But when it comes to food there are usually many middle grounds and grey areas.
Take the issue of calories for example, it doesn’t matter how awesomely nutritious a food is, if your total calories you consume adds up to more than you’re burning, you’ll gain weight.
Also important are micronutrients – vitamins & minerals. All foods offer different benefits, so if you’re eating healthy food, but always the same things with little variety, you may be getting too much of certain micronutrients while still being deficient in others.
High in healthy monounsaturated fats, fibre, and vitamin E, avocados are a fantastic food, but they’re also high calorie and can easily contribute to an excess in calories if eaten in excess. At around 160 calories per 100g, a large avocado can contain as much as 400 calories!
Avocados are tasty, nutritious and versatile – think smoothies and even brownies as well as in salads. But portion control carefully, weighing your serving at first if it helps you figure out what a reasonable portion is. As a rough guide, I would serve myself half a small or ¼ large avocado on a lean chicken salad, to boost healthy fat content.
Omega 3’s as found in oily fish are incredibly powerful, for brain health, heart health, mental health and more. But medium fish eat little fish, and big fish eat medium sized fish, so the larger the fish, the more (toxic) mercury is in the flesh. This is the reason pregnant women are told to avoid eating certain species.
Marlin, swordfish and fresh tuna are large fish, salmon and mackerel are medium so you can eat these more often, while sardines are small so are a great option for people wanting to eat more oily fish without consuming too much mercury.
Yoghurt contains protein, calcium some carbohydrates and fat depending on whether you choose low of full fat. But fruit and sweetened yoghurts, even ‘naturally’ sweetened with fruit concentrate, are high in sugar, something we should all be cutting down on.
Plain yoghurt is 100% natural with no added anything, contains gut friendly probiotics, and the only sugars are naturally occurring lactose (the same as in milk). Add fresh fruit instead. To bump up the protein further (which keeps you full longer) choose Greek varieties.
The only people who need to avoid gluten containing grains like wheat completely are people with coeliac disease or a gluten sensitivity. But that’s not to say that wholegrain bread is the nutrition powerhouse we are sometimes told. Most bread is very processed and offers little in the way of nutrition compared to other carbohydrate sources like whole oats, sweet potatoes or bananas.
Wheat is also so prolific in most Western diets – think toast or wheat cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, and pasta for supper (plus biscuits and cereal bars in between) that there’s no room for other, more nutritious foods, even simply for the argument of variety.
Read this afterwards too: Are You Overeating Healthy Food?
High quality whey or other protein powders are high in antioxidants, nutrient and of course protein. They are convenient, cheap per portion compared to meat and fish, and extremely versatile. From shakes to pancakes to protein cookies and prooats (protein porridge) and more.
But not all protein powders are created equal. Some are barely a protein powder at all, bulked up with skimmed milk powder and fillers like maltodextrin. Others have a tonne of unnecessary artificial ingredients like too many sweeteners, artificial flavourings, colours and more fillers.
The only protein in a powder should be the actual protein sources – whey isolate or concentrate, casein, or a vegan one like pea, rice or hemp. Look for a brand that contains minimal ingredients and no added sugar.
Don’t panic if you’ve been doing the opposite of the advice I’ve given here. These are all still really healthy foods and if you’re eating these in place of processed junk food you’re still doing better than most people!
But if you’re passionate about healthy eating and are aiming to be your healthiest self then a few little tweaks can really up level your health, energy and if you need to, weight loss.