We don’t learn everything at school. Some things we learn from our parents or grandparents basing on their experience (even though their experiences and ‘lessons’ are sometimes outdated or just wrong). Some things we learn from our own personal hobbies and interests. For example, if you like to keep fit, you learn about keeping to a healthy diet. The paradox is that some things of real everyday value – like healthy eating – are not taught, while our formal education includes all kinds of exotic knowledge, such as the structure of a snail’s shell!
To continue my previous post and to answer some of the questions you asked about it, I’ve decided to outline and explain several principles of healthy eating, as a reference for future posts.
At XSolve, many of us are interested in sports and healthy lifestyle and the subjects are getting more and more popular. People are becoming more health-conscious, especially when it comes to food, but there are still many who neglect their health or simply have no idea how to take care of their wellbeing.
You are what you eat
Software developers and other people whose jobs encourage sedentary lifestyles run an increased risk of being overweight and of other disorders resulting from a lack of movement. This is why we should pay particular attention to keeping a healthy balanced diet. If we don’t do it, in the future we are likely to suffer from various ailments and illnesses, such as diabetes, obesity, heart conditions, digestive diseases, accelerated aging, constant fatigue as well as hair and skin problems, etc.
I guess you’re used to planning your future from the point of view of finances – it’s high time you invested in your health too.
What’s more, bad diet has negative effects on the way you feel during the day, including tiredness, mood swings, irritation, and problems with concentration. In my previous article, I wrote about how important it is to have a balanced breakfast to achieve high productivity at work and now I want to dive a little deeper into the details of healthy eating.
Suitable calorie intake
How many calories a day will cause you to lose, gain, or maintain weight? It’s a very individual question, depending on your present weight, age, body condition, the kind of work you do, your daily physical activity, general health, etc. You can find plenty of calorie intake calculators online to help you estimate your daily caloric needs.
For instance: a 25-year-old male, 1.8 m tall, weighing 80 kg, doing little or no exercise, with a sedentary profession, needs 2258 kcal per day to maintain his weight. The same guy doing regular sports may need 2900 kcal per day.
Once you know your daily caloric requirement, you can implement other activities. I think it’s a good idea to monitor your progress for about two weeks and to adjust your calorie intake to your current circumstances, depending on the results.
Macroelements are nutrients which supply energy to your body and are usually liquid or solid: proteins (animal and plant), carbohydrates (simple and complex), animal fats and vegetable oils, and dietary fiber, which is not a source of energy.
- 1g of fat is 9kcal
- 1g of carbs is 4kcal
- 1g of protein is 4kcal
- 1g of alcohol is 7kcal
Proteins – composed of amino acids (endogenous, which can be synthesized by the organism itself, and exogenous, which must be supplied by food); their function is to build the body. Sources of protein include cooked meat, fish, eggs, fat-free and low-fat cheese.
Carbohydrates – divided into monosaccharides (e.g. glucose), disaccharides (e.g. sucrose, lactose), and polysaccharides (e.g. starch); they serve as the storage and source of energy. Sources of carbohydrates include rice, pasta, groats, oat/ rice/ barley flakes, couscous, sweet potatoes, and quinoa.
Fats – both animal and vegetal fats, saturated and unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated); they have an energetic function in the body, being necessary for dissolving vitamins and synthesizing hormones. Sources of fat include fatty fish (e.g. halibut, salmon, mackerel), nuts, seeds (e.g. pumpkin seeds), eggs, avocado, coconut, peanut butter, cashew butter, cold-pressed oils (e.g. flaxseed or camelina oil).
Fats are my favorite group of nutrients: it’s a good habit to take one teaspoon of flaxseed oil with each meal. Of course, all the nuts and seeds must be salt-free and chocolate-free! ☺ I’m going to write a separate post about fats soon so watch this space.
Foods to avoid
Here you can find a list of foods that are best avoided. Although, you can certainly allow yourself a guilty pleasure from time to time:
- sweet fizzy drinks, juices containing glucose-fructose syrup
- sweets and candies
- fries, chips, salty snacks
- breakfast cereals
- any highly processed food, e.g. ham.
Good eating habits
There are several things that you should start doing immediately if you want to make a real difference in your life:
- read the labels of the products you buy: you’ll be surprised how much sugar there is in the meals you eat regularly,
- don’t add sugar or sweeteners to tea and coffee,
- instead of sugary drinks, drink vegetable smoothies, water, tea,
- it’s best to eat simple sugars around the time of a workout to make up for the lost glycogen,
- analyze your reactions: we all differ and have different reactions to various products; if, for example, dairy makes you feel sick or causes skin problems, consume less of it or quit it completely,
- drink good-quality green, white, or yellow tea.
How to count the calories in your meal?
In order to monitor the number of calories you consume, you need a kitchen scale, nutrient chart, paper, and pen, or Excel.
Here’s an example – a meal consisting of 100g of skinless chicken breast, 100g of jasmine rice, and 80g of boiled green beans:
- Calories: 121 + 347 + 34 = 502
- Proteins: 22 + 7 + 2 = 31 g
- Carbs: 0 + 71 + 4 = 75g
- Fat: 3.5 + 1 + 0= 4.5
The best idea is to use an adequate app, such as MyFitnesPal.
The principles of good diet that I’ve laid out above should help you control and balance what you eat. In my opinion, it’s worth investing time in learning how to eat more healthily. Apart from water, food is the basic building material for your body. If you don’t provide it with all the necessary ingredients, you’ll pay for it with your health sooner or later. What’s more, food influences your mood and attitude. If you’re constantly sleepy and tired, changing your diet may help you feel awake.
And don’t forget, in my previous article on healthy eating habits, you’ll find simple recipes for healthy and tasty high-protein breakfasts.