Excerpts from Keys to Independence, Leaving Home to Study

By Sheila Partrat, Rachael Desgouttes and Sophie Paine Published by Partridge October 2018


All content taken from Keys to Independence, Leaving Home to Study. Food and health chapter written by Sheila Partrat, Dr Jean Francois Lesgards with contributions from Denise Fair, registered dietician.

Optimizing Food and Drink: Top Tips for Best Food Choices Today…and Tomorrow

  1. Increase the quantity of clean high quality protein to at least one gram per kilogram of body weight. (see section on proteins below. See Protelicious.com for extra resources
  2. Reduce the added sugars, especially with drinks. (see section on added sugars)
  3. Eat the rainbow of vegetables and fruit every day.
  4. Increase the foods with Omega 3 (wild oily fish), walnuts, flax seeds and their oil and decrease the foods with Omega 6 fatty acids. (see page on fats)
  5. In a grocery store, avoid any food with a label with the ingredient “partially hydrogenated oils” (they are trans fats) or High Fructose Corn Syrup.
  6. Buy organic if you can, especially for what you eat/drink most of. If you cannot afford organic meat, avoid the skin and fatty pieces, as this is where toxins are.
  7. Keep balanced: divide the plate in quarters, half for veggies and fruits, a quarter meat/protein and a quarter carbs.
  8. Watch the 80/20 rule. 80% keep to the nutrient dense; 20% of the time, relax the rules. (see page on 80/20 here)
  9. Watch for portion distortion.
  10. Hooked on Junk food? Try this
  11. Stay hydrated. Get enough water and beware of the colour of your urine. (see guide for drinks here)
  12. Be mindful. Acknowledge what you eat.
  13. Enjoy your food and drink, it’s part of the adventure of life!

Protein: far more important than commonly understood

Protein is one of the biggest contributors when it comes to making and using our bodies. It is involved in the structural part of our bodies – being the foundation of bone, muscle, organs, tissues, hair and nails. Protein is also essential for the functional part of our bodies in that it is used to make our enzymes and hormones. It is also responsible for overall body maintenance, tissue repair and growth.

Proteins are far more important to us than are commonly understood. They are found virtually everywhere in the body, and are not just needed for muscle growth. Because our bodies cannot stock the amino acids, unlike carbohydrates and fat which can both be stored as fat, we need to replenish our supply of protein every day. Most experts agree that we need approximately one gram of protein per kilo of body weight per day.

Our two main protein sources: animal and vegetable

Animal protein sources Vegetable protein sources
  • Meats (beef, chicken, lamb, pork, venison, bison etc.),
  • Fish, shellfish, Eggs
  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt and dairy derived protein powders like whey and casein
  • Soy milk and yogurt
  • Other milk alternatives (almond, rice, hemp milks)
  • Quinoa, corn – most grains have a small amount of protein.
  • Hummus, chick peas and falafels
  • Peanut butter or other nut butters
  • Raw nuts and seeds
  • Black, navy, red, cannelloni and butter beans, black eye peas
  • Lentils and pulses (red, black or green lentils, split peas etc.) tofu, edamame and other soy products, vegetable textured products, vegetable-based protein powder

How do animal and vegetable sources differ?

The key difference is in their amino acid profiles, the building blocks of proteins, and the rate at which our bodies can absorb and put them to use.

Because animal protein is more similar to protein found in the human body, it tends to be used up more rapidly than those found in plants. It’s also easier to reach our broadly recommended daily intake (one gram per kilogram of body weight) with protein rich food. Animal sources contain two to ten times more protein than vegetable and cereal sources.

Ultimately, it’s ideal to mix both sources.

How do we distinguish the quality of protein?

  • How many essential amino acids does the food contain? Our bodies need 20 different amino acids to build and repair muscle, bones, tissues and drive enzymes and hormones. We can make most amino acids we need out of using what we eat except for a few known as the essential amino acids. These MUST come from food. The first determinant of protein quality is the amount of each of these eight essential amino acids consumed, which varies widely. On the whole, animal protein sources will have a better quantity of each of the eight essential acids. Vegetable proteins will have less of one or the other.
  • How easily can our body absorb the protein? If we cannot digest, absorb and utilise the amino acids in the proteins, then they are useless. Typically vegetable proteins are not as easy to absorb. Many plant-based proteins are not absorbed well by the human gut, whether cooked or raw, because of substances such as phytic acid. These ‘anti-nutrients’ are commonly found in grains, beans, seeds and nuts, and have been shown to block nutrient absorption.
  • What is the quality of fats that are associated with our proteins? Fats can either save or harm you. As fats often “come along for the ride” in protein, it is best to become aware of the quality of fats that are associated with our proteins. Bad fats come from fried foods, processed meats, skin and fat of non-organic meat and poultry. Good fats come from wild fish & eggs. More on this later!
  • What else comes in the protein package? We eat what our animal source of protein have eaten. We are also affected by what is in the soil in which our vegetable proteins grew. Keep in mind what we are exposed to, through the way the animal or food was raised or grown: pesticides, growth hormones, genetically modified animal feed, antibiotics, or added sodium, food colourings, preservatives, trans fats…

Reducing added sugars

Carbohydrates are our main source of fuel and provide our cells with energy. It’s a very diverse group, which goes way beyond the basic list of fruits, pasta, and bread. We find carbohydrates in:

  • Dairy products
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Cakes, cookies, cereals, canned drinks

Carbohydrates have been getting “a bad rap” over the past few years. Most of us will have heard that eating complex carbs is better than eating simple carbs, but food labels don’t always help us distinguish between the two. The key is getting a better understanding of how carbs are classified and how they work in our bodies, so that we can tell the difference and make better choices, rather than avoiding them altogether.

Carbs are made up of fibre, starch and sugars. Fibre and starch are complex carbs, while sugars are simple carbs. Sugars are short chains of one on or two of the basic simple sugar molecules: glucose, galactose or fructose making them quick and easy to break down and digest thus increasing blood insulin levels. Complex carbohydrates like starch and fibre are longer and more complicated chains, taking longer to break down and digest and do not impact our insulin level as dramatically. This rate of absorption has a major impact on how our bodies processes carbohydrates. The key takeaway is that the nutritional quality of a food and how it will function in the body will depend on how much fibre, starch and sugar it has in it.

Avoid or embrace carbs? Start with this classification:

How Carbs affect our Body: the Glycemic Index of foods

The Glycemic Index ranks foods from 0–100 according to the speed at which they impact blood sugar levels in the two or three hours after eating.

High GI (70-100): Carbohydrates, which break down quickly during digestion, releasing blood sugar rapidly into the bloodstream – causing marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

Medium GI (56-69): Carbohydrates, which break down moderately during digestion, releasing blood sugar moderately into the bloodstream.

Low GI (0-55): Carbohydrates which break down slowly during digestion, releasing blood sugar gradually into the bloodstream – keeping blood sugar levels steady. These are often our nutrient dense foods, with unrefined carbohydrates, low fat, high naturally occurring dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.

It’s the high GI carbs that we have to watch out for, particularly added sugar. Have you ever had a bowl of sweet cereal for breakfast, then felt a “mid-morning energy slump” which prompts you to reach for a sweet “pick me up”? This is why….

However, not all sugars are the same. There are different types of sugar with a few similarities and important differences:

  • All sugars are carbohydrates and contain about four calories per gram.
  • Most sugars are made of simple one-molecule sugars: glucose, fructose & galactose.
  • Glucose is a primary fuel, virtually every cell in our body can break it down then use it for energy.
  • Sucrose or common table sugar is roughly half glucose and fructose.
  • Too much fructose, which can only be used by the liver, can have devastating effects on the body. It can cause fatty liver, increase blood pressure and free radical damage and promotes the build of visceral or organ fat (think muffin top).

The problem is that fructose is hard to avoid. It makes up approximately 1⁄2 of the content in both standard table sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup (an industry standard). So what can we do about it? Cut out anything that says High Fructose Corn Sugar (or HFCS) and reduce sugar generally by following “three steps to tame the beast” which will help you reduce, and even kill, sugar cravings

Three steps to Tame the sugar beast and reduce the cravings

Step 1: Get familiar with the number of tsp. of sugar consumed daily.

These examples serve as a guide. Observe for a week to come up with a daily average. Results are in range? Excellent! On the high side? The tips below will help to reduce.

We are not concerned about naturally occurring sugar in whole foods. Dried fruits and fruit juices are not found naturally, so they need to be counted. counted. 1 teaspoon of sugar = about 4 grams. WHO recommends six teaspoons per day for women and nine teaspoons for men. It is best to check the packaging to be sure of its sugar amount.

  • Breakfast
    • Look on the cereal box under “added sugars” and calculate.
    • Fruit juice: a glass of orange/apple juice is four to five teaspoons alone.
    • Calculate the sugar or honey added in coffee/tea.
    • Yogurt with added sugar? There is often three to five teaspoons per 200 ml tub!
  • Lunch, dinners and snacks
    • Just one can of a non-diet soft drink has approximately nine teaspoons.
    • Dried fruit is a culprit! A mini pack of sultanas has six teaspoons.
    • Sweets pack a huge sugar punch: One Mars Bar has seven teaspoons,

125 gram block of chocolate has 14, and ice-cream has two to four teaspoons per serving. Tomato sauce, BBQ sauce, and mayonnaise typically contain one to two teaspoons per serving.

Step 2: Get to know the signs of too much sugar.

With high blood sugar levels (like after eating a sweet breakfast), you may experience:

  • Thirst
  • The need for frequent urination Excessive hunger
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision

Step 3: Get practical!

  • Look at the label: aim for no more than five grams of sugar per 100 grams serving.
  • If one of the first three ingredients is sugar, no matter what it is, it’s a dessert! Skip it!
  • Watch Dr Robert Lustig’s “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” on YouTube. It will make any sugar addict think twice!
  • Increase the protein to keep your blood sugar more stable. Replace a high glycemic shake with a low glycemic shake (note the recipes below).

Oils and Fats: they can either heal or harm – getting it right

In the words of Dr. Robert Lustig, Paediatric Endocrinologist “some fats will save you, some fats will kill you”. On one end of the spectrum we have fats that are essential to life and can only be found in food, while on the other end, we have “trans fats”, mostly found in processed foods which are used to increase shelf life”10. Our body is not equipped to break down trans fats so they just accumulate. Fats either do a lot of good, or are damaging.

Fats and oils form the basis of skin and cell membranes and create cell boundaries. They provide necessary energy, help absorb our fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and are needed structurally throughout the body. In addition, we use fat as a temporary storage of fuel and we all require a thin layer to help maintain body

10. Lustig, Robert H. Sugar Has 56 Names, a Shoppers Guide. Hudson Street Press, Published by the Penguin group A Kindle Publication, 2013.

temperature. Thus, the quality of the fats directly impacts the quality of our skin and cell membranes. If the membranes are not solid enough, toxins can pass through the barrier more easily.

Generally Good: Unsaturated fats, which are liquid at room temperature. These are considered beneficial and are mostly found in foods from plants and fish: nuts, seeds like pumpkin and sesame, olive oil, avocados, and (wild) oily fish. This is where we find Omega 3 and 6’s.

Essential fatty acids Omega 3 and omega 6, can only come from food. Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory. It is needed for growth, development and proper brain function and can be found in great amounts in wild fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseeds. Omega 6 sources: corn, soybean, safflower, and sunflower.

The ratio for Omega 6 to 3 is an important health fact to keep in mind. The ratio 4:1 of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids is generally considered optimum. In Western countries however, the ratio ranges from 10:1 to 25:1 in favour of Omega-6. This is because of the wider use of oils containing omega 6 in our industrial food supply chain. We are getting way too much Omega 6 relative to Omega 3. To keep the ratio in balance, consider reducing the Omega 6 rich foods while increasing the supply of foods rich in Omega 3. Your brain will thank you.

Generally bad: Saturated fats, which are mostly solid at room temperature. They are found in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, fatty meats, tropical plants and vegetable oils such as coconut, palm and palm kernel. Saturated fats have had some bad press in the past, associating them with heart disease. That literature has been revised recently, shifting the blame onto sugar!

A word about good quality coconut oil, which is saturated. It’s tasty, and healthy. So even if it is on the “generally to restrict”, it’s by far the best of the lot. It’s versatile and has many health and beauty uses at home. It has anti-viral properties, is easily digested, so puts little strain on your digestive system, stimulates metabolism supporting weight loss (if needed), and provides rapid energy WITHOUT causing an insulin spike.

To avoid: trans fats. Oils that have been processed to make them more stable through hydrogenation. Referred to as partially hydrogenated oils, and commonly found in cookies, biscuits, margarines, baked goods, and microwave popcorn, we want to avoid these totally!

Tips for cooking with and eating fats:

  • Use olive oils, sesame and nut oils at low temperatures and high quality canola, coconut and sunflower oil for cooking.
  • Use small amounts of butter.
  • Add nuts, seeds and avocado to your snacks and salads.
  • Forget “low fat” products as the fat is often replaced with sugar.
  • Avoid trans fats “like the plague”!
  • Choose liquid oils that come from nuts, seeds, and fish as opposed to saturated fats, which are generally hard at room temperature. Forget fried food!

Our “80% nutrient dense and 20% relax the rules” rule.

LIFE HAPPENS! We all know that life ISN’T textbook perfect and there is no such thing as a perfect diet. There has to be room for flexibility. That’s the beauty of it of the 80/20 rule. It’s about next weeks beer and pizza night, or post work drinks with colleagues that turns into a whole night fiesta, or the café mocha late with caramel topping that I HAD to have when I caught up with my friendlast week, or wow I am stressed and so where is that chocolate candy bar!!?? These can also be reality …. But not all of the time.

A good rule of thumb is to consume 80% “nutrient dense” food, keeping 20% for the empty or “ugly” foods/drinks or the occasional splurge, processed or fast food meal . Here are three steps to keep in mind while keeping the journey relaxed and budget friendly

First: Learn to evaluate food/drinks broadly categorizing in 3 groups. Amuse yourself, turn it into a game at the supermarket, pub, canteen, restaurant or vending machine! Is it:

  • Real and nutrient dense? These are most “real foods” that undergo little or no processing, ie: they looks like they did on the farm.
  • Moderate: This are in between foods that have had some processing but still retain some health benefits. Think of it like a scale between the clean and nutrient dense and the ugly foods. ie: pasta, homemade cookies, refined oatmeal, white rice..
  • Ugly or harmful: Highly processed foods with added fat, sugar and salt. High or low in calories, they take away from health.

Then get the priorities in order:

  • Aim that 80% of what we eat comes mostly from the “nutrient dense” with some moderate or in between foods.
  • Restrict the “ugly category” to about 20%. This is the splurge on processed or junk foods, or the overly sweet treat that we just have to have. No big deal! But keep it to about 20%

Hooked on junk food? Start here

We all fall into that junk food rut sometimes. A muffin and sugary coffee at breakfast, burger and fries at lunch, and pizza and beer at dinner can easily turn from a one-off guilty day to your routine. That kind of eating will catch up with us sooner rather than later, and leave you feeling lethargic and fatigued. Some simple solutions:

Don’t change the general food category, just upgrade everything you eat. Kraft macaroni & cheese or ramen can be substituted with pasta and tomato sauce. Soda pop can be substituted with a zero-calorie, unsweetened fizzy seltzer water.

Slowly start introducing one great quality food at a time. For instance, buy organic eggs and one colourful vegetable.

Incorporating more healthy protein (whether it be lean meats, nuts, or yogurts) will make it much easier to reduce your sugar intake, as you’ll have slower release energy.

Congratulate yourself for all the efforts you are making! Remember, you don’t have to get rid of all the delicious foods you love the most, just ensure that you’re nutritionally balance

Staying Hydrated and rethinking the drink

Water is our first priority. Learn the signs of dehydration, and what happens when we get there. Drinking filtered tap water from home is a great option for many reasons.

Number one choice is water. Number two choice is tea and coffee. Number three choice is unsweetened milk and soy beverages. Last choice is diet beverages and sugary sodas.

Learn what alcohol does to the body and how to establish limits, then what to do after having over-indulged.

Water? Milk? Glass of juice? Cup of tea? Coffee? Latte? Chai tea latte? Beer? Vodka tonic? It’s all part of daily life. Below is a handy breakdown to better prioritise everyday drinks, in the “good” category, and identify occasional drinks, which fall into our “ugly” category.

OUR first priority: Water

We all know that water is essential to life. In fact, about 60% of our body consists of water. As the expression goes: “We can live for two minutes without air, two days without water and two weeks without food”. Why is water so vital? It forms the basis of our complete body, including blood, digestive juices, perspiration, and urine. It regulates our body temperature, lubricates our joints, protects and moistens our organs and tissues and is used to remove toxins from our bodies. By doing all of these functions we lose a lot of water every day, making it essential that we replenish our supply.

Interesting facts: Body water content is higher in men than in women. The older you are, the less your bodily water content will be. Most mature adults lose about 2.5 to three litres of water per day. An air traveller can lose approximately 1.5 litres of water during a three-hour flight. The amount of water we need depends on our body size, metabolism, the weather, the food we eat and our activity levels.

How much water do we need?

According to the Mayo Clinic, we need about 3.7 litres of fluids for men and about 2.7 litres of fluids for women per day. Given that about 20% of our recommended intake is covered by fluids from food, the rest comes from drinks. If you factor out other water containing drinks, a good rule of thumbs is still 1.5 to two litres of water per day. 17

How do we know if we are getting enough?

Check the colour of your urine. It should be a light yellow. When eating a lot of protein or fibre, or if suffering from constipation, vomiting or diarrhoea, we need a higher fluid intake.

What happens if we are not getting enough water?

A few of the early signs of dehydration are thirst and dark-coloured urine. This is the body’s way of trying to increase water intake and decrease water loss.

  • Other possible symptoms which are reversible when drinking more fluids:
  • Dizziness or light-headedness, Headaches, Tiredness
  • ry mouth, lips and eyes
  • Passing small amounts of urine infrequently (less than three or four times a day).

While water is the best thing we can drink, it isn’t very “exciting” and there are many other tastier options out there. The best thing for our health is water. Having moderate amounts of other drinks is fine, but don’t make them your go-to beverages.

  • Enjoy milk, coffee and tea no more than once or twice per day. Flavour water with mint, lemon, ginger lemon grass etc. Avoid sweetened cordials because of the sugar content.
  • Enjoy sodas, bought juices, sweetened coffees or teas, ice teas, vitamin
  • Waters and sport drinks occasionally, and no more than a couple of times per week. The empty calories have a minimal effect on improving your health and some are even detrimental to your health.

17. “Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 6 Sept. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/ in-depth/water/art-20044256.