These 8 tips for healthy eating will teach you first how to eat healthier, but also how to have more energy and feel better in your day-to-day. The importance of good eating habits is imperative and essential to leading a happy lifestyle.
Our diet plays a vital role in our overall wellbeing. With unhealthy diets contributing to an increase in obesity and nutrition-related diseases such as diabetes, it’s time to take nutrition seriously and for us all to learn the principles of healthy eating. These 8 tips for healthy eating are a great place to start.
How to start eating healthy has crossed most of our minds before, but with all the information that’s out there, its hard nail it down and give ourselves a definitive answer. Following a popular fad ‘diet’ may help you lose some weight and drop a few belt loops, but these ‘diets’ are rarely sustainable and certainly not the best way to eat healthy. The fact of the matter is that there is no singular way how to eat healthy, or ‘one size fits all’ meal plan that promises to get you to your health goals. There are however certain practices and healthy eating tips that we can follow and implement, that will help to make a difference.
1. Drink plenty of water
First on my list of 8 tips for eating well, is drinking well. With about 60% of our bodies being made up of water, it is so important that we take on enough fluid throughout the day. 2 litres for woman and 2.5 litres for men are suggested to be adequate, although these numbers rise considerably as temperature and activity levels increase.
Can I only drink water? Of course not. Any liquid derived from food or drink counts towards our daily intake but some are better than others. It is recommended to avoid things like sodas and other fizzy/soft drinks, as these are usually full of sugar and calories. Alcohol should also be avoided, as this can actually dehydrate you.
Some of the best sources of hydration are:
- Coconut water
- Cucumber juice
- Herbal teas
- Aloe water
- Fruit juices (Although in moderation, as these can also be high in sugar)
Being adequately hydrated is going to help with digestion, heart health, circulation and temperature regulation (amongst many other things). So make sure you get at least 6-8 glasses per day.
2. Don’t skip breakfast
Labelled as the most important meal of the day, start your mornings right by whipping up healthy, nutritious breakfast.
Eating a proper breakfast is going to kick start your metabolism, raise your energy levels, and give you the right vitamins and minerals right from the get-go.
Skip the pre-packaged chocolate cereals, and instead opt for oatmeal topped with fresh fruit and honey. Or for some added protein, try out a spinach egg white omelette with a slice of wholegrain toast.
If you’re struggling for time, or find it hard to stomach a meal first thing, have a go at a superfood smoothie. Think berries, chia seeds and leafy greens, easy to blend up and take with you on your morning commute.
3. Eat less sugar and saturated fat
Sugar and saturated fat, the villains of our cravings. Found in most things sweet and delicious, it’s easy to overeat these food groups. Whilst okay in moderation, you don’t have to completely eradicate sugar and saturated fat from your diet but instead, try reducing it when possible.
Saturated fat is found in many foods, such as fatty cuts of meat, like pork belly, lamb chops and beef mince, as well as dairy products like full-fat milk, cream, butter and cheese.
To make healthier eating choices, try replacing fatty cuts of meat with leaner ones, such as skinless chicken breast, pork loin, or for the adventurous ones out there, give rabbit a go! There are also so many low-fat dairy alternatives that are lower in saturated fat, such as olive oil spreads, plant-based milks like almond and soya, even vegan cheese.
Sugar is found in abundance in sweets, chocolate, packaged cereals, a lot of baked good, and those 2 teaspoon fulls that go into your cups of tea really do add up!
Reducing sugar intake can be done by using sugar alternatives. Natural sweeteners, like stevia and honey, can replace sugar in most baked goods and goes perfectly in hot drinks. Eating a well-balanced diet full of protein, carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables can also really help curb the sweet tooth cravings.
Always read your food labels, as sugar is hiding in many of the foods we would least expect.
4. Reduce daily salt intake
Being the world’s most widely used seasoning, salt is being put in and on nearly everything. But what’s the problem? Whilst being excellent at bringing out the flavour in our food, salt is also excellent at raising our blood pressure, which leads to an increased risk of heart disease and strokes.
Around 66% of the salt we consume is already in the food we eat, so whilst not adding extra salt to our food will help, reducing foods already high in salt is the best remedy.
Look out for the amount of salt in pre-packaged foods, anything more than 6g a day is not recommended. Cured/brined meats like ham, salami and bacon are also very high in salt, so should be eaten in moderation.
5. Get your 5 a-day
Eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day is a simple way of ensuring that you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals through your diet. Fruit and veg are also full of soluble and insoluble fibre, which aids in digestion, and is beneficial for your gut.
What is regarded as a portion varies greatly between each fruit and vegetable. Here are some examples of what is considered 1 portion:
- 1 medium apple
- 3 tablespoons of cooked corn
- 2 kiwi fruit
- 7 cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 avocado
- 2 broccoli spears
Fresh, dried, tinned and frozen all count towards your 5 a-day.
6. Base meals around high fibre starchy carbs
To maintain a balanced diet, nutritionists suggest basing 1/3 of your meals around starch-based carbohydrates, and even better, high fibre-based carbohydrates. These include:
- Brown pasta
- Skin on potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
- Wholewheat bread
- Wholegrains such as cereals, brown rice, quinoa etc.
High fibre-based carbohydrates will help keep you feeling fulfilled for longer, which in turn will reduce the need for snacking. Also when cooking items such as potatoes, opt for healthier methods, like steaming instead of frying or roasting in oil.
7. Add portions of fish to your weekly diet
Fish is somewhat of an unsung hero when it comes to nutrition, and it is not all that prominent in a lot of people’s diets, especially in western cultures. Fish usually comes under 2 categories, oily fish, and non-oily fish (usually white). Oily fish is full of healthy fats like Omega 3, which keep your heart in good order, and your joints moving freely. Non-oily fish is a fantastic source of lean protein, as well as vitamins and minerals.
Examples of oily fish include:
Examples of non-oily fish:
- Red mullet
Try and aim for at least 2-3 portions of fish per week. Including 1 portion of oily fish.
8. Get active, and maintain a healthy weight
What does being healthy mean? As well as maintaining a healthy diet, it is as important to follow a healthy lifestyle, and this includes being active, getting adequate exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight and fat percentage.
Your BMI (body max index) is a standardised measure of your height and weight to see if you are ‘healthy’, this is of course not definitive, but it is a good place to start if you are unsure.
So alongside your healthy diet, we should all strive to include at least 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise, like running, cycling, trampoline or skipping etc. As well as strength-building exercises that focus on all the main muscle groups.
A great way to do this, and accessible by everyone is calisthenics or bodyweight exercises. This way of working out is perfect for beginners and people of all ages. Movements like half, or full push up, are great for the upper body, and lunges or squats are perfect for the lower body.
These 8 tips for healthy eating are a fantastic place to start if you are looking to make more educated and considered food choices. The food that we eat and the lifestyle that we choose to lead have a huge impact on our health and wellbeing. Eating a healthy diet isn’t all about tiny portions and leafy greens. It is instead about finding balance in the food we consume, swapping out certain foods for others that are just as delicious. Small sacrifices, that in the long run make a huge difference.