Healthy eating isn’t about starving yourself, or counting and allocating calories. It’s about feeling great, having more energy and being good to your body. Healthy eating begins with learning how to ‘eat smart’ – it’s not just what you eat, but also how you eat. Your food choices can help reduce your risk of illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Furthermore, learning and practising the habits of healthy eating can boost your energy, memory and mood.
Healthy eating tip 1 — Start small
It’s hard to completely overhaul your eating habits in one day – set yourself up for success by changing your habits slowly in small, manageable steps. By approaching the changes gradually with commitment, you’ll have a healthy diet sooner than you think.
- Simplify: Move away from obsessing over calories and measuring portion sizes, instead think of your food in terms of colour, variety and freshness. Focus on finding foods you love and easy recipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients. Gradually your diet will become healthier and tastier, too!
- Start slow and make changes over time: Reach your healthy eating goals slowly, one step at a time. Give your body time to adjust and appreciate the changes you make over time. Changing everything at once usually leads to ‘cheating’ or giving up on your new eating plan quickly. Make baby steps, like adding a salad (full of different coloured vegetables) as part of your meal, or switching from butter to olive oil while cooking. Small changes can become habit and from then on you can start with more changes.
Water helps flush our bodies of waste products and toxins. It’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger – so staying well hydrated will also help you make better food choices.
Healthy eating tip 3 — Moderation is key
- Don’t ban yourself from certain foods: When you think of certain foods or food groups as ‘off-limits’, it’s natural to want them even more and then feel like a failure if you give in to temptation. If you have a liking for sweet, salty or unhealthy foods, start by reducing portion sizes and not eating them as often. You may find yourself craving them less or thinking of them as only occasional indulgences.
- Think smaller portions: When dining out, choose a starter instead of an entree, share a dish with a friend, and don’t upsize anything. At home, use smaller plates, think realistically about serving sizes, and start with small instead of piling your plate “just because”. Visual cues are helpful with portion sizes: your portion of meat or fish should be the size of a deck of cards.
Healthy eating tip 4 — It’s not just what you eat, it’s how you eat
- Eat with others whenever possible: Doing so allows you to model healthy eating habits and naturally makes you eat slower. Eating in front of the TV or computer often leads to mindless overeating.
- Take time to chew your food and enjoy mealtimes: Chew your food slowly, savouring each bite and taste.
- Eat a filling breakfast and eat smaller meals throughout the day: A healthy breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism, while eating small, healthy meals throughou the day (rather than three big meals) keep your energy up, blood sugars more stable, and your metabolism going.
Healthy eating tip 5 — Eat more healthy carbs and whole grains
Choose healthy carbohydrates and fibre sources, especially whole grains, for long lasting energy. Besides keeping you full for longer, whole grains are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants which help protect from coronary heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Studies do show that people who eat more whole grains tend to have a healthier heart.
What are healthy carbs? They include whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.
- Include a variety of whole grains in your diet: Try whole wheat, brown rice, millet, quinoa, and barley. Experiment to find your favourites!
- Try mixing grains as a first step to switching to whole grains: If whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat pasta aren’t enticing you enough, start by mixing what you normally use with the whole grains, and then gradually increasing the whole grain to 100% when you feel ready.
- Avoid refined foods such as breads, pastas and breakfast cereals that are not whole grain.