Having a healthy diet isn’t about restricting calories, eating chicken and broccoli five times a day or making yourself stick thin. It’s about feeling good about yourself, inside and out, having better health in order to lead a better life and enjoying the foods you eat. Good nutrition can often feel like a minefield, with so much conflicting information out there – what should you eat and how should you go about changing your lifestyle? It all starts with eating real foods… but if that’s not enough, I’ve put together my 10 top tips for starting to eat a healthier diet (1).
1. Throw it away
It’s simple – if you don’t have it in the house you won’t eat it – I know I’ve said this before but it really works. Throw out every bit of ‘fake’ food you can get your hands on. Sorting through your pantry will also give you a better idea of the types of foods you already have in your diet, and you will hopefully start to see what changes need to be made.
2. Make a list
First come up with a diet plan for the week. Start by having a think about what you will want to eat; Google some recipes and write them down or bookmark them on your computer. Once you have all your meals planned out – make a list of all the ingredients you will need. Then when you head to the grocery store ONLY buy the ingredients that are on your list. Be brutal. If it’s not on your list DON’T BUY IT! You don’t really need that chocolate cake to make a salad!!!
3. Shop the outside
Think about it – when you head into your local store, what’s the first thing you see? Fresh produce right? As you continue around the sides you’ll generally find the fish counter, butchers, eggs and deli. Avoid the centre isles as much as possible and you won’t be tempted by the often heavily processed, packaged goods.
3. Eat the Rainbow
…and no – I’m not misquoting skittles. I mean eat as many colours as possible. Red tomatoes, orange carrots, yellow peppers, green spinach, blue blueberries, purple beetroots, violet…? Damn nearly had it there!
Set aside a couple of hours, twice a week and start prepping. Boil some eggs, cut some vegetables, sauté some mince and cook some chicken. Most people claim they don’t have time to prepare food in advance, but in reality if you don’t prep your meals you will probably spend more time cooking in the week, or maybe even more time under the golden arches. If you use your time wisely – the next time you are in a rush, all you need to do is grab some pre cooked chicken and veg or a boiled egg and some avocado and you’re on your way.
6. Don’t go it alone
Try and rope your housemates or your partner into trying our your new lifestyle. That way you can motivate each other & cook together; and the next time your sat in front of the TV on a boring Tuesday evening, neither one of you will be teasing the other with a big fat Dominos pizza (and we all know what happens at Dominos on a Tuesday!!).
7. Know your labels
If it comes in a box – chances are it will have a label. The golden rule is – if you can’t pronounce an ingredient – don’t buy it. Simple!
8. Start swapping
Delving headfirst into a new lifestyle can be daunting, and can also mean you’ve failed even before you’ve begun. Instead – start by making healthy swaps. Buy 100% nut, nut butters instead of the traditional ones packed with added sugars and chemicals; olive oil & balsamic vinegar instead of fatty salad dressings and lemon to add to water instead of squash. Make small changes and before you know it, you’ll have revamped your whole diet.
9. Ditch the ‘low fat’ phenomenon
Do you know what foods taste like when all the fat has been taken out of them? Cardboard! In order for manufacturers to make ‘low fat’ foods taste better, they need to replace fats with something else. Generally this is sweeteners, sugar or corn syrup to name a few – and we all know that these ingredients don’t sound healthy. Next time you go to pick up that low fat yoghurt – take a look at the tub and follow number 7 on this list – you’ll be surprised at the result.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring. Start experimenting with spices, try that odd looking banana (aka plantain) that no-one seems to give a second glance, ask google what to do with that joint of beef you’ve been dying to cook and even look to other cultures for inspiration – you’ll soon see that eating healthily can be delicious and exciting!
I hope I’ve given you some ideas of how to get started with your new lifestyle. Start now… start slowly… and I can guarantee you, your future self with thank you for it!
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