Revealed – What a Healthy Diet really looks like

What a Healthy Diet really looks like?

Eating well should come naturally to us, but after years of dieting hype, scare headlines and food manufacturer marketing, it can seem really  overwhelming and confusing. As an experienced nutritionist, I spend my days reviewing clients’ diets and giving advice on how to eat in a healthy way. Let me show you how you can achieve this too.

What factors do I look for when assessing a diet? My Top 7

1. Is the diet more anti-inflammatory rather than pro-inflammatory?

Revealed - What a Healthy Diet really looks like

Foods high in sugars, starchy carbohydrates and excess fruit create excess glucose in the bloodstream which can become pro inflammatory. Excess saturated fats (note I don’t say none!), cheap fats from processed foods and cheap seed oils like sunflower and canola are pro-inflammatory, sending inflammatory messengers around the body. 

Gluten has been found to be pro-inflammatory, so all wheat, barley and rye should be limited. Oats do not contain gluten.

An anti-inflammatory diet will include oily fish from salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring several times a week.  The essential fats they contain create anti-inflammatory messengers in the body.

2. Is the diet varied, with no excess wheat and dairy consumed every week?

Revealed - What a Healthy Diet really looks like

It’s natural to always eat the same types of foods, it’s convenient and easy to shop and cook in a similar way. But typically the Western diet is very high in wheat based foods (bread, pasta, biscuits, cake, pies, pizza, crackers) and cow’s milk dairy (yoghurt, milk, cheese, ice-cream) together with bought foods that contain wheat and dairy. I’ve explained one of the potential problems with wheat above. 

Dairy has an imbalance towards calcium and lacks magnesium. Magnesium is essential for strong bones, for example. I also consider it to be mucus forming and in this way does not support a healthy lymphatic system and lymph flow which is required for toxin removal and white blood cell production.

3. Are processed foods eaten rarely?

Revealed - What a Healthy Diet really looks like

Today, we have processed and ultra-processed foods. If you buy anything that does not resemble the individual natural ingredients, it is processed to some degree. Sliced bread, cereal bars, crisps, biscuits, ice-cream, ready meals, shop bought soups. These and much, much more have gone through food processing, often with added ingredients, fillers, chemicals, salt, (cheap) fats and changes to the natural nutritional content.

4. Do you choose low sugar options containing artificial sweeteners?

Revealed - What a Healthy Diet really looks like

It can be a false economy to choose low sugar options. Artificial sweeteners have been found to disrupt the gut microbiome, leading to reduced levels of the friendly beneficial ones and increasing pathogenic varieties. Not only can this lead to digestive symptoms, but e know that the gut is communicating with the whole body and influences health and disease. 

More recent studies suggest links to disruption to brain signalling and brain health (dementia), obesity and cardiovascular disease.

As sugars are not a healthy alternative, it’s important to minimise all sugars in the diet and really keep them to an occasional treat. 

5. Do you have a very rich dietary intake of fibre, especially vegetables, with just a little fruit?

Revealed - What a Healthy Diet really looks like

The health of the colon and good, daily bowel movements is a critical aspect to health. When eating grains they should always be wholegrain not white refined ones (including rice). Vegetables should be the main source of your “5 a day” and not fruit due to the sugar content. But in reality, for good health, we should all be aiming to eat 10 portions of vegetables (with a little fruit) every day.

Vegetable intake should be really varied with lots of colour and always including some dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Sprouts).  This provides the varied fuel to feed the gut bacteria to keep it thriving.

Other plant foods include herbs, spices, nuts and seeds. And every week, aim to eat 40 different types of plant foods. It may seem a challenge, but it is most definitely achievable!

6. Are you eating to keep blood sugar levels stable throughout the day?

Revealed - What a Healthy Diet really looks like

Most people are unaware of the impact that the ratio of macro-nutrients has on creating fluctuations in blood glucose levels throughout the day. This creates a yo-yo effect, a corresponding rise in insulin, weight management problems, sleep difficulties, difficulties managing stress, poor concentration and so much more.

Check that you are including protein with every meal (meat, fish, eggs, soya, nuts, seeds, pulses) equivalent to a third of the plate; that you are limiting starchy carbohydrates (potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, all wheat based products) to just 20% of your plate; and you have an abundance of above ground vegetables equivalent to almost half the plate. 

7. Are you consuming nutrient inhibitors?

Revealed - What a Healthy Diet really looks like

Some foods and drinks may inhibit the absorption of minerals like iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium. No matter how good your food selection is, you may not be getting all the nutritional benefits. 

Such foods are phytates (found in wheat, unfermented soya, pulses, nuts and seeds), oxalates (spinach, chard, rhubarb); tannins (black and green tea) and caffeine (tea and coffee and caffeine rich drinks).

It is best to avoid drinking tea and coffee close to a meal. 

Spinach is fine if not consumed daily, especially if eaten cooked rather than s raw salad leaves.

Soaking and rinsing nuts and seeds helps reduce phytic acid and choosing fermented soya (natto, miso, tempeh) rather than unfermented soya products also helps too. 

Sourdough has less phytic acid than standard bread. 

Try adopting each of my suggestions one at a time and see how you feel. I’d love to know if it makes a difference to your overall health and vitality!

Thanks for reading and while you’re here, why not join my Facebook group?

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Again, thanks for reading. 

Keep your eye out for more articles and Peyton Principles in the media.


Gut Health Nutritionist Caroline Peyton Principles
Caroline is a Professional Nutritionist, Naturopath based in Wiltshire.

A little more about me…

Providing expert, personalised, health advice utilising 10 years of nutritional therapy and naturopathy experience with a strong emphasis on digestion and gut health. Zoom or face to face Consultations.

I also develop and deliver well-being in the workplace workshops.

Helping people live happier, healthier more active lives.

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Caroline Peyton

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