You can forget stressful diets and weight struggles if you adopt healthy eating habits. This summer, take your attitude – and your body – to optimum health.
Back to basics
Before Atkins, the South Beach diet and the Cabbage diet, there was the food pyramid. Its simple dictum of dividing food groups by quantity gave a quick and accurate understanding of how much of what type of food to consume on a daily basis.
The food pyramid still very much applies. This means several serves of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and lentils, breads and cereals per day, one to two serves of lean meat, fish, eggs or dairy and small amounts of fats, oils and sugar. So if you’ve had a tub of yoghurt as a mid-morning snack and a chicken sandwich for lunch, then stick to a vegetarian dinner.
Keep it regular
Having planned, regular meals will moderate your metabolism, help you avoid snacking on high-fat treats and, if you have a family, promote healthy habits for your children.
Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day and should be the largest. Yet with sleep-ins, morning-time rush and long work commutes, it can be difficult to find the time. If you find it almost impossible to sit down to breakfast before leaving for work, then have a piece of fruit at home and eat microwave porridge, toast or cereal at work.
Planning your week’s meal in advance is far easier than it seems if you take into account that one large meal can last for two or more nights. Freeze leftovers for variety and try making one-pot meals for added convenience.
Aim to eat dinner as early as possible and stick to fruit to fight the munchies later. If you can’t eat dinner by 7pm, then help out your digestive system by going for an evening walk afterwards.
Natural is best
Your healthy lifestyle begins in the supermarket. Do your food shopping after you’ve eaten to avoid letting your empty stomach make bad choices. Don’t buy high-fat snacks, processed foods and sugary treats and you won’t need to fight temptation later. Make regular, smaller trips to the greengrocers so your bare fridge won’t lead you to the take-away shop.
Even if you’re not a great chef, there are plenty of simple and easy recipes for healthy meals and snacks. Make a big batch of tomato pasta sauce with garlic, onions and herbs, and freeze it in Chinese containers. You can then add mushrooms, capsicum chicken or mince beef when you’re ready to serve.
All snacks are not created equal
There’s nothing wrong with snacking between meals but the quality of snacks you munch on can vary enormously. Fruit is still one of nature’s best snacks. From single-serve, pre-packaged bananas to massive melons to share with family, friends or colleagues, fruits are not only laden with essential vitamins and minerals, but high in fibre and low in calories.
Snacking on dried fruits, seeds and nuts at work may make you feel like a hiker, but your colleagues will be eyeing you sideways and planning to stock up later. Other healthy snacks include low-fat yoghurt, Vita-Weats with Vegemite, toast with tomato, and raw vegetables with hommus.
Variety is the spice of life
When watching your waistline, it’s easy to limit foods. Yet eating a variety of foods not only ensures that your nutritional needs are met but stimulates your tastebuds so you are less likely to crave salty or sugary foods.
Try mixing up your carbohydrates, alternating pasta with noodles, rice, potatoes and couscous. Limit bread to two slices per day.
There’s no such thing as bad
Viewing foods as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ won’t help you with your diet or your relationship with food. There are foods rich in vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and dietary fibre and there are nutritionally-poor foods.
All foods on the food pyramid are essential for a balanced diet, including oils, butter and sweeteners. There are times when you’ll enjoy foods which you normally refrain from. Viewing this as weakness won’t help you avoid it in future but will only cultivate self-loathing.
A complete and varied diet is not only good for your mind and body, our tastebuds help elevate eating to a joy and a privilege.