Table of Contents
- Pack your plate with veggies
- Don’t drink sugar calories
- Add a thumb-sized amount of healthy fats to your meals
- Use the 80/20 rule
- Eat plenty of fruit
- Fuel your workouts with carbs
- Drink more water
- Reduce your saturated fat intake
- Get more fibre in your diet
- Include oily fish once per week
- Look after your muscles with protein
- How to get your Metro newspaper fix
Keen to up things in the health stakes? Here’s how. (Picture: Getty Images)
A healthy lifestyle starts with what you put on your plate.
But when you start trying to get healthier, you’ll often find yourself bombarded with restrictive, complicated diet recommendations that are full of faff.
It doesn’t have to be so hard.
Try these simple tips from our nutritionist to eat a healthier, more balanced diet and get the most out of your meals.
Pack your plate with veggies
Vegetables are crammed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre so are a must-have addition to your meals. They can be fresh, frozen or even tinned and still pack all the important micronutrients in to help your body stay fit and healthy.
Loading your plate with veg is also a great way to get more fibre in your diet and bulk out meals to help you feel fuller and more satisfied – which is especially useful if you’re trying to lose weight.
Don’t drink sugar calories
Try to avoid reaching for high calorie, high sugar drinks such as sugary sodas and fancy coffee combos. Your brain doesn’t detect liquid the same as it does food – meaning you’re more likely to over-consume calories. These hidden calories all add up, and if you’re looking to lose weight or just become healthier can hinder your progress.
Research shows that solid food is registered by your brain causing the hunger hormone ghrelin to be suppressed, which stops the feeling of hunger. However liquid calories don’t trigger the same response. This means you’re more likely to carry on eating normally throughout the day rather than adjusting your diet to compensate for those excess calories.
Add a thumb-sized amount of healthy fats to your meals
We’re often told to avoid fats, but a small amount of fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. Depending on your goals and energy needs, one to two thumb-sized amounts of healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats) with your meals are really important to support your brain functioning, hormones and improve satiety. They are also key for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, which means that these vitamins can only be absorbed with the help of fat within your diet.
Some good sources of healthy fats include:
- Olive and rapeseed oil
- Nuts and seeds (eg. Flaxseed and Walnuts)
- Oily Fish (eg. Salmon, Mackerel, Herring and Trout)
Add healthy fats to your meals with avocado, nuts, seeds, and oily fish (Picture: Getty Images)
Use the 80/20 rule
Having a healthy, sustainable diet is all about food quality but also balance. Following something like the 80/20 rule can be a great way to approach your nutrition – everything in moderation.
Eating healthy, micronutrient rich, whole foods 80% of the time and allowing yourself the freedom to have balance the other 20%.
It doesn’t have to be planned out to the 1% – but it’s more a general approach that promotes adopting a healthier lifestyle focused on balance and moderation rather than a ‘diet’.
So, if you want to eat a slice of pizza or some ice cream, do it – but make sure you’re filling your plate with micronutrient-rich foods too.
Research shows that trying to stick to a restrictive diet isn’t sustainable, and you’ll be more likely to stick to something in the long run if food isn’t off-limits. Instead of thinking that food is good and bad, think about how that food nourishes and fuels you – and also how that food makes you feel – because happiness is important too. Diets don’t last, but healthy lifestyles do.
Eat plenty of fruit
The current guidelines are to eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day but lots of people still struggle to meet that. Fruit is packed with micronutrients and antioxidants so great for your health.
The easiest way to meet the current guidelines is to try to incorporate fruit into your daily routine and meals rather than only seeing them as snacks.
Why not try grated apple in your morning porridge, or chopped banana and peanut butter on wholemeal toast as a pre-workout fuel? Simple swaps will make sure you get the added vitamins fruit can offer.
Fuel your workouts with carbs
Carbohydrates aren’t the enemy – we promise.
Unless you have a medical condition that suggests you restrict carbohydrates, you definitely don’t need to cut out carbs. They are the main fuel that your body burns during exercise, so if you want to get a good workout in you need to be eating plenty of them – especially if you’re doing high-intensity training sessions or longer length workouts or runs.
Carbohydrates also have lots of benefits asides from helping to fuel your workouts, such as aiding digestion, absorption of nutrients and water and improved cognitive functioning.
Carbs are not the enemy (Picture: Getty Images/Maskot)
Drink more water
Did you know that approximately 60% of the human body is made up of water and is essential for many bodily functions? Not only does drinking enough water help our brain function, kidney function and digestion it can also improve your workouts by helping to prevent cramps and reduce the chance of dizziness during exercise.
Guidelines recommend drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water per day, or more if you exercise regularly. Aim to keep a reusable water bottle to hand to help encourage you to drink more throughout the day and stay hydrated.
Reduce your saturated fat intake
It’s recommended to reduce your saturated fat intake as this type of fat can raise your low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol in your blood – increasing your risk of heart disease. Aim to consume no more than 10% of your daily calories, or approximately 16 – 25g from saturated fat.
A simple way to do this is to try and cut down on processed cuts of meat like sausages and bacon and look to reduce your consumption of high saturated fat foods such as cheese, chocolate, biscuits and palm oil.
Get more fibre in your diet
Fibre is our friend, but many people don’t get enough! It’s recommended that you aim for 20 – 25g of fibre per day, which can help you feel fuller for longer, while also improving your digestion. It is also associated with a lower risk of heart disease, strokes and type 2 diabetes.
Here are a few ways to get more fibre in your diet:
- Keep the skin on fruit and veg
- Snack on nuts
- Swap white bread and pasta for whole grains
- Include beans and pulses in your diet
Nuts and seeds make great snacks (Picture: Getty Images)
Include oily fish once per week
Oily fish is a great source of protein and healthy fats. The NHS recommends you eat at least one portion of oily fish per week to reap the health benefits. A great oily fish to include in your diet is salmon, which is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are classified as an essential fatty acid (EFA) as your body cannot produce it, so you have to consume it through food.
Look after your muscles with protein
Protein is essential for muscle repair and recovery – so it’s important you’re eating enough.
The general population are recommended to consume 0.75g of protein per kg of body weight per day. Depending on your goal and how active you are you may benefit from increasing your protein intake. But this is a great starting point!
Don’t feel like you have to make all these changes at once – start small and make a few simple switches every week.
Remember, you don’t need to do anything drastic to lead a healthy lifestyle. The main thing is to pack your plate with wholesome, nourishing food that fuels your body and your brain – while also not forgetting that it’s okay to enjoy everything in moderation.
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