Crack the good eating habit!
Time pressures and access to quick food on-the-go has resulted in many of us neglecting our body’s nutritional needs. It can be easy to slip into bad habits when you’re living hectic and busy lives, meaning you might not be getting the right nutrition. If this sounds like you, then don’t despair, there are small and easy ways in which you can help yourself.
- Track your diet
Keep a food diary so you can always track what you’re eating wherever you are. ‘Take some time to look carefully through it and see if you can identify any bad habits and the reasons behind them,’ advises Dr Sarah Schenker, nutritionist and dietician. Free apps such as Activ8rlives Health and Food Diary, MyFitnessPal and fooducate are also available and can help you to keep on top of your diet electronically.
- Remove unhealthy food
‘As wasteful as it sounds, the best way to avoid giving in to temptation is to remove it,’ says Dr Schenker; ‘if you can’t bear the thought of throwing away good food, you could donate chocolates to local community institutions or hold a charity coffee morning to eat up leftover biscuits or cake.’
- Think portion size and balance at every meal
It’s not advisable to cut out whole food groups, says Sarah. But it is good to check your portion sizes – aim for about one third of your plate or bowl made up of carbs. Also think about balancing each meal by adding some low-fat protein and fruit and vegetables.
- Cook from scratch
Cooking from scratch can be a great habit to get in to, as you know what’s going in your food. Aim to cook a recipe or ingredient that you’ve never tried before. There are lots of healthy recipes on our website to get you started.
For more information on how you can improve your eating habits and diet, visit our Diet & Nutrition hub for delicious recipes, additional articles and app reviews.
The research also revealed that, within a month, 42% had broken their resolutions and given up on their aims – and it’s a familiar scenario each year. But just because you’ve temporarily fallen off the healthy wagon, it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t get back on.
Use our seven step plan to re-assess your diet, set yourself goals and get your healthy eating back on track.
Step 1: Analyse your diet
Keep a food diary for one week – and be completely honest with what you record.
“Take some time to look carefully through it and see if you can identify any bad habits and the reasons behind them,” advises Dr Sarah Schenker; “finding solutions is the only way to change your behaviour.”
For instance, if you skip breakfast due to lack of time, you need to find a creative but realistic solution. It could be something as easy as preparing a smoothie the night before and grabbing it from the fridge on your way to work.
Step 2: Get rid of unhealthy food
Having unhealthy food in your home can seriously damage your diet efforts. If you’ve got the remains of Christmas food still lingering in your cupboards, such as half-eaten boxes of chocolates, biscuits or Christmas cake, now is the time to get rid of them.
“As wasteful as it sounds, the best way to avoid giving in to temptation is to remove it,” says Dr Schenker; “if you can’t bear the thought of throwing away good food, you could donate chocolates to local community institutions or hold a charity coffee morning to eat up leftover biscuits or cake.”
Step 3: Set yourself goals
Setting yourself goals – small, achievable short-term goals followed by long-term goals – can be a great motivator. In fact, one of the key findings from the YouGov research was that people who signed up to take part in fitness events were significantly more likely to stick to their goals.
If you want to lose weight, instead of focusing on reaching a target weight, set yourself a goal such as participating in a fun run or signing up for a charity walk or cycle.
“This helps place the emphasis on exercise instead of food and, as you start to train harder and become fitter, your diet will naturally begin to change as you’ll need to eat differently,” explains Dr Schenker.
As a bonus, it will also help regulate your appetite, so you won’t experience those hunger pangs between meals that can result in unhealthy snacking.
Step 4: Think portion size and balance at every meal
It’s not advisable to cut out whole food groups, like starchy carbohydrates, says Sarah. But it is good to check your portion sizes – aim for about one third of your plate or bowl made up of carbs.
Next, think about balancing each meal by adding some low-fat protein and plenty of fruit and vegetables.
For example, rather than having buttered toast for breakfast, think about having a small bowl of wholegrain cereal with yogurt or milk and plenty of chopped fruit.
Step 5: Challenge your taste buds
If you’re eating the same ready meals or takeaways all the time because you can’t think what to eat, it’s time to start experimenting in the kitchen.
Begin slowly, maybe once a week or at weekends, and aim to cook a recipe or ingredient that you’ve never tried before. There are lots of healthy recipes on our website to get you started. As your repertoire grows, your diet should become varied and healthier as a result.
Step 6: Don’t think diet, think health
For many people, the word ‘diet’ has negative connotations and is associated with deprivation or failure. Instead of thinking about being on a diet, think positively about eating for good health.
“The foods you eat should have health benefits for your body,” says Sarah; “the more you explore these connections, the more healthy and varied your diet will become.”
For example, oily fish help boost your immunity; low-fat dairy foods help bone health; and lean red meat supports blood health.
Step 7: Get support
Doing it alone can be hard work, but getting support from family and friends, and exercising with others, can make a real difference and boost your motivation on difficult days.
What do you find keeps you motivated? Have you got any tried and tested techniques? We’d love to hear your ideas, which you can do by leaving a comment below.
If you would like to know more about the medical conditions that can cause weight gain, then send a question to our panel of experts.
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