Eating healthily can often be hard - but these 8 helpful tips can get you on the right track towards eating more healthily and improving your overall health.
Don't skip breakfast
Lives are hectic and mornings can be manic, but it’s definitely worth getting into the habit of eating a morning meal. Research suggests people who eat breakfast are slimmer because they tend to eat less during the day – and do not crave those high-calorie snacks between meals.
Breakfast also restores glucose levels – an essential carbohydrate that is needed for the brain to function. Skipping breakfast could mean you aren’t firing at all cylinders until lunch time!
If you find that you are always short on time in the mornings, find ways to keep your breakfast simple – a piece of fruit, a low-fat yoghurt or a bowl of cereal are ideal – or try waking up 10 minutes earlier!
Drink plenty of water
Water makes up over two-thirds of the healthy human body and you need to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration during the day. The government recommends 6-8 glasses (1.2 litres) each day.
There is nothing quite like water when it comes to rehydration, so stick to the tap and have your own, refillable water bottle everywhere you go! Avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks that are high in added sugars and calories, and are also bad for your teeth.
Eat lots of fruit and veg
Most of us know exactly what “five a day” means – but how many of us actually achieve that?
The thing is, getting your daily dose doesn’t have to be a chore. Simply add a handful of fresh or dried fruit to your breakfast cereal, opt for a banana or an apple instead of that mid-morning chocolate bar, and chop up some carrots ready for the afternoon.
Remember too, that fruit and veg come in many forms: fresh, frozen, canned, dried, juiced – they all count! Have some tinned or dried fruit and frozen veg at home for times when you’ve nothing fresh to hand.
Eat more fish
Fish is a great, healthy source of protein and a healthy diet should include at least two portions of fish a week. Make sure one of those portions is Oily fish – such as salmon, anchovies or fresh tuna – as they are particularly high in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which help maintain a healthy heart.
Any fish is good, but steamed, baked or grilled is always a much healthier choice than fried fish.
Make sure you get enough starchy foods
As a rule of thumb, carbohydrates should make up around one third of the food you eat. The good news is that some of the most common foods we consume include carbs – potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and cereals are all great sources.
Where possible, try and choose wholegrain varieties, as they contain more fibre and can help you feel full for longer – which can help keep away those cravings for unhealthy snacks between meals. A handy tip for extra fibre: eat your potatoes with their skins on!
Cut down on saturated fat
Everyone needs some fat in their diet, but it's important to keep an eye on the amount and type of fat you consume.
There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fat – found in foods like hard cheese, cakes, sausages, cream and pies – can be a problem, as it increases the amount of cholesterol in the blood and heightens your risk of developing heart disease.
Men should have no more than 30g saturated fat a day and women no more than 20g. It’s a good idea to compare food labels when shopping, so you can pick foods lower in fat.
To help cut down fat, avoid frying or roasting your food and instead try grilling, baking, poaching or steaming. Also, replace butter with a small amount of vegetable oil or reduced-fat spread.
Use less salt
Around 16 million people in the UK suffer from high blood pressure. The condition is described as “the UK's biggest silent killer” – responsible for 60 percent of strokes and 40 percent of heart attacks, and salt is one of the major causes of high blood pressure.
You shouldn’t have more than 6g of salt a day. That can be hard to achieve though, as even if you don’t add salt to your food, you may still be eating too much. In fact, about 75 per cent of the salt we eat is already in the food we buy – in everything from breakfast cereals to breads and sauces.
Use food labels to help you cut down. More than 1.5g of salt per 100g means the food is high in salt.
When cooking, replace salt by using other ingredients for seasoning. Black pepper works great on things like pasta, scrambled egg, pizza, fish and soup. For vegetables and meat, replace salt with fresh herbs and spices, garlic or chilli.
Check your portion sizes
Make sure you eat the right amount of calories for how active you are, balancing the energy you consume with the energy you use. Eating or drinking too much will make you put on weight.
Men should have around 2,500 calories a day and women around 2,000. Don’t forget – alcohol is high in calories, so cutting down can help you to control your weight.