The Four Fundamental Principles of a Healthy Diet…On a Budget

For a diet to be effective, the following four principles need to be considered:

First and foremost, the diet needs to be tasty and enjoyable enough to be sustainable.  This is where most diets fail over both the short- and long-term.  Note, that I am saying that the diet failed – not the person.

For example, Alice hated her very low-carb, high-fat (no names mentioned) diet because she didn’t like eating so much (fatty) meat and she really missed her carbs.  She loved having fruit and oats in the morning and potatoes with her dinner as well as pizza once a week.  She felt the diet was a success however because she lost 5kgs in the four weeks that she endured the diet, before starting to eat carbs again.

Initially she ate sparingly and so was bitterly disappointed when she regained three kilograms in the first week that she stopped the diet.  Without going into too many details, this is about water fluctuations that occur when carb intake is increased or decreased.

To her horror, four weeks latter she had put on another 3kgs.  She was worse off than when she started a couple of months ago!  She felt like a failure.  Like she had failed to “stick to a good diet”.  The problem is that for Alice, this is not a “good” diet.  In her case, it’s a shit diet and Alice didn’t fail – the diet did.

The research is very clear  (read the article “What Should I Eat for Weight-Loss?”) that there are many dietary approaches that are both healthy and can facilitate weight-loss, and that people who lose weight and keep it off, are those that enjoy their diet enough to actually sustain it.  Otherwise results are short-lived and weight rebound is a bitch.

Therefore, the number one principle of a healthy or good diet is that it respects the individual and their personal taste preferences, tolerances and goals.

Secondly, an energy deficit is required for weight loss, i.e. you eat less energy than you burn.  It’s that simple.  Simple, but difficult.

The media bombards us with conflicting advice all the time.  Carbs are bad, fats are bad, protein is bad, and eggs are worse than smoking…blah blah blah!

Have a look at this article “The 18 Nutrition Myths of 2018” to see what I mean.

The biggest myth ever is that calories don’t count if you don’t eat carbs.  This is BS!  Calories always count.  Why do people often lose weight on low-carb diets?  Well, besides water weight dropping, by restricting carbs people often eat less calories overall.  No magic involved!

Following that, the diet needs to have sufficient food volume to satisfy huger, at least to some degree.  Hunger is the real enemy of any diet.  An example of high food volume is bunch of spinach, which is a lot of food, but it’s low in calories.

Satiety, which means satisfying hunger, is highest when you eat whole, minimally processed foods.  Think fruit, vegetables and meat.  They are filling and keep you full for longer.

Low satiety foods can leave you starving.  And starving can often lead to bingeing.  These are foods like bread, sweets and chocolate, pasta, fruit juice and other liquid calories, and even beer!

The thing to remember is that no foods need to be excluded from your diet.  Everything can be eaten in moderation.  It’s just that attention needs to be paid to hunger levels and how different foods satisfy these levels.  Restricting certain foods or food groups is generally a bad idea!

The fourth and final principle is that a good diet needs to provide you with enough nutrients for energy, health and longevity, and to support muscle mass.  Hopefully this is just common sense.

Besides eating enough micro-nutrients like vitamins and minerals, protein needs to be sufficient to maintain your muscles while dieting.  The idea of this being about losing as much fat as possible without losing much muscle.

In addition to eating enough protein, muscle retention also requires some resistance training whilst dieting.

So, with these four dieting principles in mind, let’s look at some meals.

BREAKFAST

  1. 3 eggs and a slice of high-fibre toast
  2. Protein shake made with water/milk, blended with banana & berries, and a teaspoon of peanut butter

LUNCH

  1. Grilled Chicken Salad with greens, tomato, onion, peppers, cucumber and limited amounts of healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado and medium-fat Feta.
  • Skinless, deboned chicken breasts are best, but on a budget you can buy chicken breasts on the bone or use a whole chicken.
  • Remember to remove the skin before cooking.
  1. Lentil and Chickpea Salad with tomato, onion, peppers, cucumber and limited amounts of healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado and medium-fat Feta.
  • Use a low-fat vinaigrette salad dressing, or some olive oil, lemon juice and fresh herbs to dress the salad.

DINNER

  1. Homemade (Extra) Lean Mince Burgers and Oven-Baked Chips
  • Make your own burger patties and bake some pre-boiled thick-cut chips. And of course, a burger’s not a burger without a bun!
  • Chicken mince also makes a great homemade burger.
  1. Beef Shin Curry with onions, peppers, carrots and butternut is an excellent, budget-conscious meal.
  • You can also use any other lean meat like chicken or legumes like chickpeas, lentils and a variety of beans, and tofu.
  1. Grilled Lean Meat, Homemade Oven Chips and Creamed Spinach
  • Any grilled meat is great for dinner and you can bake, boil or mash your potatoes.
  • Sweet potato and butternut also make great oven-baked chips.
  • Lightly pan fry your spinach with onions and garlic and then crumble in some feta for a great healthy side.
  • Stir-fried cabbage, baby marrows, carrots, peppers, onions and mushroom are also a nutrient-dense side with you lean protein.

SNACKS

  • Fruit
  • Peanut butter on toast
  • Fruit shakes with berries, carrots, banana, celery, spinach, etc.

Practical Dieting Tips

  • Avoid adding EXTRA sugar, salt and fats to your meals (for taste add the minimum you need for tasty meals)
  • Limit liquid calories like cooldrinks, fruit juice and energy drinks
  • When in doubt eat lean meat with vegetables and/or fruits
  • Avoid snacking
  • Avoid trigger foods (if you can’t moderate it then avoid it all together)
  • Only eat at the table
  • Find healthy ways to distract yourself from eating
  • Clean up your food environment and get rid of the high-calorie snack foods in your cupboards
  • Treats keep you sane and make dieting sustainable when eaten moderately (the occasional block or two of chocolate or a bowl of popcorn will keep you on track!)
  • Have a supply of rescue/emergency food around like peeled carrots and celery sticks, and fruit. But remember to ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” before eating off plan.
  • Planning! Planning!  Planning!
  • Food is not a reward for exercise.
  • Exercise is not a punishment for eating too much.
  • Keep daily activity as high as possible (if you have a tracker go for 10,000 steps)
  • If keeping a food journal/diary, consider tracking for caloric awareness (if you learn to do this you will develop a really good awareness of the caloric value of food).

Shopping List

If you can afford it and don’t have one, invest in a George Foreman (or similar) health grill.

Buy these items in bulk:

  • Skinless, boneless chicken breasts (preferable), but look for good deals or you can use chicken pieces (breasts, thighs) that fit your budget.
  • Good quality protein powder
  • Low-fat milk
  • Eggs
  • (Extra) Lean mince (or buy normal mince and cook off the fat)
  • Pilchards/sardine
  • Chicken livers
  • Vegetables (include lots of leafy greens and don’t forget potatoes, sweet potatoes and butternut)
  • Fruit that’s in season

Include these for taste and satisfaction:

  • Medium-fat feta cheese (look for specials)
  • Low-fat salad dressing
  • Sauces (tomato, sweet chilli, peri-peri, tabasco NOT mayonnaise)
  • Brown rice
  • High-Fibre bread
  • Low-fat yoghurt (mixed with seasonal fruit for a delicious dessert)

For a FREE consult in how to apply these principles in your diet, complete the form below or email me at alexcampbelltransformation@gmail.com

Stop Hating Carbs!

This blog was inspired by Zoe Nicholson’s recent article “Things to Consider When Giving Dietary Advice”.  In the post, she emphasises the idea that we are constantly being advised to stop eating certain foods and food types, in order to manage weight (as if it’s as easy as that!).  Sugar, bread or carbs in general are normally seen as the main culprits.  What is overlooked here is that we are not machines and to be physically healthy, we also need to be mentally and emotionally healthy.

She points out that if you have been advised to simply stop eating carbohydrates, this is really what is being said:

  • You can never eat out again freely or normally.
  • You can never travel overseas and taste the local cuisine.
  • You can’t celebrate special occasions that include certain foods like cake on birthdays and chocolate at Easter.
  • You are being asked to not fully partake in your life, while forsaking two basic human needs – the need for food and human connection.

Zoe continues to discuss the vital importance of human connection and socialisation that takes place around world.  She does end the post by acknowledging that there are individuals that suffer from true food allergies, Coeliac Disease and other conditions that do require complete avoidance of certain foods.  This is not the same as being advised to cut out a certain food or food group for reasons of weight loss.

Carrying on from here I’d like to say that if you’ve been given this advice, approach it with some serious critical thinking and cautious scepticism.  The reason for this is that we are constantly being exposed to marketing hype, exaggerations, half-truths, out-of-context information and even fabricated evidence, lies and complete bullshit!  Attention-seeking, influential celebrities with ulterior motives and mixed agendas should not be taken as the definitive word on the subject either.

Fear mongering makes headlines and the media are always delighted to be able to write about how something or other is killing us or making us fat!  Talking about eating less calories in order to lose weight is just not sensational enough.  We need to recognise this when we watch food documentaries, read articles or seek out information, which holds true for any topic, not just nutrition.

In the past, I fell for every new fad, book and documentary, and convincing celebrity expert or doctor, promising an amazing new approach to weight- or fat-loss and muscle gain.  Over the years I have excluded a variety of foods and food groups. I tried a number of restrictive diets and given up food that I love with the same outcome every time…I was more miserable, neurotic and paranoid about food, diet and nutrition than ever.  Without getting the results i was looking for.  Because as hard as I tried to get it “right” there was always someone coming up with new idea as to how I was going to gain weight, loss muscle, get sick and inevitably end up killing myself because of the food I was choosing to eat.  And that is how I ended up in a restaurant eating cauliflower base pizza…

However, there is hope!  There exists an objective, credible community of nutrition experts and scientists, that adhere to the rigors of scientific methodology.  A place where claims and evidence are checked and cross-checked.  A place where nothing is accepted at face value and everything about diet and nutrition is constantly being scrutinised in order to present solid, scientific information.  

They are not attention-seeking dietary zealots who preach fanatical nutritional ideologies.  They don’t endorse any single nutritional diet camp and could even be seen as nutritional agnostics, not preaching about the” miracles” of low carb, low GI, high protein, low fat, Atkins, Banting, Keto, etc.  They are only interested in the evidence that is uncovered by scientific research, and are not swayed by personal anecdote or cherry-picked studies.  

The science of nutrition can be extremely complicated and that’s why you need to rely on credible, objective sources that can filter the information for you.  I have been exploring the research for many years, from reliable and respected industry leaders and experts such as Drs John Beradi and Christa Scott-Dixon (Precision Nutrition), Eric Helms, Alan Aragon, Georgie Fear and Martin McDonald (Mac Nutrition), amongst others.  Here are a couple of links that are lists of the nutrition sources that you can trust and the ones that you should avoid!

ScienceAs a result of this I am able to support and assist my clients through my coaching, nutrition education and training experience, to achieve sustainable fat loss and/or muscle gain without resorting to quick fixes, fads and empty promises.