If you’re anything like me, hearing the word ‘diet’ makes me instantly think of cake and chocolate! Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of diets, from the cabbage soup diet (yes, it’s as disgusting as it sounds!) to the original Atkins, which I remember eating nothing but steak and eggs (and smelling like it too!)
However, over the years I’ve realised that for me, diets just don’t work, don’t last long, don’t give me enough balance of all the nutrients and vitamins needed, and quite frankly make me miserable!
So, these days I stick to a healthy, balanced diet. I eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, sneak pulses and lentils into my everyday favourites, I always opt for lean meat or fish, and I still get to enjoy my favourite piece of cake when I’m meeting up with the girls for a coffee.
My healthy eating habits have brought many advantages, but the ones I’ve personally noticed the most are:
- More energy
- Healthier looking skin
- More control over my weight
According to BUPA research, a healthy, balanced diet consisting of all the key nutrients the body needs, can also help you to:
- Reduce the risk of stroke, diabetes and some cancers
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
- Keep your bones and joints strong
- Improved mental health
- A healthier immune system
- Have a better night’s sleep
If you feel like you need to make some changes to improve your eating habits, here are some ideas to get you started.
Don’t skip breakfast!
I know lots of us just run out the door in a rush most mornings, but you should always try to have a breakfast that’s low is sugar and salt (sorry cereal lovers and bacon butty enthusiasts). Instead opt for a low sugar cereal with semi-skimmed milk and some fresh fruit, or wholemeal toast to help fill you up first thing.
If I miss breakfast at home or especially if I’m away with business, I grab a banana on the go to keep my morning energy levels up and my stomach quiet!
Eat your 5 portions of fruit and veg every day
I don’t think there’s any excuses with this one. Grabbing a piece of fruit or chopping up some cucumber sticks takes seconds and is a healthy alternative to sugary or salty processed snacks. If you work in a place with vending machines, avoid the temptation by eating your healthy snack before you get too hungry, when the sugar monster takes over and sees you heading for a mid-morning chocolate bar break.
Don’t be afraid of carbs
Starchy carbohydrates are a great source of energy and full of nutrients that our bodies need too. Eating potatoes, rice, pasta, porridge, whole grain cereal and bread all count towards your daily carb intake. Just be aware of the type and amount of oil your using, when cooking and if you are trying to lose some weight, opt for wholewheat pastas, brown rice and leave the skin of when cooking potatoes.
Protein comes in many varieties
When I was in my teens, if you said the word ‘protein’ to me, I’d instantly think of dry lentils and cans of beans…not my thing back then! But protein comes in so many different foods that it makes it simple to work these into our diet and means we have loads of options too.
Lean cuts of meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils and peas can all be easily worked into your everyday meals. Just get online, search up your favourite ingredients and see what recipes pop up for you.
Saturated fats are not your friend
Fats are an important part of a healthy diet, but how do you know you’re getting the right ones? Saturated fats can increase your cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease, but the good fats (unsaturated) help your body to absorb vitamins and are a source of fatty acids, which everybody needs.
Below I’ve listed some of the places where you’ll find those nasty saturated fats hiding out. So where you can, limit these to treats, rather than being part of your every day diet:
- Fatty meats (cut that fat off the bacon before you pop it in your butty)
- Foods containing meat products, such as pies and sausages
- Butter, lard and ghee
- Cheese, cream and ice cream
- Biscuits, cakes and pastries
- Palm oil, coconut oil and coconut milk (switch for olive or rapeseed oil)
Sugar is lurking naturally in lots of the foods we eat every day and natural sugars are good to have as a part of a healthy, balanced diet. However, the sugars that are added into our foods, even in fruit smoothies, juices and honey-based products are not. They also appear in high volumes in fizzy drinks, cereals, biscuits, chocolate and are called “free sugars”. If we eat too much of these free sugars, this can cause weight gain and tooth decay.
So the next time you’re doing the weekly shop, check the labels for sugar content and choose lower sugar options and use them less regularly in your diet, opting for sugar free or natural sugar replacements.
I hope you find the above ideas useful and you take a few of these to use at home and build into part of your health routine. By making just little changes, at a time, we can move forward with good habits that will last longer and become routine. If you keep a journal or diary, why not make a note of these and check back in a few months to see how you’re doing?
A few new good habits every month, quickly builds into a lasting routine for a longer time!