One of my favourite aspects of the Health Coach Training Program (HCTP) is getting to meet fellow health coaches. They have inspired me to explore new recipes, eating healthy fats like avocado, MCT oil, using dried fruits as natural sweetener, and experimenting with superfoods like Maca, Spirulina and Chlorella. They have also taught me to look out for third-party lab testing on foods for contaminants and legitimate certifications rather than blindly buying everything organic, or whatever claims to be natural and healthy.
How has my food choices change since taking the HCTP?
I am still working on eating more whole foods to crowd out sugar and processed foods. I have definitely started paying more attention to micronutrients and come to admit that calorie counting is a load of BS. It is far more important to get the essential fats, vitamins, minerals and fibre into your body. I am definitely eating more healthy fats such as avocado, animal fats, coconut oil and olive oil, which are better at helping me reach satiety and keep satisfied for much longer than carbohydrates. Healthy fats also help absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K necessary for healthy bones, teeth and skin.
Carbohydrates - High Carb Low Fat or Low Carb High Fat?
I am not a fat-adapted runner so I still rely on carbohydrates before a long run or a race. However I am learning to derive my carbohydrates from cleaner foods such as steel-cut oat meal, quinoa and sweet potatoes. I seek out carbs from whole foods that are high in fiber to blunt the impact of insulin spikes from rising blood sugar levels. I also add almond butter, nuts and occasionally some dried fruits to my oatmeal which add more tastes and texture, the fat and protein from the nut butter also help to slow down digestion and keep me fuller for longer.
Consider the Quality of Carbohydrates
I used to think breakfast cereals were healthy, full of fiber and vitamins, but now I know better, they are laden with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, genetically engineered crops, preservatives and additives. The fiber in these cereals are cellulose to bulk up stool, but contain none of the prebiotics for gut health. In an ideal world I would eat single-ingredient foods and nothing out of a wrapper or package. In reality it is very hard to avoid as they are so convenient, so I try to go for food that is as close to its original form as possible. Thankfully there are lots of high-quality snack bars (Nakd, Kind, RX, Larabar) made from whole-food ingredients like nuts, seeds, egg white and dried fruits.
Fruits and Fructose
Whilst fructose is bad, I am still eating whole organic apples and oranges but avoiding fruit juices. Whole pieces of fruits contain more fiber, micronutrients and water but much less sugar than their juice counterparts. The fiber helps to slow down the absorption of sugar, causing a smaller spike in blood sugar and insulin levels, and less likely to cause subsequent hunger attacks.
Almond Milk and Raw Whole Almonds
I have also started making almond milk at home from organic raw almonds, and using the leftover meal for cooking and baking. Aside from being super tasty, almonds are a great source of monounsaturated fats, fiber and protein to help weight control. Almonds are also anti-inflammatory and help support heart health. It is true that home-made almond milk requires more effort and time, when I am short of time and energy, I buy ready-made almond milk from the store which also does the job.
So what is wrong with cow's milk or soy milk?
High-quality dairy like full fat grass-fed organic milk is an excellent way of packing minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium, vitamins and healthy fats into your diet. The downside from too much dairy could be skin sensitivity such as acne, digestive issues such as lactose intolerance, stomach cramps and worse. Full-fat organic dairy is a nutrient-dense food great for people who can tolerate dairy, otherwise there are numerous alternatives such as almond, coconut, soy, cashew, sheep's and goat's milk. Soy is an excellent source of protein and minerals, however packaged soy milk could be highly processed with a lot of sugar and additives.
I have gone crazy over avocado, coconut oil and olive oil, because they taste great and pair so well with salads, curry, fish, and also great for baking. These healthy fats can be rich in nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants. Grass-fed butter, grass-fed beef tallow, ghee and vegetarian-friendly coconut oil are high in saturated fat with high smoke point, which means they are less likely to form radicals under high heat, making them popular choices for cooking or frying.
No, I don’t mean ice-cream sundae kind of smoothies, I am not a fan banana-strawberry smoothies either. Thanks to my HCTP friends, who have taught me how to make smoothies from avocado, almond butter, MCT oil, collagen powder, chia seeds, hemp seeds, kale, spinach, broccoli, cocoa, dates and berries. One smoothie can possibly provide all the healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants for the day and enough satiety that last for hours.
Whilst I would much prefer eating, chewing , tasting food and taking the time to enjoy a meal, I agree that smoothie is as an excellent way of packing high quality nutrients into a small volume. Smoothies can be the quickest way to bring you the most nutritious meal if you are short of time. This is assuming someone else can do all the chopping, preparation and cleaning up for you. They are vegan and raw-food friendly and have plenty of variations as you can mix and match ingredients as you please. The general guide is 3/4 vegetables and 1/4 fruits to avoid too much sugar in your smoothie to prevent blood sugar and insulin spike.
Even though my HCTP friends all have such different backgrounds, life experiences and relationships with food, we are able to share many ideas and recommendations. An important part is that we are respectful and supportive of each other's dietary and lifestyle choices. It is always about bio-individuality, that one person's food is another's poison. It is about experimenting and figuring out the unique diet that works best for yourself, it is a journey that will never end as you grow and your needs change over time.