Why can the idea of healthy eating feel so complicated? How do I know what foods are good for me? What should I be eating to keep myself healthy?
Eating healthily has so many benefits for the mind and body. Making the right food choices for you can not only support your immunity and longevity, but it can also improve your bone, skin, gut, and eye health. But being bombarded with the latest health crazes can feel both confusing and a bit intimidating at times. It’s so easy to get caught up in a bit of a daze with it all.
We’re pretty good at knowing why it’s important to eat healthily, but how to put it into action is a whole other thing. If you are finding it a struggle, there are some simple ideas to stick to that can teach you all you need to know about healthy eating.
No more fad diets
The promise of quick weight loss might seem appealing but fad diets are usually lacking in scientific evidence and can feel quite restrictive. Cutting out entire food groups can be unsustainable and may make you feel disheartened about trying to change your eating habits. The last thing you want is to feel like you’re back to square one with it all.
The dieting industry relies on people failing over and over again. In her article, 5-minute reads: Why diets don’t work, Kacie Shoulders (ANutr) explains why diets are to be avoided and why the best advice is to eat a balanced diet.
“I know you may be thinking that your diet includes a whole lot of food, or promises to. But as soon as you restrict in any way (and most diets are about low calories so will be restricting) your body thinks it’s got to battle for survival. Food is clearly scarce and it needs to adapt. That means increasing appetite hormones, decreasing satiety hormones, slowing down your metabolic rate, etc.”
Eat a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet is a way of ensuring you eat the proper nutrients from a variety of foods, helping your body feel good.
Here are a few basic tips to help you get started:
- Try eating at least five to seven portions of fruit and vegetables daily.
- Keep well-hydrated (six to eight glasses is recommended per day)
- Carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, and potatoes should be about the size of your fist; this will vary depending on how active you are.
- Eat good quality protein with every meal such as meat, fish, eggs, whole grain beans and pulses.
- Try to reduce refined sugar found in sweet treats and fizzy drinks.
- Keep your saturated fat intake found in crisps, pies, processed meats, and baked goods to a minimum where possible.
- Make healthy choices based on the reference intakes guidelines found on the back of food packaging.
It’s also great to remember that being active, especially in nature, is a lovely way to support your body’s needs and complements all the great benefits of healthy eating. Looking after yourself in all these ways can help give you more energy, focus, and motivation.
Look after your attitude to food
Even though there may be certain foods you want to limit, try not to get into the trap of feeling guilty or beating yourself up when you do eat these. It might be worth wondering about your relationship with food, asking yourself questions like, ‘do I eat when I’m emotional?’ and ‘why do I choose to eat those foods when I’m feeling a certain way?’ Looking at your language around food is helpful too; do you consider certain foods ‘bad’ or forbidden?
Katie Hoare explains the concept of the inner ‘food police’ in their article, 10 principles of Intuitive Eating,
“The ‘food police’ is that constant negative voice in your head that labels food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and can lead to damaging thought and behavioural patterns, if that voice is allowed to get louder. An essential step in Intuitive Eating, turn down the volume and listen with authenticity.”
If you are prone to bouts of emotional eating, it can sometimes be to do with how your parents and carers approached food growing up. Perhaps they used food to reward or punish behaviour. Or perhaps they had an emotional relationship with food. You may have unconsciously absorbed some of these unhelpful beliefs growing up. We can also take on board limiting views on body image from the media. This might mean when feeling bored, stressed, or overwhelmed, you reach out for the types of food that might not serve you so well.
If you are concerned about your relationship with food or think you may have an eating disorder, it is important to reach out to a health professional like your GP, a counsellor, or a nutritionist. Beat also offers support for people who have or are worried that they have an eating disorder.
Understanding the impact your food choices have on the environment means that we can look after our future generations. Global food sources are predicted to run out by 2050. This is a bit of a scary thought but it’s empowering to think we can take action by thinking about the moral impact of our food choices.
Knowing where our food comes from is the first step. Eating local, seasonal foods isn’t only healthier due to higher antioxidants, but it’s also a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Other ways to eat ethically are to support sustainable farming and perhaps even try something like meat-free Mondays. You may have heard of this before but it’s basically just skipping meat from your diet one day a week. Many nutrition experts take a 360-degree view of ethical eating when working with clients.
How can talking with a nutritionist help me?
Working with a nutritionist can be really helpful. A nutrition professional can help you work out your current food habits and implement healthier eating options, getting a clearer idea of what to eat and why.
Learning about what your body is telling you, as well as alleviating any specific eating-related health issues, can also be a really helpful part of seeing a professional on a one-to-one basis. Life is so incredibly busy, it can be lovely to let someone else take the pressure off for a while. Once you have something concrete set up it's then easier to manage daily meal plans, eventually becoming second nature to you.
To learn more about healthy eating or discover how a professional may be able to help, visit Nutritionist Resource.