It’s not always easy to eat healthy! I know! Every time you decide to start eating healthier, all you can think about is junk food: fried foods, cakes, snacks etc. That’s how I used to feel about it, until I realised that there’s a better way. It’s not always necessary to give up certain foods (unless you have to do it due to certain conditions: diabetes, high cholesterol) -you can have the cake and eat it too! Just follow these 5 tips on healthy eating:
1. Everything in Moderation
Over the years, I’ve started so many diets, that I’ve lost track. I used to be one of those people who believed that in order to lose weight, you had to give up certain foods, follow certain dietary rules and generally feel miserable about it. But, after seeing a nutritionist in my early 20s, who instead of telling me that I was eating too much and the wrong foods, blamed my lack of weight loss on “liquid retention” and sold me a solution that I had to add to my drinking water (that did absolutely nothing!), I realised that I needed to take matters into my hands. That’s when I started researching and experimenting, with the following results:
- The more you deny yourself a type of food, the more you’ll crave it
- You don’t have to completely change your diet, in order to lose weight. If you do, as soon as you go back to your “normal” diet, you’ll regain all the weight
- If you start something with the wrong mentality (“Healthy food tastes horrible!”), you are very likely to fail. (Also, there are a lot of healthy foods that taste great!)
- It’s very important to be mindful of what you eat but it’s even more important to be mindful of your portion. It’s OK to keep having that treat you like so much, just have a lot less of it (one piece of chocolate after your meal) or less often (a piece of cake shared with a friend once every 2 weeks)
2. Choose Wholegrain
As I said, it’s not advisable to change your diet completely; introduce small changes instead. One of the changes you can make is choosing whole-grain foods:
- Swap your white bread for a whole-grain version; there are so many options, it makes experimenting fun! Try the multigrain, sourdough, flax bread, rye bread, multi seed etc. You can try a different one every week and never get bored.
- Try wholewheat pasta! The first time I tried wholewheat pasta, I hated it. But that was over 10 years ago and the taste of wholewheat pasta has improved so much over the years that I now prefer it to the normal one. It’s more flavourful, goes well with any sauce and it’s really good for your digestion! (Gluten-free pasta made out of peas or lentils is also very nice – give it a try!)
- That amazing invention called whole-grain rice! Brown rice is my absolute favourite! I like it so much that I now find white rice incredibly tasteless. Considering the fact that white rice is brown rice without the bran and germ (and therefore without several vitamins and minerals) and the fact that in the whole-grain rice category you also have black, red and gold rice, there really is no doubt about the best choice
- Other foods that you can swap for whole-grain: cereal, oats, cous cous, pastries, flatbread, tortillas etc
3. Mix It Up – Fruit, Veg and More
One of the biggest mistakes I used to make when trying to eat healthy was sticking only to what I knew: I would buy the same fruit and veg and I would always cook or eat them in the same way. I used to think that grilling a courgette was the only healthy way to cook it! But I was so wrong! Here are a few tips:
- Try different vegetables! Even if you don’t know them or know how to cook them, you can look it up. This way, your meal will never be boring and you might even discover a new favourite
- Try different ways of cooking! Don’t stick to what you know. Ask your friends, family, work colleagues or just the internet. There are many ways of cooking and they all give a different flavour to your food
- Expand your horizons! There aren’t only fruit and veg out there. You can try different types of legumes, grains, seeds, nuts and they’re all good for you (be mindful of allergies and make sure you do your research!)
- Mix it up! Even if you’ve found a particular vegetable or legume that you really like, don’t prepare it over and over again, until you get tired of it. Try different things and go back to it, when you run out of ideas or when you need a break from the experiments
4. More Fish, Less Meat
Try to reduce your intake of meat – it’s good for you and the environment! I usually try to have at least one or two days a week without meat but my husband is a convinced carnivore, so I generally try to introduce as much fish in our diets as possible. There are many types of fish and shellfish, that can be cooked in a variety of ways (or even eaten raw) and that contribute to a healthy, balanced diet. The benefits of fish and shellfish are:
- Filled with Omega-3 fatty acids, crucial for optimal body and brain function
- Rich in calcium and phosphorus and a great source of minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium
- Great source of vitamin D
Also, fish is delicious! You can always find or invent great and easy recipes. One of my favourites is oven-baked sprats: you clean them, line them up on a baking tray, sprinkle some salt, pepper, breadcrumbs or flour and some olive oil. Bake at 180 Celsius for about 20 minutes and voila, ready and delicious!
5. Balance It Out – Diet and Exercise
While eating healthy is very important, it’s also essential to stay active. Eat your fruit and veg, do your research and listen to your body – eat healthy, stay active! Get your 10.000 steps in, try walking instead of taking the bus or car (when possible), try a zumba or fit-box class, take the steps at work or at home – there’s an endless list of activities that get your heart rate up, that are fun and don’t even feel like working up. Try them out, balance it out!
These are only 5 tips on healthy eating but there are a lot more that could be mentioned. If you start implementing them, you will see an improvement in your weight, mood and health. After a while, your body will get so used to the healthy food and to the exercise, that it will crave both, which will then make everything a lot easier: the more you stick to healthy habits, the more you work out, the more weight you’ll lose and the more motivated you’ll feel to keep going! You’ve got this!