The Best Foods to
Have in a Healthy Eating Plan

Many people have differing ideas about the types of foods that a healthy eating plan should contain. In this article we will examine my thoughts in this area and why I recommend certain foods and why I recommend avoiding or minimising other foods.

Of course, some of the suggestions here may differ from what you've heard before and may also differ from your own beliefs, however, even if you just use a few of the recommendations, I can assure you that it will make a difference to your weight-loss efforts and most importantly, your health as well.

Healthy Eating Plan

We will start by looking at what foods to avoid entirely, or at least minimise, in your healthy eating plan. Then we will consider foods to have in small quantities, foods to have in moderate quantities and then foods to have in large quantities. The food serving sizes discussed here are relative terms. What I mean by this is that the foods to have in large quantities are still consumed in controlled amounts but they are in large amounts relative to the size of the other foods in your overall daily intake.

In each of these areas we will look at why you should have the foods listed in the recommended amounts. We will also cover additional principles to ensure you get the best possible results when putting together your healthy eating plan.

Foods to avoid/ minimise in your healthy eating plan

I think that most of the foods in this section will be common knowledge to all, however, there may be a few food types that are a surprise to some people.

If you are serious about losing weight and improving your health then it simply makes sense to avoid all 'sweets'. This includes, lollies, chocolate, cakes, biscuits, ice cream, etc. Fast food (junk food) should also be avoided almost entirely and alcohol should be minimised or avoided too.

These food groups (sweets, fast food and alcohol) are loaded with calories, and in the case of sweets and fast foods, the calories come mainly from refined sugar and fat. The fast food may also contain 'trans fats', which are in fact harmful to the body and should be avoided as much as possible.

Alcoholic beverages not only contain a concentrated form of 'empty calories' from the alcohol itself but they also usually contain high levels of sugar and/ or fat as well depending on the alcoholic drink being consumed. If you would like to find out more about the impact alcohol has on your weight-loss efforts, read my article titled, Alcohol and Weight Gain.

The only time you should allow yourself to indulge in these foods is on your Treat Day. Apart from that, it is best to avoid consuming these foods altogether.

Foods to have in small quantities
in your healthy eating plan

The foods to have in small quantities include: most packaged/ highly-processed foods, refined carbohydrates, which includes, bread, pasta, rice and cereals and high-fat foods like, nuts and seeds, avocado, oils, butter, etc.

The reason why most healthy eating plans don't contain packaged/ highly-processed foods in any reasonable amounts is simply because they they tend to be devoid of most nutrients as a result of going through processing.

Plus, processing also makes the 'nutrient-sparse' food that remains more concentrated in calories and most of the remaining food tends to contain carbohydrates. This means that most packaged or processed foods are concentrated forms of carbohydrates that contain few beneficial nutrients.

Of course, concentrated forms of carbohydrate induce a rapid rise in blood sugar levels after consuming them. This rise in blood sugar stimulates the pancreas to release insulin into the blood stream and insulin promotes the storage of carbohydrates in the liver and muscles, but when these storage sites are full the rest gets converted into body fat. Furthermore, insulin also stops the body from accessing and utilising stored fat as a fuel source. This means it stops the body from burning fat!

Therefore, for maximum fat loss to occur, minimising insulin release is essential.

This is the same reason why it is best to minimise your intake of refined carbohydrate sources like, bread, pasta, rice and cereals. Despite being heavily promoted by most nutritionists, dieticians, so-called 'health' organisations and government bodies like the USDA, for the last 30 years, consuming these foods in the previously recommended amounts (6-11 serves a day) will actually promote more fat storage and stop your fat-burning and weight-loss efforts in their tracks!

Therefore, 1-2 serves a day of refined carbohydrate sources is more than enough.

It is also important to only have small quantities of the high-fat foods in your diet. This is simply because high-fat foods are a very concentrated source of calories, i.e. fat contains 9 calories per gram whilst carbohydrate and protein only contain 4 calories per gram.

Despite this, the 'natural' high-fat foods are an essential part of your diet and should not be avoided. They provide highly beneficial essential fatty acids that our bodies require every day. It is only important that you control your intake of these foods because of their 'calorie-dense' nature.

Foods to have in moderate quantities
in your healthy eating plan

Most normal, everyday foods will fall into this category. These are the foods that you should have in reasonable quantities without going overboard of course. This category include foods like, dairy foods, which includes, milks, yoghurts and cheeses, etc. Fruits and starchy vegetables also fall into this category. Meat, fish and eggs (high protein) are another food type that you should consume in moderate amounts along with legumes (beans and peas).

Dairy foods are one group that I wasn't sure whether to put in the 'small amounts' category or the 'moderate amounts' category. I decided to go with the moderate amounts category simply because most people enjoy dairy foods and can tolerate them reasonably well, they do provide some benefits, but perhaps not as many as the dairy industry would have us believe, and they are probably better to have in larger quantities than the foods contained in the 'small amounts' category. Plus, this category does contain whey protein powder and I am a big fan of that.

Fruits and starchy vegetables are great because they are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals along with a range of 'phytonutrients' (nutrients from plants) that nutritional science is gradually finding out more about and that are sure to be considered essential at some stage in the future.

However, they do contain a reasonable amount of carbohydrates so it is best to not have large quantities of these foods.

The high-protein group (meat, fish and eggs) are very concentrated sources of protein and are therefore not required in large quantities. Even hard-training athletes can get an adequate amount of protein from a moderate protein intake.

Plus, when you consider the differences in anatomy and physiology between humans and carnivores (pure meat eaters), it becomes obvious that we are not designed to eat large quantities of concentrated protein sources.

Legumes are a great source of fibre and also provide protein and carbohydrate in reasonable amounts. This food type is perhaps required to be consumed in large quantities if you're a vegetarian, otherwise, if you're an omnivore (eat both plants and animal flesh), a moderate intake is fine.

Foods to have in large quantities
in your healthy eating plan

The foods to emphasise most in your healthy eating plan are the fibrous vegetables. These are low-density carbohydrate sources. They are nutrient-dense but calorie-sparse, which means you can eat them in large quantities without consuming excess calories. Most healthy eating plans are based on this food type. This group includes foods like, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, capsicum (peppers), cucumber, etc.

No matter whether you consume them as a part of a salad or steam them and add them to a meal, the most important point is that you consume them on a regular basis. This group really can make a massive difference when it comes to losing weight and improving your health.

If you would like to find out more about how to structure a healthy eating plan, read my e-book, Look Good, Feel Great!

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