This article is about the basic of a healthy diet

Basics of a healthy diet – what actually matters?

When it comes to eating healthy and establishing the basics of a healthy diet, there are many interpretations of what that is.

Some corners of the internet are adamant it’s low carb. Other areas say you must be vegan to be healthy. There are even some who swear by being a carnivore. Then there’s fasting.

But today I want to establish to you what are the basics of a healthy diet.

This post isn’t aimed towards weight loss, this post is about eating the healthiest diet possible. For some, this will mean weight loss will need to occur and for others, this may mean weight gain is needed.

Some people claim the Mediterranean diet is best, or that the Japanese diet is the way to go. Both these sets of populations have people who live a long time and tend to suffer from less disease, it makes sense to see why. (1)

In reality it’s not that these diets are better or worse, it’s that these diets adhere to methods which allow you to follow a set of principles.

The problem is people focus on the wrong things when trying to eat healthier. The intentions are great but the action just needs to be shifted elsewhere.

So what this post intends to do, is help you build your diet from the ground up. We will lay down the foundations, lay down the big bricks and add all the small shine and gloss at the end.

So instead of worrying about if your diet needs to consist of grass-fed beef, organic foods, or be sugar-free and unprocessed. Follow this guide and you’ll be better off than most. This is the hierarchy you want to follow when sorting the basics of a healthy diet.

  • Adherence
  • Calories
  • Food quality
  • Macronutrients
  • Meal timing
  • Hydration
  • Supplements

This hierarchy of nutrition was inspired by Eric Helm’s nutritional pyramid. So must give credit, where credit is due. His work is amazing.


Adherence

This is the most important element of any diet and often gets overlooked. If you can’t stick with a pattern of eating, even if it is magic and brings you countless unicorns, it’s useless.

When it comes to diet books and documentaries, the people wiring them, tend to be out of touch with the regular person.

For instance, when health gurus are preaching organic, they need to remember a lot of people (myself included) can’t justify paying 3 times as much for vegetables, which will taste no different and have next to no health benefits.

I found this troubling, because those who don’t have organic money, may feel like they shouldn’t even bother eating more vegetables. When in actuality frozen vegetables are far cheaper, last a lot longer and hold just as much, if not more of the nutrients.

Another example being veganism. I’m not questioning the ethics of veganism, I think it’s a great value to have. And indeed you can have a perfectly healthy balanced diet being vegan. But, it takes a lot more of a conscious effort. You need to make sure you’re eating a variety of proteins to get the same effect as eating animal protein. You need to make sure you’re getting adequate Vitamin B12 (most likely from a supplement)(2), you might need to consume more iron, as plan sources don’t get absorbed as well(maybe supplement again) (3), finally you need to keep an eye on your omega 3 levels, as you can’t eat fish or use fish oil, you may need to supplement with algae.

The point I’m making is, when some rich celebrity or athletes are preaching veganism, with a team of chefs and nutritionists doing the work to make sure they get adequate meals and nutrition, it’s not an issue for them. But for someone who’s not well versed in nutritional knowledge and doesn’t have the time to cook, there might be a struggle. For a lot of people, it might just be easier to not be vegan, as it takes far less conscious effort and that’s fine.

Then there are some recipe books that require vast amounts of expensive ingredients, such as king prawns, organic avocados, and quinoa. This is why people claim eating healthy is too expensive. They see these pretentious ingredients and think I can’t afford that, why bother. When in fact, real healthy food can be very cheap. Tins of beans, fruits, veg, tinned fish, none of these things cost the earth and they are all super healthy.

If you don’t have time to cook, you may need to rely on convenience foods. For instance, microwave rice or couscous, packets of salad, pre-cooked meat, with some healthy fat on the side, which take less than 5 minutes to make, whilst being very cheap and nutritious.

Nutrition blogging zealots will say it’s not natural or that processed food is bad, but from a nutritional compositional perspective, this is just as healthy as something cooked from scratch. Some people may use microwave meals and microwave more frozen veg, that’s fine. I know of others who order their meals from prep company. If the meals are balanced with plenty of vegetables, again that’s very healthy.

I personally prefer to cook my own food, but not everyone has my values towards cooking and it’s important to do what’s convenient to you.

So before deciding what sort of diet you’re going to follow, make sure it’s something you know you can stick to and something you’ll enjoy.


Calories

In any diet, the most important element is calorie balance. The average man is recommended to consume 2500 calories a day. The average woman is recommended to have 2000 calories. (4) These numbers are blanketed and are not tailored to every individual, but they are a good place to start from. For a more personalised number, use my calorie calculator.

In the western world, most nutrition-related health problems come down to body weight. If you consume more calories than your body burns, you will gain excess body fat. Every person is different, some people can be healthy carrying a little extra excess body fat, whereas for others it heightens their risk of certain diseases.

Issues run rampant on the other end of the spectrum too, undernourishment can lead to some really nasty issues.

I know there are a lot of people who say BMI is a load of rubbish. Yes it’s not 100% accurate, but say its useless is throwing the bath out with the water. You can be slightly over the “normal” range (I am) or slightly under and still be healthy. However a lot of people fall well above the healthy range and thats where issues tend to happen.

If you do want a more accurate way to measure body fat levels. My personal favorite way is taking a waist measurement. If your waist circumference is less than half your height, your most likely okay. If it’s well above half your height, then maybe you can look to lower your calorie number. This is simply a better way to measure as most weight-related diseases happen because of the body fat which covers the abdominal organs. So, get rid of that fat and you’re good.

So before worrying about fats, carbs, organic, vegan, or whatever the first thing you need to do is make sure you’re eating enough food, appropriate to you. You can have a diet full of organic, grass-fed foods, but if you’re still overeating on calories, you will gain excess fat and if it’s around the stomach areas will still increase your risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

An American science teacher did an experiment where he ate nothing but McDonald’s and lost a load of weight. All his health markers improved too. This isn’t me saying you should only eat Mcdonald’s, but me saying eat the appropriate amount of food and your health will improve regardless of what you earth, then you can start looking at the other details.


Food quality

Now you have your food quantity in check, now is time to look at food quality. When I talk about food quality, I’m talking about micronutrients, vitamins and minerals.

After calories, this is what matters most. It’s irrelevant if the style of food you eat is Organic, vegan, Japanese or Mediterranean. What matters most is; are you getting adequate vitamins and minerals.

Yes calories are important, possible the most important part of your diet, but quality is a very close second. Whilst food is not medicene, not getting enough vitamins and minerals will lead to some serious deficiencies and malnutrition. Also eating foods, mostly rich in vitamins and minerals, means you tend to eat less calories without counting. Nutritious foods tend to be in higher satiating nutrients such as fibre and protein, this means your food takes longer to digest, keeps you fuller longer and means you struggle to eat more, meaning you eat less.

I’ve listed all vitamins and minerals the table below. Please don’t try and track all of these, life’s too short and you’re gonna make yourself miserable. Just be aware. If you’re eating plenty of fruit and veg each day, getting enough fibre, oily fish, dairy, you can also throw in some eggs too, throughout the week, you’ll get enough vitamins and minerals. This table is what determines your health, not the type of diet you’re on. This is the principle, the diet is the backhanded method.

What’s important is how much nutrients your food holds. People are concerned about organic vegetables and making sure they’re fresh. It doesn’t matter how you consume your fruit and veg, vitamins and minerals don’t discriminate based on organic or not. In fact, evidence shows, a lot of frozen variations hold more vitamins and minerals because they get frozen as soon as they’re picked. Therefore technically they’re fresher.

Vitamins/MineralsMen’s minimum daily intakeWomen’s minimum daily intakeExamples of Sources
Vitamin A700 µg600 µgEggs, cheese, oily fish, dairy, liver (might be excessive)
Thiamin B11mg0.8mgPeas, nuts, banana, liver
Niacin B316.5mg13.2mgMeat, fish, wheat, eggs
Pantothenic acidNo amount set (should be able to get enough in your diet)No amount set (should be able to get enough in your diet)Meat, eggs, mushrooms, avocados
Vitamin B61.4mg1.2mgPork, poultry, peanuts, milk, soya beans
Biotin B7Only needed in small amounts, but is made in the bodyOnly needed in small amounts, but is made in the bodyFound in a lot of foods
Folate B9200 micrograms200 microgramsBroccoli, brussels sprouts, leafy greens, chickpeas and kidney beans, fortified cereals, liver
Folic acid
Vitamin B121.5 micrograms1.5 microgramsMeat, fish, eggs, dairy, some fortified breakfast cereals
Vitamin C40mg40mgCitrus, peppers, potatoes, broccoli, strawberries
Vitamin D10 micrograms10 microgramsSunlight
(Best to supplement in the winter months
Oily fish
Red meat
Egg yolks
Some fortified foods
Vitamin E4mg3mgPlant oils (vegetable and olive)
Nuts and seeds
Vitamin K1 microgram per kg of bodyweight1 microgram per kg of bodyweightVegetable oils
Green leafy veg
Cereal grains
Calcium700mg700mgDairy
Green leafy veg
Fortified milk style drinks (Soya, oat almond milk, etc)
Fortified bread flour
Fishbones, such as sardines
Iodine140 micrograms140 microgramsSea fish
Shellfish
Iodised salt
Iron8.7mg14.8mg a day for women aged 19 to 50

8.7mg a day for women over 50
Liver
Red meat
Beans
Nuts
Dried fruit
Fortified cereals

Beta-carotene
No specific amount, but you should get enough from your dietNo specific amount, but you should get enough from your dietYellow fruits – mangoes, papaya, apricots
Yellow and green (leafy) vegetables
Chromium25 micrograms25 microgramsMeat
Nuts
Cereal grains
Copper
1.2mg1.2mgNuts
Shellfish
Offal
Magnesium300mg270mgSpinach
Nuts
Wholemeal bread
ManganeseNo specific amount, but you should get enough from your dietNo specific amount, but you should get enough from your dietBread
Nuts
Wholegrain cereals
Peas
MolybdenumNo specific amount, but you should get enough from your dietNo specific amount, but you should get enough from your dietFoods that grow above the ground
Phosphorus550mg550mgRed meat
Dairy
Fish
Poultry
Bread
Brown rice
Oats
Potassium 3,500mg 3,500mgBananas
Broccoli, parsnips and brussels sprouts
Beans and pulses
Nuts and seeds
Fish
Beef
Chicken
Turkey
Selenium75μg75μgBrazil nuts
Fish
Meat
Eggs
ZincMeat
Shellfish
Dairy
Bread
Cereal

I couldn’t have done this table if it weren’t for the excellent information provided by the NHS. Please check out their website if you want to know anything health-wise. (I will keep this table up to date, based on the latest information available).

What the best diets do, is make sure people are consuming these adequate vitamins and minerals in the right amounts. The Mediterranean diet and Japanese diets, both contain lots of fruit and veg, seafood, healthy fats, eggs, with a sprinkle of meat and dairy.

Both these cuisines still have sweet treats, which many deem bad. But what they do right is; eat the appropriate calories and get in enough vitamins and minerals.

Once both of them are established, you don’t get extra brownie points for having more vitamins and minerals, so a little sprinkle of junk food every day, is perfectly healthy and something I actually encourage. Life is short, we aren’t going to be here forever, why should we deprive ourselves of our favourite foods. All I suggest is that’s it’s eaten, with the premise the bulk of your diet, is mostly foods in the table above.

As you can see, it’s not about being vegan, organic, raw, copying Japan, it’s a case of following a diet, where you can get the majority of your vitamins and minerals.

I wouldn’t worry about eating all these vitamins and minerals every day. What I have noticed from doing some dietary analysis on various people; is when they eat a rich variety of foods there intakes level out nicely over a week.

Easy ways to increase fruit and veg intake:

  • Make smoothies, with frozen berries (smoothie mixes) (not juice – smoothies contain fibre)
  • Add spinach and/or cucumber to smoothies
  • Chop into yoghurt
  • Add frozen veg to sauces
  • Microwave frozen veg (come out like steamed)
  • Grate veg into soups, sauces and stews
  • Add cans of beans to dishes
  • Replace some starch for fruit


Macronutrients

Macronutrients. These are the 3 larger nutrients. I’m sure you’ve heard of them all. Interestingly when it comes to losing fat, building muscle and just generally aesthetics and looking better, these are more important than micronutrients. However based purely on a healthy diet, I would say they are not as important.

The 3 macronutrients are:

  • Protein
  • Fats
  • Carbohydrates

So in this section I’m going to really simplify how much of each you need to have a healthy diet. A lot of diets will preach low carb and high fat. Other diets will preach high carb, some diets say or low or high protein. So I know it can be confusing, how much of each macronutrient you need to have, therefore I am going to break it down and make it as simple as possible for you to make your own choice.


Protein

Protein is super important. It’s what’s used to build us up. Protein is what’s used to form our teeth, muscles, bones, skin, hair and much more. Protein is not only used to build big muscles, but it’s also vital for most of our bodily functions, such as enzymes, which. break down foods, so the nutrients can be used.

For every gram of protein, comes 4 calories

All healthy diets need a minimum amount of protein, for all these things to occur. The current recommendation is 0.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight.

A 50kg woman, would need to consume a minimum of 40g of protein per day to sustain good health.

So from the perspective of purely health and preventing deficiencies, that’s all that is needed. There are many people who consume this amount of protein and are very healthy. It doesn’t matter the diet, even if vegetarian or vegan, this is an easy number to hit and if you live in the west, I’m sure you wouldn’t struggle to eat this amount of protein.

But I’m going to caveat. This is the minimum and if you’re just concerned about your health and preventing deficiencies this is perfectly fine. But, if you want to be stronger, improve your quality of life, prevent the risk of sarcopenia and osteoporosis as you age and improve your appetite. I would suggest going higher.

I would recommend consuming at least 1.2-1.6g per kg of body weight, if you do this, you’ll see far greater improvements. If you wanted to go even higher feel free to.

But by upping your intake, you’ll definitely find losing weight and staying in shape far easier. Your body will burn more calories at rest (slightly faster metabolism). You’ll be able to build and retain more muscle, your immune system will improve and your exercise performance and recovery will be far better.

A lot of people worry if too much protein is bad for kidneys, there is next to no evidence to support this claim.

One study showed when men consumed a high protein diet of 2.51-3.32g of protein per kg of body weight for a year, no adverse effects happened. Their blood levels and kidneys were perfectly normal. This is double what I’d recommend, so there’s nothing to worry about.

Our investigation discovered that, in resistance-trained men that consumed a high protein diet (~2.51-3.32 g/kg/d) for one year, there were no harmful effects on measures of blood lipids as well as liver and kidney function. In addition, despite the total increase in energy intake during the high protein phase, subjects did not experience an increase in fat mass.

(Antonio Et Al, 2016)

The only time a high protein diet is bad for the kidneys is when someone already has kidney issues and would be told by their doctor or dietitian to not consume as much.

Healthy sources of protein include:

  • Chicken
  • Red meat with fat trimmed
  • Skimmed milk
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Low-fat yoghurt
  • Protein powder
  • Beans and pulses
  • Soy
  • Textured vegetable proteins (fake meat)

When looking to eat healthier I wouldn’t overthink about the sources of protein too much. Once you have your calories sorted and getting in plenty of vitamins and minerals then of course, we can look at getting leaner varieties, and look at protein sources and distribution, etc, but for now, some protein is better than no protein.

For now, if you want to get into detail, look to have around 3-5, 20-40g servings of protein a day and build your meals around that. But please, don’t overthink and get anal about it. It’s all going to be okay.


Fat

Fat, which comes in at 9 calories per gram, is essential to a healthy diet. Though a low-fat diet can be healthy, a minimum amount of fat is needed to sustain optimal health. It’s recommended to consume 20-35% of your calories from dietary fat. For most people that would mean consuming at least 0.5g per kg of body weight in fat and a maximum of 1.2g per kg. (x) So for me at 84kg, that would mean consuming at least 42g of fat per day.

The reason these numbers are recommended is that a minimum level of fat is needed for vital functions such as insulation, needed for most hormones such as testosterone and oestrogen. Certain vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, E and K, need fat to be absorbed.

The reason a maximum is applied is that fats have more than double the calories to carbohydrates and protein, therefore they’re easy to overeat and could lead to weight gain, without a little regulation. The other reason is diets high in fat tend to be high in saturated fat, which is linked to raising bad cholesterol in the blood. However, this isn’t to say you can’t go over 35% of your calories or 1.2g per kg of fat per day if you’re not mindful. Many people do and are yet again in great health. This I will explain in more detail below.

Saturated fat

This is what many describe as bad fat. I wouldn’t quite say that there is room in your diet for saturated fat. It’s just a case I would moderate it and make sure the bulk of your main fat is the unsaturated “healthy” fats.

Consuming excess saturated fat is linked to raising your LDL “bad” cholesterol, hence why it’s recommended to limit the amount. That’s why it’s recommended to consume no more than 10% of your calories from saturated fat. Let’s say I eat 2800 calories a day, which means I would try to keep my intake under 31g a day. Again it’s not an exact science, but following these numbers will put you in good stead for your health.

The average man should not consume more than 30g of saturated fat per day

The average woman should not consume more than 20g of saturated fat per day

Sources of saturated fat include:

  • Coconut oil
  • Cream
  • Meat fat
  • Sausage
  • Chocolate
  • Butter

So you can still enjoy these foods in moderation and have a very healthy diet. For instance, the French are not at all afraid of saturated fat, but in general, are very healthy people. They also eat lots of fruits, vegetables, olive oil and get in plenty of daily activity, and don’t overconsume calories. It’s just advised to be mindful and focus more on unsaturated fats.

Unsaturated fat

This comes in 2 forms, polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. For the purpose o this article, I’m going to lump them as one, as I think it’s over the top to be concerned about the type of unsaturated fat, you consume and you’d be better off just consuming more unsaturated fat in general.

These are known as good or healthy fats. they raise your HDL “good” cholesterol, as well as lowering the bad cholesterol. This means they remove cholesterol from the blood and take it to the liver, where it can dispose of.

In the western world, we don’t eat enough of these fats. In Japan and the Med, they eat a lot, this one reason for their long lifespans and low rates of heart disease, which is one of the world’s biggest killers. So one of the best things you can do is replace (not completely cut out) the saturated fats with more of the fats, listed below:

  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable oils
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Nut butter
  • Oily fish

As well as being great for the heart, these fatty foods are packed full of vitamins and minerals too.


Carbohydrates

Just like protein, carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram. Unlike protein, carbohydrates are not essential for our health and you could be healthy without consuming any. If we don’t consume any our body has other various ways to providing us energy. However just because they are not essential doesn’t mean id recommend never consuming any. Just as in the same way showering is not essential in life, but I’d definitely recommend you shower.

There’s a lot of low-carb groups, who think carbs are the root of the world’s problems. Thankfully that’s not true, carbs are really nutritious and do our bodies a lot of good. There are populations in the world who live a very long time, which eat high carb diets. Don’t get me wrong low carb diets can be healthy, but so can high carb.

When it comes to the number of carbohydrates you consume it’s up to you. Make sure you are getting at least the minimum protein and fat. Once you have them you can fill the rest of your calories with carbs. Then you adjust based on preference.

Carbohydrates despite not being essential have an array of benefits to your health:

  • Bodies favourite source of energy
  • Provide fibre
  • Wholegrain sources have plenty of vitamins and minerals
  • Brains preferred fuel source
  • Help sleep
  • Stored in muscles to help exercise
  • Very filling (if whole grain)
  • Helps with muscle retention and building, due to fuelling workouts

So carbohydrates come in 2 forms. Simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.

Most people assume simple carbohydrates to be bad and complex to be good. That is a too simplistic view of how they work. Yes for most of us, id recommends getting the bulk of your carbohydrates from complex varieties. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some simple carbs in there too. Simple carbs taste great and a great fuel source for working out.

Instead of seeing each variation as either good or bad. Instead think complex carbs are more filling, have more fibre and have more vitamins and simple may have fewer vitamins and be less filling, but can still be enjoyed in a healthy diet and can help with my exercise.

Complex carbohydrates

They are untouched unrefined carbs, which are found in whole foods. They provide plenty of fibre and B & E vitamins in your diet, whilst also providing some unsaturated fat too.

This means these foods are great in preventing the risk of high blood cholesterol or type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. As well as that because of the fibre content, they take longer to digest and keep you fuller for longer. For instance, eating a piece of wholewheat bread will take more time and fill you up faster than a bagel with the same calories. Therefore it’s a good idea to build your meals around a source of complex carbohydrates.

Examples of complex carbohydrate include:

  • Brown rice
  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Wholewheat bread
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Green leafy veg
  • Plantain
  • Yam

Simple carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are carbohydrates where the bran and kernel are taken off. This tends to be where the nutrients and fibre are contained. This means they have fewer nutrients and more likely to raise blood sugar faster (not that big of an issue unless diabetic), meaning you’ll probably feel hungrier. But if you’re are of this, there’s no reason to cut them out.

If you don’t want to eat complex carbs and prefer simple carbs, I’d advise you to eat plenty of fruits and veggies to get your vitamins, minerals and fibre which you might not get if you’re not consuming complex carbs. This is the thing, we don’t eat one food in isolation, so if you lack something from one food, make up for it elsewhere. That’s what real balance is.

For instance sugar. Lots of websites and diets claim sugar is toxic or whatever. No, it’s not, you can have sugar in a healthy diet. However, sugar is not filling and it’s easy to overeat on calories and damage your teeth. But instead of cutting it out, instead, just be sensible. It’s recommended not to consume more than 30g a day of sugar and it so that’s a good idea. So if you want to eat a bar of chocolate each day, that’s fine, in the grand scheme of a healthy diet.

Simple carbohydrates include:

  • White bread
  • White rice
  • White pasta
  • Sugar
  • White flour
  • Fruit juice

As I say constantly in Japan and the Mediterranean, the people eat a lot of simple carbs. But remember, they also eat lots of fruit, beg, oily fish and get plenty of activity. This isn’t just one thing, it’s a whole spectrum.

Build most of your meals around complex carbs, but still have some meals with simple, if you fancy it. In the grand scheme of things it’s absolutely fine. For instance, I think brown rice is grotesque and would never swap it with white, but I’d happily eats brown pasta, but would never turn my nose up at white either.


Meal timing

You’ll hear claims such as you MUST eat breakfast or it’s better to skip breakfast. 2 meals a day are best, or 7 small meals will stoke your metabolism. Or if you eat past 6 pm, it goes straight to body fat. The last one makes no sense considering it’s always past 6 pm somewhere in the world.

Like most myths in nutrition, they may hold a small grain of truth, but in reality have no bearing on a healthy diet.

When it comes to body weight, it’s purely a case of calories in vs calories out and eating breakfast technically has no bearing on this. However, where there is a small element of truth is; some people will eat more to compensate because they are so hungry because they skipped breakfast. These people might benefit from eating breakfast so they don’t snack on more later.

However you’ll get people, who have lost a lot of weight not eating breakfast (I have myself), I might eat more calories later in the day, but the calories I saved from not having breakfast meant I ate less overall. There is no right or wrong, it’s a case of what works for you. Some people can’t claim they can’t live without breakfast, some people say eating breakfast makes them feel sick. Only you know what suits you. There’s no right or wrong here.

As for how many meals a day debate. I’ll keep this simple, again what is your preference do you prefer larger meals or more smaller frequent ones. I can’t tell you what that is, only you know. My only caveat being, I’d advise eating at least 3 meals per day, it will help with digestion and protein intake is more effective when it’s taken in smaller doses of 20-40g. But if you like having 6 meals, then go for 6.

As for timing, thats up to you. Unless you’re an olympic athlete trying to squeeze out that extra 0.1% performance, I wouldn’t sweat it.


Hydration

This is another topic that gets overcomplicated. You’ll hear it’s 2L of water or 8 glasses, or whatever. Some say you need special water from the Himalayas or whatever. No, take a step back and let’s keep this simple.

I’ve known people to take 2L bottle with them and constantly chugging down water. It’s not necessary.

Our bodies are very good at telling us when we are thirsty. Our body thrives on homeostasis (staying the same), so trust me your body will let you know. But if you want to know, if you’re drinking enough, your urine will be a nice clear yellow colour. Not completely colourless, but not a strong yellow. It’s really that simple.

The thing is, it’s hard to be put a definite number on the amount to drink because you’ll need differing amounts depending on the activity you do on that day. But the colour of your urine is your best feedback indicator.

Finally, there are debates about which liquids count as part of your daily fluid intake or not. Don’t overthink it, but make sure the majority is water if you can. But if adding some sugar-free squash, means you drink more then use it. Sugar-free water drops work well too. Diet coke is fine (yes really), as are tea and coffee, with no sugar added.

One last thing, I’d limit fruit juices if possible, they are just glorified versions of full-sugar Coke. It’s recommended to limit fruit juice to 150ml per day. Yes, they have some nutrients, but they have just as much sugar and calories as Coke and no fibre.

Sources of hydration:

  • Water
  • Milk
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Diet Coke
  • Water drops
  • Sugar-free fruit squash

Supplementation

Finally supplementation. This where most people I know concern themselves first. This is a whole post in itself. Hence why I wrote one called “are supplements a waste of money?“.

Most supplements to most people are a waste of money. They are especially a waste of money if you haven’t gone through all of the steps above first. After you’ve nailed the basics, you realise you probably don’t need most supplements.

The only supplements I’d say are a must for most people would be:

  • Vitamin D
  • Omega 3 fish oil

Then 2 supplements id say are advisable to most people would be:

  • Creatine monohydrate
  • Protein powder

Vitamin D

Most Vitamin D comes from the sun, so if you live somewhere with rubbish weather, it’s advisable to supplement daily during the winter. Therefore I’d recommend most people to supplement with at least 10 micrograms per day. I also recommend getting gummies, they taste great, so you actually look forward to taking them.

Omega 3 fish oil

Most of us just don’t eat enough oily fish, therefore a fish oil supplement can be really handy. If you do eat at least 2 portions (140g) a week, you probably don’t need to worry. Otherwise, find a fish oil that contains at least 400mg of both EPA and DHA. If vegan or vegetarian, you can supplement with algae oil.

Protein powder

Not only is a simple protein powder an easy way to boost protein, if you are looking to go for a high protein diet. It’s also cheap and delicious. So if you struggle to hit a high protein number, don’t be afraid to use a powder.

Creatine

Finally creatine, which is found naturally in meat, has been shown. tobe benefical to the brain and great for sports performance. Again its optinal but is shown to be super effective. If you take it take 3-5 grams daily.

The post above has more detail on all these supplements. But unless you have medical issues, these are prettyy much all the supplements which are worth taking.


Final thoughts

To sum up, there is no perfect diet or perfect foods. Around the world, the healthiest people have very different diets. The one thing they have in common is their diets seem to meet the fundamentals outlined above.

If you’re able to do that, you’ll realise there is no perfect diet and these book are just there to make money.

Yes, I know the advice here isn’t sexy or innovative and it’s what the experts have tried to say for the last 30 years, but that’s because it works. Make small simple changes, don’t try to overhaul things.

Try swapping some saturated fat, for healthier fat. Try incorporating more complex carbs. Find ways to eat more fruits and veg. Stop overthinking the little things which don’t matter, they’re just excuses not to do the real work, which we all deep down know, make difference.

I hope this was helpful, much love.

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