Food Swaps for a Better and Healthier You #BNFHealthyEatingWeek

Food Swaps for a Better and Healthier You #BNFHealthyEatingWeek

Posted on June 12th 2019 by Letara Buckley 

BNF Healthy Eating Week is a dedicated week in the year to encourage organizations across the UK to focus on eating well, exercising, and celebrating a healthy lifestyle. This year, it runs from 10–14th June.

The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) is a registered UK charity that provides helpful evidence-based information on nutrition. The charity’s mission is to make good food knowledge accessible to all.

This article explores the benefits of healthy eating and nutrition facts, and how it can prevent serious health conditions including heart disease and stroke―did you know that these are the two leading causes of premature death in the UK? It also provides some smart food swaps for you to enjoy, as well as healthy food recommendations from Marisa Peer.

Nutrition Definition

Why is good nutrition so important? BNF explains that in order to properly understand nutrition, you need to know all about nutrients:‘In the UK, we have a set of Dietary Reference Values (DRVs). These are the expert estimates of the quantities of energy and nutrients needed to support adequate growth, development and health, while reducing the risk of deficiencies and diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer.’

(You can read more details on your DRVs for your age in this PDF attachment.)

‘Most people should be able to get all the nutrients they need by eating a healthy, varied diet, although there are a few exceptions. For example, if you are pregnant or likely to become pregnant, it is recommended that you take a folic acid supplement daily until the 12th week of pregnancy to help prevent deformities such as spina bifida developing in your baby. In addition, as vitamin D is found only in a small number of foods, the Department of Health advises that everyone should consider taking a vitamin D supplement.’

BNF lists the following macronutrients and in which foods you can find them:

  • Carbohydrates provide energy for the body. Can be found in all starchy foods, such as bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and breakfast cereals; but also, in simpler forms as the sugars present in fruits, vegetables and milk.
  • Dietary fiber is a term that is used for non-digestible carbohydrates. Fiber is important for our health and for reducing the risk of some diseases (e.g. heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer). It also helps our digestive health and reduces the risk of constipation. Can be found in high fiber breakfast cereals, wholegrain bread, wholewheat pasta, beans, pulses, fruit and vegetables.
  • Protein provides amino acids. Needed for normal growth and maintenance of health. Also provides energy. Can be found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy foods, cereal products (such as bread), soya products, nuts, and pulses.
  • Fat provides essential fatty acids as well as energy. Required for a range of bodily processes and to maintain the normal structure of cells in the body. It also carries essential fat-soluble vitamins and is important for their absorption. Can be found in oils, meat, dairy, oily fish, nuts, seeds, and avocados.’

BNF also lists the following micronutrients, and which foods you can find them in:

  • Vitamin A Helps the immune system to work as it should. It also helps with vision and helps keep skin and the linings of some parts of the body function normally, such as the nose. Can be found in liver, cheese, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables, and orange-colored fruits and vegetables (e.g. carrot, sweet potato, butternut squash, cantaloupe melon, and papaya).
  • ‘Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) Helps to release energy from food. It also helps our nervous system and heart function normally. Can be found in bread, fortified breakfast cereals, nuts and seeds, meat (especially pork), beans and peas.
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Helps to release energy from food and helps maintain normal skin. It helps to maintain a normal nervous system and helps to reduce tiredness. Can be found in milk, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, offal, some oily fish (e.g. mackerel and sardines), mushrooms, and almonds.
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Helps to release energy from food and helps to maintain normal skin. It also helps the nervous system function normally and helps reduce tiredness. Can be found in meat, poultry, fish and shellfish, wholegrains (e.g. brown rice, wholewheat pasta and quinoa), bread, and some nuts and seeds (e.g. peanuts and sesame seeds).
  • Vitamin B6 Helps to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. It helps our immune system work as it should, regulates hormones and helps to reduce tiredness. Can be found in meat, poultry, fish, fortified breakfast cereals, egg yolk, yeast extract, soya beans, sesame seeds, and some fruits and vegetables (e.g. banana, avocado and green peppers).
  • Vitamin B12 Helps to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body, and helps the nervous system function normally. Helps keep our immune system working as it should and helps to reduce tiredness. Can be found in meat, fish, shellfish, milk, cheese, fromage frais, eggs, fortified yeast extract, and fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Vitamin C Helps to protect cells from damage. Helps with the formation of collagen, which is important for normal bones, gums, teeth and skin. It also helps the immune system work as it should and the nervous system to function normally. Can be found in fruits (especially citrus fruits, blackcurrants, strawberries, papaya, and kiwi), plus green vegetables, peppers and tomatoes.
  • Vitamin D Helps the body to absorb calcium and helps to keep bones strong. It also helps muscles to function normally and the immune system to work as it should. Can be found in oily fish, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, and fat spreads. During summer (in the UK), the majority of people will get most of their vitamin D from sunlight on the skin.
  • Folate/Folic Acid Helps to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Helps the immune system work as it should and helps to reduce tiredness. It is also needed for the normal development of the nervous system in unborn babies. Can be found in green leafy vegetables, some breads (e.g. malted wheat and brown bread), offal, peas and beans, oranges, berries, and fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Vitamin E Helps to protect the cells in our bodies against damage. Can be found in vegetable and seed oils (e.g. olive, rapeseed, sunflower, peanut oils), nuts and seeds (e.g. sunflower seeds and almonds), avocados, and olives.
  • Vitamin K Needed for the normal clotting of blood and is required for normal bone structure. Can be found in green vegetables (including leafy greens, broccoli, green beans and peas) and some oils (e.g. rapeseed, olive and soya oil).
  • Calcium Helps to build and maintain strong bones and teeth, as well as the normal functioning of nerves and muscles. It also helps blood clot normally. Can be found in milk, cheese, yogurt, fromage frais, some green leafy vegetables (such as kale), calcium-fortified dairy-alternatives, canned fish (where soft bones are eaten) and bread (white, brown and wholegrain).
  • Fluoride Helps with the formation of strong teeth and helps to reduce the risk of tooth decay. Can be found in tap water, tea, and toothpaste.
  • Iodine Helps to make thyroid hormones. It also helps the brain to function normally. Can be found in milk, yogurt, cheese, fish, shellfish and eggs.
  • Iron Helps to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. It also helps the immune system to work as it should and helps the brain to function normally. Can be found in offal, red meat, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds, fish (e.g. canned sardines, cockles and mussels), quinoa, wholemeal bread, and dried fruit.
  • Magnesium Helps to release energy from food. It also helps to maintain strong bones and helps muscles and nerves to function normally. Can be found in nuts and seeds (e.g. Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds), wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholegrain and seeded breads, brown rice, and quinoa.
  • Phosphorous Helps to build strong bones and teeth and helps to release energy from food. Can be found in red meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, bread and whole grains (such as brown rice and whole wheat pasta).
  •  Potassium Helps regulate the water content in the body and maintain a normal blood pressure. It also helps the nerves and muscles function normally. Can be found in some fruits and vegetables (e.g. bananas, blackcurrants, avocado, spinach, parsnip and beetroot), dried fruit (e.g. apricots, sultanas and figs), poultry, red meat, fish, milk, and wholegrain breakfast cereals.
  • Sodium Helps regulate the water content in the body. Very small amounts are found naturally in foods. Often added as salt (sodium chloride) during processing, preparation, preservation and serving. Currently, intakes of sodium are too high and most people need to reduce their intake substantially.
  • Selenium Helps to protect the cells in our bodies against damage. It also helps the immune system to work as it should, helps maintain normal skin and nails and normal fertility in males. Can be found in some nuts and seeds (e.g. Brazil and cashew nuts and sunflower seeds), eggs, offal poultry, fish and shellfish.
  • Zinc Contributes to normal mental skills and abilities and helps to maintain normal hair, skin and nails. It also helps with the normal healing of wounds and contributes to normal fertility and reproduction. Can be found in meat, poultry, cheese, some shellfish (e.g. crab, cockles and mussels), nuts and seeds (e.g. pumpkin seeds and pine nuts), wholegrain breakfast cereals, and wholegrain and seeded breads.’

Nutrition Facts: Good vs Bad

You’ve probably come across some conflicting advice about healthy food in the media more than once in your lifetime. Over the last few decades, there has been an increasing focus on food for better health thanks to the advances in scientific research. However, this means that some old notions of what we previously believed to be healthy, are not anymore. This can make it difficult to know what to eat for a healthy lifestyle.

Marisa Peer has helped many clients overcome weight issues throughout her 30-year career, and has reprogrammed their minds to only want to eat wholesome, nutritious food. She is a firm believer that cow’s milk, wheat, and gluten should be extremely limited in an everyday diet, and completely avoided when trying to lose weight. She also advises that “Frankenstein foods” (as she refers to them) should be completely cut out, such as sugar and artificial sweeteners, plus processed foods like margarine. You can read more about the foods that Marisa avoids in this article.

In Marisa’s Perfect Weight Forever program, she advises that in order to make healthy food choices, always use the Four Rs method:​

‘Ask yourself these questions before you decide what to eat:

For example, fish, pears, peas, and eggs roam or grow. You can eat them raw, you can recognize them, and they rot.However, donuts, margarine, and cola do not grow or roam. You could never recognize the ingredients in them, or eat them raw, and far from rotting, they will still be intact in 20 years.

So, ask yourself these four questions before you eat and you will then make the right choices.’

You Are What You Eat

In a literal sense, it is true that you are what you eat. Your body is composed of the food and drinks that you put into it, the oxygen that you breathe, plus nutrients and bacteria that you absorb. If you eat healthy foods you will be healthier, if you eat junk, you’re going to upset your body’s immune system.

Harvard Health listed the following information on food and heart health:

Processed meats How much to eat: Preferably none, or at most 2 servings per week.Serving size: 2–3 ounces. The evidence: Processed meats are those preserved using salts, nitrites, or other preservatives. They include hot dogs, bacon, sausage, salami, and other deli meats, including deli ham, turkey, bologna, and chicken. Long-term observational studies have found that the worst types of meats for the heart are those that are processed. Why it harms the heart: It’s likely that the high levels of salt and preservatives found in processed meats are part of the problem.

Highly refined and processed grains and carbohydrates How much to eat: Preferably none, or at most 7 servings per week. Serving size: 1 ounce. The evidence: Many studies have linked whole grain intake―in place of starches (like potatoes) and refined carbohydrates (like white bread, white rice, and low-fiber breakfast cereals) ―to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and possibly stroke. Whole grains are also linked to lower weight gain over time. This makes sense, considering that whole grains lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and may improve blood vessel function and reduce hunger. Why it harms the heart: Refined or processed foods include white bread, white rice, low-fiber breakfast cereals, sweets and sugars, and other refined or processed carbohydrates. Why aren’t these foods healthy?

First, high levels of processing remove many of the most healthful components in whole grains, such as dietary fiber, minerals, phytochemicals, and fatty acids.

Second, high levels of processing destroy the food’s natural structure. For example, eating a food made of finely milled oats (e.g. Cheerios) or grains (e.g. typically finely milled whole grain bread) produces much higher spikes in blood sugar than less processed versions such as steel-cut oats or stone-ground bread.

Third, processing often adds many ingredients that are less healthy, particularly trans fats, sodium, and sugars. Fourth, some research shows that fructose is metabolized differently than other sugars, in a way that increases the liver’s production of new fat. Fructose represents about half of the sugar in sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup or sucrose (found in cane sugar and beet sugar). That’s not to suggest that you never eat a slice of pie or white bread―just make them an occasional treat rather than a regular part of your diet.

Soft drinks and other sugary drinks

How much to eat: Preferably none, or at most seven 8-ounce servings per week (one 8-ounce serving per day). The evidence: Americans are drinking more and more of their calories instead of―or in addition to―eating them. Most of the increase is from sugary drinks, especially sodas, sweetened fruit  

drinks, and sports drinks. A 12-ounce can of soda contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of table sugar. Diet sodas are sugar-free or low in calories, but have no nutrients. Why it harms the heart: Sugary drinks have all the same ill effects on the heart as highly refined and processed carbohydrates. Research also shows that your body does not compute the calories you ingest in liquid form in the same way as it does the calories you take in from solid foods. So, if you add a soda to your meal, you are likely to eat about the same number of calories from the rest of your food as if you drank water instead. The soda calories are just “added on.” In addition to the other harms of highly refined and processed carbohydrates, sugary drinks also increase your chances of weight gain.’

Smart Food Swaps

Here are some handy food alternatives as recommended by Marisa Peer:

Pasta substitute

Courgette spaghetti

Julienne courgettes by slicing them length ways with a julienne, spiralizer or a potato peeler if you don’t have one. Once you have a mound of spaghetti-looking courgette ribbons, place them in a pan of boiling water for just one minute, then drain well.  You can add sauces, meatballs or veggie balls, or use them in any dish where you would have used pasta. You can also stir fry them in a little oil for just two minutes.

Rice substitute

Cauliflower rice

Cut cauliflower into chunks and discard the core, as it’s too bitter. Add the florets to a food processor and grate. The cauliflower crumbles really fast, so give it a blast of a few seconds and then check it and repeat until it has crumbled. Alternatively, you can use a cheese 

grater. Once you have your mound of ‘rice’ you can add it to salads raw, or use with curries, sauces, or as a substitute for any dish you would have had with rice. You can also cook it in a wok for no more than a minute with a little oil.

Potato substitutes

Mashed swede

You can use cooked mashed swede as a great topper for a shepherd’s pie or fish pie.

Jerusalem artichokes

Roasted Jerusalem artichokes taste very similar to roast potatoes. 

PopcornPopcorn is full of lutein which is often referred to as the “eye vitamin”. It can help to prevent age-related cataracts, and also heart disease. Add a little light soy sauce for the perfect crunchy snack to eat when you are watching TV.

Sugar and sweetener substitutes

Zsweet and Stevia

These natural, calorie-free sweeteners lower blood sugar while giving you a lovely sweet taste, especially good for those that like to sweeten their tea or coffee.

Hypnotherapy for Dieting

If you would like to train your mind into wanting healthy food and to feel indifferent to junk food, the following hypnosis audio by Marisa Peer is the perfect choice:

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