When we hear the expression “eat well”, we all invariably think of the taste and pleasure provided by well-prepared foods, while when we hear the expression “good food” we think of health and figure. Gastronomy and food are not at odds; it is possible to combine health and a good figure with taste and pleasure. We suggest that you consider the following ten rules.
1. Variety, but in moderation
Since no food possesses all the necessary nutrients, i. e. fats, proteins, sugars, minerals, vitamins, water and fibre, in the optimum proportion, we must include different groups of foods in order to create a balanced diet adapted to our needs. In each of them there are some products that can be considered more or less nutritious from a dietetic-physiological point of view. Thus, in the group of cereals and their derivatives, a slice of whole-grain bread provides more nutrients than a slice of refined flour toast. Also, a slice of turkey cold cuts is healthier than a slice of salami because of its low fat content.
2. Less fat
Pay special attention to so-called hidden fats, for example, those found in meat, sausages, cheese, eggs, nuts, cakes, chocolate, etc. Try not to eat more than 30 or 40 g of these fats per day. To find out where and how much fat is hidden, it is advisable to keep a dietary record for a few days. This will allow you to know not only the energy input and daily fat consumption, but also whether the interrelationships of the main nutrients are in line with recommendations. In Europe, about 50 g of extra fat per day is consumed, equivalent to about 450 kcal.
3. Seasoned, but not salted
The sense of taste is immediately accustomed to a diet rich in salt. If you eat a diet rich in salt for a few days, a diet at the right amount of salt will seem dull to you. At present, about twice as much salt is consumed as would be advisable, about 10 g of common salt instead of the recommended 5 g per day. It is believed that, in people who are naturally predisposed to cardiovascular problems, high salt intake can lead to increased blood pressure and therefore an increased risk of myocardial infarction. Some foods with a high salt content include most types of cheese, preserves, ready-made dishes, snacks, sausages and seasonings such as bouillon cubes, mustard or sauces extracts, etc. In contrast, some of the salt-poor products are milk, yoghurt, fresh vegetables, fresh meat or fish and aromatic herbs. Season your dishes with fresh plants, and correct for salt after tasting the stew. In cases of iodine deficiency, it is advisable to consume iodized salt, as it helps to prevent iodine deficiency. In addition, after a few weeks on a low-salt diet, the sense of taste is changed and flavours are better appreciated.
4. Few sweets
As in the case of salt, a certain “dependence” on the sweetness can also be reached. The energy content of sweets is high, but their nutritional value is relatively low. Quite often, simple and refined sugars are accompanied by saturated fats. Sticky sweets such as lollipops, candies and chocolates pose a risk to dental health from tooth decay. People who consume sweets regularly give the body too much energy in exchange for giving up other more nutritious foods, robbing the body of the nutrients needed for a healthy life. Sweeteners do not solve the problem because, although they do not provide energy, they contribute to increasing the taste limit of sweetness and, moreover, lack carbohydrates. When you are hungry, when your blood glucose level is low, more sweetened products are usually consumed than are needed to meet your energy needs. Therefore, if you feel like eating something sweet, it is best to opt for a piece of fresh or dried fruit.
5. More Integral Products
Consumption of products made from refined flours (e. g. wheat flour type 405) reduces the intake of fibre, vitamins and minerals. These substances contained in the outer layers of the grain are lost during the milling process. In view of the fact that consumption in Western Europe is about 20 g instead of the recommended 30 g and that the intake of vitamins of group B and certain minerals is not always covered, we cannot give up the advantages of whole-grain products.
6. Abundant consumption of vegetables, potatoes and fruit
Fruits and vegetables are rich in carbohydrates, and they should supply half the daily energy. In addition, fruits and vegetables provide the body with fiber, vitamins, minerals and water, although they are relatively low in energy due to their high content of water and fiber. The pulses contain, in addition to a high percentage of fibre (like potatoes), highly nutritious proteins whose value can be further increased if combined with cereals or dairy products.
It is also advisable to eat frozen fruits and vegetables, provided that they have been deep-frozen immediately after harvesting, a practice that is usually common. This procedure preserves all the vitamins, which have often been lost in fresh produce because when they arrive at our homes they have been stored for a few days and the most sensitive vitamins have disappeared.
The circle shows the optimal ratio of nutrients to cover individual daily energy needs. The different segments of the circle illustrate the recommended amount of energy in each food group.
7. Less animal protein
Although proteins of animal origin tend to have a higher biological value than those of vegetable origin, that is, they are better assimilated by the human organism, they do not contribute good things. Meat, sausages and eggs also contain unwanted substances such as saturated fats, cholesterol, purines (which in high concentrations can cause gout) and salt. For this reason, meat consumption should be reduced to two or three small portions (maximum 150 g) per week. Sausage (maximum 50 g) and eggs should not be eaten more than two or three times a week. Instead, eat seafood more often twice a week. In addition to top-quality proteins, fish provides an important amount of iodine, which is hardly present in our diet. On the other hand, if you combine vegetable proteins with other protein suppliers, such as milk, dairy products or cereals, you won’t have to fear for a deficient supply of protein, even if you play a strenuous sport.
8. Know what you drink
Drinks provide energy quickly without a feeling of satiety. Since this energy, especially when it comes from soft drinks or alcoholic beverages, has no equivalent nutritional value, it is advisable to give them up as much as possible. Especially alcohol, which in its pure state provides about 7 kcal per gram, should never be used to quench thirst. Drinking alcohol in large quantities not only has a negative influence on reflexes and coordination, but when consumed regularly it can also cause dependency and damage internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, stomach and intestine, as well as the brain. Ideally, liquid needs should be covered, of which approximately 1.5 litres should be covered by drinking, mineral water or fruit teas. Coffee and black tea, although they are not energetic, are only suitable for supplying liquids with certain reserves, since they contain caffeine and theobromine, respectively, two exciting substances that can cause a certain degree of dependence. If possible, fruit and vegetable juices should be diluted (at least 1:1) as this will not only significantly reduce energy intake, but also be absorbed much more quickly.
9. Various small meals
Five small meals a day not only activate the metabolism, but also reduce the effect of the performance decline that appears throughout the day. So, eat breakfast twice and snack in the afternoon. The main meals should be less copious than usual, so that the total energy intake does not exceed your needs. If your body weight is normal, you can eat something at night after dinner.
10. Appetizing and nutritious dishes
Reduce cooking times and cook with little water or fat to conserve nutrients and food flavor. Some vitamins in fruits and vegetables are water-soluble and sensitive to heat, oxygen and light, so they should be stored in a cool, dark place, consumed as soon as possible and not exposed to heat for a long time. In addition, they should be washed before slicing and not cut too small so that the area from which the nutrients are removed is as small as possible. Minerals are also lost with water. Careful preparation not only helps to preserve nutrients, but also improves taste.