A question that became important to me in my life and something that clients often bring to their first nutritional consultation is “why eat well?” why is it important to eat well? Why is it important to fill our bodies with good food? You might think this is a simple notion - eating well - but it is not always that easy and what is meant by it?
From my perspective and my journey, although I always enjoyed cooking and took an interest in food my diet could have been very questionable. When I hit a rocky patch in my life, I think I was under a lot of stress, living off coffee and cigarettes and eating well was the last thing on my mind. Once I began to heal the first thing I did was ditch the cigarettes and slowly I have cut back on the coffee and just these two changes for me, affected my health so much for the better.
When life slowed down and I began to consider my health more, I started to think about what I was eating and more about the foods I had been consuming. I also sought nutritional advice from a trained therapist who gave me a personalised plan for a better diet and help with my health concerns. This was really the start of my journey to eating well, and like any new habit it takes time to establish, and I am still very much on that journey.
For me, and it will be different for everyone, keeping a record of what I ate in an app really helped me to see the foods I was consuming and also to think about their quality and the food groups I was eating. The first step for me was adding in more vegetables and fruit, wholegrains, good quality proteins and experimenting in the kitchen. Trying out new recipes and finding what I liked and what I didn’t and working with a therapist helped me to see the improvements I needed to make and my interest in’ better nutrition, better health’ really began. I wanted to learn more so I embarked on studying Nutritional Therapy and, as I learnt more, my diet improved for the better.
Eating well for me is not about never having that piece of cake, or a take-away or having a meal out, as these things are enjoyable and an important part of the fabric of our lives. Eating well is about gradually making small changes, making healthier choices which will be personal to each of us, over time all these changes add up. As you implement these changes you will begin to feel healthier and this will further motivate you to continue making better food choices. It will become easier to make those choices and healthier habits become more natural.
It is about finding out what works for you and your life style, and others in your life if they are dependent on your cooking. I know I am nowhere near perfect with my diet and my danger time for grabbing something unhealthy is when I am hungry. My particular danger time I find, is when I finish work for the day and go home, I’m tired and hungry and I will start to pick, or don’t feel like cooking. Sounds familiar? My way of getting round this is to eat my dinner earlier and have pre-prepared meals. About once a month I do batch cooking and then freeze portions, meaning that on days I don’t feel like cooking, I can defrost a wholesome meal with minimum fuss and little prep. What I am trying to say is get to know your routine, and how you can fit healthier eating into your lifestyle. Maybe we all know that we need to eat well, and the benefits to our health, but it’s finding the motivation and staying power to keep it up that can be difficult.
Maybe try these small changes to kick-start a healthier diet: -
Switch refined carbohydrates like white flour products, bread, pasta and white rice to wholegrain options, whole-wheat bread, pasta and brown rice.
It is recommended to eat about 5 portions of vegetables a day – if you are below this, just think about adding one or two more vegetables each day, build it up and don’t forget that having a variety of vegetables is key!
Reduce refined sugar, so cut that teaspoon of sugar from your tea, switch a sugary drink to water or herbal tea, or that chocolate bar to a piece of fruit.
Read labels – get to know what you are eating and how much sugar and fat it contains– you would be surprised sometimes at the ingredients included in some of the foods you are eating and drinking, and this will help you to make healthier choices.
Do eat regularly and add some good quality protein (meat, fish, dairy, eggs, pulses, beans, nuts and seeds) with every meal to help balance your blood sugar as this keeps the hunger pangs at bay.
Cook meals from scratch, get inspired by cooking, get creative and have fun and don’t think of it as a chore. Cooking homemade meals means you know exactly what goes into your food. There is a misconception that cooking is hard or time consuming, but actually you will find it doesn’t take much time to prepare meals, they don’t need to be complicated or fancy and remember the benefits of planning, preparing and using your freezer!!
There are many more ways of starting to eat well! Just remember, take small steps, don’t feel overwhelmed and enjoy being in your kitchen!!