Nutrition is simple – yes really. There are a few key things in relation to food and nutrition that will ultimately make more difference to your health in your lifetime than knowing how many calories something has or how grams of protein, carbohydrate or fat it contains. I’m not saying that knowing these things is bad or unimportant, but rather that there are other things which are often overlooked in the quest to make nutrition seem more scientific and more complex than it needs to be.
Your approach to eating needs to be sustainable and the issue with many “diets” is that they aren’t sustainable over the long term. They may work for a few weeks or months, but then you fall off the wagon because they are either too rigid, too restrictive, or still haven’t addressed underlying habits around food and food preparation.
Here is a list of 15 of my favourite tips that can help you eat better and make long term changes so you can jump off the endless cycle of dieting and get on with living.
Choose foods with as little packaging as possible.
Don’t be fooled by “Health Star Ratings”. If a Health Star Rating can be printed on it – it means it is processed and packaged and as per the first tip, should be avoided.
Avoid anything that has ingredients you cannot pronounce.
If a factory has been involved in its manufacture or creation – avoid it.
If you want a sweet treat – make it yourself. You know what’s in it (yes you can see that cup of sugar) so you aren’t delusional about it being a treat, and it won’t be full of preservatives.
Understand that breakfast cereal is a modern invention sold to us by big corporations. You absolutely can have eggs, salad, vegetables, steak, bacon etc for breakfast. Every day.
Every meal doesn’t have to look like it was created on Masterchef. Remember Steak and 3 Veg? There is nothing wrong with that.
Find a half dozen to a dozen healthy meals you enjoy and eat them often. Variety is the spice of life, but too much choice can be overwhelming and unnecessarily complicated.
Don’t blindly choose organic because you think it has better nutritive value. Know it’s better because it has no chemicals used in its production so you aren’t eating trace amounts of chemical with every mouthful.
Fat is not the demon is has been made out to be. Do some homework here and ditch the skinny milk and the chemical concoction that is margarine and eat food the way it was intended.
“Diets” that tell you to fill up or stuff yourself full of point or calorie free vegetables at every meal are missing the point. You shouldn’t be eating to feel stuffed at every meal. Stop eating when you are 80% full. Eat only as much as you would eat if you were about to go outside in 10 minutes and do a workout or run 5km.
Eating well doesn’t have to begin on a Monday. If you eat something that’s not so great on a Wednesday, or in fact have a whole day of pretty crappy eating on a Wednesday, you can still get back on track the next day or at the next meal. You don’t need to write off the whole week until Monday rolls around again. The “All or Nothing Approach” almost never works whereas small changes practiced frequently are more likely to hang around and add up to a lot over time.
Exercise and eating well tend to go hand in hand. When you are committed to exercising regularly, its also likely that you are making better choices nutritionally. Perhaps not all of the time, but most of the time. When you fall off the wagon with exercise, what you put in your mouth tends to follow suit.
If you are older than 10 and still “don’t like vegetables” perhaps its time you had a good think about that. Just like we KNOW smoking is bad for you, we also KNOW eating vegetables (particularly the green leafy ones) is good for you. No one is going to force feed you broccoli, but seriously – you aren’t a baby anymore. Find a way to prepare them and eat them.
Start small. Decide on a single thing to change in your nutrition habits and just focus on that for a couple of weeks. Resist the temptation to change multiple things all at once. To get off the “diet” treadmill you need to implement long term habits. Habits that extend beyond a 6 week bikini body challenge. While it may be less glitzy and you may not see the impact of those changes straight away, they will add up over the long term.
Good nutrition isn’t complicated but has been made out to be like it is with calorie counting, weighing and measuring and complicated formulas. While more effort and detail might be required for performance or specific aesthetic goals, for most of the general population it is unnecessary. Simply refining and adjusting habits around food and eating such as with those described above will go a long way towards achieving optimal health and wellbeing and basic body composition goals.