Vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre – and nearly devoid of the kilojoules, sugar and preservatives known to cause health issues. Only problem? Most people don’t eat enough of them. So dig in today!
If you can imagine it growing out of the ground or being raised on a farm, it’s real – and really good.
Choose just one
Foods with only one ingredient – think milk, raw nuts, raw chicken, broccoli or beans – haven’t been processed and are therefore better for your health.
Ditch the packaging
Choose foods that don’t come in packages, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish and nuts.
Eat what you can pronounce
If you can read the ingredients out loud without looking at a long chemical name and thinking, “huh?”, then it’s probably good for you.
Give up the sweet stuff
To really improve your diet, avoiding sugar in its various forms and disguises is important. Steering clear of added sugar will let your taste buds adjust to noticing the natural sweetness in many fresh foods, so you’ll enjoy them much more.
Skip the diet labels
Paleo, raw, vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free? As long as you’re eating whole foods, choose whichever meal plan works best for your lifestyle.
Get familiar with ingredients
While you may already scan nutrition panels for kilojoules, chances are you don’t take a hard look at the ingredient list. Nutritionist Nicole Silber recommends sticking to foods with no more than five ingredients. And be alert to sweeteners, including ‘natural’ ones like stevia, rice malt syrup or concentrated fruit juice or extract. Ingredients are listed from the highest to lowest amounts, so if some form of sugar is the first ingredient, then put it back on the shelf. And if an ingredient is listed last, it doesn’t mean you’re consuming a small amount of it either – it’s all about how it stacks up against the other ingredients.
Clean out your pantry
Once you’re comfortable with analysing label ingredients, open up your kitchen cupboards and pantry and start to rid them of the foods that aren’t what you ought to be eating. As much as it hurts to throw away things you’ve already paid for, it’ll help you out in the long run. Also go through your fridge with the same eye you’ll use at the supermarket. Anything you would’ve put back on the store shelf goes straight in the bin.
Work (or walk) through your cravings
As anyone who’s ever eaten an entire packet of biscuits while hunched over a work project knows, cravings are often a result of stress. So instead of giving in, take that walk. “One of the easiest things to do when you have a craving is to go outside,” says nutritionist Joshua Nachman.
If that strategy doesn’t work, reach for a filling, nutritious snack, such as plain Greek yoghurt topped with some fruit. Eventually, you’ll find yourself having fewer cravings, and when you do give in, you might not even enjoy the junk foods you once loved. Nicole, who gave up sugar in her coffee and tea in her own switch to a healthier lifestyle many years ago, says she can’t even tolerate sweetened drinks anymore. “When I did try a while after I stopped drinking it, it was too sweet for me,” she recalls.
Focus on what you’re adding, not what you’re cutting out
Okay, so you’ve done some purging in your pantry, fridge and freezer – a task you’ll only have to do once. Now comes the fun part: filling your kitchen back up with satisfying, delicious and health-boosting foods. As you begin your journey to eat well, you’ll want to stock up on a variety of fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, lean proteins and healthy fats. These will be the pillars of your new eating plan.
Build a healthy freezer
Being time poor can lead you to make quick and unhealthy food choices. But what if it’s just as easy to make good choices? Stock your freezer with frozen vegies (it’s just as benefi cial as fresh and comes in a variety of mixes) and frozen plain chicken and fi shfillets. Tossing together a simple stir-fry is then a speedy mid-week no-brainer. Frozen fruit, whatever your favourite, is a simple way to add a touch of nutritional sweetness to plain Greek yoghurt or muesli.
Make smarter menu choices
The bane of any newly adjusting healthy eater’s existence is a night out with friends who order every fried thing on the menu. But dining out doesn’t have to mean giving in, since many menus have healthier options. (We didn’t say 100 per cent healthy, because sometimes eating well means picking the better-for-you option.)
To make a healthy choice, Joshua suggests easing yourself into a decision. “Rather than picking up the menu immediately, settle in for a bit, talk to your friends and relax,” he says. “When you’re in a more relaxed state and checking in with your body, then you can figure out what you’re actually craving.”