What you eat shapes your body. Good eating habits help boost your energy levels, reduce stress and anxiety and give you a healthy body shape. Poor diet habits can lead to overweight, high blood pressure, tooth decay and some heart diseases.
The first step in changing your diet is to make a list of your unhealthy eating habits and the cues that trigger them. This could be sitting beside a vending machine at work or seeing a plate of doughnuts at the morning staff meeting. Alternatively it could be feeling tired or stressed and thinking food will give you a lift. Circle the cues you face on a regular basis and start to think about ways you might change these habits.
Aim to eat a variety of foods and drinks that contain all the major nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, fats and fibre. This means a mix of fruit, vegetables, dairy, lean meats and grains. It is important to include different colours as this will provide a range of vitamins and minerals, for example oranges will give you vitamin A and C. Try to include a source of protein with every meal. The simplest way to do this is to eat a small amount of fish or chicken.
Avoid processed or packaged foods, which can be high in added sugar, salt and saturated fat. These foods can also be high in kilojoules. When you do eat out or get takeaway, limit the meals that are deep fried and pastry based. Instead choose bread based meals like wraps, kebabs, souvlaki or hamburgers and add a salad to cut down on kilojoules and sodium.
Swap butter, lard or ghee for vegetable oil or reduced-fat spreads. These can help to lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Adding vegetables and fruits to your meals can also help reduce saturated fat intake.
Limit red meat, which is often high in saturated fat and can increase your risk of heart disease. Instead opt for lean cuts of meat or consider a plant-based alternative like a bean burger.
Drink plenty of water – it’s the best thing to drink for hydration. It will also aid digestion and cleanse your system of toxins.
Learn to taste your food – enjoy the texture, flavours and aromas. This can help slow down your eating and help you recognise when you are full.
Ask a friend, partner or family member to support you in your healthy eating journey. Find someone who is willing to encourage and check in with you regularly to keep you on track. You can also join online communities or apps that are designed to help keep you on track and connect with others.
Remember that making changes to your diet can be hard at first. However, it will become easier as you start to develop new eating habits and notice the positive changes in your health, wellbeing and energy levels. The key is to be kind to yourself and be patient.