What Actually Makes Up A Healthy Meal?

Sticking with the nutrition side of things for this week?
I find that I get a lot more nutrition based questions than about exercise since becoming a personal trainer. You see committing to 2-5 hours a week of exercise is the easy part, eating clean for 20-30 meals a week is the difficult part and probably where most people need a little bit more help.
In this week’s article I want to talk about what a healthy meal actually consists of. I’ve had many well meaning clients in the past who’ve submitted food diaries for me, they’ve handed it to me and said ‘I’ve been good this week’, so I then look at what they’ve been eating and sadly find it’s not as good as they think it was.
You see a lot of people get confused about what’s healthy and what’s not. Obviously it all depends on quantity, if you have a donut once it’s not the end of the world, eat them 5 times a week and then you have a problem.
So let’s look at a couple of meals which people think are healthy. A lot of people have these opinions due to a load of misinformation from adverts, magazines, and food labels so it’s not our fault really.
Back to the meals. I must point out that I’m talking today for people who are trying to shift a little bit of weight, if your goal is different things may change for you.
How about this? Grilled chicken sandwich with a baked potato. Doesn’t sound too bad you think?
Yes I know it’s nowhere near as bad as a big fry up or a take away but if you want your ideal body you need things to be right most of the time and if you think a meal is healthy and it isn’t you could be eating this 5-10 times a week.
So time to pick apart this sandwich!
Firstly let’s look at the bread, sadly bread is one of the worst things to eat if you’re trying to get rid of some unwanted fat and even sadder it is the staple of most people’s lunches and quick snacks. Although brown bread is better it is still bread at the end of day. So picking brown over white doesn’t make it a good food choice it just makes it a better food choice.
Did you know that white bread has been found to spike insulin levels higher than sugar? Not good!
So you should try and avoid bread as much as you can. I used to practically live on bread in my younger days and since finding out it’s not so good I cut it out, yes I still eat it as a treat occasionally but I managed to cut it out pretty comfortably. Better than chocolate anyway, I’m still working on that one!!
Now onto the potato, potatoes are good (see more about potatoes here) but do most people have it on their own? Some good quality salt, nice butter (not margarine) is perfect, but again white carbs need to be in moderation if you are looking to lose weight and especially when you consider there’s already bread in this meal. Just don’t add mayo, sour cream, cheese or bacon or it’s even worse. That’s probably about 100 grams of carbs in one sitting!
So what about the chicken? That’s great you’ll be pleased to know as long as you don’t drown it in mayo or BBQ sauce!
So like I said it’s not disastrous but to lose a bit of weight maybe try just the grilled chicken breast, a medium baked sweet potato and for a bit more a helping of green veg or even a little side salad with balsamic vinegar. It’s not hugely different, it’s still delicious and it’s healthy and will keep you moving closer to your target weight rather than further away.
Another quick example.
Ready made salad from a supermarket. Plenty to choose from some worse than others.
You can get cheese layered ones, prawn mayo ones, tuna mayo. You would think that all salads are healthy.
I’m not one to count calories but the calorie content of these can be extremely high for a salad after adding a tonne of mayo, cheese or other sauces so just watch out. You’d be better off getting a plain salad and add your own meat to it.
If you have any other meals which you are unsure whether they are good for you and your goal then leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.
Anyway I hope I have provided you with a little bit more nutrition knowledge and know how to move you forward a step closer to your ideal weight.
Eat well and catch you next week,
Jamie Stedman
PS Beware of food labels, try to avoid things advertised as low fat, low calorie and things like that, they’re worse than the originals in a lot of cases.
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