Healthy eating is one of the most confusing and overwhelming topics out there! There are so many mixed messages about what’s healthy and what’s not. Is it healthier to be vegan? Should we eat less meat? Is sugar really bad for us? And just how many calories should we be eating each day? These are just a few of the questions about healthy eating that I’m asked every day. The truth is that healthy eating is about forming healthy eating habits rather than being anxious about food groups or becoming obsessed with the latest trend or diet.
Rather than being caught up with calories, it’s more important to think about how to fuel your body correctly. A low-calorie option like a rice cake might not have many calories but how much nutrition does it contain? Not much! When our body lacks vital nutrients it sends a signal to the brain that more fuel is required. This can trigger cravings or the need for a ‘quick food fix’ which we often react to by grabbing the nearest carb or fat-laden snack instead of giving our body what it really needs – something packed with nutrition.
Although it may seem like a chore, forming healthy eating habits can actually make it easier to eat healthily – and to enjoy eating. Here’s how!
7 Healthy Eating Habits for a Healthy Lifestyle
1. Eat Your Veg
The UK government recommends that we eat 5 fruit and veg a day, but what if I told you that most nutritionists believe that to get all the beneficial antioxidants minerals, and nutrients that we need for optimal health, we actually need 10 a day! A study by researchers at Imperial College, London showed that eating 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day could prevent 7.8 million deaths every year.
It may sound like a push, but if you incorporate a smoothie into your diet each day, you can easily hit 5 servings in one go. Another way to up your intake of veg is to have soup for lunch or even a Buddha Bowl. A top tip if you have children who don’t like vegetables, is to puree vegetables and add them to sauces. It’s a genius idea as they are getting all the nutrients they need without the textures they dislike!
2. Stock up on healthy fats
Like many topics in nutrition, there are so many conflicting reports about fat that many people end up trying to cut out all fat from their diet. But it’s important to remember that there are good and bad fats. There is a dramatic difference between saturated fat, (butter, cheese, lard,) unsaturated fat, (nuts, seeds, oily fish), and trans-fat (cakes, cookies, biscuits, french fries).
A good rule of thumb is to stock up on unsaturated fats, limit your intake of saturated fats, and avoid trans fats. Good fats are essential for our overall physical health and have the added benefit of making us feel fuller for longer. Beneficial fats also help to protect our organs, improve brain function, and keep us warm in winter, as well as providing a constant supply of energy.
3. Stay Hydrated
There is so much information out there on how much hydration we really need but the general rule is to drink around 2 litres of water a day. Essentially, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to hydration as it’s all down to individual lifestyles and activity levels. For example, someone running long distances needs to drink more than someone sitting at a desk all day. Listen to your body. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated, and you need to drink more.
My advice is to invest in a water bottle that you can carry around with you everywhere you go. Instead of drinking a whole litre at once, take regular sips of water to ensure the water is properly absorbed rather than going straight through you! You can also make water more tempting – and fun – by swapping plain water for fruit or herb-infused water. You’ll definitely want to drink more!
4. Cook from scratch and avoid processed foods
Heavily processed foods should be avoided at all costs as they normally contain ingredients like trans fats, artificial flavouring, sugar, and salt. Convenience foods are great when we are living busy lives but it’s important to cook from scratch whenever possible. Healthy eating habits can be very quick too! Rather than reaching for processed chicken nuggets for your children, it takes minutes to cut up a chicken breast, dip it in egg yolk, then flour and some homemade breadcrumbs. Find a crispy air fryer chicken nuggets recipe here. Cooking from scratch also gives you complete control over your food and lets you add superior quality ingredients while reducing salt and sugar and cutting out unnecessary additives.
5. Eat More Mindfully
Mindful eating is all about eating with intention, eating food that is nutritious for the mind and body, noticing how our food tastes and enjoying it – and feeling the effects it has on our health and wellbeing. Often, we eat while we are watching TV, working on our laptops, or scrolling through social media, so we don’t notice what we are eating or how we are consuming our food. Take the time to enjoy your food and slow down. Remind yourself to chew your food carefully and to enjoy the textures and flavours. And most importantly – stop eating when you feel full. When we are not eating mindfully, we are more likely to keep on eating even when we are no longer hungry. Learn more about emotional eating here.
6. Portion Control
There’s no doubt that eating increasingly large portions of food has contributed to the rise in obesity in recent years. But portion control isn’t difficult once you know the basics and is one of the key elements in healthy eating habits! Simply divide your plate into sections. One half should be vegetables or salad; one-quarter protein and one-quarter whole-grain carbohydrates with a teaspoon of fat, (butter, dressing.)
Don’t overload your plate! Most of us have been taught by our parents to ‘finish our food’ and unfortunately, this has led to many of us being unable to recognise when we are full. Listen to your body. Don’t cram in more food if you are feeling satisfied. You may not feel full immediately, but that doesn’t mean that you should keep eating until you are uncomfortable.
7. Avoid Hidden Ingredients
Avoiding hidden E numbers, additives, sugars and salts in food is not always easy. Companies often label foods with alternative names for sugar, so look out for corn sweetener, maltodextrin, and maltose and for ingredients that end in -ose, -syrup, -honey, or -nectar. If these appear first on the ingredient list, it’s best to look for an alternative. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, so the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last. It’s best to opt for products where sugars are last on the list.
Another additive to avoid is sodium nitrate which is found in most processed meats and has been linked to stomach cancer and heart disease. Salt is another ingredient to keep an eye out for. Studies have shown that cutting down on salt can reduce your risk of stroke, high blood pressure and heart failure. I always use Himalayan Salt as it is lower in sodium than normal table salt and contains other beneficial minerals including potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
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|Natalie Shirlaw is a healthy living expert with 10 years of experience in the field of holistic health, wellbeing, and fitness. If you enjoyed this article be sure to pin or share it!|