What does a Healthy Diet Look like?

I wanted to begin this blog by saying that I dislike the word diet as it suggests the many trendy dietary regimens that are constantly in our face. I do not promote any specific food group, nor do I believe that we should totally isolate a food (like meat for example) unless it is junk and harmful to our gut microbiome. Because we are bombarded with so many different trends and diets today, especially through social media, it all can become very confusing. 

If I conducted a survey asking hundreds of people their opinion on what constitutes healthy eating, I would get many different answers. Some people think that just because they do not eat out at fast food restaurants, they are on the right track. Others feel that good old home cooking is the way to go regardless of what they are cooking.

Although there may not be the “one size fits all” diet, there are certain principles that one cannot argue. All diets should be catered around whole foods – those that come from nature, are minimally processed, and without chemicals. We are an alkaline species, meaning we have been designed by nature to eat foods that our cells require to live, regenerate, and build healthy bodies. Most of our daily food agenda should come from raw fruits and vegetables, sprouted grains, and lean proteins. I try to encourage everyone to eat 80% of foods that are alkaline forming daily, with the other 20% coming from acid forming (cooked foods) that are easily digested and free of chemicals, hormones, etc. An example of a healthy diet would include at least 8 -10 vegetables and 3-5 fruits, lean cuts of fish or meat, with grains such as wild rice or quinoa or sweet potato, and of course healthy fats like olive, coconut, or avocado oil. There is no question that a healthy diet will ensure that you perform better as you will have more energy and vitality.

It is so easy to get swayed by fancy packaging and promises of added nutrients when grocery shopping. Packaged goods can only offer you one truth – a fast fix. It is true that it takes less time to open a box than fix a salad, but you will pay for it in the end. All processed foods that are high in refined sugars, added coloring, flavors and preservatives should be avoided. We call these “foodless foods” that are toxic to your system. Boxed cereals are a perfect example of how the public is fooled by thinking that they are getting enough fiber in their breakfast. Not only are most of these cereals high in sugar, but most of the fiber disappears in the heating and manufacturing process.

Fruit juices are another culprit. They contain too much fructose, no phytonutrients or fiber. Please eat real fruit.

Kale and veggie chips that hit the stores recently are another sway in the wrong direction. Save your money and try spreading a bit of olive oil on your own kale leaves. Place them under the broiler for less than a minute and you have your own chips!

Beware of gluten-free packaged foods. They have become widely available due to consumer demand. Most are nothing more than refined, processed, junk food.

What about eggs? This is a question I am asked a lot due to the myth that they are high in cholesterol. The healthy way to eat an egg (organic and free range) is raw or very gently cooked with the yolk still runny. Raw eggs are better and healthier because cooking them will damage the valuable nutrients like lutein, bioflavonoids, and vitamin D. Heating the egg also damages its chemical shape, and the distortion can lead to allergies.

Although some people complain that healthy snacks are difficult to find, I can easily argue that statement. Veggies or raw crackers with hummus is a great easy snack to throw in a bag, and healthy food stores today offer a wide variety of different flavors.  Seeds, olives, plant-based energy bars are also a good snack option. With consumers’ demand for healthy food growing every day, prices are coming down as well, even with the organic options!

Research has shown that those who eat a plant-based diet have lower risk of heart disease, hypertension, and obesity than the average North American. Plant based foods are rich in vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed to deliver optimum nutrition. Most people that I see in my practice have digestion issues because they eat too much protein and not enough fiber. It is much harder for our bodies to break down protein coming from a steak than a salad.

For people who do not normally eat many vegetables, I think it is important to go slowly. Start with one meal. Changing your breakfast to include 3-4 fruits or a fruit smoothie can be a great start. My favorite smoothie is one that includes frozen mango or berries (instead of ice cubes), a banana, a pear (makes a great texture) and a well sourced hemp-based protein powder. Add some plain water or coconut water and you have a refreshing breakfast drink that is full of fiber, vitamins, enzymes, and electrolytes.

Most of all listen to your body. Small signs and symptoms of digestive discomfort can turn into big problems if they are ignored. Very often the wrong combinations of food can lead to stomach disturbance. One food that comes to mind is fruit. Always eat fruit alone as it is a simple sugar that does not require insulin to be digested. Combining this food with another will create confusion and discomfort in the body. 

Save your water and other liquid consumption for in between meals and not with your meals as doing so can dilute your enzymes so badly needed to digest food well. 

Frances Michaelson

A pioneer in the fitness industry, Frances opened the first personal training center in the West Island of Montreal in 2001. In 2008 , Frances had the “gut feeling“ that there was more to learn about health and how our bodies function, which led to further her education in the field of Naturopathy and holistic nutrition. She has since authored two books. Her latest book, "Do you Have the Guts to be Healthy" was published in March 2021. As a trainer and naturopath, she truly loves seeing people transform themselves by trusting their bodies instead of getting caught up in the medical system. Practicing health is the only way to live the gift of life well!

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