On 17th October, the highly specialised dietician Sri Gandham joined our Healthy Eating session to talk about eating habits and eating on a budget. Sri specialises in Diabetes and was able to give advice on a number of subjects during the Zoom meeting.
Sri explained that Fats, Proteins and Carbohydrates are the three main micronutrients.
Fats such as oils, butter, spread, lard, cream and cheese have high calories and should be used sparingly. It is best to avoid deep frying and adding too much oil. Baking, roasting and dry frying are better options.
Proteins come from foods such as meat, fish, eggs, beans, pulses and nuts. However, try to control your intake of nuts, as they are high in calories due to the oils contained in them.
Carbohydrates are split into two categories:
The first is Starchy Carbohydrates. These are found in grains, rice, pasta, barley, oats, potatoes and tubers, which give us fuel for the body and mind. A guideline for the recommended daily intake of starchy carbohydrates is as follows:
- Breakfast: 20 – 30 grams
- Lunch: 20 – 30 grams
- Dinner: 40 – 60 grams
If you want to know how many carbohydrates are in the food you are eating, you can check the labels on the packaging. Ignore the “Sugars” section and just take note of the amount of carbohydrates in general. Another important section on food labels is the Kcal section, which tells you the amount of calories contained in your food.
The second category is Sugary Carbohydrates. These are found in fruit, fruit juices, milk, yoghurt and table sugar. However, these types of food can be addictive, so it is especially important to not consume too much.
Carbohydrates require higher insulin production. People who eat more carbohydrates usually find they put on weight more easily. If you are hoping to lose weight, try to control your intake of this food group.
When preparing your dinner, if you want to know how much of each food group you should be eating, there is a simple way to remember. If you imagine a dinner plate cut it in half, the first half should contain your vegetables. If you take the second half and split it in half again, you will have two quarters of a plate left after the vegetable section. One quarter should contain your protein and the other quarter should contain your carbohydrates.
A simple tool which can help with calorie counting is an app called MyFitnessPal. If you download this app and input how much you are eating and drinking, it will tell you what your total calorie intake is per day. It will also tell you how many calories you need to reduce per day and how much physical activity you need to do.
In order to be at our healthiest, Sri explained that we should all try to eat a healthy balanced diet, partake in physical activity and keep our mind free of stress. Meditation, pilates and yoga are all activities that can help us destress. If you feel as though you are not getting the required nutrition from your diet, you might want to consider taking multivitamin supplements. However, if you do take supplements, you should always inform your doctor as some supplements can interact with prescribed medication.
Sri stated that the guideline calorie intake per day is 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men. However, she stressed that everyone’s calorie requirement will be different. The requirement depends on age, sex, height, weight and the amount of physical activity achieved per day. If you are trying to lose weight, you will need to consume less calories than your daily requirement.
For an adult aged between 19 and 64 years old, an average of 20 minutes exercise per day is a good guideline to work to. This exercise can be as simple as walking, as long as it slightly raises your heart rate. You do not need to be out of breath. If you have limited mobility, there may still be exercises suitable for you. For instance, you could sit at a table and lift a bag of sugar in each hand as a substitute for hand weights. Physical activity is best used as a tool to keep fit, not just to lose weight. It is important to note that intensive exercise can make you want to consume more calories. So, when trying to lose weight, there is always a balance between cutting down on the calories and physical exercise.
Sri suggested that if you find yourself eating constantly, this may be out of habit or even due to boredom. If you find yourself falling into this trap, it may be best to occupy yourself with new activities, such as a hobby or volunteering. When we are otherwise occupied, we are less likely to binge eat.
On the subject of people with diseases of the bowel and gut, Sri suggested that it is a matter of trial and error. If you suffer with your stomach, make a note of the foods you are eating. If you find that a certain food upsets your system, it is best to cut it out of your diet.
When it comes to eating on a budget, Sri explained that food doesn’t need to be expensive. If you buy in bulk, batch cook and freeze your meals in containers, you can defrost and reheat them when required. The benefit of this is, not only does it save time, but you will save money too. If this seems like a lot of work when you have a family, try getting everyone in the household involved in cooking. Children will benefit from learning to cook. Whether they be a girl or a boy, you will be teaching them valued life skills. Spending time in the kitchen with the family can be a fun experience. And when it’s all prepared and cooked, there’s always a healthy meal to enjoy at the end.