When we picture eating healthily, the first thing that may often come to mind is a fresh bowl of salad and 50 shades of green. The idea of switching up our eating habits can be daunting for some, especially when it comes to cutting down on unhealthy comfort foods and if you only think of healthy eating as just salads and fruit, motivating yourself to eat well can be harder. Whether you’re looking to lose weight or want to make more health conscious food choices, we’re here to give you some tips on how to eat healthy and stay on track.
When it comes to healthy eating, it’s important to eat the right number of calories a day, which will depend on factors such as how active you are and what your gender is. The recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 a day for men. If you consume more calories than you’re burning in a day, you’ll gain weight as your body stores leftover energy as fat and if you consume less than the recommended amount of calories a day, you’ll lose weight.
It’s essential for us to enjoy a varied diet so that our body can get all the nutrients it needs to function properly. So, here’s our top ten tips on how to eat healthy:
The recommended amount of fruit and vegetables to eat a day is five portions and it doesn't matter if these are canned, dried, fresh or frozen. If you don’t particularly enjoy fruit or vegetables on their own, you could consider some more innovative ways of including them in your diet. For example, you could add broccoli or spinach to a curry, slice up a banana and enjoy it over your breakfast porridge or make yourself a scrumptious smoothie packed with your favourite fruit or veg for an energy boost. Do keep in mind that fruits contain natural sugars and you shouldn’t go overboard with them as they could potentially cause damage to your teeth.
Having some fat in your diet is important, but too much saturated fat a day could lead to health issues such as heart disease. The recommended amount of saturated fat a day is 20g for women and 30g for men and this is found in foods such as butter, pies, cheese and cakes.
Like saturated fats, sugar is also high in energy and can lead to health issues such as obesity or tooth decay if consumed too often. Sugar tends to be high in sugary fizzy drinks, sweets, alcohol and pastries. When shopping for foods, it’s worth checking the food label to ensure there isn’t too much sugar in what you’re eating. For context, over 22.5g of sugars per 100g is considered to be high whereas less than 5g of sugar per 100g is low in sugar.
As you may have already suspected, water is the best option to stay hydrated and it is recommended that we drink between six to eight glasses of water a day (NHS).
That said, it is important not to allow ourselves to become dehydrated so drinks which are low in sugar (such as tea) would be the next best option rather than sugary fizzy drinks or high fat milk. Alcoholic drinks are of course one of the worst options you could choose when you’re thirsty and will be high in calories and sugar.
Snacking isn’t always a bad habit, but it does depend on what exactly you tend to snack on. If your meals are spaced out and you feel your tummy growling, reaching for some cucumber sticks won’t harm you...munching your way through a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar just because it’s the easy option will. If you feel like you really struggle with your snacking, read our blog on tips to stop snacking.
Starchy, high fibre carbohydrates such as brown rice or wholewheat pasta are ideal to act as a base for each of your meals. Starchy foods have got a bad reputation but actually, they are an excellent source of energy and contain fibre, calcium, B vitamins and iron. Moreover, they contain less than half the calories of fat but it’s the fats you add to them that raises the calories (such as butter, cream and oil).
Too much salt can cause high blood pressure which can lead to heart disease or strokes. You may not realise how much salt is in some foods, especially if you think of them as ‘sweet’ (such as breakfast cereals) but the reality is most salt will already be in foods you buy rather than being something you add for more flavour. Just as is recommended for monitoring your sugar and calorie intake, you should check food labels for salt levels and anything over 1.5g of salt per 100g is considered high.
As we mentioned earlier, overeating can lead to weight gain or even obesity. Keep an eye on your calorie intake so that you’re not consuming more calories than you’re burning in a day but also try to stick to appropriate portion sizes. If you have particularly big plates at home, you may feel tempted to pile on more food to hide the empty space, thinking that you have the right amount of food under false pretences. If this is the case, try to use smaller plates or weigh out your meals so you know exactly how much you’re getting. Find out more about reducing portion sizes here.
It’s good to incorporate at least two portions of fish into our weekly meal plan because they are a great source of protein and contain valuable minerals and vitamins. We should aim for one of these fish portions to be oily fish such as salmon or sardines as these are packed with omega-3 fats which help to prevent heart disease.
It can be hard to stay motivated when you’re not enjoying the foods you’re eating. Solve this problem by learning exciting new healthy recipes to cook or experimenting with different herbs and spices. If you’re not sure where to start or don’t have much confidence in cooking, check out the Easy Meals app which was developed by the NHS. Here you can find healthier versions of the meals you love so if you’re a real foodie at heart, you won’t have to compromise on flavour!
The Eatwell Guide highlights how much food we should eat from each food group for a balanced diet. You can see the Eatwell Guide here.
So, now you know some ways you can start to eat more healthily, it’s also important to remember that a healthy lifestyle doesn’t just require healthy eating, it also involves getting active.
If you’re looking for support in trying to eat more healthy or for losing weight, we are here to help! Here at LiveWell Dorset we have a friendly team of coaches and advisers who are ready to support you through your journey of leading a healthier lifestyle, helping you to stay on track and reach your personal goals. You can register with us today or get in touch to learn more about our services.