The term ‘healthy eating’ can conjure up thoughts of strict diets, number crunching and endless meal preparation. Done properly, however, healthy needn’t only mean ‘restrictive’. There are plenty of other ways to improve your health.
Here are our top 7 hacks to living a healthier lifestyle, without feeling like you’re stuck in a jail cell!
If you want to enjoy eating out, while staying on track with your healthier eating, review the restaurant’s menu online before heading out. Plenty of restaurants and cafes place their menus online or snapshots of their meals on Instagram, to assist those with food allergies as well as lure those with a penchant for drooling over food pics while at work (that person is me). This way, you can decide on what you’ll order ahead of time, without being derailed by the Caramilk Hotcakes or Deep Fried Chicken Burger (mmm… deep fried chicken) when you get there. This also gives you a chance to work out approximate nutritional values if you are tracking your macros/calories.
Keep tempting unhealthy food off your desk and out of sight. The closer and the more visual food is, the more likely we are to eat it, even if we’re not really hungry. Keep healthy snacks at your desk, but in a drawer, in case of hunger attacks. Sometimes we can mistake thirst for hunger, so keep a bottle of water at hand to help you stay hydrated, and reduce mindless grazing, during the work day. At home, if you really want to have some treats, keep them at the back of the cupboard or fridge where they are not in plain sight. This way you’ll be more likely to only eat them when you really want to, rather than snacking on them regularly.
Aim to eat two or three legume-based meals per week, such as lentil or bean soups, salads or curries, chickpea burgers or home-made hummus with falafels, or kidney bean enchiladas. Legumes are high in fibre, a great source of vegetable protein, a good source of B vitamins, low in both sodium and fat, gluten free (suitable for people with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity) and also have a low glycaemic index.
Swap sugary drinks with sparkling natural mineral water or soda water with slices of fresh lime, lemon or orange. Plain water can get boring at times and it’s all too easy to switch it for sugary soft drinks instead. In addition to the empty calories (energy but no other nutritional value) they deliver, sugar laden soft drinks can contribute to poor dental hygiene. If you don’t feel like adding your own fresh fruits, or you just want to grab something on the go, there are plenty of flavoured sparkling mineral water products on the market that can deliver a fizzy fix without the calories.
Check for teaspoons of added sugar (4g = 1 teaspoon) in packaged products like yoghurt, cereal, drinks and sauces. Plenty of food items have ingredients which may seem hard to pronounce or seem very ‘scientific’. Sugar has also been disguised on food labels by being renamed altogether. Look for ingredients/sugar names that end in ‘-ose’ such as sucrose, maltose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, galactose, lactose, high fructose corn syrup and glucose syrups. Other ingredients such as cane juice, dextrin, maltodextrin, barley malt, sorghum syrup and fruit juice are also types of sugar.
Keep nutritious meal options on hand for those busy nights when you don’t have time to plan. Ensure your freezer compartment always has a couple of portions of meat, fish and vegetables, and that your cupboard contains some tins of tuna, salmon, crushed tomatoes, corn and legumes, and packets of pasta, quinoa, rice and rice noodles – as well as plenty of herbs and spices to give flavour. Having these staples on hand means you’re less likely to order unhealthy takeaway options. It’s so easy to be tempted by the convenience of UberEats, Deliveroo and other food delivery services so a well-stocked pantry is your best defence.
Another great tactic for having quick, healthy meals on hand is to prepare meals ahead of time. In an hour or two at weekends, it’s simple to create a couple of healthy meals, such as curries, stews, sauces and soups, that can be divided into portions and frozen ready to be eaten later in the week when time isn’t so abundant. We love a good #sundaymealprep and you’ll thank yourself for it when you get in from that late PT session on Thursday evening.
Aim for vegetables to make up > 50% of at least two meals every day. As most vegetables are low in fat and calories, they are a great choice to bulk up your meals and provide much needed nutrients. No vegetables have cholesterol in them, making them the perfect choice for those wanting or needing to avoid high cholesterol. Eating a diet rich in vegetables has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. Eating a diet high in vegetable content can also reduce the risk of forming some cancers. If you’re looking to reduce your overall calorie intake, increasing your vegetables intake will help you achieve this.
The key to successfully achieving healthy lifestyle changes is sustainability. Going too hard and fast and denying yourself life’s pleasures will not end well. With a little extra planning, a heightened awareness of ingredients, and an increased intake of vegetables and legumes, you can eat delicious food, supercharge your nutrient intake and boost your energy levels.
WANT TO LEARN MORE NUTRITION STRATEGIES?
AIF’s Network offers over 15 online nutrition courses for fitness professionals, accredited for CECs and other continuing education points. Courses include Nutrition Strategies for Strength and Size, Fuelling Fat Loss, and Effective Nutrition Coaching. Check out the full range of courses here