Good Fats: too much of anything is still bad. Photo: Clive Champion - Champion Photog
So, you start the day with a green smoothie – almond milk, coconut water, avocado, cucumber, kale, LSA, CHIA and Greek yoghurt. Lunch is generally a quinoa or brown rice salad with nuts and seeds along with a little chicken or tuna. Another almond milk smoothie keeps you going until your nightly gym visit and you finish the day with Thai takeaway or sushi or a piece of salmon and brown rice – all in all, a very healthy day. Numerous nutritional boxes have been ticked, you have swapped your dairy for almond and coconut milk and plenty of nuts, grains and seeds have ensured you have received your good fats. So why are you not losing weight?
The diet described here is one I typically see in practice. Healthy, fit individuals doing their very best to eat well, but such an intense focus on including as many ‘'healthy’' foods in the diet as possible has resulted in a little too much good food, which unfortunately then also translates into a calorie overload. And while fit trainers who exercise for numerous hours each day, or celebrity chefs may preach this style of eating, for the average person who spends much more time sitting than they do exercising or preparing portion controlled, nutritionally balanced meals, this style of eating which is concentrated in grains, seeds, oils and nuts, translates into a very healthy, but also a very calorie heavy diet.
So if you are trying your best to eat ‘'healthy'’, here are some simple ways to ensure your calories are also kept under control.
1) Watch your smoothie ingredients
While vegetables including kale, spinach, cucumber, rocket and carrots have few calories, any other ingredient, especially the high fat additions such as chia seeds, LSA, coconut milk and avocado do contain concentrated calories. In fact, a smoothie that contains all of these ingredients may contain as much as 800 calories per serve, or more than half what the average female requires for an entire day. For this reason, load up the vegetables in your smoothie, aim for just one source of yoghurt or milk and choose seeds, avocado or nuts, not all three.
2) Watch your grain portions
Yes, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, beans and lentils are all low GI, wholegrain carbohydrates; they are also energy dense grains and legumes, meaning that unless you are training for more than an hour a day, you do not need a lot of them. For the average office worker, just ½ -1 cup of cooked grains or legumes will give you 20-45g of total carbohydrates, or the equivalent to 2-3 slices of bread per meal.
3) Count your good fats
While much focus recently has been placed on the role of saturated fat in the diet, perhaps even more important is working towards getting the right balance of fat in the diet. This means getting a couple of serves of monounsaturated fats from avocado, almonds and olive oil as well as a couple of serves of our polyunsaturated fats from grain-based breads, walnuts and oily fish. In real terms, this translates into a small serve, just 100-150g of oily fish, ¼ of an avocado, a handful of nuts or seeds and a couple of teaspoons of oil. Not an entire avocado throughout the day, numerous teaspoons of coconut oil, handfuls of seeds and nuts and large slabs of tuna and salmon. Watching your portions of these nutrient-rich fats will help you to strike a balance between the health benefits these foods offer but also stay in control of your overall calorie intake.