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What Does Healthy Look Like

06/01/2015 16:59 GMT | Updated 06/03/2015 10:59 GMT

We certainly don't need to be nutritionists or dietitians to know that eating too much of the wrong kind of food is not good for you. All government guidelines aside it is only common sense that a 32 inch crust of dough swimming in molten cheese and flecked with pepperoni spots, or a double stack beef patties propping up a bun big enough to feed a small village is never going to be good for the heart or the waistline. But still it seems society is still at a complete loss of what healthy looks like and what it takes to get there.

Healthy not low cal 

For a start you can throw the calorie counter out of the window if health is the goal. What we are talking here is food that is high in vital vitamins and minerals that allow the body to function properly. Its not a bogus promise to have a 20-inch waist or victoria secret model's behind (god that would be nice.) In truth, good health looks different for each person. It is personal and unique to everyone. Mostly what healthy promises is that you will feel like the best version of yourself. Something must of us are only intermittently familiar with. It is nothing more complicated then that. Improved energy, better immunity, sleep and (for me) a bigger appetite for food and life. As far as I am concerned being healthy is not a way of life, but a way to make your life better.

 

The myths

For a starters a healthy meal doesn't have to look like your plate had just been drop bombed by a green house. You don't have to fill your entire fridge with carrots and kale. (Peter rabbit is not coming to stay) Your cupboards also do not have to contain quinoa, coconut oil, raw cacao, gluten free flour or honey (any sugar substitutes for that matter)to join the healthy crew... if you have sugar in the house don't condemn yourself to the dark side just yet. It is possible to have it all. Yep I said it. You can have your entire cake (well a slice of it anyway) and still classify to be be on the 'eat clean' team. The trick is in the balance. (Another annoying word, I know) Make veggies the main thing veggies, not the only thing. Experiment with the ones you love and find recipes that make them delicious. Spiced roasted squash, warming roasted aubergines covered in spicy tomato sauce with parsley oil, mushroom ragout with tahini white bean mash, red cabbage crumble.. you get the idea. Undoubtedly mixing up your weekly shop and trying new ingredients you have never heard of keeps things interesting. Whist you are buying the good stuff, don't worry too much about getting everything else out. It is not necessary to get rid of the pasta, cous cous and bread just because. Sustainable healthy eating is not bootcamp.

Everyone has something they love which perhaps isn't the most virtuous. For me it is the flakey almond spelt croissants sold at my local farmers market. I bulk buy them and keep them in my freezer for the moments I need them most. Sure they are more with more butter and sugar then Nigella Lawson's ample bosom but that is why I love them. The thought of throwing all them out fills me with more dread then heartbreak. The reason they can stay is because I don't have one everyday and when I do its a treat and I really enjoy it. 

The short term Detox

Lets just take a moment, mid way through to have a little look at possibly the most overused word in the health industry. Detox. The aisles of all health food stores are all dominated with products bearing it. Basically the marketing equivalent of putting an A* on the box. Of course there is no limit to the type of product that you can't use to detox. The most amusing I have yet to find is a detox eye mask. I cannot think how an eye mask might possibly be able to detox my system. The hilarity of the idea alone nearly makes the mask worth buying. This healthy malarkey (I am healthy so I feel I can call it malarkey) is a continual way of living, it is not a quick fix. The promise of a immediate turn around or short term detox, as an answer to cleanse away calorific sins and provide an antidote to our caffeine fuelled, convenience food and alcohol loosened daily lives is madness. So throw out all weird pills and potions and start thinking a little more long term.

Food Politics

Of course I couldn't breeze through this without at least a nod towards to FDA. They are the people that make the superfluous pyramids that make healthy food look as being back in a primary school lesson. Over the last few years they have brought out a numbers of different variations, all supposedly to aid our decision making and help every man know what best to load up on. Well for a starter each plate is far too full with grains and starches. Food that the government push because it is the cheapest to produce and sell on a large scale, not because it is the best things to fuel our bodies. What we really need at the base of the plate is to be focusing on plant foods. This doesn't mean just lettuce, but foods grown out of the ground. It is here that we find the best sources of real vitamins, minerals and fiber as well as energy. It is here I feel compelled to quote the wise Michael Pollen, who pretty much summed it up the best diet plan around 'eat food, not too much, mostly plants'. Basically meaning eat "real food".  Food that is unprocessed, natural and hasn't been wheeled out of a factory in pretty packaging. If you buy food as one single ingredient in its whole form, then you are starting in a good place. 

The conclusion

These words, wisdom and knowledge is nothing without the tools, interest and know how with which to implement it. So start with this simple tip. Begin crowding in the good food, adding them into your diet. Your body can only consume so much food, so focusing on the filling, nutrient dense foods is the best way to reduce your consumption of the filthy naughty ones and hey presto before you know it, you too will be a healthy foodie. It really is as simple as that. Welcome to the green side ;)