Cate Fox

10 Tips to Healthy Balanced Eating

When it comes to food, nutrition or eating well – myths and misconceptions are thrown around like sugar at a kid’s birthday party, and it doesn’t help that with a quick scroll of your social media feed you will have new – and most likely contradictory – diet advice each and every day. But the basic principles of healthy eating really don’t change.

And while there may be some specific strategies for individual conditions – here are 10 nutrition rules that will benefit everyone.

  1. Fill half your plate with veggies

I don’t think anyone really needs to hear that vegetables are good for us – we all know this, don’t we? Everything from helping to reduce inflammation, heart disease and risk of cancer, to improving blood pressure, blood sugars, immune, digestive and brain health! This food group is a power house and the original “superfood” that all those influencers want to rave about. Coupled with all this, these foods wont tip the calorie scales in the wrong direction so if managing weight is a priority for you (yep, I specialise in PWS nutrition!) then making sure half that plate is veggies will go a long way in helping you keep your daily calories down whilst giving you plenty of nutrients to boot!

  2. Count colours not calories

Whilst you’re filling half that plate with veggies, be sure to include at least 3 different colours of veggies to optimise your antioxidant profile – think green (spinach, broccoli, asparagus or zucchini), red/orange (carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, or capsicum/bell peppers), white/brown (onion, mushrooms, cauliflower or potato) and purple (eggplant, red cabbage or beetroot).

  3. Choose lean Proteins

Proteins are the building blocks of our cells and tissues. They help with immunity and build and maintain adequate muscle stores which help with increasing our metabolism. Choosing leaner cuts of meat will also help to reduce your saturated fat intake which will assist you in lowering blood cholesterol and is necessary if wanting to follow an anti-inflammatory diet.

  4. Eat fish or seafood 2-3 times a week

Another great way of helping to reduce your saturated fat intake is to eat marine proteins a few times a week. Fish such as salmon or makeral are higher in healthy fats such as omega-3s which are anti-inflammatory in nature.

  5. Choose whole grains

Wholegrains are complete, unrefined grains that contain all 3 layers of the natural grain – the bran, germ and endosperm. Because all 3 layers are still intact, whole grains are a great source of fibre, protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats – so there is a pretty good reason they get a good rap!

  6. Choose EVOO as your main oil for cooking and as a dressing

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is a staple of the Mediterranean diet and has one of the highest antioxidant profiles of many oils which makes it an excellent anti-inflammatory choice. By replacing refined oils such as vegetable oils with EVOO you are improving your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio which is helping to reduce inflammation and therefore reduce your risk of chronic diseases.

  7. Reduce added sugars

Remember sugar can be either naturally occurring or added. Whilst naturally occurring sugars such as those found in fruit are not the enemy, a diet high in added sugars has a pro-inflammatory effect on the body and is generally harmful to overall health and well-being. National nutritional bodies from around the world including the USA, Australia and the UK recommend that added sugars should be limited to around 6 teaspoons or less per day. Individuals with specific conditions such as Prader-Willi syndrome would typically be advised to limit added sugar further in the context of weight management.

  8. Plan healthy snacks

Snacks needn’t be different foods to those you eat at main meals nor should they be high in sugars or saturated fats. Rather, plan snacks that are smaller volumes of the healthy foods you eat at main meals and use snacks as opportunities to increase your intake of certain vitamins and minerals such as calcium and healthy fats.

  9. Drink plenty of water

Water keeps every system in your body functioning. From carrying nutrients to your cells, flushing toxins, aiding digestion to preventing constipation and many others, getting enough water is essential for optimal health. Not only that, water has zero calories so will not contribute to weight gain. But what do you do, if like many children with atypical needs, your child doesn’t like to drink water? Use natural, low-calorie flavourings free from artificial sweeteners such as a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime, fruit (eg. berries or watermelon) or herb (eg. mint or ginger) infusions or cold tea. You could even try different temperatures such as warm or very cold as to your child’s preference and remember to be an excellent role model for your child and practice what you preach.

  10. Pay attention to how you eat

How you eat is just as important as what you eat. Meals, where possible, should be enjoyed with others. This may mean eating together as a family at the dinner table, away from distractions such as screens and place a focus on conversation that doesn’t involve talking about the food in front of you. Food should be enjoyed and shared with others – another principle of the Mediterranean diet, a dietary pattern that has been proven to reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes and assist in weight management. Whilst taking a moment to appreciate the meal in front of you may not be achievable for everyone (eg. those with limited social awareness or hyperphagia) those of us that can, should, as if you are aware of the food in front of you, you eat slowly, enjoying the presence of others, you will ensure that unnecessary large volumes of food are avoided and assisting your body to eat only what it needs.

About the Author

Cate is an Accredited Practising Dietitian based in Sydney Australia and has 15 years of experience working as a Dietitian. She has worked in the wider disability sector however since the birth of her niece, 5 years ago, she has turned her attention to working solely with families, like hers, with a loved one who has Prader-Willi Syndrome. These days, Cate works 1:1 seeing clients all over the world to help them navigate the nutritional complexities of PWS.

Learn more from Cate in "Practical Nutrition for Optimizing Health" 

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