There is an overwhelming amount of nutrition information out there, not only that, they’re often conflicting. Low carb or low fat? Is more protein better and am I getting enough vitamins, minerals and what about balancing the ratio of omega 3 and 6? Nutrition aside, are these foods going to taste good and keep me feeling full and satiated?
Fab 5 Formula is a simple framework created to help you take the confusion out of healthy eating. It’s an easy way to eat well every day that provides a hunger-crushing combination of foods whilst making sure you get a balance of nutrients and tastes delicious.
In this article, you will learn why this easy and flexible framework works and how you can use it for everyday living.
WHY FAB 5 IS ANY EASY WAY TO EAT WELL EVERY DAY
Fab 5 Formula is grounded in nutrition science and balancing nutrients for optimal health. It is a straightforward checklist system that is going to help you eat in a confident, stress-free way, knowing that your meals are going to be nourishing and enjoyable at the same time.
As a Nutritionist, we learn about the Eatwell guide, which teaches you how to organise the proportions of macronutrients on your plate. Fab 5 Formula is my own take on this, by incorporating five elements of Fruit and Vegetables, Complex Carbohydrates, Protein, Healthy Fats and Taste.
Taste is a unique component that recognises that foods are to be enjoyed and should taste delicious! It adds a dimension to the framework that makes it feel human. There are also nutrient benefits to adding taste too which I’ll go into later on…
Fab 5 Formula is an easy way to eat well every day because it provides:
Nutritionally Balanced Meals
The Fab 5 Formula doesn’t just help you create nourishing meals to support your health and wellbeing, but the whole concept is designed to give you flexibility and make it quick and easy - how else would it be realistic for everyday life right?
The idea is to use this framework to quickly sense check your meal before you start prepping, or a way of being mindful of the variety of foods you are eating throughout the day. To ensure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs, simply by referring to the five components in the framework and asking yourself, do I have; Fruits and Vegetables, Complex Carbohydrates, Protein, Healthy Fats and Taste.
The framework incorporates all three macronutrients; carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Carbohydrates are split into complex (starchy) carbohydrates and fruits and vegetables (non-starchy carbohydrates) whilst focussing on nutrient density including vitamins, minerals and fibre, and of course taste.
A Lifestyle Not A Diet
The Fab 5 Formula is not a diet, no foods are restricted and there’s no calorie counting. Diets and all their food rules create friction and stress that just aren’t sustainable for the long-term.
First of all, the diet mentality can build mistrust between you and your body, it teaches you to override your body’s needs instead of listening to it and nurturing it in the right way. What your body needs today, can be different tomorrow or next week. The Fab 5 Formula is all about eating in a way every day that fits in with your own unique lifestyle, your habits and flexes with the needs of your body.
As soon as we restrict or ban foods, we immediately put that food on a pedal stall and it’s all we think about (human nature I’m afraid!). Restricting foods make our brains highlight those foods as special and may lead to feeling a lack of control and urges to over indulge on those foods.The Fab 5 Formula focuses on adding a variety of foods in a balanced way, rather than taking away. It puts all foods on an equal playing field for you to make intentional choices, knowing how all foods fit into the framework and therefore, how they support your health and wellbeing.
Calorie counting may be beneficial for short-term educational purposes, but isn’t viable as a long-term lifestyle. It’s not realistic to calorie count every day for the rest of our lives. (Not for the majority of us anyway). Calorie counting can create a burden in everyday life, and anxiety when we are in environments where we don’t know which ingredients or how much of those ingredients are in the food - eating out, other people’s homes, holidays etc. Without calorie counting, people are left without the skills of knowing how much to eat. Instead of calorie counting, the Fab 5 Formula uses a visual guide for all 5 nutrients as well as internal cues such as hunger signals.
With simplicity, flexibility and enjoyment comes consistency! One of the main reasons why I love the Fab 5 Formula so much is just how it becomes a lifestyle, and therefore eating well becomes something you do every day.
The Fab 5 Formula becomes a part of your mental checklist when preparing meals, do I have all 5 components? It works for all meals - breakfasts, lunch and dinners, snacks and smoothies.
The flexibility and ability to personalise Fab 5 to your needs is what is key to achieving consistency with healthy eating, and therefore supporting you in making long-lasting changes to your wellbeing.
So, what exactly is the Fab 5 Formula and how does it work? Let’s jump right in.
HOW THE FAB 5 FORMULA WORKS
First thing to note, is that the Fab 5 Formula is based on consuming whole foods whenever possible! This means you want to choose foods that have been processed or refined as little as possible. This includes whole grains, whole wheat, beans, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, fish and lean meat.
But this doesn’t mean you can never have processed foods, the framework is to choose whole foods as often as possible, for you and your lifestyle.
Now let’s dive into each of the five components.
FRUITS & VEGETABLES
Fruits and vegetables are non-starchy carbohydrates that you should focus on eating. Ideally half of your plate, or the total amount of food you eat should be fruit and veg. Fruit and veg are less about providing energy, but are abundant in nutrients including fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and overall provide many health benefits.
Our bodies need a variety of vitamins and minerals, and they all play numerous different roles in our bodies to help us function at our best. Our bodies need a constant supply of very small amounts of these micronutrients, and there are some vitamins that we need every day. These are water-vitamins including Vitamin C and all B-vitamins.
Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of fibre, which aid healthy gut, digestion as well as regular bowel movement.
Around half of your meal, or the total amount of food you eat, should be fruits and vegetables.
Enjoy a variety of fruit and vegetables, from leafy greens to bright and bold colours to citrus and sweet fruits - all types are good! You can also leverage canned fruit and vegetables, ideally not in syrup, oil or added salts and sugars, but if these are the kinds most accessible to you then it is better to have these, than none at all.
Around a quarter of your plate or total food eaten should be from complex carbohydrates, also known as starchy carbohydrates. There is a big misconception that carbs make you gain weight, this is quite simply not true.
Carbohydrates hold a very important place in nutrition as they provide the largest single source of energy in the diet. Carbs are broken down into glucose, which is the essential fuel for your brain and the preferred energy source for your muscles during strenuous exercise.
Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest therefore keeping you fuller for longer, keeping your blood sugar levels stabilised and providing you with vitamins and minerals.
Brown varieties of complex carbohydrates are preferred as they are ‘whole foods’ and retain much more of their nutrients than white varieties, which are more processed. Having said that, it is still okay to eat white bread or white pasta now and then, rather than not having sufficient carbs as part of your diet. Aim for a quarter of your foods to be complex carbs, choosing whole-grain and whole wheat as often as possible.
Examples of complex carbohydrates include: brown rice, whole wheat pasta, potatoes, brown bread, quinoa, couscous, tortilla wraps, oats, muesli, granola, bran flakes, crackers.
Protein is much more than food for your muscles – every single cell in our body, including our skin, hair and nails, contain protein.
It also increases satiety keeping you feeling full for longer, as well as other health benefits such as maintaining your mood, liver function, immunity, kidney health, hormone balance and adrenal function.
Around a fifth to a quarter of your meal, or the total amount of food you eat, should contain protein.
The following foods contain good levels of protein. Animal sources tend to contain higher levels of saturated fat and LDL cholesterol as well as being void of any dietary fibre, therefore it is better to consume plant-based sources most of the time, and enjoy animal sources less frequently.
Examples of plant protein sources: nuts and nut butters, seeds, tofu, lentils, chickpeas and hummus, beans edamame, tempeh, seitan, spirulina, nutritional yeast, soya milk, protein powder.
Examples of animal protein sources: chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, sardines, prawns, cheese, milk, yoghurt, paneer, eggs.
Fats are essential for health. Fats keep cells healthy, helps the body absorb some vitamins as well as produce important hormones. There are different types of fats that impact our bodies in different ways.
Unsaturated fats help lower LDL bad cholesterol and therefore support heart health. It is therefore recommended to choose unsaturated fats where possible.
There are monounsaturated fats which include nuts and nut butters, avocado and avocado oil and plant oils such as olive oil, sesame oil and rapeseed oil.
There are also polyunsaturated fats which include fish such as salmon and tuna as well as nuts and seeds such as flaxseed, chia seed and sunflower seeds.
Unsaturated fats are also rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 which are essential fatty acids with many health benefits. Our bodies are not able to make them, so they have to come from food.
You want to aim to have a small amount of fats with each meal, choosing unsaturated fats most of the time.
Taste is a super important aspect of any meal, because you want to enjoy it and it should be a pleasurable experience! Being excited about the food you eat will make cooking feel less like a chore, but actually daily events that you look forward to.
Cultivating a wide and varied taste profile will reduce meal fatigue as well as provide yet more nutrients. Spices and herbs are the hidden gems for your health because they can be powerful additions to your meals, and not just from a flavour perspective.
For example, the spice turmeric is the most anti-inflammatory food. Whilst cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants and lowers blood sugar levels. There are many benefits from many spices and herbs, the list is endless. The main thing is to add taste and flavour through spices and herbs, and rely less on salt (sodium) and high fat / high sugar condiments.
Pickles and fermented foods are also a great way of adding flavour, including: gherkins, pickled cabbage, kimchi, sauerkraut and miso. They provide a source of probiotics which support good gut health, as well as help make meals zingy and tasty!
HOW MUCH TO EAT
In terms of portion sizes, everyone’s needs are different and unique to your lifestyle, however, the Fab 5 Formula is a great place to start. The Fab 5 Formula represents a plate and the proportions of foods should be similar to the this illustration:
As mentioned, everyone’s needs are different and therefore you should tune into your own body’s needs when it comes to the exact proportions of macronutrients.
Start here, and try either increasing or decreasing the proportions little by little to see what helps you feel best. Practicing mindful eating and tapping into your hunger signals will further guide you on how much to eat.
USING FAB 5 IN REAL LIFE
So now it’s time to take Fab 5 for a spin and try it out in real life!
But first things first, if you don’t already have the Hack Healthy Eating Habits Guide, you can download here to get practical guidance on how to integrate new habits into your life and learn how to apply nutrition in a meaningful way.
It includes my favourite Fab 5 recipes:
Porridge with fruit, nut butter and honey
Bean burrito wrap
Pasta in broccoli sauce
Spicy prawn stir fry with rice
Kale, tofu and potato salad
Now back to using Fab 5 in real life. Next time, when you are cooking or planning your meals, remember the five elements and do a visual or mental checklist by asking yourself:
Do I have all five elements in my meal?
Is there a good amount and a variety of fruit or veg?
What's my source of protein and complex carbs?
Do I have a small amount of healthy fats?
What ingredients are adding taste?
The idea is to learn where different kinds of foods sit within each component, in fact, you will love how certain foods overlap providing one, two or sometimes even three of the components.
Fab 5 is an ideal way of eating, it’s not about trying to eat perfectly but it’s there to help guide you to make better choices. Start with trying to follow Fab 5 for one meal of the day, like breakfast, which is often a stable meal of the day, and then work your way up to lunches, dinners and for when you eat out. Have fun and enjoy the process!
If you’re unsure about how to apply Fab 5 to your own nutritional needs and would like support from a certified nutritionist, you can book a free discovery call to have a chat about what is best for you!
And, if you would like to learn more about the science of nutrition, you can now enrol onto the online course Master Meaningful Nutrition, where you can learn exactly how to take the knowledge of healthy eating and see step-by-step how to integrate it into your own unique life.