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Healthy eating The ten commandments

Disaster. It turns out that Man Flu was actually bronchial pneumonia. My poor neglected husband came home from the hospital with an impressive array of drugs and puppy-dog eyes. There was even X-ray evidence. I felt terrible.

I felt even worse when I discovered a cockroach nest in the dishwasher door. I can't even begin to tell you how repulsive that is. We will have to buy a new one. Or move. Apparently we could take the door apart and spray the nest with Raid. The problem is you can't get someone with bronchial pneumonia to do that. The chances of me doing it are, I would say, slim to none. Unfortunately, the cockroach discovery brought my resolution to clean up my language around my children to a screeching halt. “Mummy?” said Chloé, “What is a Goddamn Cockroach?”

Hmmmm, it seems we are back to square one. However it did prompt an interesting conversation about Things God Likes and Things God Doesn't Like. I know God is supposed to love all creatures great and small, but I think there might be an exception for cockroaches.

So, seeing as we have taken an unusually biblical turn this week, I thought we'd continue in this vein. Here are my ten commandments for healthy eating!

1. You shall not eat anything blue.

Other than a blueberry, which is let's face it actually purple. Although the rules are tightening up regarding artificial colourings, they are still used prolifically in the food industry. Check your labels, but colours are used for everything from sausage skins to freezer pops.

The problem is that several food colourings have been associated with health concerns (hives and headaches for example) and an increasing amount of research indicates that they can aggravate ADD and ADHD. My greatest concern however is that use of artificial colourings continues to drive people away from whole, natural foods and towards gimmicky, junk foods.

Many mainstream brands however are choosing to switch to natural colourings. These are more muted but still attractive and include E150 (caramel), E140 (chlorella algae), E100 (turmeric), E160 a (saffron), E160b (annatto), E160c (paprika), betanin (from beets) and elderberry juice. Watch out for E120/carmine though, which although natural, is cochineal made from crushed cochineal insects. That's disgusting.

On the upside, I will give you blue Smarties. After retiring their artificial colours from Smarties in 2006, Nestle managed to recreate blue Smarties in 2010, using a natural Spirulina dye. They also replaced cochineal with a red cabbage-based colouring. It doesn't quite count as a serving of veggies, but it's a step in the right direction.

2. You shall not drink sodas or sugary drinks

Come on now, with sodas and sugary drinks containing up to 22 teaspoons of sugar, they have to go. Dumping this amount of sugar into your bloodstream stresses out the body's insulin response and over the long term, can contribute to diabetes.

Also remember, that although fat-free, excess sugar in the bloodstream can ultimately be stored as fat, so can lead to weight gain. Remember that concentrated fruit juices have exactly the same impact on your blood-sugar levels, so should only be consumed in small quantities. Instead of choosing diet drinks try diluting a small amount of 100 percent juice at least 50/50 with still or sparkling water. Off the shelf, brands like Izze and Fizzy Lizzy also do well to reduce their sugar content naturally.

3. You shall not covet your neighbour's burger

Unless you covet their heart disease too. The combination of fatty ground beef, cheese, bacon and mayonnaise delivers an obscene amount of saturated fat into your bloodstream. Beef can be included in a healthy diet, but choose lean cuts that have been farmed humanely (eg Niman Ranch). Try and include plenty of the “good” fats too omegas 3, 6 and 9 (the essential fatty acids) which are found in unroasted nuts, olives, avocado and fish.

4. You shall not steal from your children's platesSo many parents fall into this trap. The issue is that it's only a small amount of calories every day that makes the difference between being a healthy weight and being overweight. Eat mindfully and try not to pick at their food, although the occasional carrot stick isn't going to cause harm.

5. You shall choose food that nourishes your body Ignore fads and clean up your approach to food. Pick food that you know will nourish your body. Move away from food that satisfies hunger only, at the cost of your health. Instead of a junk-based cereal, choose one with wholegrains (that add fibre and lower cholesterol) and add berries (for their antioxidants.) Instead of white rice and sticky chicken at lunch, pick a spinach salad and add grilled chicken (for protein) and beans (for energy.) When you choose food, think “what will this do for me?”

6. You shall eat little and oftenTry and trickle nutrients into your body as and when you need them. Instead of having three large meals a day, eat smaller meals and choose healthy snacks for midmorning and midafternoon. This will speed up your metabolism and help you to reduce your body fat. In general, when allocating yourself portions at lunch or dinner, one-quarter of your plate should be protein, one-quarter carbs and one-half salad, or non-starchy vegetables.

7. You shall eat a “superfood” every dayDefinitions of “superfoods” vary. I just mean foods that are extra-nutrient rich. These include: berries, broccoli, spinach, unroasted almonds and walnuts, sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, kidney beans, chickpeas, oatmeal, salmon, avocados and red, yellow or orange peppers.

8. You shall listen to your bodyThis sounds easy but can actually be tricky in our busy lives. However, try and take note of how you feel after eating. Your food should be energising you and making you feel good. If you feel sluggish after you eat you may be overdoing the carbs or choosing the wrong ones (refined/processed like white rice instead of whole or complex like brown rice). Headaches, stomach problems, fatigue, constipation and other minor health issues can often be linked to diet (either as a food intolerance, lack of fibre or leaving too long between meals). Keep a food diary and see if you notice a pattern.

9. On the seventh day, cheat a little

It's OK to have some treats! However, can I ask you this? When you do indulge, try and choose treats that are still relatively natural. Consider picking a small organic chocolate bar (eg Green & Blacks, sold in most grocery stores and at Phoenix) instead of a bag of Skittles. For children, choose the Motts freezer pops instead of ones with artificial colours. Or choose candy without artificial colours (Maltesers, Smarties, Fruit Pastilles) instead of M&Ms or Starbursts.

10. You shall not give way halfway around East Broadway roundabout. OK, so this has nothing to do with food. But stopping halfway around East Broadway roundabout to give way to other drivers is idiotic. A roundabout is a give-way system in itself. You don't need to add your own rules.

If you do, everyone behind you who is anticipating the natural flow of a roundabout is at risk of getting in an accident. Next time I see someone do this I'm going to pelt them with organic strawberries. You have been warned.

The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. She can be contacted at nourishbda[AT]gmail.com.

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Published September 09, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated September 09, 2011 at 9:09 am)

Healthy eating The ten commandments

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