While some changes to improve our lifestyles for the better can be a little daunting, adopting a healthier diet doesn’t need to be. Without going to lots of expense, or racking up your stress levels with tons of preparation and planning, you can make changes quickly and easily to what you eat. The 12 steps below will get you started.
1. Eat consciously
Eating dinner in front of the TV or while streaming something on your iPad is a guilty pleasure, but doing this regularly can contribute to you eating far more food than you need. Treat mealtimes as an event in themselves and focus just on the food you are eating.
2. Add water
You don’t need to drink eight glasses of water a day, as conventional wisdom would have you believe, but the truth is that most of us are more dehydrated than we realise. Just upping your water intake daily is a very positive move towards a healthier diet.
3. Cut down on portion sizes
You don’t need to put yourself on a diet of kale and nothing else, but reducing portion sizes is a must when it comes to a healthy diet. Most of us overestimate how much food we really need and consume extra calories without realising it.
4. Eat more fruit and vegetables
The government’s guidelines urging us to eat five portions a day of fruit and vegetables are worth following. Adding more fruit and veggies to our daily meals not only help ensure we get the nutrients, minerals and vitamins that we need, but they also help us withstand too many naughty temptations. Likewise, consuming juices and smoothies can help increase your intake of the macro and micro-nutrients you need to maintain health. There are some excellent companies out there that can take the pain out of preparing smoothies and most deliver to your door. One such website is Batch Organics who have come up with some amazing flavours (cherry and charcoal anyone?) and the smoothies (all vegan and organic) are all cryogenically frozen at the farm (through a process called IQF), which means they manage to lock in all the goodness that would otherwise deteriorate rapidly before reaching your local supermarket.
5. Be honest about treats
Treats are allowed and are to be actively encouraged in a healthy eating plan as food is meant to be enjoyable. However, living on doughnuts, ice cream and takeaways is not a good idea and does your body and health no favours. Having a treat should feel like the delicious indulgence it is, not be something you do every day.
6. Fibre is your friend
Fibre doesn’t get much press but it is a critical part of a healthy diet and keeps the digestive system in tip top condition. To add more fibre to your diet, add wholegrains, pulses and raw vegetables to your meals.
7. Head to the Med
While food fads come and go with alarming speed, eating a healthy diet is simple. Doctors, scientists and nutritionists are universally in agreement that the Mediterranean diet is the best one to follow as it is not restrictive and incorporates all of the food groups.
8. Introduce some variety
With our busy lives, it is easy to fall back on tried and tested recipes. This is not a negative thing but it can result in too many refined carbs being consumed because pasta is one of the easiest meals to prepare. Trying out new recipes gives you the chance to tantalise your taste buds, introduce less calorific meals to your diet and establish new favourites.
9. Treat sugar and salt with care
Opinion is divided on whether sugar and salt have a place in a healthy diet or whether they should be avoided completely. You can benefit by reducing your intake of both regardless of what the experts think.
We’re all aware of the salt we sprinkle on our food when we are at the dinner table or the spoon of sugar we stir into our tea, but so much of our salt and sugar consumption goes undetected by ourselves unless we pay very careful attention to food labels.
Salad dressings, flavoured yoghurts and fruit juices are a minefield of sugar and salt and should only be consumed in moderation.
10. Don’t make fat the enemy
Once thought to be the worst thing you could eat, fat is now known to have a place in a healthy diet. Including fats in your diet not only supports your body’s critical functions but also keeps you looking young. Healthier fats include olive oil and oily fish.
11. Give your takeaways a makeover
Burgers and pizzas are a lot healthier when made at home than ordered from a take-away. You’ll have more control over what you put into and on to your food, thereby cutting out most or all of the unhealthy bits – and invariably your homemade food will taste much better too.
12. Cut out red meat
Your wallet, your arteries and your health will thank you for it.