Can you have a healthy, balanced diet when activity levels of the family members differ? Yes, I do believe that is possible.

This is a diet that is not focused on weight loss or muscle gain. It is not focused on people with diabetes, PCOS, IBS etc. It is just my thoughts on what constitutes a healthy balanced diet for the ordinary Jane Doe and her family!

So firstly, what constitutes health?

Does it mean that you are free from disease, well yes but it also means so much more. When we are choosing a diet we must also consider our physical, psychological, emotional, social, economic and intellectual wellbeing! We need to also realise that it is our own responsibility to lead a healthy life, nobody else’s. Also, for parents, this is an opportunity to teach your kids about health.

If we study the healthiest people in the world, those who live in the Blue Zones, we see some common themes. For example, these people don’t tend to overeat. They grow their own foods and cook from scratch. They regularly eat grains and beans/lentils and they eat lots of plants. But research has also shown that they enjoy physical activity, they live in a close knit community. All zones are closer to the equator than Ireland and so these people tend to get more sun and they all have a sense of purpose.

So to be our healthiest selves, we need to do more than simply have a good diet although this is possibly the easiest one to change, although if anyone figures out how to push this country a bit closer to the equator they’ll get my vote!

When choosing the best/healthiest diet for you and your family there are aspects you should consider-

  • It has to be one that you can stick to forever. We all know that yo-yo dieting is not good so avoiding this would be best.
  • This diet should allow you to eat in an energy balance forever – this means that while eating this diet you will neither gain weight nor lose weight.
  • It should provide the correct nutrients for the growing, developing children
  • For those family members that are into sport, their diet needs to fuel them adequately for performance
  • Finally, this diet should be ‘healthful’ with common themes, i.e. plenty of fruit and veg and little processed food.

With all the fads that are promoted on social media nowadays it can be difficult to wade through the BS. One point that I like to refer to is “No ‘single’ food or meal will make you unhealthy. Likewise, no ‘single’ food or meal will make you healthy”. It is not enjoying the pizza on a Friday evening with your family that is the problem and likewise eating a salad for lunch on a Monday will not undo the overindulging at the weekend. We should remember that “Health is a factor of the long term effect of dietary choices made over time”.

For those that already have this under control, do I have any piece of advice? Well, if I had to think about optimal eating there would be some changes I’d make and some foods I’d limit. I talk about limiting foods, not restricting them.

If you chose a diet that is too restrictive, you can end up in a vicious cycle of binging and restricting. For children, unless there is some food allergy, there is really no need to restrict any foods or food groups.

What change can you make right away that will lead to better health? Choose one of the following and concentrate on it for a week or two, when this has become a habit choose the next one that you need to work on:

  • Limit refined starches
  • Limit added sugars
  • Limit processed foods
  • Limit certain processed fats
  • Emphasis on whole foods

You don’t need to complicate things to be healthy, you don’t need to waste money on fancy supplements. Remember, being healthy comes from making good choices most of the time!