There are many tips for a healthier ‘you’, but we all need to start somewhere. The following is a list of tips (in no particular order) that will help with general nutrition and well-being and have served me and my students well for many years. Each item below could be an article in its own right, but for now we get going with a few words for each tip to help you on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
1. In general, base your meals on the food pyramid – this might seem old fashioned, but the recommendations still stand and it is perhaps easier to follow than the more modern food plate.
2. Five-a-day fruit and vegetables – includes fruit and vegetable juices, is a minimum recommendation. In general, simply consider a portion to be one piece (e.g. an apple) or about handful (e.g. strawberries,) and about 150ml for juices.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
3. Fibre – is definitely lacking in the western diet but meeting the Departments of Health’s suggested 18-24g a day should be simple enough just by following the tips in this article. There are two types, soluble fibre (or roughage) and insoluble fibre (or dietary fibre). Soluble fibre helps with digestion and the lowering of cholesterol; good sources are oats, barley, apples, beans, lentils and most vegetables. Insoluble fibre helps food pass through your body easily; it keeps your bowel healthy and helps to prevent digestive problems. Good sources are wholegrain breads, cereals, rice and pasta, and fruits, beans and vegetables.
4. Eat less salt – one easy way to do this is by not adding salt – or at least limiting it to a pinch, rather than smothering your food with it. Some find this very difficult at first, especially those who have been adding a lot of salt for a number of years, but the good news is that our tastes adjust within a few weeks, and soon the previously desired amount of salt will seem like poison. Some prefer to replace salt with a squeeze of lemon or some other low-sodium (or non-sodium) condiment or dressing. For men and women the GDA for salt intake is 7g (about 2.8g sodium) and 5 g (about 2g sodium) respectively. Be sure to check the amount of sodium/salt in packaged food.
5. Smaller portions – there is no need to pile a mountain of food on to your plate. If you are still hungry after one plate, then by all means have a second. However, this should not be exaggerated – people often eat far beyond the feeling of being satiated; this is gluttony and leads to a very poor habit. After any meal you should not feel at all sluggish, and you should certainly not struggle to get up and leave the table or need to loosen clothing.
6. Eat little and often? – this might be good advice for many, but it is not the case for everyone; no matter, eating little and often may be impractical. If this suits you, then it is fine, but three good meals a day with wholesome snacks as necessary is just as good.
7. Break poor snacking habits – snacking can be a good way to fill the gap between main meals, but it is also a very easy way to gain unwanted weight if done without caution. There is no need to demonise certain foods; if you really want something, then have it. The problem occurs when one bar of chocolate every so often becomes a habitual several bars a day, and when each replaces much-needed fruit or other wholesome foods. Do not snack out of habit and make sure the time between meals and snacks does not exceed four hours.
8. Don’t skip breakfast – chose a substantial breakfast, not some air-filled cereal that is expensive, high in sugar and leaves you feeling hungry soon after. There is little or nothing better than porridge oats with a portion of dried fruit (or a piece of fruit), and it’s very cheap and easy to make. People often use ‘I don’t have time’ as an excuse; just wake 15 minutes earlier; it will be well worth the effort. If you feel that you cannot eat in the morning (perhaps the idea of food in the morning makes you feel sick), then it might be because you are still digesting last night’s meal – people often eat too much and too late at night. When you wake you ‘should’ feel a little hungry – after all, you have not eaten for several hours so your glycogen levels are low. A good breakfast is a good start to the day.
9. Enjoy your food – eating food that you do not enjoy, because you think is good for you is not a good reason to do so, and sooner or later you will resort to old eating habits. If you are not enjoying your food, you must review your eating plan and learn how to create a diet plan, based on foods you like.
10. Learn to cook, read a book – many wholesome, yet very simple, recipes can be learned in a few minutes but used for a lifetime. Look for those that are easy to prepare and make in bulk. In the long run you will save time and money, and enjoy your meals more.
11. Alcohol in moderation – is not easy to define, since we all have different limitations; so it is perhaps best not to exceed the government guidelines of the maximum number of units a week, in the UK: women (2-3 units a day), men (3-4 units a day), and both should include some alcohol-free days.