The way to eat


Burn Days mark the centre of gravity of a good healthy diet.  These are not about trying to shed as many calories as you can, they are a broadly balanced day when you burn off just a bit more than you need.  Full of goodness, but yummy.  That’s the vibe you’re going for here.  This is you eating at your healthiest best.  Clean, light on carbs, and nutritious.  It doesn’t go over the top but it’s not boring either.

As you move to a weight that you’re happy with these days will naturally become your default mode and ultimately your groove becomes a simple balanced rhythm. 

There’s a lot of debate about exactly what constitutes the middle way.  For people like Paleo it’s nothing short of a return to entirely basic, unprocessed foods, avoiding even the grains and pulses which agriculture has developed.  Less extreme, but in the same direction, many are challenging the government health authority recommendations of the last few decades (to eat a diet bulked out by starchy carbohydrates like pasta and potatoes), and there is, currently, a lot of criticism of low fat diets, both because fat as a villain is not necessarily borne out by the evidence, and because many low fat foods have simply replaced fat with sugar.

Perhaps the only truth is that we’re never going to get an answer.  It’s an area where even scientific testing can do little.  The complexity, cost and ethics of a study of different diets on a meaningful scale make it an impossibility.

So nutritionally we have no choice but to live with uncertainty.

What worked for me was the simple ambition of wanting to stay trim - so in terms of a margin for error I’d rather err on the side of caution than excess.  Basically I took what I had on the Fastdays and added to it what would make it feel bearable on a long-term basis – mainly lots more vegetables.

And of all the food issues we’re facing right now the one clear cut message, that just about everybody is agreed on, is that processed, sugar-laden, high GI, starchy food is making us fat.

By and large, if you take your food out of a box that has a picture of what you’re going to eat on it then you’re not doing yourself any favours.

The food group principles of the Burnday start off the same as the Fastday.  So we still have the Pure Protein, and no added sugar, and we stick with the semi skimmed milk.  The High Fibre Vegetables list grows to include everything called a vegetable, except where cooking buggers them up – so no deep frying, roasting or smothering in butter.  And in comes fruit too.  Not fruit juice.  But an apple a day or some orange in a salad and you’re fine. 

There are people who worry about avocados or bananas or various other fruits that are more calorific than most, but in the big scheme of things they are still generally low GL and as long as you don’t live off them then they are such a small impact it’s not worth worrying about.  

The same goes for pulses too.  Stuff like chickpeas and lentils are scorned on by some of the calorie counters and people like Dukan.  But on a Burnday they are not going to give you much trouble.  They are delicious, nutritious and while they do pack a few carbs they are loaded with protein too.  And loads of filling, healthy fibre.  So don't go bonkers, they are not an all you can eat veg like celery, but as a normal portion, get in there.  Just to make life easier I didn’t avoid any different fruit of veg and it still seems to have worked fine.  So you can eat any fruit and veg and pulses.  One curried chicken and spinach dhal coming up.  Yum.

The Sirtfoods come into their own here too.  That diet is high on protein and nutritious vegetables.  Do try their simple salad.  The carbs they recommend come mainly in the form of buckwheat which, according to the Sirtfood theory, is going to help you build muscle instead of fat and it's supposed to do wonders for your cardio-vascular health to boot.  You can eat it in it's simple form as a kind of couscous replacement, or it comes as noodles (Soba noodles) which are great in a stir-fry or asian soup.

Stodgy, processed, carb-loaded meals, on the other hand are still as out as they can be.  But you can add in carbs that would still be absorbed slowly, that would be burnt off, not stored as fat and would still provide the fibre to carry away excess cholesterol.  These are the higher GI/GL, unrefined sources of carbohydrates. 

So we stick with your oat-bran at breakfast but also back in comes a piece of toast or two, with butter, or a sandwich, thank God - but made with wholemeal, stoneground bread.  Some porridge (still with the oat-bran), and the happy inclusion of fruit (berries in particular) is great to have back on the breakfast menu.  Boiled potatoes, with their skins on, if that’s the way you like your Salad Nicoise.  And some whole-wheat pasta or wholegrain rice allows you to eat some of your old favourites; a bolognese, a pasta pesto, for example in a more healthy form.  Not too much.  Think more of a starter portion and load up on the meat and veg, not on the pasta.

It’s all good stuff.  I’m not suggesting that it’s a match for processed white flour and fluffy rice.  I love spag bol, crusty baguettes, and egg fried rice.  And to be honest, for lots of dishes only the real thing will do.  An unctuous, slinky carbonara just gets killed by the nutty wholesomeness of a wholegrain spaghetti.  And what’s Thai sticky rice, without the big fat white grains?  Well it’s not even sticky for starters. 

But remember, there’s always a Reload Day for the ‘real thing’.  That’s what Reload Days are for.  It’s just that, I’m afraid a dose of cold hard truth, you can’t keep to your Reset Point weight by still eating processed food all week long.

And remember keep your palate happy with the Pure Protein.  For a Burnday supper it’s more important to lose the processed carbs than it is to worry about a bit of fat even.  Have a miso salmon breast, a pork chop or a juicy steak.  Just have it with a massive chopped salad of vegetables, a bit of fruit and some seeds and nuts.  Not with a spoon of mash or a pile of chips.

And here’s one more trick to help avoid the starchy sugar of processed white grains.  You can replace them with some pretty good vegetable substitutes.  There are vegetable-rich versions of lots of favourites too - great as bulky, nutritious fillers.  They're low carb cheats for potato, rice and noodles and with the help of the right flavoured sauces they slip nicely under the radar.  Courgette spaghetti, flax seed pizza, cauliflower rice, shirataki noodles all bulk out a meal and come close enough to giving you the feeling of eating the real thing.  Ok not that close, but calorie for calorie, you get a good bang for your buck.  I’ve put some recipes in the back.