Good health is the greatest treasure one can own and it doesn’t happen by chance. Good health happens by choice. One choice at a time. It’s definitely not something that happens overnight either – it’s a s l o w process. Obviously the more you push yourself, the better results you will get. But the idea is to simply start where you’re at. Don’t feel overwhelmed. And don’t start big. Keep it simple … and then just keep working at it … one step at a time! Work out which lifestyle changes you are able to make, start making the changes and once they become a habit, move on to the next lifestyle change. Below you will find an outline of a healthy eating plan. It’s something we should all be working towards.
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. 3 John 2
OK, so the first thing to note in our healthy eating plan is that it should be plant-based. This means no animal products. Yup, no meats (including even chicken, fish and other sea creatures), no dairy (yes, this includes cow’s milk, cheese, butter and yoghurt) and no eggs. Only plants.
Why? Well, it’s not difficult to see that animals and animal products are:
- high in cholesterol
- high in fat
- high in parasites
- prone to bacterial as well as viral contamination
- high in industrial and chemical pollutants (think: fish living in the ocean ‘waste dump’)
- difficult to digest (leading to fermentation in the stomach)
Unfortunately consuming meat and animal products is one of the foundational causes of all human sicknesses and diseases! That’s pretty frightening and so it obviously follows that meats and animal products should really never even be introduced to our stomachs.
Ok, so how? For most people, meat and animal products are a way of life. Living a plant-based diet is a HUGE change and one can feel restricted in so many ways (think: eating out, convenience foods, parties and social gatherings). Yes, a plant-based diet lifestyle is definitely not going to be an easy change. But, considering the benefits, it will definitely be worth it! So let’s see how we can start this journey one step at a time…
Consider starting by going vegetarian before going plant-based. In other words, begin by cutting out the meats only and not the animal products like dairy and eggs etc. Replace the meats with meat alternatives like Fry’s Family foods. Unfortunately these are highly processed and not fantastically healthy, but they are a stepping stone in the right direction and will help to wean you off meat.
Next, start getting a taste for more legumes like beans, lentils, split peas, chickpeas etc. Slowly add them into your diet.
Begin phasing out the animal products. Perhaps start with the cow’s milk – as this is easily replaceable with non-dairy milk alternatives like soya, rice and nut milks. Consider giving up the butter and replacing it with a nice homemade spread (like hummus or a nut butter). Another idea would be to make it a rule that you only eat animal products when eating out, but never at home. When I began eating a plant-based diet, the last thing I gave up was the cheese on pizza. I was finally able to give that up when I learnt how to make my own pizza. We are all different and lead different lives. Only you will know what steps you can take to improve your health.
So, there are many ways to get there. But just start. One step at a time. Don’t be hard on yourself if you slip up, but set yourself a goal that is do-able and then persevere.
Things to avoid
OK, so you’re plant-based now … but unfortunately there is such a thing as an unhealthy plant-based eater. There are some things we need to avoid, even though they are not animal-based.
Keep it low fat, low sugar and low salt. Please note: not NO fat, NO sugar or NO salt. We do need healthy fats, some sweetness doesn’t hurt and salt does benefit the body … but never in excess. So how much is too much? Fats: if you are consuming a 2500 calorie diet daily (average male diet), 10% or less is more than enough. That is equal to 250 calories or 2 tablespoons of oil. Women usually eat about 2000 calories daily. Olive oil is best! Sugar: no more than 6 teaspoons a day. Sugar causes red blood cells to clump together and also paralyses the white blood cells – your essential immune system! Rather use honey, dates or fruit to sweeten your food than refined, processed sugars. Salt: at the very most 1 teaspoon of sea salt or rock salt daily. Table salt has been heavily processed with minerals removed and additives added to prevent clumping – rather use lemon, onion and herbs to flavour your foods.
Processed foods and sauces. These are usually ridiculously high in sweeteners, salts or fat, not to mention other added preservatives and unpronounceable chemicals.
All condiments and stimulants are bad news. This includes caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, hot peppers (like chili peppers, cayenne pepper, black and white peppers), spices that irritate the stomach (like ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, turmeric, curry powder), vinegars (including apple cider vinegar) and mustards. Condiments stimulate the stomach’s activity while at the same time inhibiting the proper secretion of gastric juices.
Baking powder (from the ordinary grocery store) contains aluminium so try to look for a healthy alternative like this one.
Baking soda is an alkaline substance that neutralizes the gastric juices produced by the stomach, thereby interfering with proper digestion.
Two or three regular meals a day.
It is so important to eat your meals on a regular basis. This means an actual fixed time for meals, seven days a week with no more than a thirty minute time difference in schedule. Set up your routine so that the meals are 5-6 hours apart. Your last meal should be 4 hours before bedtime. Two meals are preferable to three meals, but three meals are fine too.
Your first meal, breakfast, should be big enough to keep you going for 5-6 hours. You should not feel the need to reach for snacks or be feeling any kind of hunger pangs. Eat your breakfast like a king. It’s the most important meal of the day. Would you fill up with petrol at the beginning or the end of a long journey? Of course you’d fill up before you leave! Surely you wouldn’t want to run out of petrol half way through your journey!? And so it is with food. Make sure you eat a large meal in the morning.
So what would be a good breakfast? Well, it’s best practice not to mix your fruit and veggies. So, you will need to decide, according to your lifestyle, what would suit you best for breakfast: a veggie meal or a fruit meal. Most people go with fruit for breakfast and veggies for lunch. We eat a staple fruit and whole grain breakfast during the week, but Sunday breakfast is usually something special like scrambled tofu on toast, grilled mushrooms, hash browns and salad.
Here is a suggested fruit meal outline:
- 3-5 servings of fruit (one serving of fruit is roughly 1/2 cup)
- 1-2 cups whole grains
- Non-dairy milk as needed
- 2 tablespoons flax meal
- 2 tablespoons ground seed mix (sunflower, sesame and pumpkin)
- 1-2 slices whole grain bread with nut butter (or another healthy spread)
All whole grains should be cooked well and slowly for at least two hours. This ensures that all the starch is broken down in the grains, making it more easily digestable.
If you eat breakfast like a king, you should eat lunch like a prince. So what would be a good lunch?
I like to follow this dinner plate template:
- 1/2 of the dinner plate consists of veggies and/or salads
- 1/4 of the dinner plate is whole grains/starches
- 1/4 of the dinner plate is proteins
For the salads, the more the better. For the veggies, try choosing one green veggie and one orange veggie – make your plate as colourful as possible!
For the grains/starches, any whole grain or starchy vegetable is great. This includes brown rice (a great staple!), millet, oats, barley, buckwheat, bulgar wheat, whole wheat (like wholewheat breads and pasta) and starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn also fall into this category.
Foods that are high in protein: legumes (lentils, peans, peas, chickpeas), tofu, mushrooms, brocolli, oats, nuts.
How about a third meal? If you can, rather pass on supper, but if not, then it should be as light a supper as possible. If you eat breakfast like a king and lunch like a prince, then eat your supper like a pauper. For example, fresh fruit and whole wheat or other whole grain crackers can be eaten. However, no proteins (for example nut butters) should be used – proteins take longer to digest and your stomach would like a rest too!
What about pudding or treats?! Well, we want to try stay low sugar and low fat … and sweet things are usually the opposite. However, a pudding after Sabbath lunch or a regular mid-week treat after lunch is perfectly fine. The idea is to keep it in moderation and small. Remember, it’s a treat, not an everyday occurrence.
For some great meal ideas that follow these guidelines, check out our healthy wholesome meals instagram account.
OK, this is actually pretty important. This is key to good health! Your stomach needs a break. You also want the food to get a chance to clear out your stomach before introducing more food. This takes 4-5 hours. If you snack in between meals, the digestion process has to start from scratch. All the food that was in the middle of digestion now has to sit and wait while the new food digests and catches up. Food doesn’t like to sit and wait. While it sits and waits, it ferments. Fermented food does not digest easily, causes acidity and pollutes the body. So, don’t snack. Once you get out of the habit of snacking, you will find that you actually lose weight. Make sure you eat enough at meals so that you don’t feel the need to snack. You should eat enough that you are hungry at the next meal time. It may take a while to figure out how much your body needs, but be patient and you will get there!
Don’t drink with your meals.
It’s really not a good idea to drink any liquids with your meals. The liquid dilutes the hydrochloric acid in the stomach and digestion is impaired. When should we drink? 15-30 minutes before meals or 2 hours after meals.
All forms and types of coffee should be avoided due to the caffeine. Green and black tea contain caffeine as well and should also be avoided. Other herbal teas should be used medicinally. Carbonated drinks are bad news as they are extremely high in sugar. Avoid all wines and alcoholic beverages completely. Pure fruit juices should be used sparingly – they should be considered a treat.
So really, that just leaves us with pure, refreshing, beautiful water. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water each day. A great habit would be to start the day with two glasses of water with a few drops of lemon juice squeezed into it.
I encourage you to start making changes today for good health. Don’t procrastinate! Choose to be healthy! Persevere. Have you already started making changes towards a healthier lifestyle? Share with us your victories, challenges and struggles!