A healthy eating guide can be basic...a couple of sentences will have you on the way to a healthy life.

Having a healthy eating guide is by far the best way to go about losing weight, and keeping it off.

When you stick to a healthy eating guide you get all the benefits of weight loss; the increased health, more energy, better looking body, better looking skin, the whole better picture.

Feel free to try other methods...energy bars, supplements, meal replacements...I have, and for some people these will work, for a certain length of time. Maybe a year, maybe two...and I'd love to hear from anyone who has used any of these methods for 5-10 years, is still doing it today, is finding them effective, and can tell me that they are the healthiest option for their body. I couldn't maintain them, and I wasn't too rapt with the additives. There's not really a lot of 'real' food in many of them.

The reason you can stick to a healthy eating guide, is because it provides you the healthiest option for losing weight, keeping it off and looking and feeling great. You can use it as a guide when you go out, if you go on holiday, for your children and it's easy to pick up what you need at the places you normally shop.

What is a healthy eating guide?

A healthy eating guide means that you have a resource for the basics. By basics I mean an understanding of the basics of what to eat, how much to eat...and why we eat those foods.

I do mean basics, you don't need a degree in nutrition, but you do need to understand that the our bodies need nutrients, in many forms (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, carbohydrates, and so on), and that if we eat a wide variety of foods that are fresh and as unprocessed as possible, we'll get all the nutrients we need.

Do we need to know that a carrot has this many milligrams, or micrograms, of a specific vitamin and that we need so many micrograms of that vitamin a day?

No, why? Because if we follow a healthy eating guide that gives us lots of variety of 'real' food, we will get the nutrients we need. We'll get enough energy as well, but not too much fuel that we store fat.

Health eating guide...the basics

The very very very basic of eating healthily is that:

We eat as much of our food as possible from a large variety of unprocessed, unrefined, fresh foods. That we eat many things, as many fruit and vegetables as we like, and everything else in moderation. As a rough guide to how much of each type of food - fruit and vegetables make up 50% of our meals, that lean protein makes up 25% of our meals and carbohydrates make up 25%.

That's about as basic as it gets. There are of course a lot of different ways of going about this...but let's just say that from today you decide that you want to eat healthily, but there's so much information, you just want to concentrate on the very basics...

My Beginning

Being that I was sleep deprived, and as such incapable of keeping detailed nutritional lists of foods, and calorie counts, I went looking for a very simple, very basic guide to get myself on the way to a better looking and feeling me. Something I could remember, something that would start me losing weight and looking good. But something that I didn't need to think about too hard.

Weighing was out of the question...no time, and I couldn't see myself doing it for the rest of my life. Refering to books to check on how many calories was too hard too, there were too many nappies to wash, and feeds to do.

The very very very basic healthy eating guide was a saving grace. I just looked at the amounts on my plate and used my eyesight to assess the percentages. Rough enough was all I needed to start. I varied the vegetables and fruits in the fridge, and swapped the meats around as I remembered.

Sometimes chicken three days in a row. Then fish two days. Sometimes I'd actually swap them daily when I was feeling really creative! But essentially, whether I had enough variety came later, when my brain functioned better, to start with I stuck to the basic guide in terms of as unprocessed as possible, and the percentages of each type of food.

This guide It still serves me well, and it's so easy to remember and use, no matter where you are, that I've started showing my children how to use it.

An Example

So, let's use a rough example on using the most basic healthy eating guide during the day.... breakfast: cereal, say oats or weetbix (carbohydrates, and they're not very processed, unlike say...coco pops) - 1/2 cup of oats (into porridge), so you need 1/2 cup of protein...say low fat milk....now you need a cup of fruit/vegies...say a banana.

So, lunch...2 pieces of wholegrain and soy bread (carbohydrates), protein...100g lean, low fat ham, and baby spinach, avocado, tomato, and carrot as sandwich filling. Plus an apple or nectarine, or plum

Then for dinner...divide your plate into four quarters...two of them should be vegetables, one should be carbohydrates, rice, pasta, and protein (lean mean/chicken/fish) in the last quarter.

We're a bit light on for vegetables and fruit, and we haven't accounted for the snacks during the day. So, fill those snacks with the fruit and vegetables.

So, even if we stick to the very very very basic healthy eating guide, you'll be doing pretty well towards looking great, feeling great, and doing it forever. If you do huge quantities you may still find that you don't lose a lot of weight, but you can cut back on the portions at each meal, after you've got the basic guide under your belt.

If your diet has included a lot of processed foods, just changing to more real foods will see a difference in your waistline...for the better.

Variety...the spice of life

Now if you vary the proteins each day, and the fruit and vegetables, and the carbohydrates, you'll be getting a great variety of healthy, good food, you'll be getting the nutrients you need, you'll have more energy and you'll lose weight (assuming of course you have weight to lose).

Now, I can already hear the yeh right! What about the fat, the sugar?...Well, It is right...remember everything in moderation...you can still have fat...but you don't do deep fried as a mainstay cooking method...deep frying daily is not fat in moderation...it's a huge pot of the stuff that leaches into the food you're cooking.

Remember the part about as unprocessed as possible? Unprocessed also means without additives...if you add sugar, that's an additive. If you add fat to your foods...then you're 'processing'. Yes, you can add fat, and sugar...but remember "in moderation"!

Variety...a little fat is o.k, it's in moderation. But if you're eating fried eggs in the morning, a serve of deep fried chips at lunch and them deep frying chicken in the evening, this is not moderation! This is fat becoming a major contributor to your weight, your hardened arteries, and clogging your skin so that you look blotchy...there's probably a good chance that a fair portion of it is hanging in your double chin too, mine was.

The point is, the very very very basic healthy eating guide is a good place to start. It's not too difficult, you don't really have to weigh or count calories, just look at what's on your plate and honestly assess whether what you're eating follows the guidelines. And follow it as well as you can! Don't aim for the perfect daily diet...there isn't one. Aim to do the very best you can...as often as you can.

Honesty, the best policy...especially in a healthy eating guide

How honest are you about your food? I don't mean with other people, I mean with yourself. Losing weight and keeping it off is a very personal matter, the bottom line is that although support and help from friends and family, health professionals, and work mates, can make a big difference to the process, the bottom line is - it all rests with you!

Why you want it, how you do it, and how effective you are at achieving your goals, ultimately falls on your shoulders.

You need to be honest about why you're trying to lose weight (the reason itself is less important than just that you are motivated) and you need to be honest about what you're eating...to yourself, if you want your healthy eating guide to help.

You need to look at what is going on with your food, as hard, frightening and embarrassing as it may be and you need to acknowledge exactly what you're eating!

If you're not honest about what's happening...you won't change it long term. I can tell you though, once you stop looking at what you're eating and then using this as a way of beating yourself up. "God, no wonder I'm fat", "How can I actually be eating that!", and instead use it as a way of assessing what needs to be changed, as a learning tool, and being objective about it, you'll find it isn't that bad.

You can then start saying: "Right, what am I doing now?", "Now what can I change to help me reach my weight loss, or maintenance goal"

When you're honest you'll see what needs to be changed, if you lie to yourself...then how can you make changes to something that you can't even see, or something that you imagine is there and isn't? You, can't.

A healthy eating guide can be as detailed as you want it to be, or as simple as you need

You can just keep gathering more information and adding to your basic guide as you go. If you have a lot of knowledge about eating healthily then you'll have a detailed guide, good...if you are less concerned about the finer details, then you'll only need the most basic version.

A healthy eating guide is exactly that...a guide that you find usable, and useful, to help you look good, feel great and be healthy. It doesn't need to be 300 pages long. It's a guide, something you can refer to, that reminds you of the guidelines for a healthy, happy body and mind. It's something that you consciously use as a reference point for the best way to be your best, physically, and mentally.

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