In my last blog I talked about the importance of when to eat. An equally important way to refill your fuel tank is by changing what you eat. When we feel overwhelmed by all the things we need to do in our lives and not having enough energy to do them we often choose foods and drinks that give us an instant energy boost – e.g. bread, cakes, pastries, chocolate, coffee, or soft drinks. It is often very hard to ignore these refined carbohydrate, sugar and caffeine cravings as this is your body’s normal response to low blood sugar levels.
Unfortunately, the surge of energy you get from consuming these foods is followed by an even greater dip in energy, causing you to feel worse. Sugar and refined carbohydrates stimulate a spike in blood sugar levels and a subsequent spike in the corresponding hormone insulin that clears sugar from our bloodstream so fast that we crash, causing our blood sugar levels to yoyo constantly which leads to more cravings. Remember also that an imbalance in blood sugar levels causes your body to use up your precious reserve of cortisol from your nearly empty fuel tank which is all the more reason to eat foods that keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Below is an extract of the Blood Sugar Balancing Eating Plan hand out that I give to my clients:
• Include a protein in every meal and snack – protein helps to balance your blood sugar levels, keeps you feeling full and keeps the sugar and carb cravings at bay
• Eat 3 main meals and 2 – 3 healthy snacks in between
• Avoid hidden sugars found in “sugar free” jams, dried fruit, fruit juices, most muesli bars, flavoured yoghurts, etc.
• Cut down on stimulants - tea, coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, alcohol
• Eat more slow release whole grain carbohydrates (oats, wholegrain/ whole meal breads, small amounts of rice, potatoes and pasta)
• Avoid white flour products and other refined carbohydrates
• Always eat breakfas
Good sources of protein to include with each meal:
Lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, low fat dairy and legumes
• whole grain, whole meal toast with a protein (e.g. egg/hommus/baked beans/cottage cheese/sardines)
• raw (not toasted) muesli or porridge without dried fruit with milk and fresh fruit
• egg and vegetable based breakfast – omelette, poached egg with mushrooms/tomato
• salad with a protein (egg, tuna, salmon, chicken, turkey, low fat cheese, four bean mix)
• salad sandwich on whole meal, wholegrain bread with one of the above proteins
• protein (e.g. chicken/beef/legume) and vegetable soup with one slice of whole meal, wholegrain bread
Have a combination of whole grain carbohydrate, lean animal protein/vegetable protein and vegetables.
No matter what the meal is portion size is crucial - palm size each of protein and carbohydrate and the rest of the plate full of vegetables.
• lean meat/fish/tofu/tempeh and lots of veggies/salad
• vegetable based soups with lean meat/ legumes or grains like pearl barley
• stir-fry vegetables with a palm size amount of protein and palm size amount of rice
• handful of mixed nuts and seeds
• natural yoghurt with fresh fruit
• 2 or 3 whole grain crackers (Vita wheat are good) with avocado/cottage cheese/hommus
• raw veggie sticks with hommus, avocado dip, tzatiki dip
To lessen the stress that’s often associated with making dietary changes, consider preparing meals in large quantities that you can freeze, like soups or casseroles, on the weekends so you have them ready on busy weeknights, or if you are time and energy strapped grab a healthy takeaway like rice paper rolls or sushi for lunch or dinner occasionally.
Please don’t feel defeated if you veer off path occasionally. Bingeing, especially on sugar, can often lead to feelings of guilt, making you feel like giving up on eating healthy. But don’t worry, I always tell my clients to eat their best 80% of the time and the other 20% is up to them because guilt is the last thing your adrenals need!