Eating healthy shouldn’t be a hardship – depriving yourself constantly is, more often than not, unsustainable and can actually be detrimental, rather than good for you. Healthy eating can and should be a pleasure and its rewards are plentiful – more energy, better moods, improved health. But sorting fact from fiction is part of the battle when coming up with a lifestyle you can stick to. Here are some sure-fire ways to eat well and feel well, long-term.
Tip 1: Make bite-sized changes
Making dramatic changes to your diet all at once can be hard to swallow, literally. So go about things gradually to give your mind and body time to adjust. It’s much easier to stick with something if it feels manageable, so be incremental at first in introducing better habits into your diet.
Fresh produce added to every meal is a great start. But there’s little point of boiled broccoli turning up on your plate, if you don’t like it. Find fresh foods you do like, or look up ways to prepare foods that tickle your fancy – for example, finely cut broccoli roasted with nuts and dressed with orange juice and olive oil might convert a broccoli naysayer. You’ll be much more like to stick to something if you genuinely enjoy it.
Incorporating more water into your day is an easy habit to form – and it helps in many ways, eliminating waste products, helping reduce tiredness and headaches and helping you to stay on top of your hunger – many people think they’re hungry, when they’re actually thirsty. Have a glass of water half an hour before a meal.
Tip 2: Moderation really is key
Being good to your body doesn’t mean missing out all the time. There is a middle ground. Instead of labeling foods as “off limits” which only makes you want it more, start by reducing the portion sizes and then how often you indulge in it. You may find cravings become less as you reduce your intake.
Size does matter when it comes to eating. While you do need to feel satisfied at the end of a meal, start with a smaller portion and let yourself sit with that for 15 minutes to register if it’s actually enough. You’ll soon discover the amount of food it takes for you to feel genuinely replete if you slow down and wait.
Tip 3: It's not just what you eat, it's how you eat
Your attitude is just as important as what you put in your mouth and there are easy ways to increase positivity around healthy eating.
Be mindful when you eat. This means slow down and concentrate on your food, chew slowly and remember you are nourishing yourself with every bite. Take the time to savor your meals. Watching TV or doing other distracting activities while eating can lead to mindless over-consumption.
It’s also a good idea to eat with others – eating as a social activity has emotional benefits, especially true for children.
When you eat, too, can play an important part in health – smaller meals more often are thought to be easier on the digestion system and help maintain a healthy metabolism. There is also evidence to suggest that eating dinner earlier and then fasting until breakfast, may help to regulate weight.
Tip 4: Plan ahead, including a plan for when you don't plan ahead
We know the best way to eat healthy is to make a meal yourself from scratch so you know exactly what’s in it. Every time you make a healthy meal that you like, store the recipe or ingredients in your phone and so if you’re ever in the supermarket, you can pull it out for reference, rather than make rash decisions to pick up something less-than-nutritious because you can’t think of anything else. We always think we’ll remember a healthy alternative but having it documented means we definitely will.
Shop whole foods, normally found on the perimeter of the store– veg, meat, dairy and whole grain breads – and then pick up oils, whole grains and spices from the aisles.
If a meal or snack you’re making is freezable, make double so you can have it waiting there for days when cooking seems impossible.
Tip 5: Learn your nutrition
You may know that fresh vegetables and fruit are key to good health, but do you know why? A little bit of research into why certain foods are good for you and why others aren’t, can help you make better choices. A few key points:
- Eat the rainbow when it comes to fresh produce – colorful fruits and veg tend to contain higher concentrations of the good stuff: vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
- Know your carb friends and foes: Whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables are your best sources of carbohydrates as they help you feel full for longer, while keeping blood sugar and insulin levels stable. Go easy on the white flour, refined sugar, and white rice which have little going for them nutritionally and can cause blood sugar levels to spike.
- Fats are not the enemy – those found in avocado, many nuts and seeds, fish such as salmon and sardines, are wonderfully good for you. Just make sure to avoid trans fats – often found in processed crackers, biscuits and margarine's – wherever possible.
- Choose high-quality protein, whether that’s eggs, meat, dairy, fish or chicken. Opt for the best-quality you can afford.
- Learn your sources of calcium to build them bones. Milk, yogurt and cheese aren’t your only options; many veges too offer up a good source, including, kale, celery, broccoli, fennel and green beans.
- Try to buy products in their unsweetened form and add fruit or honey yourself if you want – for example plain oats and plain yogurt are delicious with fresh or stewed fruits. Check labels for hidden sugars and high sodium. If you’re eating too much salt, slowly reduce it in your cooking to give yourself time to adjust.
- Keep things moving with a high fiber diet. You may know whole grains, barley and oatmeal are fibrous, but did you know beans, nuts, carrots, celery, and tomatoes, apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pears are all fiber-friendly too?
Finally, remember why you’re eating healthy – to feel good and get the most out of life and hopefully be around as long as possible for your loved ones, the best motivation there is.