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The three Ps - the secret to healthy eating

Medical & health articles 16 Feb 2016
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What comes to mind when you think about mealtimes? Are you rushing out the front door with a piece of toast and jam in the mornings? Do you wolf down your lunch and then wonder why it’s over so fast? Are you confused about whether certain foods are good or bad for you? When it comes to eating, Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella encourages you to think about the three Ps:

  • The plate
  • The place
  • The purpose

These three Ps are the secret to making your mealtimes healthier and more enjoyable.

The plate: what is healthy eating?

First things first – think about what’s on your plate. The Healthy Eating Pyramid makes it easier to work out which food groups should be eaten in what proportion.

While you might be familiar with the pyramid, you may not know how to achieve all the targets for the different food groups. Here are Sandra’s tips:

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  • Fill half your plate or lunch box with vegetables or salad
  • Buy vegetables that can easily be snacked on. Good examples are carrots, cucumbers, capsicum, green beans
  • Plan your meals around vegetables that you enjoy rather than thinking that veggies have to be “on the side” of meat or protein
  • Bulk up a meal with legumes – add canned beans to soups and salads or add canned lentils to bolognaises or mincemeat burgers
  • Have a freshly made pesto in the fridge – herbs are an easy way to eat more green leafy veggies. Use the pesto as a quick meal tossed through pasta with steamed vegetables; coriander or dill pesto is perfect with salmon or on toast with sardines
  • For the protein portion of your meals, aim for it to be the size of the palm of your hand. If the protein is vegetable protein such as tofu, beans or legumes, aim for two palm sizes
  • For healthy fats and oils, dress salads with olive, avocado or macadamia nut oils
  • Eat a small handful of nuts and seeds as a healthy snack
  • Buy beautiful herbal teas: one for after meals such as peppermint or lemongrass, one for relaxing before bed – try chamomile or lavender, and a pick-me-up one such as green tea or ginger with a squeeze of fresh lemon for an energy boost

The place: where and how you eat matters

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Whether you’re eating in front of your computer, on the run between meetings, or during traffic light changes in your car, the “where and how” of your mealtimes can affect your digestive system and your health. Here are some helpful tips and reasons why this “P” matters:

  • Eat mindfully. This means no reading, no screens (TV, computer, phone) and no driving while eating. During your meal, think about the forkful of food that you have in your mouth rather than the forkful that’s about to come; put your utensils down and enjoy the moment
  • Chew slowly and chew well – we often forget that digestion starts in the mouth. We have teeth for a reason! Plus, saliva contains enzymes (natural chemicals) that start to break down carbohydrates
  • Eat in a relaxed environment and try to avoid upsetting conversations and stressful thoughts. This helps to keep your body and your brain on the same task and can increase your digestive power
  • Take a gentle walk after eating, or at the very least, stay upright. Lying down and slouching after meals can put extra pressure on your stomach and cause or worsen reflux
  • If you’re eating outside your usual mealtimes, or if you’re eating more than you should, ask yourself why. Are you “swallowing” emotions? Are you eating out of boredom? Are you delaying a hard task?

Sandra says, “There are many benefits of eating mindfully, one of them is portion control. If you scoff down a bowl of food, you’re not giving your body the time or space to feel full and you’re more likely to go back for unnecessary seconds”.

Watch a video to learn more about mindfulness or listen to a podcast to do an exercise in mindfulness (8 mins).

The purpose : the why behind eating

It’s important to occasionally stop and think about why we eat. What is it all for? We eat to fuel our body and provide ourselves with essential nutrients. Certain nutrients are vital for normal body functions so we stay healthy. As Sandra explains, “A lack or imbalance of these essential nutrients can lead to poor health. Even mild nutritional deficiencies can increase our tiredness, make us more likely to get sick, and make it harder to cope with stress and the everyday demands of life”.

Healthy food can also be a great way to help protect ourselves from many chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease. “Fruits and vegetables contain many essential nutrients but also contain beneficial antioxidants that can protect our bodies and organs,” says Sandra.

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As well as being a source of nutrition, food can feed other parts of life: it can be a way to celebrate and connect with your family, culture or customs, a welcome break in a busy day, or an avenue to express your creativity in the kitchen.

If you need some inspiration to practice these three Ps, stop by the Jean Hailes Kitchen and see Sandra’s wonderful collection of healthy and delicious recipes. And remember, the next time you’re planning a meal or sitting down to dinner, think: plate, place, purpose.