Nutrition Basics

Nutrition plays a huge on our ability to think and feel well. With working from home changing the way we work and keeping us in the house for longer periods, the temptation to spend a lot of time in the pantry and fridge and snack is a challenge. 

It is important to focus on the fact that when we eat good quality food our energy levels are maintained, we think clearer, we concentrate better and we can focus for longer. We are more rational in our decision-making, we are warmer in our relationships and we collaborate better. We are also more likely to maintain a healthy weight, avoid diabetes and heart disease.

So remember to abide by some basic principles:

Two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables

Fruit and veggies are the foundation for good health. Nearly all disease becomes non-existent if we get a majority of our intake from these sources. They promote healthy weight, keep blood sugar levels stable, helps us stay fuller for longer and promote good gut bacteria. All of which are essential in promoting positive wellbeing.

Plenty of water

Adequate hydration supports all processes in the body, including the way we think. A 3-4% drop in hydration can cause a 20% reduction in physical AND mental performance, so get that water bottle on your desk or in your workspace - if you can see it, you are more likely to drink it! Aiming for 2L per day is a good place to start.

Good fats

Things like avocado, nuts and olive oil help maintain healthy blood profile and keep us fuller for longer. Aim to add a thumb-sized portion to each meal or snack.

Lean protein

Like chicken, fish, eggs, tofu and lean red meat are all great sources of protein. Not only an essential nutrient for our daily health, maintaining muscle mass and supporting vital functions in the body, but the added bonus of consuming a portion of protein with each meal is also it will help us feel fuller for longer and slows digestion. So we are less likely to need to snack between meals. Aim for a palm-sized portion with each meal.

Good quality carbohydrates

Lumpy, bumpy or whole grain carbohydrates help to minimise the rapid rise and fall in blood sugar and energy levels, which can impact on mood. Good quality carbohydrates also pack in some fibre for healthy bowel movements and cholesterol levels. Try to keep the portion sizes to a quarter of your plate and make sure you avoid the white processed carbohydrates as much as possible.

Get your plate portions right

Keep it simple and try and build your plate with the following portions:

  • One to two fists of veggies, the more varied the better
  • One palm-sized portion of lean proteins
  • One cupped handful of good quality carbohydrates
  • One thumb-sized portion of good fats

How can we identify the foods that work for us? 

Keeping a food diary can really help with this. Using an online version like My Fitness Pal or Easy Diet Diary can show you the various nutrients and calories each food has. Also, when we track our energy and mood levels post meals it can provide great insight into how we respond to different foods and change our choices accordingly. Even if it is as simple as keeping a note in your phone after each meal or food you eat, note down what you ate, what time, how you were feeling and then how you were feeling an hour or two later, any significant events that occurred post the meal or food.

Keep an eye on non-hungry eating

This is eating that has nothing to do with physiological hunger. Examples include:

  • Because it’s time to eat (1 pm – I’ll turn into a pumpkin if I don’t have)
  • Because I feel like food (there is a big difference between physiological hunger and just feeling like food)
  • Procrastination/boredom
  • Emotional (sad/happy/angry/mad)
  • Reward (I deserve it)
  • Distraction – from emotion, work, tasks etc
  • Because someone else is eating
  • Eat everything on the plate – even though we are full
  • Opportune eating (Oooh that looks tasty!)
  • Eating your children’s, partners or friends leftovers (waste not, want not)


Slow down and enjoy your food

Slow down and enjoy your food, it is one of life’s great pleasures but we often eat at a pace to qualify for the world championships OR are distracted by social media, TV etc. that we are not even aware of what we are eating. Eating slowly allows our appetite hormones to keep pace with our stomachs. When we eat slowly we give our bodies a chance to realise when we have had enough. How many times have you finished a meal, then five minutes later get up and feel ‘stuffed’ or over full?

Some tips to help slow down your eating:

  • Chew your food ten times
  • Put your cutlery down between mouthfuls
  • Take a breath between bites
  • Eat undistracted
  • Eat at a table
  • Concentrate on the flavours, textures and smell of your food
  • Eat like you are on a first date!


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