Healthy Eating: Steps to a healthier 2019
It is understandable, when talking about eating healthier, that some people will switch off, fearing their quality of life will be somewhat downgraded. We’ve seen it many times before; a work colleague sitting down for lunch and opening up a large tupperware box full of pulses, boiled chicken and enough lettuce to keep the cast of Watership Down happy. It’s enough to make anyone think twice; especially after an extremely well celebrated festive period. So, fear not. You can improve your diet without sacrificing everything you hold dear. Here are a few ideas to start the year off on the right foot.
1. Eat (a better) breakfast
It’s been called the most important meal of the day for a good reason. How we start the day will have a major effect on how we refuel throughout the day.
There are many of us who skip breakfast because we think it will help us lose weight. In fact, eating breakfast can help us control our weight. How many of us who skip breakfast find they are likely to grab a mid-morning snack (crisps, biscuits etc).
If a breakfast contains protein, then it will reduce the likelihood of needing a ‘snack’. There are many breakfast ideas that contain protein and to make sure that a breakfast is balanced, it is worth adding fruit or veg as part of your 5/7 a day. Greek yoghurt and a chopped banana or blue berries are a quick and healthy option. And, remember the old saying of ‘go to work on an egg’. An egg and cheese wrap/borrito style breakfast can be a real winner. Add in some black beans to really kick-start your day.
2. Stay hydrated
Our bodies are made up of 90% water, so it makes sense that we need to rehydrate; especially when we are active or in warm weather. If you make only one change to your diet, cutting out fizzy drinks is the easiest. Fizzy drinks are packed with sugar (some over 35grams per can). If you are drinking cans of drink during the day, bottles of pop in the evening and even alcohol, then you are likely to be taking on board way over your daily allowance of sugar (which is 35grams a day). The government recommends 6 – 8 glasses of water a day on top of the water that forms part of the food we eat.
3. Reduce your salt intake
It is recommended that we take in 6grams of salt (or less) per day. Too much salt can cause raised blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke – one of the biggest killers in the UK. Many of the products on the shelves in supermarkets will have a lower salt option. Remember, I’m not saying cut it out completely, just choose wisely. Try choosing one food a week to check and swap when you’re food shopping.
If you are eating out, then there are still ways in which you can reduce your intake. The NHS website (nhs.uk/Live-well) gives us some top tips on how we can do this:
Pizza: choose vegetable or chicken toppings instead of pepperoni, bacon or extra cheese.
Pasta dishes: choose one with a tomato sauce with vegetables or chicken, rather than bacon, cheese or sausage.
Burgers: avoid toppings that can be high in salt, such as bacon, cheese and barbecue sauce, and opt for salad instead.
Chinese or Indian meal: go for plain rice. It’s lower in salt than pilau or egg fried rice.
Sandwiches: instead of ham or cheddar cheese, go for fillings such as chicken, egg, mozzarella, or vegetables like avocado or roasted peppers.
And try having salad and reduced-fat mayonnaise instead of pickle or mustard, which are usually higher in salt.
Salad: ask for dressings or sauces on the side, so you only have as much as you need. Some dressings and sauces can be high in salt and fat.
4. Keep an eye on the right and wrong types of fat
We all need fat in our diet, but it does depend on what type of fat we consume as to whether it is good for us or not.
There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease. It is recommended that the average man should consume no more than 30g of saturated fat per day, whereas a women should consume no more than 20g.
You will find saturated fats in foods such as: sausages, cream, biscuits, pies and hard cheese. Choose foods that contain unsaturated fats instead, such as vegetable oils, oily fish and avocados. Aim to eat at least two portions of fish a week (one portion of oily fish). Oily fish contains omega-3 fats, which may help to prevent heart disease. Oily fish include: salmon, fresh tuna, sardines and mackerel.
5. Buy a slow-cooker
This may sound silly, but buying a slow cooker will reduce the risk of you stopping off at the chippy, or buying a microwave meal to take home. We’ve all been there. I’ll get a takeaway, that will save time!
We know that a lot of these types of meal are full of sugar and will not be as nutritious as making yourself a hearty casserole, curry or bolognaise to come home to. You can pick up a slow cooker for around £ 20 these days.
Finally, and most importantly:
6, Get active and be a healthy weight
Here is what the NHS says about getting active and being a healthy weight:
Eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy weight, which is an important part of overall good health. Being overweight or obese can lead to health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and stroke. Being underweight could also affect your health.
Most adults need to lose weight, and need to eat fewer calories to do this. If you’re trying to lose weight, aim to eat less and be more active. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help: aim to cut down on foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar, and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Don’t forget that alcohol is also high in calories, so cutting down can help you to control your weight.
Physical activity can help you to maintain weight loss or be a healthy weight.Being active doesn’t have to mean hours at the gym: you can find ways to fit more activity into your daily life. For example, try getting off the bus one stop early on the way home from work, and walking.
Being physically active may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. For more ideas, see Get active your way.
After getting active, remember not to reward yourself with a treat that is high in energy. If you feel hungry after activity, choose foods or drinks that are lower in calories, but still filling.
If you’re worried about your weight, ask your GP or a dietitian for advice and make 2019 the year of eating healthier.