The vital ingredients to ensure your kitchen is healthy
In this article, I have outlined the foods which should always be in your cupboards. This way whichever ingredient you lay your hands on will be healthy. They are all whole natural foods, which eaten in balance will guarantee you a diet full of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and macronutrients required. I have also listed foods that should be removed from your kitchen.
Here is the healthy kitchen, with some useful information and tips thrown in for good measure.
Proteins 4 calories per gram
Protein is vital for muscle growth and repair as well as maintaining a fast metabolism (due to increased thermogenic effect of digestion). You should look to consume a minimum of 0.5 - 1 grammes per pound of bodyweight unless undertaking heavy resistance or hypertrophy training, at which point this can increase to up to 2 grammes per pound. Have some protein with every meal.
Low fat cottage cheese
Have this last thing at night as it is a casein protein which releases slowly into the system.
Organic Eggs - Eggs are about the best form of saturated fat you can get and nutritionists have very much put them back in fashion. Do not eat more than 6-8 per week, great for breakfast on non training days to keep your carbs low.
Chicken breasts - Great lean white meat with some healthy saturated fats.
Turkey breasts - Another great lean meat.
Beef - look for any with the words "round" or "loin". Limit to twice per week.
Tuna - The tinned stuff is fine and good to eat "on the run".
Salmon/oily fish - Best fish you can get, high in good fats and low levels of mercury.
Other meats/ fish - Any 90% plus lean meat, should be OK. Exact caution with some large fish ie Swordfish as they have been shown to present high levels of mercury. Never buy organic fish as it has no regulation or evidence of its benefits.
Natural peanut butter - drain out the excess oil if there is any. Good for a treat but dont eat a tub a day!!! (vegetarian option) It must be 100% natural however.
Protein powder - Whey is fast release so best after a workout, casein is slower so best consumed before bed. The better they taste the more sugar they can contain. Better to get a natural one and blend with some fruit or peanut butter if looking to gain muscle. Choice out there is endless. (vegetarian option)
Beans/legumes - Any beans, lentils etc. (vegetarian option), also great form of low GI carbs.
Quinoa - can be expensive but good for vegans.
Carbohydrates 4 calories per gram
The key here is to consume the majority of our carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, legumes and wholegrain foods ( low on the glycemic index.) Avoid any processed foods which are high on the glycemic index, like white pasta, white bread, croissants and biscuits. Try and consume 1-2 grammes per pounds of bodyweight. The lower end for fat loss and the higher end for muscle gain.
Green Leafy vegetables
Eat as many as you like. Double gold star for these: spinach, broccoli, watercress.
All other veg - dont overdo it on certain vegetables like carrots and potatoes which are actually high GI, but for the most part go to town.
Fruit - Berries are the winners here with a special mention for blueberries. Try not to have more than two to three pieces a day as some are quite calorific(bananas)and high in fructose( which can cause fat gain). Full of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Wholegrain bread,- Try and avoid the wholewheat variety's as in most cases they have still had much of the goodness removed.
Wholewheat pasta- Not a bad option to bump your carbs up.
Brown rice - As above.
Potatoes - If you are looking to gain weight then a good option but otherwise caution.
Yams or sweet potato - A better option than potatoes.
Natural Yogurt - Great with some fruit when energy levels are low, get a low fat version. Again its not a free for all with this one but is better than milk and a good source of protein. Good to consume after a workout alongside a protein shake.
100% Rolled oats - Eat in the morning with water, blueberries and cinnamon. Great to kickstart your day.
Beans and chickpeas - Includes lentils, shoots and kidney beans. Great source of carbs, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Barley - Great mixed into your oats in the morning, the lowest GI of all the wholegrains.
Other Grains - Always check where they stand on the glycemic index. Remember lower GI is better than higher.
FATS 9 calories per gram
DO NOT BE AFRAID OF GOOD FATS. Our bodies need them to survive. Provided we get the balance right, the body will see fat as a useful source of energy, which means it will start using that stubborn fat around your midriff for fuel . One note of caution though. AVOID TRANS-FATS( deep fried foods, processed foods, crisps, etc). The Vital dietary Fats listed below should comprise 25% -35% of your daily calories.
Nuts- Not salted or roasted.
Walnuts, almonds and cashews are all good sources of monounsaturated fats.
Extra virgin olive oil - Extra virgin is much better than regular.
Fish Oil - If you only take one supplement make it this one- it improves cardiovascular health, reduces risk of cancer, helps prevent heart attacks and strokes....the list is endless.
Flaxseed/Linseed Oil - Tastes better than fish oil with nearly all the benefits.
Seeds - much the same as nuts.
Salmon or any oily fish - This fish is a winner.
Avacados - Good source of fat and a great taste to go with it.
Meat and dairy - These provide your saturated fats. Make sure you minimise your daily intake of total fat from this source to 30%.
Provided you balance your diet with the foods listed above you should have sufficient fibre in your meals to ensure a healthy digestive system so I won't concern you too much with this for now. Oats, beans and fruit are all good sources.
Vitamins and minerals
Again provided you stay within the above you should have no problems getting your daily allowances.
This is an article of its own but a good fish oil and a multi-vitamin should suffice most people.
Ready meals and processed foods
These are best avoided at all costs, however, if you absolutely must have them( I'm not sure why) then make sure you check the packaging for low sugar levels and low fat levels. Do not assume because they claim the product is good for you that it neccesarily is, in most cases these will not aid your weight loss goals. Beware the dreaded E numbers.
FRUIT JUICE IS BAD in nearly all instances. If you really love it, make it yourself from fresh, or better yet just eat the fruit. NO soft drinks are good, including coke zero. Drink water and herbal tea, get your macronutrients from elsewhere. If you must have your morning tea/coffee then it wont kill you but it falls outside of my guidelines.
Sugar in a box. Cornflakes, weetabix, coco-pops, muesli(yes thats right)....avoid them all, although some are clearly less evil than others. If you want cereal then you have a choice of two, Bran flakes or 100% rolled oats. Not Oats with strawberries or honey or anything else. Just Oats. Have them with with water, a little cinnamon, some barley and/or some fruit each morning and the variety is maintained. Alternatively grab some of them organic eggs and make an omelette!
Foods of the devil
Lasagna, french fries, donuts, Ice cream, cookies, sweets, whole milk, crisps, chips, deep dried foods, fast foods.....i think you get the idea! What have all these got in common? They contain large amounts of fat and sugary carbs in the same serving, a devastating, waistline expanding combination.
Foods you probably thought were good but aren't
White pasta, white bread, fruit juice, most protein bars, muesli, bagels, flavoured oatmeal, crackers, soy protein, soy anything (more on this another time), fat free snacks(check the label, sugar galore), rice cakes, healthy option ready meals, many low fat products.
Spices are great, they bring even the blandest meals to life. Most vinegars are fine, worcester sauce, chilli sauce, cinnamon. Try as many as you like, there are hundreds out there. Try and stay away from sauces like ketchup, mayonaisse and barbecue, although some low sugar versions are borderline. You can nearly always flavour a meal with a spice instead of a sauce.
The human body will not use calories from any other source until it has used all of the calories it holds from alcohol. Therefore, when you have 10 pints of beer followed by a doner kebab, guess what sits in your system all night with nowhere to go except your waistline. Clearly I understand that many people refuse to completely refrain from alchohol but, atleast try and cut back or move away from beer to wine.
So there are the guidelines for making your kitchen a healthy one. As you can see, all of the foods I have listed are whole, natural foods as nature intended them. There are ofcourse many other natural whole foods and, which in most cases would meet the kitchens criteria.
Follow these guidelines alongside a regular training regime and the healthy body you have always desired will be yours. Not only that, but you will have more energy and feel much less stressed. What a bonus!
Good luck and happy eating!