In a world where fad diets, new ‘don’t eats’ and newly discovered ‘superfoods’ crop up as quickly as a healthy cookbook, it can be hard to maintain a consistent diet. We all feel pressure to look and feel our best, whether for personal reasons or societal pressures, dieting is a concept revisited again and again by many of us. From experts to friends, everyone has something different to say about it. The problem is, what works for one may not work for another but when once subliminal messaging begins to shout and persuade us to ‘get beach body ready’ or prevent hideous diseases by avoiding red meat, it is hard not to listen. We forget that diets should suit you and be only for you. The body-positivity movement has helped us move away from an unhealthy relationship with our bodies, discouraging the ‘size zero look’ for all. Dieting should be a choice to enhance all areas of your life to make you feel your best. This isn’t just about looks, a healthy diet can lead to an increase in energy, feeling healthier and remedy health issues. With all the diet noise out there, it is hard to know where to turn. Yet there has been one continuous method, which survived through the Atkins, Paleo and fasting years – a balanced diet.
Whilst there is widely-agreed universal advice, such as limiting sugar, salt and fat intake, drinking more water, eating more fruits and veg and cutting down on some meats, one important part of healthy eating is ensuring it fits to your individual body needs. You may be prone to Vitamin D deficiency, so including regular fish or mushrooms in your diet may be needed. However, if you hate mushrooms, don’t make your mealtimes miserable. Find an alternative! If you don’t enjoy your food you are less likely to commit to healthier eating habits. It is not about skipping meals, calorie counting or cutting out cakes. Instead, it is ensuring you are including good range of the right foods in your diet. Yes, you can still have candy and cake – in moderation. Eat an ‘unhealthy meal’ one day and enjoy it, the next, cook a cleaner meal to balance it out. Once you start eating healthily you will feel the difference.
It seems rather obvious to state that everything we eat affects our bodies, but the true scope of which is often not realized. Food is seen as both a pleasurable activity and an instinctual means to quell hunger. Yet, our bodies perform millions of chemical reactions a day, all using the nutrients, whether fats, vitamins, minerals or calories from the food that we eat. It is essential that all of these nutrients, much-needed for these processes, are included in our foods. Therefore, it makes sense to try and range and balance our intake of food in order to provide our bodies with all the necessary ingredients to perform at is best. If one element is low, it can cause many felt repercussions. As a typical example, anemia is a common problem among women, which can cause unprecedented levels of exhaustion and tiredness, quite a hefty price to pay for the lack of one intrinsically important mineral: iron. If one nutrient can unbalance your system, think what many can do. Harvard lists the vitamins you need, what they do and examples of what foods they can be found in here.
Here are some tips to achieve a healthy balanced diet:
Remember your food groups – To maintain a balanced diet you should ensure you’re eating habits include items from these five groups: Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Dairy and Protein. Ensuring that a mix of the best foods from each category are included regularly is a good way of balancing. However, each food group is of a different proportion to the next as outlined in Harvard’s Healthy Eating Pyramid and the UK’s Eatwell guide. For example, fruits and vegetables are key players in providing your body with the vitamins and minerals that it needs. Hence it is one of the largest food groups you should be sampling from, it takes up approximately a third of your diet. Whereas dairy, a good source of Vitamin D and Calcium takes up a lot less. All foods are not equal, proteins can be found in a range of foods but lean meats, eggs, nuts, beans and lentils are better sources of nutrition as they provide the body with a lot more ‘good stuff.’
Moderation – Don’t necessarily cut out the foods that you love because they are unhealthy for you. Just cut down. Enjoy these foods in moderation or as a treat and fill up on the foods that are healthier for you. Monitor your portion sizes, many of us tend to over-eat and fill our plates when we don’t need. As said above, it is not about calorie counting but still cap your calorie intake ensuring it is correct for your individual needs. Even over-eating the right foods can be problematic. It’s all about moderation.
Don’t skip meals and swap in healthier options – It is common to believe that by not eating, we can somehow lose weight. Yet this has been proven time and time again to actually be the opposite of true. Eat regularly. If you like to snack, try to swap unhealthier snacks such as chips and candy bars for granola or other healthy choices. But ensure it is something you enjoy – or you won’t eat it!
Enjoy food – As said above, still sample the foods you love. Go out to eat with friends and try new options, take your time and really relish each morsel (this can also help with over-eating). Another great way to maintain healthy diet is to cook at home. Often pre-packaged foods can be problematic, mainly because we cannot control what is in them. Cooking fresh meals with an abundance of vegetables is a good way of ensuring you are concocting a nutritious meal. Plus, it can be highly enjoyable experimenting with new foods and creating healthy-yet-satisfying dishes.