Hanna Taller nutritionist shared her insight on healthy eating with us.
What is a healthy lifestyle?
Nowadays we often hear that we have to eat healthily and exercise regularly. We see pictures of healthy foods all over social media, and hear different advice from different influencers. It can be hard to navigate between all this advice, not knowing which one is true and which one is not. This can make it tough to follow a healthy lifestyle. A lot of the time these meals are made with ingredients, which aren’t always accessible in Hungary, not to mention in your pantry.
However, all of this doesn’t have to sway you from following a healthy lifestyle. You can make a healthy meal with the ingredients you have in your pantry.
Throughout my studies, I have learned that there are two essential rules for a healthy lifestyle. The first one comes from my professor David A. Levitsky. It contains three steps, which he calls the three rules for good nutrition:
1. Eat a variety of foods
2. Exercise regularly
3. Portion control
Eating a variety of foods allows your body to receive all the nutrients that it needs. A healthy meal plan doesn’t restrict you from any of the food groups. Your body needs carbs, fiber, protein, healthy fats and natural sugars to function properly. Eating a variety of foods can also be maintained by eating a colorful diet. Different colored vegetables and fruits have different vitamins in them, and our body needs all of them to function properly.
Restrictive diets don’t work in the long run. These don’t only restrict us from eating, but also in social situations. When going out to eat with friends and family ,a restrictive diet may stop you from enjoying a meal, because you had to pay attention to all the foods that you couldn’t have. After a while these diets make you crave the foods you cannot have, and you have to make an even bigger effort to control yourself. Once you slip up it is hard to take back control, you start to gain weight very quickly, which can be even more pounds then you lost before. This is called yo-yo dieting. One thing that you certainly have to pay attention to while eating a healthy diet is to only eat foods with added sugars in moderation (chocolate, soda, dessert, etc.)
Exercise has many benefits for your body. It increases turnover of neurotransmitters (norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine), because of this exercise has anti-depressive effects. Less depression leads to self-efficacy and therefore better dietary and health choices. It makes you feel in control. Exercise is also correlated with lower risk of breast, colon, prostate, endometrium, esophagus, lung, and kidney cancer. However, if you’ve been diagnosed before please consult your doctor before you start exercising, and follow your doctor’s recommendations. It helps you regulate your body weight. Regular exercise is also related to lower blood pressure, and lowers your chances of developing cardiovascular disease.
The last rule – eat the smallest portion possible – means eating the smallest amount that satiates you. Following a healthy diet and lifestyle, doesn’t mean that you have to starve yourself or even diet. Dieting inclines that you have to follow guidelines that restrict you from certain food groups. Besides eating there is one more thing that you have to pay attention to, and it is to drink enough water or unsweetened tea throughout the day, around 1.5-2 liters.
There is a dietary guideline that can help you visualize the correct portions for every meal. We have been using it since 2011 and it is called: My Plate. It divides your plate in four sections. Half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables, a quarter of it is for grains and the last quarter should be made up of protein. Carbohydrates can be divided into two groups: Slow- and fast acting carbs. The difference between them: their glycemic index. The glycemic index shows how fast the carbohydrate is absorbed in our body.
This is why it is important to favor the slow- acting carbohydrates in a meal. Slow – acting carbs can be found in: peas, lentils, sweet corn, bread made with whole grain flour, etc. Due to the fact that slow- acting carbs don’t raise your insulin levels so high, they provide you with the feeling of being full for a longer period of time.
Some examples for fast – acting carbohydrates: foods with added sugar (chocolate, soda, pastries made with all-purpose flour, etc.), white rice, potatoes.
This method allows you to keep your preferences, your culture, and your traditions alive, while guiding you to make healthier choices.
A perfect visualization for the My Plate method is a Buddha bowl. The food groups that I’ve mentioned above are perfectly displayed in this meal. The base can be quinoa, brown rice, couscous, etc. Then we add the vegetables: zucchini, carrots, and pumpkin, anything that is in season. Lastly comes the protein that can be animal or plant-based. Lastly, the necessary oil intake can be found in the sauce that is drizzled on top.
Written by: Hanna Taller