Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Health Column- Getting the year off to a healthy start – Part Two by Sally Cronin

In Monday’s post I explored the benefits to your liver and general health by drastically reducing refined sugars and artificial fats from your diet.. Today I look at the diet products that allegedly give you the nutrients you need… but in a form that is not recognised by the body!

Part Two – Eat food your body recognises…and can work with!

In my previous posts you will often find me having a poke at the diet food industry – well actually more than a poke. There are certain products that are health related that I do not have a problem with, but I don’t have much time with slimming bars and shakes. I do not care how many nutrients they say are in them, they are not in the form that the body understands or wishes to. We are designed to take our nutrients from natural foods.

I do agree to an extent that what we assume is a nutrient packed vegetable or fruit is not as nutritionally dense as it used to be. Farming methods have changed in the last 50 years or so and we also have to consider the addition of fertilisers that may not be of organic origin. However, despite having busy work or family commitments it is easy and quick to bulk prepare vegetables for several days and it is a great deal cheaper.

In this series I am sharing my strategies for reducing the refined sugars we are likely to have consumed over the holidays. Buying six weeks of diet food instead of natural foods will not accomplish that as you will see later in the post.

However, there are other times of the year when spending at least two weeks in a transitional mode as far as your diet is concerned is a good thing.

Around May time I get a yearning for the crisp crunch of lettuce, the peppery taste of watercress and Rucula, the smooth buttery taste and feel of avocados – I lose my appetite for parsnips and stews with mashed potato and butternut and carrot soups, preferring gazpacho, cold and tangy with an omelette for lunch.

The same happens again in September when I start to think about more root vegetables and warming foods. I think you get the idea.

Our bodies over the last hundreds of thousands of years, would have been sustained by seasonal foods, both animal and plant. It makes sense that we would therefore get the most nutritional benefit from seasonal foods, with the added benefit of an abundance of other fruits and vegetables that we now have year round. It is wonderful to have this access to so many varieties because they offer us so much more than our ancestors could scratch together.

I am fully supportive of any ‘diet’ programme than encourage us to only use fresh produce and cook it from scratch, but some trendy diets out there are a bit too restrictive, and you need to include other fruits and vegetables and other food groups that were not necessarily available to our ancestors.

If you make seasonal fruit and vegetables your primary choices, you can add in others to provide a more varied and balanced diet. This is why I follow my gut as the seasons change every three months and not just at the beginning of the year. It marks the change in different eating patterns from the more stodgy, carbohydrate driven diet for the winter months to the lighter spring available food and the even lighter summer options and then back again.

Many of the commercial diet programmes will deliver between 800 and 1200 calories per day. But, they are not in form the body recognises, except for the high levels of sugar or sugar substitutes added to the product, especially those that state they are Low Fat. 

The body is then running on sugars that are empty calories and your body begins to react to the lack of nutrition.

How many calories do you need each day for the body to function healthily and effectively?

Basal metabolic rate – BMR establishes the approximate calories your body needs to function. At rest, with your digestive system inactive. So basically, first thing in the morning when your organs have been idling, rather than fully functional. This is dependent on your age and gender, and as we age our requirement for calories decreases, which is why you need to make sure you are compensating by including plenty of activity.

The simplest thing is to give you a link so that you can establish according to your age and gender what the minimum calories your body requires. However, it is important to point out that whilst calories are vital, it is also critical that those calories be as nutritious as possible. Particularly, if you are planning on cutting down calorie intake to lose weight.

BMR Calculator: Calories at rest and activity levels

For example my basal metabolic rate at 68 and my current weight is 1634 calories per day. That is not taking into account the calories required to operate my digestive system, organs such as my brain and heart, lungs, liver and kidneys etc. If you are not desk bound, walking around, doing shopping, housework, etc. you will use about 100 calories per hour – in activity and operating the body. That will add about 500 calories per day.

Men use slightly more because of body mass so I use 2000 calories basic requirement for women and 2,300 for men.

I never drop calories for an individual when they are on a weight loss programme to less than 1500 for women and 1800 for men per day.

This creates a deficit in calories of 500 calories per day. Each pound of body fat that needs to be reduced represents 3,500 calories. So in a week that would mean a loss of 1lb of body fat or 52lbs a year.

Going back to the commercial diet products that are high in sugar, with added artificial nutrients providing 1200 calories per day in a format not recognised by the body.

The body will lose weight, particularly excess water in the early days, and then because the body is starved and uses up stores. After six weeks the body kicks into survival mode, especially as the person comes off the products and begins to eat normal foods again. The first reaction is to replenish the stores after the long term nutrient storage, and then because there might be another shortage coming along soon, the body adds some extra stores just in case.

Anyone who has yo-yo dieted and reduced their calories too low for their body’s needs will have experienced this for themselves.

Even if you do drop your calories to 1500 or 1800 the calories should be nutrient dense and be sourced from good quality fresh produce. Your meals should be prepared from scratch using these ingredients, and if you are not very experienced in the kitchen, then do get yourself one of the many excellent cookery books available that promotes healthy produce and preparation.

Don’t buy pre-chopped salads and vegetables

The healthiest fresh produce option is local so that it has not had to travel thousands of miles to reach you and opt for seasonal vegetables.

Buy whole vegetables and fruits rather than pre-chopped. Cabbage will lose at least 50% of its nutritional content once it is chopped and the longer it sits there in that plastic bag the more it will lose. This also applies to bags of chopped salads. It is also a more expensive way to buy your vegetables and fruit. Check the prices but I am pretty sure that the extra that you pay for convenience multiplied over a year will easily pay for a week if not more of shopping.

Also do not be afraid to buy cheaper cuts of meat and get out the slow cooker to prepare a casserole or a roast while you are out at work. You will save both time and money. Visit a farmer’s market and buy your vegetables without them passing through the hands of the distributors. You may find they are all shapes and sizes, rather than beautiful but the nutrients in them are the same.

Bring them home and blanch in salted boiling water for five minutes and then freeze in Ziploc bags. They will only take a few minutes in a microwave or in boiling water to finish cooking.

Here is a basic shopping list of fresh produce split into the major food groups that is much healthier than paying for expensive prepared shakes and bars and is in a form the body recognises and can extract the nutrients it needs effectively.

Vegetables – carrots, red peppers, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, corn on the cob- any dark cabbage or Brussel sprouts, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, watercress, dark lettuce leaves, cucumbers, celery, avocados and potatoes. (Any other fresh seasonal produce you enjoy) At least five or six portions a day – use a cupped handful as an estimated portion size.

Lower Fructose Fruit – Bananas, kiwi, strawberries and any dark berries that are reasonably priced – try frozen. Enjoy all fruit in season at least three portions a day.

Hot lemon and water first thing in the morning will not only give you a Vitamin C hit, start your digestive process off but will also help with sugar cravings.

Wholegrains – brown rice- wholegrain bread – whole wheat pasta – Weetabix – shredded wheat – porridge oats. Please do not buy sugar or chocolate covered cereals – more sugar than goodness. However, as we get older and less active you really only need a large spoonful of rice or porridge in once serving. If you are more active then you can increase that by another spoonful.

Fish – Salmon fresh and tinned- cod – haddock (again frozen can be a good option) any white fish on offer – shellfish once a week such as mussels. Tinned sardines, Tuna and herrings – great for lighter meals. (Any fish that is available fresh not from farmed sources)

Meat and poultrychicken or turkey – lamb, beef and pork. Lean ham for sandwiches, (processed meats should be used sparingly) Venison if you enjoy it. Liver provides a wonderful array of nutrients served with onions and vegetables is delicious. Tofu for vegetarians has become more accessible and can be used by non-vegetarians once a week to provide the other benefits of soya it offers.

Nuts and seeds – to put on your cereal in the mornings or as snacks – check prices out in your health food shop as well as supermarket. Almonds, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts.

Dairy and Eggs Milk, butter -yoghurt. Free Range Eggs – have at least three or four eggs a week.

What is very important is that you eat dairy from grass fed cows, not grain fed.. and if you buy meat, it should also come from grass fed animals. The reason being that the vital vitamin K2 is only present when protein comes from grass fed stock. (more about that in a new series on deficiencies later in January). The butter will be yellow in colour and it should state on the label that it comes from a grass fed herd.

Oils – Extra virgin Olive Oil (least processed) – great drizzled on vegetables with some seasoning and also eaten the Spanish way with balsamic vinegar on salads and also drizzled over toasted fresh bread. If you do not like the taste of Olive Oil then use Sunflower oil – do not use the light version of any oil as it has been processed heavily – use the good stuff. For cooking use ordinary virgin olive oil with a dash of sunflower or butter but do not heat to very high temperatures. You can also use coconut oil which tolerates higher temperatures well and has some additional health benefits.

Honey and extras You really do need to avoid sugars refined and in cakes, sweets and biscuits but honey is a sweetener that the body has been utilising since the first time we found a bee hive and a teaspoon in your porridge is okay. Try and find a local honey to you. You can also use a small spoonful of Manuka Honey which is produced in New Zealand. To obtain the medicinal benefits the honey should be classified as 15+.

SaucesIf you buy your sauces in jars and packets they will have a great many more ingredients than you bargained for. One of the worst is sugar or its substitutes. The greatest cooking skill you can develop is to be able to make a wide variety of sauces from scratch. If you do this you will be not only using fresh produce with its nutritional punch but also taking hundreds of pounds of sugar out of your diet over a lifetime.

Fluids– Green Tea and other herbal teas including dandelion, peppermint and a combined detox tea., tap and mineral water, coffee 1 cup a day (not instant but ground coffee) Black tea also has antioxidants so drink a couple of cups a day. Try with sliced lemon and get some Vitamin C. (depending on the climate and altitude at which you live you will need to experiment to find out how much fluid you need. If you have very low humidity you will need considerably more. Average is around the 2 litres per day of combined fluids).

I hope that the last two posts have helped kick start the year in a healthy way and as always your feedback is appreciated.. thanks Sally.

If you need to lose more than a few pounds and are looking for a long term programme for extensive weight loss, then I am more than happy to send you my book FREE –  Size Matters in Kindle or ePub.  It looks at the issues surrounding obesity (I weighted 330lbs) and includes the programme I developed to lose 150lbs over 18 months and the one that I introduced to my clients over the last twenty-five years. Just email me sally.cronin@moyhill.com

©Just Food for Health 1998 – 2021

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020

35 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Health Column- Getting the year off to a healthy start – Part Two by Sally Cronin

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – January 3rd – 9th 2020 – Breakfast Show, 1960s, Poetry, Book Reviews, Health and Funnies | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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