Start your Healthier Lifestyle by
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Believe it or not your healthy eating plan starts in the supermarket. Some would argue it starts before that by making a list before you go shopping. Certainly you are less likely to 'graze' the shelves if you have a list of what you need with you.
More than anything I think it just takes a little forward planning. Too often we drop into the supermarket at the end of the day, or just when we can reluctantly fit in some grocery shopping. It may seem you are saving time but you really are not. You actually spend less time and less energy if you know more or less exactly what you need and don't allow yourself to be distracted. Take a few minutes one evening to jot down rough menus for the week. Once you get into the habit it is much easier than worrying what you are going to cook on the day. When you have a rough idea of what you need make a list - and remember to take it with you!
Once you are in the supermarket don't allow yourself to be distracted. Start your shopping in the fruit and vegetable section. The stores don't make it easy - they tend to tuck these up at the top of the shop or at the opposite side from the front door so you have to pass all the goodies before you get there. But you can beat them by - yes - not allowing yourself to be distracted.
Pick enough fruit and vegetables to serve you and your family at least five portions per day - no more than three of fruit but as many veggies as possible.
- Include some soft fruit like blueberries or raspberries you can use on cereals or with yoghurt. They are high in nutrients, low in fats and high in antioxidants.
- Apples and bananas make healthy snacks to keep in the house or to pack for lunch and tea breaks.
- In this section you will also find packets of nuts and seeds, also high in polyunsaturated fats (good fats) that are necessary for optimum health. They make tasty snacks and are great sprinkled over salads and vegetables and will add a lovely crunch to any meal. Just use them in moderation because some of them can be high in calorie content - check the labels.
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli are extremely high in nutrients and anti- oxidants and worth their weight in gold in any healthy diet. I know some people have a bad experience of spinach but it can be added to all sorts of dishes - for example, add some to any salad, it is delicious raw or add some to macaroni and cheese to give it a quirky green colour.
- Add some vegetables like mini-sweetcorn or sugar-fat peas that can be eaten raw. They are great to nibble on instead of crisps and sweets. Same goes for cherry tomatoes and actually, the hard stems of broccoli sliced thinly are tasty too. Try them.
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Avoid the aisles with unhealthy food altogether - those with sweets and crisps (chips) biscuits and cakes.If you cannot control how much of these you can eat, don't be tempted into buying the big bargain bags with multiple bags in - instead allow yourself a few, maybe one chocolate bar, one bag of crisps, one packet of biscuits and stick to the plainer ones rather than the chocolate covered ones.
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Read the labels!
Processed or pre-prepared foods are manufactured to
- a) look appealing and
- b) to taste appealing and
- c) to have a long shelf life
To achieve that they are full of extra salt, saturated fats and chemicals your body is just not equipped to deal with. If in doubt, if you do not understand the language it is probably chemical in nature and best avoided. Anything with an E number is suspect, no matter what the food industry tries to tell you. They have addressed the problem by just changing the terminology - they haven't improved the food.
Avoid canned goods as much as possible. I recently saw a programme showing what went into processed canned peas - in the first stages when they are cooked they turn a lighter green, more like a grey colour, so the process plant adds green colourant to bring the colour back up.
Buy frozen vegetables in preference to canned ones. They don't go through anything like the same chemical processes.
Read the labels!
Just because the packaging says it is healthy doesn't mean it actually is! Just take a look at breakfast cereal packs that promise you they are low-fat - you will see they are actually stuffed full of sugar. I have been known to stamp my feet and wail in frustration in the cereal aisle trying to find something that isn't full of fat, salt and or sugar.
As a guide, the further up the list of ingredients a thing is, the more of it is in the product. So if sugar is high on the list is probably not something you want to include on a daily basis.
You also need to be aware that anything flaunted as low-calorie probably contains some form of artificial sweetener. I've written about the dangers of some of these, at some length. Here just let me say there are 92 recorded side effects from some artificial sweeteners that the companies don't tell you about. Even if they say it comes from a natural plant source, be wary - plants can be toxic too.
Bread and Rolls
Limit the amount of bread and rolls you buy. Don't be tempted in by those 2-for-1 deals that have you buying multipacks you are never going to get through. Instead vary the types you buy. Try wraps and pitta bread, rice cakes and flat breads that are lower in calories and saturated fats.
I'm a great advocate of vegetarian living but if you feel you cannot live without meat avoid red meat that is full of saturated fat (bad fats) and buy chicken or fish instead.
I hope you have found something useful in this buyer's guide to healthy eating and join me next time when I will be talking about small changes you can make to become fitter and healthier.