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Guest Post: What should I be eating?

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Show us a woman who doesn’t have a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with her body and we’ll show you a leprechaun riding a unicorn to Narnia. Every single one of us feels that our sense of worth equates to our weight. Bex is a nutritionist and a personal trainer and she has lots to say about what we should be eating to be our best. But first, watch this video..

As a nutritionist,  the one question I get asked lot by girls is “What should I be eating?”.

To begin, the word “should”  should be banned (excuse the pun). When we use the word should we straightaway make ourselves feel guilty and inadequate, like we’re not measuring up to everyone else… I should be eating more vegetables, I should be drinking more water, I should be getting more hours sleep. Just reading that can make you feel bad.

Instead, we need to replace the word with “could”. ‘Could’ allows us to replace a guilty statement with an opportunity. What could I be eating?

What could I be eating to give me more energy?

What could I be eating to help me concentrate more in school?

What could I be eating to help me feel good, to help me remain calm, to help me sleep better, to help me start the day on the right foot?

……because all these questions are just some of the ways food can help us, we just sometimes don’t realise it. Ask yourself the question, “What do you use food for? A bit of an odd question….and the answer most people will say is…..ehh to feed me when I’m hungry. Which of course is very true but food can have a much greater meaning and function in our lives. By becoming a little bit more aware about the different functions of food and how it can work for us, we can actually start getting more out of our food than just filling a gap. Using food to not only fuel us but to help us in many aspects of our lives…concentration, focus, mood, anxiety, etc.

Even though I have studied and worked with food for many years I am still learning new things every single day,  so I completely understand that food and nutrition can be extremely confusing with a lot of conflicting opinions about what is good and bad for us.

So, to help combat the confusion below are  5 of the most important things about food and how best it can serve you not just to fuel you but to support you through a busy and often stressful life.

Always eat breakfast

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This you probably have already heard, but its number one because it cannot be over emphasised the importance of a good breakfast for success throughout the rest of the school day. When you wake up, your blood sugar is slow, which means energy is low. Guess what organ uses sugar the most? That’s right the brain…..and what organ gets used the most when sitting in class…..the brain….So if you haven’t fuelled your brain at the beginning of the day concentration and focus in school is going to be really challenging. Teenage girls more often than teenage boys are more prone to skipping breakfast so girls lets get those brains alive and kicking first thing in the morning. Porridge, scrambled eggs, wholegrain toast with peanut butter and chopped banana, fruit salads with yogurt are all fantastic options

Eat the Rainbow

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This means to try and have as much colour as possible in your meals. Lots of colour in your lunch, if it’s a sandwich having lots of greens ( lettuce, cucumber), reds (tomatoes,  peppers) yellow/orange ( sweetcorn, cheddar cheese) as well as a piece of fruit. Why? Fruit and vegtables with rich vibrant colours have something called phytonutrients. When we are working and studying really hard or find ourselves in stressful situations we build up stress in our bodies called radicals. The phytonutrients help mop up these radicals and help keep us healthy and immune to sicknesses such a flus coughs and colds…..which is really important coming in to Winter.

Eat Fish

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Ok so opening a can of tuna may not make you very popular at the canteen table but having fish such as tinned tuna, smoked salmon, salmon fillet, mackerel gives you something called DHA. Research undertaken in school goers has shown that eating fish oils helps increase cognition, memory and focus. If fish isn’t your thing look out for a good fish supplement in your local health food shop, but always try the natural route first.

Choose Complex Carbohydrate

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So carbohydrate can be a little confusing, wholegrain, wholemeal, simple sugars etc. The name complex just means that it has fibre. The fibre is very thick and takes longer to break down in the body. This is good news for us for two reasons. Firstly, if it takes longer to break down and digest it means it stays in our stomach for longer and makes us feel fuller so we don’t get as hungry as quickly than if we were eating a non complex carb such as white bread or white pasta. Secondly the fibre causes the carb to slowly be released into the bloodstream. This means no sugar spikes. Sugar spikes have been shown to cause mood swings, reduced concentration and can irritate the skin. Complex carbs include wholegrain bread, wholemeal pasta, oats and brown rice.

Stay Hydrated

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We’ve all heard to drink 6-8glasses of water a day, but why? Why is it important to be well hydrated? The brain sits in fluid which is mainly made up of water. If we do not stay hydrated this fluid reduces and again our brain does not work effectively. Ideally always have a bottle of water with you throughout the day. Also coming in to Winter hot beverages like tea especially herbal teas are an easy way to keep you warm and hydrated.

Enjoy

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Food is meant to be enjoyed. Even your weekly dinner is an opportunity to sit and socialise and catch up with friends and family. Enjoy your food, be thankful for it and be sure to always have a dessert or chocolate now and again ,it’s a balance,  just like study, all work and no play ……..

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