One of the most often mentioned New Year’s resolutions is to return to a balanced diet – this, of course, after consuming more fat, protein and starch than you normally would over the Christmas season.
We are all ready to lose those few pounds which we have gained as a result of the love of things related to the season. So, immediately, it becomes a question of diet. But when it comes to knowing what are the correct things to eat, there are more questions than answers. What constitutes healthy eating is a subject that generates much discussion among laymen and experts alike.
With regard to proper nutrition, there is general agreement that whatever the diet, it should contain five basic components, which are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. This is where an even more passionate argument begins – about the amount that should be eaten, the source from which it should be obtained, and how they should be combined, not forgetting the adjustments that must be made for special diets. These invoke such diverse opinions and contradictory advice that the general public is sometimes left baffled and confused.
Take the case of protein, for example. The meat eaters, including those who consume fish, assert that without a healthy portion of meat in their diet, their protein intake would be insufficient and they would therefore lose their strength and vitality.
For the non-meat eaters, consuming large amounts of meat, fish and protein substitutes usually form an integral part of a programme designed to prepare the building of their bodies and provide the strength and vitality they require.
Then they are the vegans and strict vegetarians, who eat only fruit and vegetables, excluding all animal products such as egg, milk and cheese from their diets. When asked about their source of protein, they point to animals such as the elephant and cow which eat only grass and other plant materials and yet have such large bodies – their size an indication of the amount of protein their bodies contain. Vegans and vegetarians contend that they too can metabolize protein from the plant source.
In between these two extreme categories, there are those who avoid red meat, i.e. beef, lamb, etc. but eat fish and sometimes other seafood such as shrimp, lobster and so on. Then there are the lacto-vegetarians, who eat the animal products that the vegans eschew. The latter concede that they need to ingest animal protein to maintain healthy bodies and so they consume the animal products rather than the animal itself.
There is no doubt that digesting the surfeit on information on what constitutes a healthy diet takes considerable time and requires a major expenditure of mental energy.
But we are still insistent that we follow some sort of eating regime that will remove those pounds that we have gained, so we must come to some resolution within ourselves as to the way we will eat within the next couple of weeks or months.
My personal take on it is that it all comes down to quality, quantity and timing. I keep hearing the echoes of the older folk whose mantra is “everything in moderation” and I tend to think that is the best advice when it comes to diet. I do understand people’s personal decisions not to partake in the flesh of animals and the personalities of those who decide not even to consume the by-products, as I believe it all starts within the mind and having comfort and acceptance in what you consume. So, for me, from a chef’s perspective, it is prudent to consume the best quality meats, wholesome vegetables and nutritious fruits, have properly timed meals and avoid the temptation of snacking on high-sugar and over-salted snacks and, as we get older, not eat too close to bedtime. Most importantly, sticking to your meal plan – which should include not skipping meals, which so often happens when we get caught up in our busy schedules – is the key to a healthy diet.
Of course, another key element that goes hand in hand with diet is exercise. You do not have to be a gym buff, but a regular walk or light exercise at home could be enough to assist in losing those pounds.
So I invite you to join me in testing this theory. I am the first in line since this column is really written to me.
Nevertheless, whatever you decide, set aside enough time for your meals. Make sure that you are relaxed and the atmosphere is calm and peaceful. Most of all, bless and give thanks for the food on your table; there are millions who wish they had even a small portion of what you have.
Following these simple suggestions will make the experience more beneficial and enjoyable.
Here are two vegetarian recipes which you can add to your collection: