, and it's putting a strain on their medical services.
It is better to avoid weight gain in the first place if you can, as it's much harder to lose it than put it on, but if you have become overweight, for health reasons it's a good idea to get down to your ideal body weight.
Evidence shows that the best way to lose weight is to make long-term changes to how many calories you consume and how active you are. Aim to lose weight at around 0.5kg to 1kg a week (1lb to 2lb) until you achieve a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index).
The equation for losing weight is very simple!
Eating less + moving more = losing weight
It looks so simple doesn't it, but most people find it very difficult to achieve.
To that end, numerous magical diets claim to help us lose weight, but with such a bewildering array to choose from, it can be difficult to know which ones will work and will also be best for you.
Lots of people lose weight successfully only to put it all back on again when they stop "dieting".
The reason for this is that the body adapts to the lower food intake by becoming more efficient at nutrient extraction and storing fuel (fat). Then when you come off your diet and eat normaly, the metabolism is in great form for storing foods rapidly and the weight comes back.
To overcome this effect, you should increase your foods gradually and settle on a quantity of food that matches your daily energy requirements.
To be successful at maintaining your desired weight, you need to know the foods you should eat, the foods you should avoid, how often you should eat, and how much you should eat.
Don't forget that there are no miracle cures or quick fixes. If you consume 600 calories or less per day, you should have medical supervision as this can put your health at risk.
Diets that offer very fast weight loss are not sustainable in the long term.
- Educate yourself about food choices.
- Exercise more.
- Have a plan that you can adopt long term that will suit your lifestyle.
Below is a summary of the BDA's findings (The British Dietetic Association) on ten of the most popular diets.
Many of the diets listed here are quick fixes and may not be sustainable or healthy in the long term.
They could make your weight more likely to fluctuate or 'yo-yo'. Remember! The key to losing weight and keeping it off is to reduce your food intake, get more exercise and sustain this regime!
The Dukan Diet is a low-carbohydrate (carb), high-protein diet. There's no limit to how much you can eat during the plan's four phases, providing you stick to the rules of the plan.
During phase one, you're on a strict lean protein diet. This is based on a list of 72 reasonably low-fat protein-rich foods, such as chicken, turkey, eggs, fish and fat-free dairy.
This is for an average of five days to achieve quick weight loss.
Carbs are off limits except for a small amount of oat bran. Unlike the Atkins diet, Dukan's phase one bans vegetables and seriously restricts fat.
The next three phases of the plan see the gradual introduction of some fruit, veg and carbs and eventually all foods. The aim is gradual weight loss of up to 2lb a week and to promote long-term weight management. There's no time limit to the final phase, which involves having a protein-only day once a week and taking regular exercise.
You can lose weight very quickly, which can be motivating. It's a very strict and prescriptive diet and some people like that. It's easy to follow. You don't need to weigh food or count calories. Apart from keeping to low-fat, low-salt and high-protein foods, there's no restriction on how much you can eat during your first two weeks.
At the start of the diet you may experience side effects such as bad breath, a dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, insomnia and nausea from cutting out carbs. The lack of wholegrains, fruit and veg in the early stages of the diet could cause problems such as constipation.
The Atkins Diet
The Atkins Diet is a low-carb, high-protein weight loss programme. You start with a low-carb diet designed for rapid weight loss. This lasts at least two weeks depending on your weight loss goal. During this phase, you're on a protein, fat and very low-carb diet, including meat, seafood, eggs, cheese, some veg, butter and oils.
In contrast to the Dukan diet, Atkins allows unlimited fat and some veg, such as peppers, cucumber and iceberg lettuce, during phase one. During the next three phases, the weight loss is likely to be more gradual, and regular exercise is encouraged. More carbs, fruit and veg are introduced to your diet with the aim of working out what your ideal carb intake is to maintain a healthy weight for life. Phase one is designed to help you lose up to 15lb in two weeks, reducing to 2lb to 3lb during phase two.
You can lose weight very quickly, which can be motivating. The diet also encourages people to cut out most processed carbs and alcohol. With its diet of red meat, butter, cream, cheese and mayonnaise, it's one of the few diets out there that appeals to men.
Initial side effects can include bad breath, a dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, insomnia, nausea and constipation from cutting out carbs and fibre. The high intake of saturated fat may increase your risk of heart disease and there are concerns that a lack of fruit, veg and dairy products and a high protein intake may affect bone and kidney health in the long term.
The Cambridge Diet
The Cambridge Weight Plans are based around buying and eating a range of meal-replacement products with the promise of rapid weight loss. There are six flexible diet plans ranging from 415kcal to 1,500kcal or more a day, depending on your weight loss goal. There is also a long-term weight management programme.
The bars, soups, porridges and shakes can be used as your sole source of nutrition or together with low-calorie regular meals. While on the programme, you receive advice and support on healthy eating and exercise from a Cambridge adviser.
Many people on very low-calorie diets (VLCDs) find the weight loss to be sudden and quite dramatic.
The meal replacements are all nutritionally balanced so you're likely to be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need albeit not from real food.
Initial side effects can include bad breath, a dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, insomnia, nausea and constipation from cutting down on carbs and fibre. The hardest part of the plan is sticking to it. Giving up normal meals and swapping them for a snack bar or a shake can be boring and feel socially isolating.
This isn't a plan you can stick to in the long term.
The South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet is a low-GI diet originally developed for heart patients in the USA.
There's no calorie counting and no limits on portions. You're encouraged to eat three meals and two snacks a day and follow an exercise plan. People who have more than 10lb to lose start with phase one.
This is a two-week quick weight loss regime where you eat lean protein, including meat, fish and poultry, as well as some low-GI vegetables and unsaturated fats. Low-GI carbs are re-introduced during phases two and three, which encourage gradual and sustainable weight loss.
If you can avoid phase one and start on phase two, there are fewer dietary restrictions in the rest of the plan than some other popular diets. After phase one, the diet broadly follows the basic principles of healthy eating. No major food groups are eliminated and plenty of fruit, veg and low-GI carbs are recommended.
The severe dietary restrictions of phase one may leave you feeling weak and missing out on some vitamins, minerals and fibre. You may initially experience side effects such as bad breath, a dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, insomnia, nausea and constipation.
The Slimming World Diet
Slimming World's weight loss plan encourages you to swap high-fat foods for low-fat foods that are naturally filling. You choose your food from a list of low-fat foods they call 'Free Foods', such as fruit, vegetables, pasta, potatoes, rice, lean meat, fish and eggs, which you can eat in unlimited amounts.
There's no calorie counting, no foods are banned and you're still allowed the occasional treat. You can get support from fellow slimmers at weekly group meetings and follow an exercise plan to become gradually more active.
The plan is designed to help you lose about 1lb to 2lb a week.
No foods are banned so meals offer balance and variety and are family-friendly. The portion size from each food group will vary depending which plan you follow. The 'Body Magic' booklet they provide gives ideas to help you raise your activity levels. Meeting as a group can provide valuable support.
Slimming World doesn't educate you about calories. Without having learned about calories and portion sizes, you may struggle to keep the weight off in the long term when you come off the programme.
The Slim-Fast Diet
The Slim-Fast Diet is a low-calorie meal replacement plan for people with a BMI of 25 and over. It uses Slim-Fast's range of products. The plan recommends three snacks a day from an extensive list, including crisps and chocolate, two meal replacement shakes or bars and one regular meal, taken from a list of recipes on the Slim-Fast website.
You can stay on the diet for as long as you want depending on your weight loss goal.
Once reached, you're advised to have one meal replacement shake a day, up to two low-fat snacks and two healthy meals. The plan is designed to help you lose about 1lb to 2lb a week and you can follow the diet for as long as you want.
Meal-replacement diets can be effective at helping some people to lose weight and keep it off.
The plan is convenient as the products take the guesswork out of portion control and calorie counting.
No foods are forbidden although you are encouraged to eat lean protein, fruit and vegetables.
On their own, meal-replacement diets do little to educate people about their eating habits and change their behaviour. There's a risk of putting the weight back on again once you stop using the products. You may find it hard to get your 5 a day of fruit and veg without careful planning.
The LighterLife Diet
The LighterLife weight loss plans combine a very low-calorie meal-replacement diet with weekly counselling. With LighterLife Total, for people with a BMI of 30 or more, you eat four 'food packs' a day, consisting of shakes, soups, mousses or bars, and no conventional food.
LighterLife Lite, for those with a BMI of 25-30, involves eating three food packs a day plus one meal from a list of approved foods. You stay on the plans until you reach your target weight.
The meal plans can lead to very rapid weight loss and you're advised to see your GP before starting.
How long you stay on the diet depends on how much weight you have to lose.
The counselling can help you understand your relationship with food, so hopefully you can make lasting changes to keep the weight off for good. With the meal replacements, there's no weighing or measuring, so it's a hassle-free approach to weight loss.
Initial side effects of the diet can include bad breath, a dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, insomnia, nausea and constipation from cutting down on carbs and fibre. Surviving on a strict diet of shakes and soups and other meal replacements isn't much fun and can feel socially isolating.
The WeightWatchers Diet
The WeightWatchers plan is based on the ProPoints system, which gives a value to foods and drink based on protein, carbs, fat and fibre content. It is essentially a calorie-controlled diet where you get a personal daily ProPoints allowance, which you can use how you like.
There's no limit on the amount of fruit and most veg you can eat. You also get a weekly ProPoints safety net in case you go over your allowance, and an individual exercise plan.
The weekly meetings and confidential weigh-ins provide support and extra motivation to encourage long-term behaviour change. The plan is designed to help you lose up to 2lb a week.
No foods are banned so you can eat and drink what you want providing you stick to your points allowance. The ProPoints system is easier to follow for some than calorie-counting and less restrictive than other plans. This is because it introduces a safety net of points, which can be saved up for a special occasion, such as a night out, a small amount of alcohol or treats.
When you begin, working out the points system can be just as time consuming as simply counting calories. Some people feel pressured into purchasing WeightWatchers branded foods.
The Rosemary Conley Diet
Rosemary Conley's Diet and Fitness plans combine a low-fat, low-GI diet with regular exercise. You can follow her recipes or buy from her range of calorie-controlled ready meals and snacks.
You're encouraged to eat food with 5% or less fat, with the exception of oily fish, porridge oats and lean meat. A network of local Rosemary Conley clubs offers weekly exercise classes, support and motivation.
You learn about calorie counting and portion size, which can help you sustain your weight loss beyond the programme.
The diet is designed to help you lose a stone in seven weeks. How long you stay on the plan depends on your weight loss goal.
The programme is based around calories, with a focus on cutting fat. The 'portion pots', which are used to measure foods such as rice, cereal, pasta and baked beans, teach you about portion control. Physical activity is an integral part of the weight loss plan, with exercise sessions suitable for all ages, sizes and abilities offered at their weekly classes with trained leaders.
Some low-fat products aren't necessarily more healthy because they can still be high in sugar and calories. It is unrealistic to expect people to go out with their portion pots and, therefore, portion control may be more tricky away from the home.
The Jenny Craig Diet
The Jenny Craig programme has three main features: one-to-one support, a meal delivery service and tailored exercise plans. The weekly, personalised telephone consultations provide advice, motivation and support.
The diet adviser assesses your reasons for gaining weight and, over the course of the programme, helps you to change your behaviour.
The meals and snacks are packed into single-sized portions to suit your weight-loss needs.
You need to add certain fresh fruits, veg and low-fat dairy products. The programme is designed to help you lose between 1lb and 2lb a week until you reach your target weight.
All the meals, including snacks, are calorie-counted, portion-controlled and delivered to your door.
You eat real food, receive telephone support and learn about portion size, calories and exercise, which can all help you make healthier choices beyond the programme.
The meals don't contain fruit, veg or dairy, which will be an additional expense.
This isn't an approach that you can stick to in the long term so it's vital to learn how to prepare or choose healthy food yourself rather than relying on someone else.
The Two Day Diet
The Two Day Diet involves eating 650 calories a day for two days a week, consisting mainly of milk, fruit and vegetables. For the other five days a week you can eat as much as you like, but you are encouraged to eat healthily.
On the two "fasting days" the milk provides protein, calcium and other essential nutrients, and helps fill you up, while the vegetables and fruit provide fibre, nutrients and bulk.
- 2 pints of semi-skimmed milk or the equivalent in yoghurt or cottage cheese
- At least 2 pints of other low-calorie drinks such as tea, coffee, herb teas, sparkling water, flavoured sparkling water, sugar-free or no-added-sugar fruit squash, plus diet, sugar-free or no-added-sugar fizzy drinks
- 1 portion of fruit
- 4 portions of vegetables or salad
- 1 combined multi-vitamin and multi-mineral tablet
- 1 x 200g pot Mullerlight yoghurt
- 2 x 120g pots diet yoghurt
- 150g low-fat or 2% fat natural yoghurt
- 100g whole milk natural or fruit yoghurt
- 100g low-fat plain fromage frais
- 100g cottage cheese
On the 'fasting days' you can consume the following:
If you don't like milk, you can substitute each third of a pint for:
Ingredients are limited, but there are plenty of ways to add interest and flavour: make creamy vegetable soups; add spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg to hot milk; whip up a fruit smoothie or blend cold milk with ice cubes and strawberry flavouring or vanilla essence.
A relatively new diet with encouraging results (lots of personal success stories) Might help you live longer and reduce the risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer, diabetes and alzeimer's. Research suggests that fasting is good for you.
Not a lot known about it yet, more research needed in order to judge its effectiveness accurately.
Could be difficult to sustain and might encourage eating disorders.
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