the humble pea has a lot going for it!
One of the most important aspects of successful fat loss is good blood sugar management. Healthy blood sugar levels are sustained through a combination of eating a balanced, unprocessed diet, getting regular exercise and managing the body’s most important hormones in other ways (eg: getting enough sleep and reducing stress).
Blood sugar is raised by glucose, which is the sugar we get from eating foods that contain carbohydrates. The glucose is then ferried off to body cells by insulin which is secreted by the pancreas, to generate energy and blood sugar levels return to normal. When we haven’t eaten for a while, levels drop and messages are sent to the brain to tell us to eat something and the process begins again. Insulin levels rise and fall in accordance with when and what we eat so it is vitally important we get it right. A diet overloaded with sugar and starchy carbohydrates and light on fibre, protein and fats prompts all-too-regular blood sugar highs and lows and increasing demands on the pancreas to produce insulin and over time the system breaks down and we can become insulin resistant which greatly increases our risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and weight gain is almost certain.
You have been on a real mission, you have stuck to your weight loss diet for weeks or maybe even months and the day finally arrives when you breeze into the airport with case packed, boarding card in hand and are feeling fairly confident that you are going to hit the beach looking and feeling slim, trim and fit - it’s all good and you can see nothing but fun and sun ahead!
Then… you start to relax and enjoy a few indulgent treats and it all starts to go a bit belly-up and after a great holiday, you end up heading home having gained weight and it’s back to the drawing board! Unfair but irritatingly, all too common. Recent statistics indicate that our somewhat devil-may-care approach to holiday eating and drinking can lead to us piling on anywhere between 4 and 10 pounds - particularly when we head to those spectacularly cost-effective, all-inclusive holiday resorts!
there are traps everywhere!
First there is the breakfast buffet with everything you could possibly desire just sitting there, waiting to be devoured with no cooking or washing up involved, then there are the beach bars groaning with deliciously-refreshing but overly-sugary cocktails and mocktails plus mile-high club sandwiches, super-crisp skinny fries, pizzas just out the oven and ice cream sundaes begging to be bolted down. It’s still only mid-afternoon and already you have possibly consumed as many calories and as much, if not more sugar, salt and starch as you were consuming in a whole day when you were getting your body beach-ready and it’s not looking too good!
did you know?
- 2 of those ‘hot out of the oven’ delectably-moreish pastries from the breakfast buffet will start your day with around a quarter of your recommended daily fat and added sugars allowance and 500-600kcals! Solution: Go for ham and eggs or an omelette or fresh fruit and yoghurt and stay away from the breads, pastries and cereals.
- A frothy cappuccino will add around 120kcals, yet more sugar and yet more fat. Solution: Have a small, rich, dark espresso or a pot of tea (green, black, red, fruit, herb) without milk or sugar - very few calories and no sugar or fat.
- Regular snacking is possibly the most dangerous habit we happily-embrace when on holiday! A bowl of tortilla chips with a creamy dip weighs in at around 350kcals plus a whopping 10g of fat, 2 teaspoons of sugar and a load of salt. Don’t risk it! Solution: Have a generous slice of melon and a couple of handfuls of fresh nuts.
- A couple of slices of freshly-baked pizza or a burger, bun and fries at lunchtime can up your daily calorie count by another 300 to 500 and heap more added sugar, salt and fat to your day! Solution: Go for a lightly-dressed salad with lots of colourful vegetables and some protein instead.
- One of those enticing ice cream sundaes with toppings that cool you down mid-afternoon can add a whopping 500kcals, 5 teaspoons of added sugar and 20g of fat. Solution: If you must, have a single scoop of ice cream or frozen yoghurt coming in at around a quarter of the above!
- A steaming bowl of pasta with a meat and tomato sauce and grated cheese topping adds around 350kcals, 3g fat, 4 teaspoons of added sugar and a hefty amount of salt to a day. Solution: Grilled meat or fish with plenty of vegetables or a salad will more than halve that.
- A few fabulous cocktails in the evening can end your day with anywhere between 300 and 400 additional calories and another 3 or 4 teaspoons of added sugar! Solution: Stick to very dry white wine or prosecco, spirits ‘on the rocks’ or with soda, ensure you match every drink with a large glass of water and know you are keeping the calories and sugar under control!
Here’s a comparison of the likely totals of calories, fats, added sugars and salt involved in the above options to consider when making your daily food and drink decisions:
Breakfast: pastries and a cappuccino
Snack: tortilla chips and a dip
Lunch: burger, bun and fries
Afternoon: ice cream sundae
Dinner: pasta with sauce
Calories: between 2500 and 2800
Fat: between 80g and 100g (and most of it is likely to be processed and unhealthy)
Added sugars: between 10 and 15 teaspoons - more than twice the recommended daily limit
Salt: between 8g and 12g (we should aim for 6g maximum per day)
Breakfast: omelette and black coffee or milk and sugar-free tea
Snack: melon and nuts
Lunch: protein-rich salad
Afternoon: scoop of ice cream
Dinner: grilled meat or fish with vegetables or salad
Drinks: white wine, prosecco or light spirits with soda
Calories: between 2000 and 2200 (body swerve the ice cream and have no more than 2 alcoholic drinks in the evening and you can reduce this to between 1800 and 2000)
Fat: between 50g and 80g (and most of it will be naturally-occurring and healthy)
Added sugars: between 2 and 5 teaspoons - well below the recommended daily limit
Salt: between 3g and 5g (just under the radar!)
The calories in versus calories out theory is misleading as the quality of the calories you consume in a day tend to make a more meaningful difference to whether you gain weight or not than the quantity of calories but it may help to keep in mind that in a bid to burn calories in excess of your recommended daily intake for weight maintenance (1800 to 2000 kcals for women and 2300 to 2500 kcals for men), you should plan to walk briskly for at least 50 minutes or jog, swim or cycle strenuously for at least 30 minutes for every 200kcals of daily excess - otherwise, there is a strong chance they will be stored as fat and you will gain weight!
However, if you live 'this side of the pond' I urge you to celebrate the incredible wealth of home-grown berries that are crowding our shelves right now - particularly strawberries, raspberries and blackberries (or brambles as we call them in Scotland).
Blueberries have 'bagged' a superfood spot - they are low in calories, high in fibre, chock full of immune-boosting vitamin C, offer good levels of bone-building vitamin K and are believed to contain the highest, health-protective antioxidant capacity of all commonly-consumed fruits and vegetables BUT how often do you find 'locally-grown' blueberries on your supermarket shelf? In my experience, occasionally, but not often, WHEREAS just yesterday, the minute I walked into my 'local', I was greeted by an overwhelming, almost 'jammy' and extremely enticing aroma of strawberries, grown only around 50 miles from my city dwelling so there was no competition - the strawberries won hands down for tomorrow's breakfast! Furthermore, the strawberries were around £5 per kg and the blueberries were around £11 per kg - not a difficult decision!
I read somewhere that not only has the European love affair with blueberries come as a direct result of health reports hailing them as one of the world's most beneficial superfoods but also that we appear to be more than happy to gorge on them because unlike strawberries, they don't require any work - you have to 'hull' a strawberry and that seems to be too big a task for some - what??
Just so you know... strawberries, raspberries and blackberries all offer more vitamin C than blueberries and when in season and locally-grown, pack a health-protective punch not too far behind blueberries (particularly those poor little mites that have had to travel a good many miles over a number of days to get onto our shelves)!
Bag your home-grown berries while you can - the season is short. Have them early doors with creamy-smooth yoghurt and a handful of nuts and seeds, top a couple of crisp breads with nut butter, berries and black pepper or add them to salads for lunch, whizz them up into a smoothie with a dollop of delectable crème fraîche or have them on their own when you need a little sweetness in your world mid morning or mid afternoon or make a spicy berry sauce and serve it with meat or game for dinner (delicious) or when nothing else will do... dip them in melted, deepest, darkest chocolate and tell yourself you are benefitting from even more superfood superiority!