So, what exactly IS a healthy diet?

(52 Posts)
Rooobs Mon 31-Dec-12 15:29:46

I'm confused.

NHS says the age old low calorie, low fat, plenty of fruit and veg and starchy carbs (the eat well plate etc).

I've heard sports nutritionists say high protein, low starchy carbs (but plenty of fruit carbs and grains), low fat is the way forward.
Then there's the John Briffa stuff, which I do find convincing tbh and he appears to back it up with evidence. This WOE says that fruit is too high in sugars, but certain veg ok. Pulses etc only occasionally.

Then there's the other low carbing diets (IPD, Dukan etc)
that include fairly high levels of fat, claiming that it's not actually fat that causes heart problems and that the evidence has been misunderstood.

And then there's the thing about restricted eating plans which send me fecking bananas for whatever is forbidden. I can low carb up to a point and then I go completely psycho for pasta and toast. So Susie Orbach suggests learning to eat mindfully, eating in tune with hunger but whatever your body is craving for as your body knows what it needs (to paraphrase).

So, what do you think?

defineme Mon 31-Dec-12 15:35:54

I think I'm best when I'm balanced. Lots of veg, bit of protein/carbs/fruit and so on. The less processed stuff the better.I try and eat in a varied way-I find it very easy to slip into the same breakfast and lunch and a stock 7 dinners that rotate!
I felt very unwell on low carbs and find slimming world/weightwatchers and so too complicated. I just like the 'eat less, move more, eat mainly veg'-which may be a combination of 2 people's quotes!

For me it's low carb AND low fat. The only way of eating that keeps me at my goal weight without feeling deprived.

Mostly protein (fish and lean meat), eggs and heaps of vegetables. With nuts, berries and seeds. Some yogurt and cheese. I don't like sugary fruit so can easily avoid.

Lots of water.

And gin.

mrsnec Mon 31-Dec-12 15:55:48

I've just been put on a plan by my hospital and it's been very easy to stick to. I agree with what's been said about Ww, Sw & going carb free. Breakfast is 2 small handfuls of cereal & skimmed milk or 1 piece of brown toast with diabetic Jam & a tiny piece of reduced fat Halloumi. Lunch & dinner, fill your plate half full of veg first then small handful of lean protein and even smaller of a simple starch. You can have one piece of fruit, a yogurt and an additional 50 cal snack to this and a couple of meals per week can be changed to home made veg soup to speed up weight loss. I'm finding less fruit and choc hard so my snack is a couple of dark choc covered almonds or a glass of freshly squeezed OJ. Milk must be skimmed ( but yog can be 3%) and no additional salt or sugar.

HumphreyCobbler Mon 31-Dec-12 16:00:36

I am a Briffa convert. Since adopting this WOE (diet sounds like a weight loss plan only) I am thin, happy, impervious to the PMS that previously blighted my life and did I mention thin?

I have tried low fat/calorie controlling/exercise over the years and failed at all of them. Not this time.

I truly believe there is no need to eat wheat or refined sugar and I feel all the better for not doing so. I am not claiming an allergy or intolerance either.

Low fat/high sugar diets are just plain bad for you.

SCOTCHandWRY Mon 31-Dec-12 16:03:06

NHS says the age old low calorie, low fat, plenty of fruit and veg and starchy carbs (the eat well plate etc).

It's NOT age old - our obsession with low fat/high carb/high (fruit) sugar/low protein diet as being the desirable, healthy norm is actually very recent - started post WW2 and really only took of as the official healthy diet much later than that, c1980's. People eat far more "fake" foods (low fat and highly processed), and think it's fine because the label says low fat... these foods tend to be very high GI and mess our metabolic processes.

At the same time, people have got fatter, and less healthy, type 1 and type 2 diabetes have both increased markedly in line with the average amount of grain/carb consumption in the population.

So what ever else may be healthy, the diet we are recommended to eat, is certainly is not healthy - it bares no relation at all to the diet humans evolved to eat!

IMO - a healthy diet for the human animal is a diet rich in the foods humans would have hunted and gathered before agrarian societies formed - so lots of seafoods, eggs, poultry and meat, lots of herbs (salads and leaves), plant stalks and roots (tubers), fungi and some honey and fruits in season.

NO dairy, no grains (certainly no modern grains, they are very inflammatory)...

I do eat this way for most of the time (Paleo), but do have limited amounts of heavy cream and butter and cheese, raw where possible, and the occasional small portion of white rice.

SCOTCHandWRY Mon 31-Dec-12 16:04:56

Whoops BUNNY, your post reminds me, I forgot nuts and seeds...

SCOTCHandWRY Mon 31-Dec-12 16:07:57

<and the gin, but I prefer vodka> grin

Rooobs Mon 31-Dec-12 16:27:18

Sorry, when I say"age old" I just mean, the diet my generation (I'm 38) have grown up with as 'healthy'.

I don't think I've ever had a diet which has made me feel good. I've felt tired, lazy and sluggish forever. I usually trust NHS advice, but on this one I'm not sure.

Xenia Mon 31-Dec-12 17:22:23

What everyone else is saying above - much less carb, more protein, eggs, fish, meat, lots of veg.

It was when we made fat the enemy in the last 40 years that we ruined the health of the planet, upped the sugar and fructose and started the obesity and diabetes epidemics. Model your eating on how we ate for 2 million years.

In fact it's really simple - if man made it, don't eat it.

HumphreyCobbler Mon 31-Dec-12 17:32:35

Yes, have you read "In Defence of Food?" A really interesting look at the history behind nutritional advice, and a good unpicking of the science (or lack of) behind it. The author says not to eat it if your great grandmother would not have eaten it, so no processed food at all.

It make sense.

I'm with the majority - lower carb, higher fat, moderate protein. Unprocessed foods as much as possible, cooked from scratch and with imagination. Alcohol as a treat, not a habit. Oily fish a couple of times a week. A wide variety of meats and (mostly green, leafy) vegetables. Occasional legumes. The aforementioned nuts and seeds. Seasonal berries and other wild foods (wild garlic and other hedgerow greens, maybe some seaweed, nettles etc.). Some (high fat) dairy, but not to excess.

If I eat this way, I feel a lot better than I do when I'm eating so-called 'normally'.

Ephiny Mon 31-Dec-12 17:47:37

For me 'healthy' means everything in moderation. Unless you have particular health issues, I don't think there's any need to give up particular food types or follow a special diet.

Well, I don't eat meat/fish, but that's more personal preference than because I think it's more healthy.

SabrinaMulhollandJjones Mon 31-Dec-12 17:52:02

The Mediterranean Diet is a meant to be a good one - lots of veg, low on processed carbs.

specialsubject Mon 31-Dec-12 17:59:53

low fat means less fat, not low-fat variations of fatty foods. These are stuffed with sugar to make them taste half decent.

all the low-carb 'converts' go on about how the diet works 'every time' - which means it doesn't work at all, and usually turn out to have guzzling biscuits, cakes etc. So they stop eating those and miraculously lose weight.

I eat NHS style, and believe me I love my food. I've never been on a diet in my life, if my clothes get tight that means I go for longer tougher walks.

no money to be made in this though, which is why messrs Dukan, Atkins etc don't peddle it.

Xenia Mon 31-Dec-12 18:01:18

Med good too as again it is how we always ate - whole real food, not processed. I think arguments over whether you can have brown rice and a slice of brown bread or a cup of milk are tiny tinkering around the edges. Whether you include those tyupes of products,b it of dairy, small amount of carb but ost of your diet is healthy whole foods it will not really much matter. If you have virtual door steps of bread at every meal and then massive baked potatoes it is still probably a lot better for you than the crispy creme donuts but you're not likely to lose weight, whereas steak or sardines are not something you are likely to over eat.

specialsubject - I've never had a sweet tooth, and even when I wasn't eating lower carb, I never ate cakes or biscuits, or chocolate (I really don't like it) , or sweets of any type. My 'sins' were pizzas, curries, mashed potatoes and toast, really. Low carb is in the process of working for the second time in 10 years for me. The first time it worked for 3 years, and then I stopped working it (rather than the other way round). This is the second time, and I'm down 4 stone since August. QED - it works.

SCOTCHandWRY Mon 31-Dec-12 19:52:33


It was when we made fat the enemy in the last 40 years that we ruined the health of the planet, upped the sugar and fructose and started the obesity and diabetes epidemics. Model your eating on how we ate for 2 million years.

YY to this comment, however to your later comments about grain consumption, we may be better off ditching grain foods... I think this is a complex area, grains wouldn't have formed any part of the human diet before we developed fire and tools, to be edible at all to us, grains need to be processed to some degree, and cooked, and even then they are not very nutrient dense (calorie dense but not nutrient dense). Older (ancient varieties) of grains, and rice are a little less inflammatory but the predominant varieties used now (semi dwarf wheat) are very toxic. The role of wheat in inflammatory and immune disease is well known, but we are esentially being encouraged to base our diets on wheat in one form or another (bread, cereal and pasta)!

Xenia Mon 31-Dec-12 21:15:26

Yes, I know. I don't often have grains but I've concluded if everyone moved to wholefood whether they keep their bread and rice or not they would still be much much better off than the standard English diet. I think for some people saying ditch diary/bread is too drastic for them but they can still eat pretty well and get most benefits even if they keep a bit in. The problem is that so many people make those carbs their main foods.

Jahan Tue 01-Jan-13 07:36:18

I think if you just stick to 'real' food and cut out snacking then that's a healthy diet. Check portion size to lose weight.
I just cannot do these low carb diets and feel ill on them.
If you do slimming world green days then you can eat all the carbs you want (not wheat and without fat) and still lose weight. I'd rather do that but prefer a more balanced approach.

mrsnec Tue 01-Jan-13 08:24:47

A lot of people think the med approach is the right way but that diet is still rich in grains too. I live in Cy and even on my hospital regime there was wheat of some kind with every meal almost.But I have stopped that but not cut it completely. I agree with what you say as I don't want to cut carbs but I do want to make the best choices possible and I think variety is key too. Also perhaps looking at carbs with the best GI might be the way to go? But I do still have the odd dilemma. Eg. If I was to have a main meal of a piece of fish with a massive pile of veg I'd still crave a carb of some sort and wouldn't feel full no matter how much veg I ate. But if I add a handful of brown rice or eat a banana afterwards I would feel satisfied so what's the best option there?

Xenia Tue 01-Jan-13 10:11:32

In that case have the handful of brown rice, although what you write is unusual as most people feel very full with a lot of fat and protein and it is those eating just the carbs who tend to feel hungry more quickly. Much better to have your small amount of rice with meals than be eating biscuits between meals.

If we could get everyone in the UK eating along the lines of - "if man made it don't eat it" that is a very simple message. I would also suggest particularly if you're short of money just drinking tap water. Lotso f juice is not good for adults or children and so many people think a huge glass of orange juice is some kind of health food!

Snowkey Tue 01-Jan-13 10:54:40

I agree Xenia, the carbs may give you a temporary feeling of fullness or maybe the spike in blood sugar levels that we often crave but it is the fat and protein that will give you that feeling of fullness for longer. A low carb diet can make you feel poorly while you body is transitioning between carb burning and fat burning but it often doesn't last more than a few days and then you should feel really good.

freetoanyhome Tue 01-Jan-13 11:32:57

I tried the low carb and felt very ill (and its very hard to do as a veggie) and hungry constantly. Did it religiously for 30 days and maybe lost 8 pounds which would happen on any diet. I now eat spelt wheat bread for breakfast and am full till lunchtime. Then Dhal and rice for lunch, beans (as a chilli) with veg for tea.
No sugar. Plenty of butter, yogurt and some cheese for protein. And I feel much better. It was shop bread causing terrible acid reflux and lethargy. Home made spelt/kamut has no effects on my tummy at all.
I rarely eat fruit as it triggers the acid and drink water and tea.

OwlCatMouse Tue 01-Jan-13 11:40:22

I think focussing on real food, nothing processed, focus on lean meat and veg etc and just less of meals concentrated around carbs. Eggs or fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, rather than toast. Soup rather than sandwiches for lunch. Nothing particularly low cal or low fat, butjust less emphasis on bread and sugary cereals for meals.

Look at the Japanese diet - loads of fish and veg etc. As a country they have one of the longest life expectancies in the world.

OwlCatMouse Tue 01-Jan-13 11:41:24

Oh, and no 'low fat' processed products. Just normal real food.

mrsnec Tue 01-Jan-13 12:32:26

Interesting about the fat. On the days when I eat things like fish and veg I would have eaten very little fat during the rest of the day. I think I'm almost scared of it unless it's cheese! As the docs have put me on statins I think the rice is the way to go and I can knock the OJ on the head soon too as it's mainly because we have so many on our trees and I wanted to enjoy them and the juice helps some of the side effects of my meds. Also with low carbing I struggle to stomach eggs and other high protein food first thing. How do you get round that?

VerySmallSqueak Tue 01-Jan-13 12:35:23

For me it's as unprocessed as possible and as organic as possible.

I find that cuts out much of the rubbish (sweets,cakes white bread etc)

Thumbwitch Tue 01-Jan-13 12:45:40

A healthy diet = one you can stick to for life, not just use for weight loss. smile

It also = one that contains little refined starch/carbohydrates, and as little modern processed food as possible.
Fat has been unnecessarily demonised and is in fact essential for body processes and to hold us together. Not too much, but you need a decent amount for proper fatty acid turnover, therefore extreme low fat/no fat diets are insanely bad for you.
Refined sugar is completely unnecessary in the diet, as we can take all the sugars we need from fruit and carbohydrates; and we can create glucose de novo in our bodies when needed.
Protein and fat both break down into acids (amino acids from protein and fatty acids from fats) and, in a well-regulated body, you will self-limit on both because your blood acid levels rise and cause biofeedback that stops you eating.
Fresh fruits and vegetables with decent levels of vitamins and minerals; unrefined cold-pressed oils; a good mix of fish and meats (unless you're vegetarian) but not too much of either - include vegetable protein as well (legumes, mushrooms etc.)
Some raw foods but not a whole diet of raw - some items are digested better when cooked, and release their nutrients better.

There are lots of different ideas out there but my basic principle is to go as natural and old-fashioned as possible. smile (Although not to the extent of using arsenic salts to colour boiled sweets, that's just silly.)

Xenia Tue 01-Jan-13 13:43:46

I think just about everyone agrees which is nice (I certainly agree with Thumbwitch).

On fats if you eat avocados, almonds, fat on meat, eggs you tend to feel pretty healthy. Whether higher protein or higher fat is best is probably debatable but you certainly need both and plenty of people lost most weight by going for high fat rather than high protein (lots of debates about it on the paleohacks website).
However as long as you are cutting out the junk then I think whatever you do will be better than before.

As for eggs first thing the English original breakfast was always bacon and eggs and it's what I eat. Why is it it hard to eat an egg for breakfast? I never understood that really. You've starved all night. Breakfast should be a big meal to make you feel good and not be hungry until lunch time.

SCOTCHandWRY Tue 01-Jan-13 19:49:59

Low carb breakfasts, if you don't want to cook, what I usually have is -

Parma ham with a handfull of berry fruits or raw tree nuts.

Cold cuts left over from roast the night before, with a handful of salad leaves.

Paleo fritata which can be cooked ahead and sliced up for breakfast for 2 or 3 days (egg and veg base "pizza" basically), great as a hot meal too.

All served with fresh coffee with double cream.

Rooobs Tue 01-Jan-13 20:33:15

I think I agree about the avoidance of processed foods being a major step in the right direction. Though this rules out bacon/salami etc which figures heavily in IPD but not recommended by Briffa due to nitrite content IIRC.

However, I think the finding a WOE for life is the hard part, and that there's a psychological aspect to dominate too. I need to think differently about food. I need to think like a think person grin

Rooobs Tue 01-Jan-13 20:33:43

*THIN person!

SCOTCHandWRY Tue 01-Jan-13 21:37:30

Yes, hard to get bacon (surely the perfect food in terms of taste!) nitrite free, which is the reason I have Parma ham for breakfast (2 ingredients, ham and salt, nothing else)... Aldi does it for a very good price.

Xenia Tue 01-Jan-13 21:55:42

I am happy with bacon although I agree it is rather processed. it's certainly better than crispy creme donuts. I eat a lot of eggs too.

Sensible article here if you can stand to access a DM link... Robert Lustig has it right about sugar.

mrsnec Wed 02-Jan-13 08:44:32

I am very odd and sometimes like to eat a full english at tea time! But I can do cold fritatta or cold hard boild egg with meat and salad we often have them hanging about as DH thinks a hard boiled egg is a salad vegetable! Could easily alternate that with yog with seeds and berries and not get bored.

I confess to being a bit of a bacon addict, which I realise is processed and at odds with my preference to eat unprocessed foods. Something that's worked for me in the past, and which I think I'll try again, is making home made burger patties (just minced beef and some seasonings) the night before, and having a couple of those under fried eggs instead of bacon for breakfast. I don't think it'll make any difference to my rate of weight loss, but it might be a healthier option. Of course, if I could afford it, I'd be having steak and eggs every morning, with mushrooms!

OddBoots Wed 02-Jan-13 15:11:30

There is a guy I really respect called Dr Karl Kruszelnicki he says: Eat food, mainly plants, not too much.

PlainoldWitchesTit Wed 02-Jan-13 15:34:56

I go by using as natural ingredients in fresh prepared, home made foods as I can with as few processes the better.

As little processed shite as possible, hardly any now which means I don't get prissy when i or the kids are offered sweets or fancy a bacon sarnie. grin

We're not trying to lose weight though so we eat plenty of (good) fats, simple sugars etc.

Home made juices, yoghurts, breads, home grown veg and fruit, baking and cooking simple meals with unadulterated ingredients. Never felt better since I began eating like this after clearing myself from candida last year.

mrsnec Thu 03-Jan-13 07:12:21

My doc has told me I shouldn't take any supplements at all unless they are prescribed so I'm looking for a WOE that doesn't leave me defficient in any essential vits and minerals.

Xenia Thu 03-Jan-13 08:09:37

In that case eat a lot of liver, onions, kale, spinach, meat, fish, eggs and seaweed if you can find it is pretty good too.

Rooobs Thu 03-Jan-13 12:21:17

So, for myself, I'm definitely veering towards the Briffa WOE, aiming for:

natural foods (minimal processing)
low carb
lots of greens
high protein
including fats
less alcohol <<(vague, huh? hmm )

But I also really love cooking (and cook books) and every now and again I get a pang to cook some beautiful pasta dish or pie or something.

Most recently, I've bought jamie Oliver's 15 minute meals. Now I love this guy, and I think he has done marvellous stuff for changing our views of how we, and especially our children, should eat. But his definition of 'healthy' seems to be the NHS version and includes fake foods like low fat yoghurt (which has carby fillers and/or sugar to improve the flavour). His meals are also fairly carb heavy, always including noodles, rice, pasta or bread.

I think this is what I will struggle with, managing my need to cook lovely stuff and having to ignore recipe books that I love sad


mrsnec Thu 03-Jan-13 12:21:51

I don't eat offal but I'm going to make it a NY res to fall in love with Kale. Just had massive plate of eggs and spinach for lunch over my usual PB on brown toast. Seeing if that will keep me full until dinner. Think I'm getting the hang of this now.

mrsnec Thu 03-Jan-13 12:26:33

Roobs I'm definately with you on your thoughts on JO I think I'm going to miss cooking too.

Rooobs Thu 03-Jan-13 12:36:40

mrsnec, I guess we'll have to be clever with how we use the ingredients we can work with eh?

I know the last time I low carbed, I became stuck in a rut of chicken and salad <yawn> so I'm going to have to make an effort to look for adaptable meals and meals that happen to be low carb. I've noticed that with any diet, once I start eating weird foods, that's when it goes down hill. So when I did WW I started eating a lot of muller lights (weird for me, I don't like yoghurt) and LF cottage cheese (another food I would never choose). On low carb, it's when I start making stuff with ground almonds that it starts feeling odd.

Does that make sense?! I need to feel I'm eating 'normally'!

mrsnec Thu 03-Jan-13 13:51:53

It makes loads of sense. Am very familiar with WW as DM works for them but I don't agree with a lot of what they do eg cornflour to thicken sauces. I haven't got JO book but saw the telly prog. Trying to get DH to eat more fish. But At the moment he only eats it fried or covered in chese and cream which I have to cut down on so I want to try and adapt the white fish tagine recipe to a low carb version. He'd eat that with veg and or salad as he hates cous cous.

Xenia Thu 03-Jan-13 14:02:58

Youc an do lots of healthy cooking if you eat well.
Jamie O is fat which I suppose illustrates the point above - that some of his proposed ingredients are not good for you.

The issue about fried fish above - fry it. I don't think frying is bad as long as it is not in batter. Some would argue cream is fine too.

SizzleSazz Thu 03-Jan-13 14:08:16

Homemade salsa verde with salmon is delicious. I use nick nairns recipe and fling in watercress and rocket if I have them (he just uses basil/mint/parsley iirc). Herbs are pretty easy to grow and really help with the flavour & 'normal' cooking.

SizzleSazz Thu 03-Jan-13 14:11:46

I usually steam fish - it seems to retain its delicate flavour better.

For a creamy sauce I would say mix the pesto with some creme fraiche.

Sauces with lime/chilli etc are lovely with fish too. Ainsley Harriot (albeit a tad annoying) has some lovely tasty recipes with loads of fresh herbs/garlic/chilli/ginger/spices which I think are imperative for a healthy diet too.

SCOTCHandWRY Thu 03-Jan-13 14:38:35

Re getting in a rut with low carb cooking... Paleo Slow Cooking by Chrissy Gower is an great collection of low carb (and gluten free, all of it!) ideas - all for the slow cooker (tho in reality most could be cooked in the normal oven or stove-top). As it's slow cooking, less expensive cuts of meat can be used so it's economical for cooking low carb for the whole family.
I bought it fairly recently and have not had a "dud" recipe yet, DH has loved everything and the DC have loved all but the spiciest ones.

SCOTCHandWRY Thu 03-Jan-13 14:42:26

MRSNE- instead of cous cous or rice as a "plate filler" try cauliflour rice (steamed, chopped fine), works pretty well.

mrsnec Thu 03-Jan-13 15:47:06

I'm going to try that. I'm also going to try doing the tagine with full fat yog and maybe a carrot and corriander salad and hope that's enough for me. I'm struggling with less carbs. I've been hungry all afternoon but I've not given in. I'm having to watch cholestrol so I think salsa verde might be the way to go especialy as I have a herb garden. Abandoned my slow cooker when it turned everything to watery goo but I'd look at doing the Paleo stuff on the hob.

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