In our article What determines our food choices we identified a range of factors, some of which were encouraging unhealthy eating. So here we suggest ways of achieving a healthier diet.
Make reasonable food related targets:
- Your main aim is to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet by including 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables, a moderate portion of protein, less processed food and more fibre-rich food every day.
- Use the Eat Well Guide to understand the proportion of each food group that needs to be included.
- Create weekly meal plans to ensure that you get your 5 A Day (Most supermarkets label their fruit & veg as a portion of your 5 A Day). This NHS guide gives you all the information you need to have a balanced diet.
- When choosing starchy foods ensure that you opt for high fibre and wholegrain varieties such as brown rice, sweet potato, whole-wheat pasta, seeded brown bread, buckwheat, quinoa etc.
- When choosing protein rich foods, opt for egg, leans cuts of meat, chicken, oily fish or plant-based alternatives such as pulses (beans, peas, lentils), tofu and Quorn.
- Staying hydrated is also important and the current recommendation is to drink a minimum of 6-8 glasses a day (this can include unsweetened tea, coffee, herbal tea and lemon water).
Become a smart shopper:
Get into the habit of checking the traffic light labels on food packaging (and if there aren’t any traffic light labels on processed food you might want to ask what the food company is trying to hide).
- If you have time also read the food labels (especially if using packaged foods) to help you make smarter choices at the supermarket. Studies have found that individuals make healthier food choices when they refer to food labels at the point of purchase. 17,18
- This NHS article provides easy to use information for reading food labels.
Mindful eating involves creating an ‘eating experience’ where you focus on the aroma, texture and taste of the food. It is a simple way of being more aware of what we are eating and whether or not we are really hungry.
- It is the opposite of mindless eating, where we simply eat on autopilot, without really appreciating our food.
- Mindful eating interventions have been found to be successful in reducing emotional eating and binge eating.
- This simple video gives a brief insight into how you can apply mindfulness practice to your eating.
Identify situations that might lead you to making poor dietary choices or to over eating:
- Pay attention to triggers and/or circumstances such as eating out, get-togethers, being at work etc that can influence your eating habits.
- Once you’ve identified these, shift your focus to how you can minimize their effect.
- Plan what food to carry to work or plan to eat something healthy before heading out to prevent overeating.
- Or make a conscious effort to eat healthily during the week and then allow yourself a less healthy meal on the weekend.
√ If you have decided to change your eating patterns then introduce the changes 2-3 days a week to begin with.
√ Only you can be the judge of what foods suit you, so experiment with the healthy options listed above.
√ Finally, be patient with yourself and give yourself and your body time to adapt to these changes and new foods. Certain high-fibre foods might cause discomfort initially but this will usually subside with time.
Hannah Kurian, November 2018. Next review date October 2022.