Ask Dr Libby: Planning key to eating well

Vegetable-based juices and smoothies require very little preparation but pack a nutritional punch.
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Vegetable-based juices and smoothies require very little preparation but pack a nutritional punch.

Question: I work long hours in a high-stress job and often find I have no energy to plan healthy dinners or food for the following day. What are some good foods to be eating for energy so I can get back on top of things? Thanks, Leigh 

I'm sure many people can relate to this question. I am a big advocate of using Sunday afternoon or some time during the weekend to plan your meals in advance.

Soups, stews and casseroles can all be prepared in advance and frozen, or as we progress into the warmer months you could make a big salad on Monday and add different protein sources to it early in the week such as chicken, beef, eggs (or nuts and seeds) to make different lunches. There is no way around it. Eating plenty of fresh vegetables and real food requires some organisation initially but it can soon become a habit and that will feel more effortless.

Dr Libby Weaver.

Dr Libby Weaver.

There is no doubt, though, that your body and mind reap the benefits – as whole, real foods supply the body with the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it needs to function optimally. And without our health, we have nothing.

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Try to keep this in mind when you are preparing your meals and view it as another form of self-care, just as you would some exercise or simply resting. Vegetable-based juices and smoothies would also be a great addition to your diet, as they require very little preparation but pack a nutritional punch.

Question: I have recently turned vegetarian and want to know how I can explain I have a different diet to my children? They are 2 and  5 so we talk about how "mummy is eating like a diplodocus", which they seem OK with, but then my sister unnerved me by saying I was always jumping on some diet bandwagon (this is true, I have tried sugar free, low carb, gluten free, etc) and was going to give the girls confusing messages about food! Any help would be welcomed! Thanks, Amanda

Part of our responsibilities as a parent is to teach children how to lead healthy lives. The best time to start teaching these lessons to children is when they're young, setting the foundations for healthy long-term habits.

When you want to pass on healthy habits to your children, it's important to practise what you preach. Just telling children what to do won't necessarily work – they need to see you choosing and displaying healthy behaviours, too.

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Choosing a good-quality vegetarian diet (there are poor-nutritional-quality vegetarian diets) means the majority of your diet is plant-based, which is fantastic, and a great example to children how important it is to eat vegetables. You may also choose to explain that sometimes different people need to eat in different ways for their health and you might like to keep the dinosaur analogy going to help them understand this; ie. that a Tyrannosaurus rex ate meat, while a diplodocus only ate plants.

Given you have tried a few diets, I think it would also be worthwhile for you to explore what food represents for you and by exploring different ways of eating, what you are seeking. Is it better health, improved energy, weight loss, alleviating gut-based or other health problems or environmental or animal welfare concerns? This may help you find a way of eating that serves your body, mind and soul.

Dr Libby is a nutritional biochemist, author and speaker, and is a regular contributor to Well & Good. Her latest book, Exhausted to Energized, is available at all good bookstores and from drlibby.com

 - Stuff

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