Nutrition has become such a complicated, controversial and overwhelming topic, I really don’t blame anyone for wanting to just give up on it. Except that we all need to eat, and most of us want to eat well – so unfortunately that’s not really an option. So here are my top 10 tips to help cut through the confusion about nutrition and make eating well a bit easier.
- Don’t bother with anything that involves the word ‘diet’, ‘detox’ or ‘cleanse’*
Longterm, diets don’t work – if they did, the weight loss industry wouldn’t be worth a reported $586 billion….. Yes, all these things can definitely work in the short term, but if you can’t honestly see yourself continuing it for the next year, two years or five years, chances are you’re going to end up right back where you started, in fact, probably worse off. Plus – your body doesn’t need ‘detoxing’ or ‘cleansing’ – that’s what it does everyday.
- Learn to read a label
Just because something is marketed as ‘healthy’, doesn’t mean it is. So when it comes to packaged food, learn to do your own (quick) research by reading the nutrition information. A quick scan of the ingredients list is often enough to tell you whether its a healthy choice. Its also worth looking at the sugar, fat, sodium and overall energy content too.
- Embrace carbs
Far from being the enemy, carbs, if chosen right, can be your best friend. They give us energy and life without them can be pretty miserable. just make sure that the majority of the time, you’re choosing good ones. Think fruit, oats, potato, sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa, wholegrain bread, pasta and wholegrain cereals.
- Include some protein at every meal
If carbs are your best friend, protein is a very close second. Protein will help fill you up and avoid the afternoon slump and dreaded chocolate cravings. Good sources of protein include lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, yoghurt, tofu, beans or legumes in most of your meals. And by the way, you don’t need protein shakes to get enough protein.
- Put it on Autopilot
If you find by the end of the day you just can’t summon the will power to make healthy choices, try removing some of the food related decisions from your life. We only have a finite amount of willpower and by the end of the day it can be just about gone, leaving the door wide open for take away, fast food and those fun size Snickers in the pantry. So, try putting some of your food choices on autopilot instead – have the same breakfast Monday-Friday, precook some of your meals for the week and put them in the freezer so that you don’t even have to think about making a healthy choice, its taken care of.
- Carry healthy snacks
If you know you’re going to be out an about for a while and might get a bit peckish, take some nuts or a piece of fruit with you so that you don’t end up starving and having to resort to vending machine food or succumbing to the cafe cake cabinet that all of a sudden becomes irresistible when your blood sugar levels take a dive.
- Be savvy about sugary drinks
It can be fairly easy to down a bottle of coke, a glass of orange juice or even a few wines without thinking much about it. But would you do the same with a Mars Bar? If the answer is no, you might need to take a closer look at what you’re drinking. The problem with sugar sweetened drinks is you don’t feel as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid food, and studies show that people consuming sugary beverages don’t compensate for their high caloric content by eating less food. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a sugary drink now and then, but recognise it for what it is, a pleasurable experience but one that is high in sugar with very little nutritional value.
- Keep it simple
You don’t need to be whipping up kale smoothies, activating your almonds and making your own kefir to be healthy. Simply including any type of fruit and vegetables, some lean protein and whole grains will mean you’re well on your way to a healthy diet. So unless you really love green smoothies, feel free to ignore the hype and embrace good old fashioned basics.
- Just because its organic, sugar free, gluten free, fat free or paleo doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy
A bowl of sugar could be organic, gluten free and fat free but this doesn’t mean its a healthy option. Take a look at what’s actually in it and make your own call on whether its healthy or not.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
I’m talking about “sugar free brownies” or anything else that sounds like all your Christmases have come at once. Yes, these brownies may be free of cane sugar, but unless they have both the texture and taste of dirt, chances are there will be something very similar to sugar in there instead. Whether its agave nectar, maple syrup, coconut sugar or brown rice syrup, unfortunately they’re all just different forms of sugar.
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