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Healthy Easy Recipes For Busy People Who Love to Cook

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What is Healthy - The Traffic Light System


What exactly is healthy eating? There is so much information out there its hard to know what to listen to and what to ignore.  In my quest to understand food and how it shapes my health and the health of my family I have read a lot of books and articles about food, diets, eating plans and general using food as medicine.     

This page runs through some things I have learned in my 40 years, however I need to say two things first:

      •  I am not qualified formally in nutrition.  All the information below is based on information

         I have learned and then applied to my personal experiences.  

     •  I do not have all the answers. I am starting to understand diet has a big impact on the

        way my family and I feel day to day and am constantly building my knowledge.  But I

        don't have all the answers and I'm not sure I ever will.


The Traffic Light System

While I do not think diets work and eating plans with way too many rules are set up to fail I think everyone needs some simple rules to understand when choosing a healthy lifestyle.  I call this my Traffic Light System. Green foods you can eat as much of as you like.  Yellow foods you should keep an eye on and Red foods you should try to avoid where possible.

I'm not saying you can't eat red foods, but understand they are not very good for you and you should avoid if you can.  As long as you follow this system 80% of the time you are on the right track.



























Some basic things to understand

Gut Health

Gut health is linked to just about everything.  I am certain that the health of your gut affects not only your overall well-being but also your ability to fight most diseases, infections and viruses.  I also believe bad gut health is the root cause of many allergies and that we are only just beginning to understand the full impact an unhealthy gut has on the body.  Did you know:

     •  It can take up to two years for your gut flora to recolonize your intestines after taking          

        antibiotics.  There are natural antibiotics such as Oregano Oil which do not kill the good  

        bacteria.

     •  Recent research shows kids with peanut allergies that take peanuts at the same time as

        a certain probiotic have no reaction to the peanuts.

     •  Dandruff is a yeast infection in your scalp.  Yeast infections like dandruff and thrush are

        unlikely to occur when you have healthy gut bacteria.

     •  Most over the counter probiotics are wastes of time.  The acid in your gut destroys them.  

        You can buy probiotic tablets that are enteric coated and only break down in your

        intestine.


Personally when pregnant with my daughter I had a really bad infection and had to take two courses of antibiotics.  When my daughter was four weeks old we realised she had a number of allergies to animals.  I worked really hard to build up her gut health and those allergies have all now gone completely.  

Things that can affect your gut health include:

     •  Taking antibiotics

     •  Eating too much sugar processed foods and carbohydrates

     •  Not eating enough foods high in probiotics (the good bacteria) and prebiotics (food for

        good bacteria).  These foods include fermented foods such as apple cider vinegar and

        sauerkraut, yogurts, raw foods and food with high fibre.


Eating Meat

I love eating meat.  But I have began to understand that your body has to work very hard to process meat and it makes you feel tired and eating too much can also affect your weight.  Meat is also expensive and has a much higher impact on the environment than other foods.  As a result as a family we have tried to cut down the amount of meat we have in each meal and are trying to find some vegetarian meals so we can have one meat free meal a week (it's a work in progress).  On nights when we are having meat we try to limit the amount of 100g per adult per meal.  Considering when you go out for a steak it's very hard to find one under 250g this seems a little radical but its actually plenty of food if your also having vegetables or salads and your body and wallet will thank you for it.


The problem with sugar

Sugar is the cause of so many preventable diseases today.  From heart disease to diabetes, research is starting to show that it is sugar and not fat that is the cause.  Sugar is in almost everything we buy, including things you don't expect to find it in like bread and sauces.  Did you know many low fat products have added sugar because when you remove the fat you need sugar to make it tastes nice.  Food manufacturers have known for decades that putting sugar in almost everything will make us like it more and we will buy it more.  You should start looking at the back of packet of everything you buy and know how much sugar is in there.  I promise you it will change the way you see package foods once you know.

The important thing to understand is that the nasty part of sugar is a substance called fructose.  Fructose is energy which stored as fat if its not used immedately.  It can be found in many things other than sugar and all should be monitored.

Refined sugar itself has been banned in my house, and any packaged foods which have a sugar content of greater than 10% (apart from the occasional treat of course).  There is one small container of raw sugar my husband uses in his coffee once a day but other than that you will not find any.  If I need a recipe that requires sweet I use the following alternatives:

     •  Honey – while it contains fructose it's twice as sweet as sugar so you use much less.  It

        also has antibacterial properties and many other beneficial nutrients.

     •  Dates – dates are high in fructose also but a better natural alternative than sugar.

     •  Rice Malt Syrup – this one tastes and looks a lot like honey but has no fructose so its

        guilt free.  I use it a lot. You can find it in the health food section at the supermarket.

     •  Maple syrup – tastes and looks similar to honey and is from sap from maple trees.  

        While this one has fructose, its much lower than sugar


Other options include:

     •  Coconut sugar – while it has additional nutrients its very high in fructose also and almost

         as bad a sugar so I don't use it often.

     •  Stevia – no fructose here either and it comes in powder or liquid form.  The problem is it

        can have a nasty aftertaste so I don't use it much.

     •  Agave syrup – Comes from the agave plant and has a very high fructose content.  

       

For more information on sugar see “I quit sugar” or “That Sugar Book and Film”.


Diary

There is a lot of research now coming out that diary products put a high strain on your body and can cause inflammation.  As inflamation is the route cause of many diseases its important.  This is difficult for me as personally l love diary.  However understanding what its doing to your body helps you to keep an eye on how much of it your consuming.


Carbohydrates and wheat

There are two types of carbohydrates refined or processes ones (bread, pasta, rice etc) and natural unrefined ones (fruits and vegetables).  Highly processed carbohydrates are basically seen like sugar by your body.  They are high in energy and its takes little effort to process that energy. This means that they unless your burning that energy off you will store it as fat.  

Wheat is often the processed carbohydrate we eat the most in western diet.  The added problem with wheat is that new research is suggesting that the gluten in wheat causes serious inflammation to your body.  Inflammation is basically the first sign of disease.

Alternatives to wheat and flour include buckwheat flour and almond meal.  There is also coconut flour but every time I've ever tried it has this nasty texture I cant get past so I don't bother with it now.

A good low carb alternative to rice is quiona or if you want to use rice choose basmati rice rather than long grain as it is much lower in carbohydrates.


Processes foods vs natural foods

As I've stated above processed foods usually have sugar added to them.  In addition to keeping a long shelf life they usually contain many nasty chemicals and additives.   They also often have all the good stuff taken out.  For example fruit juice has all the fiber taken out of the fruit and you just drink the sugar.  Likewise sultanas have all the moisture taken out so you can eat way more than you could when they were natural grapes.  The fiber and water not only helps you stay regular, but it tells you when you are full so you can't eat too much.

Unprocessed foods have none of these disadvantages.  In particular raw foods contain enzymes that feed your gut and assist in digestion.  Once you cook food those enzymes are destroyed.  You will notice in my recipes I dehydrate of lot of food and usually do so at temperatures of 40C (104F).  This is because at this temperature it has been shown that enzymes remain viable and the food is technically still raw.


Diets don't work

Like most people I've tried many diets and I've come to understand that none of them work.  You may loose weight but you always put it back on when you go back to your normal eating patterns.  If you want to loose some weight in the long term you need to understand what you are putting in your mouth and change your lifestyle.