Getting a Balanced Diet

Getting a Balanced Diet

Have you struggled with comfort eating during lockdown?

I know from personal experience that although it can make me feel better in the moment, later it generally leaves me feeling worse. It causes discomfort and bloating in the short term, as well as guilt and regret! And if we persist, the pounds will start piling on – which can have further negative consequences on our health and mental well-being.

I recently read an article in the New Scientist that proposed a remedy for those prone to overeating on fatty carbs. Apparently, researchers have discovered that we don’t just have one single appetite for food

It seems we have no less than 5 separate appetites! One each for carbohydrates, fats, proteins, calcium and sodium – all of which need to be satisfied for our hunger pangs to go away.

After a number of tests, it became apparent to the researchers that our appetite for protein has the ability to override other appetites. If you’re not getting enough protein in the food you’re eating, your body will happily let you continue overeating (or craving) fat and carbohydrate until you hit the magic number of calories from protein. 17-20% of our required calorie intake ought to be from protein (which can be found in nuts, seeds, pulses, meat, fish and eggs).

Not getting enough protein in our diets will throw our appetites out of balance. Sadly, a lot of western diets are quite protein poor. And a lot of savoury snacks make matters worse by being flavoured with something called ‘umami’. Umami is the signature flavour of protein – so we can think we are craving crisps, noodles, etc, when what our bodies really want is protein.

A simple way to keep our appetites in check is to make sure we eat enough protein. Once we’ve met our protein quota our bodies ought to be able to let us know when we’ve had enough carbohydrate and fat – and we will be satisfied!

Our food is not the only thing that must be carefully balanced however. 

Maslow, a psychologist, came up with a pyramid of the various needs that humans have. At the bottom are what he thought were the most important, our basic needs like food and safety. Maslow thought that whilst these basic needs need to be met, we also have a number of psychological needs. These include social needs like; belonging, love and respect.  Finally, at the top of the pyramid is self-actualization – our need to find and fulfil our purpose in life.

Lockdown has highlighted for a lot of us just how important our need for social interaction is. Even if we are able to find enough groceries in the supermarkets, to keep our family fed, food alone is not enough to feel fulfilled.

In the same way we can over eat food, it is possible to over-indulge in all areas of life. If we are too active socially (even just via Zoom), it can inhibit our ability to be productive in other ways. Chores and other duties can fall by the way side. Equally, family relationships can become strained, if we’re not investing enough time in them. 

Each of these are good things in and of themselves, but how do we know what the right balance is?

Is there a need, like protein, that is most important and will help us to know how much time we should invest in satisfying the others? Have we wasted our efforts over-investing in areas, which like umami, seem to fulfil a need initially, but later leave us feeling worse?

Psalm 1:2-3 says this:

“(Blessed is the man whose) delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

Without a doubt, our most important need is God. If we spend time learning about Him and developing a relationship with Him, the rest of our lives will fall into balance in the best possible way. We will be able to live lives that, like healthy trees, are beautiful and provide nourishment for others, whatever circumstances we face.

The way to learn who God is, is to read His word, the Bible, which He has provided to instruct and teach us about Himself.  The Bible is full of wisdom; it will help us discern God’s will for us in all circumstances. When we immerse ourselves in it, we are driving our roots deep into life giving water, and filling our hearts and minds with their deepest need. 

I am not particularly good at looking after house plants. Often during all this hot weather I’ve caught sight of drooping leaves looking very sorry for themselves. However, it always amazes me how, if I give them a good watering, after about an hour those leaves are revived.  So it is with us – no matter how long we might’ve neglected God’s word, if we take a drink today, we will be refreshed and nourished.


Overnight oats:

I think I’ve said it before, but porridge oats are one of my favourite foods. They are filling and comforting, and yet incredibly healthy. They are actually quite high in protein as well.

In the summer a hot bowl of porridge is not always easy to eat, but why not try cold overnight oats instead?

You can add yogurt, nuts and seeds – all of which have protein in – and get a head start in the morning on your day’s protein quota.

You can also make a large batch the day before so the whole family’s breakfast is ready and waiting in the morning – or you can make it a couple of hours before you want to eat it.

The recipe below is for just one serving, be sure to increase the quantities if preparing for the whole family.

Overnight Oats

Servings 1

Ingredients

  • 50 g porridge oats we like jumbo best
  • 100 ml milk or water if you prefer
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • Fresh/dried/frozen fruit
  • Nuts/seeds/coconut/nut butter

Instructions

  1. Stir together oats, milk and yogurt in a bowl, cover and leave overnight.
  2. In the morning add fresh or dried fruit, seeds and nuts.
  3. Stir through and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

You can add just about anything you like to this. Grated apple and desiccated coconut have proved great additions in our house, as well as walnuts, almonds, mixed seeds and raisins. You can also add 1/4 tsp of cinnamon or nutmeg at the initial stage or drizzle with honey just before eating.

6 Replies to “Getting a Balanced Diet”

  1. Great post, really interesting about different appetites that I hadn’t heard before. I can attest that eating a handful of nuts definitely satisfies craving for carbs. I’ve unexpectedly lost weight in the past by just exchanging my biscuit consumption for nuts or a cracker and cheese. Also I can sense that I’ve eaten the right thing after I’ve had protein, when I eat sugary foods when hungry i feel less satisfied. Great analagy with spiritual/ emotional/ social needs as well.X

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