Healthy eating: Where to start -

Healthy eating: Where to start

To quote the updated 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: “It’s never too late to start and maintain a healthy eating pattern that will bring health benefits both in the short term and cumulatively for years to come.”

So, where do I think you can start – smoothly, without turning your life around ‘from the new year’ or ‘from Monday’. Emphasis on health benefits, but ricocheted on calorie reduction too.

1. Moderation is the head of everything

This applies to absolutely everything, even the healthiest, nutrient-rich foods. Keep portion sizes in check.

Separately, think about sweets, fast foods and alcohol. If you eat any of them regularly and a lot, don’t give them up suddenly and forever (it won’t work)! Learn to reduce the frequency and quantity of your intake. If you used to drink 0.5 litres of beer every day, then 0.33 litres every other day is a move in the right direction.

An example on reducing added sugars. Replace blueberry-flavoured yoghurt with yoghurt without additives, but add 1/3 cup blueberries to it. With this simple change you get sweetness and carbs that won’t go towards the added sugars, and a bonus of some fibre and more vitamins and minerals.

Drinking 2 lattes/cappuccinos and other caloric drinks every day? Leave 1 serving and replace the other with a sugar-free coffee. Sweet sodas can be halved and replaced with zero calorie drinks – like Zero (no added sugar).

2. focus on vegetables

Make it a rule to eat a 100-120g portion of vegetables at each main meal. Gradually reach 3-4 servings per day. Vegetables can be used as a substitute for side dishes at meals, and vegetables can also be used as a snack.

If you are now eating 1 serving a day, don’t immediately add 2-3 servings or your bowels will rebel. Add 1 serving every 1-2 weeks until you reach 4 servings a day. It is advisable to drink more water (but not fanatically).

3. Variety .

When choosing fruit and vegetables, remember the rainbow principle in nutrition – buy yellow, red, orange, green, purple… and all shades of these colours. Don’t eat only bananas or only apples every day.

4. Attention to snacks

As a snack, try to have a few “quick” options: a handful of nuts OR yogurt without additives OR a small fruit + a serving of fresh vegetables. This will help manage hunger, get the nutrients ( + “close” the vegetable portion and get the fibre), while not eating too many calories and reducing the amount of added sugars.
If your snack includes the obligatory candy ritual, limit it to one piece. It’s better than two or three.

5. Swap peeled for wholemeal

Refined ones are primarily white rice, soft wheat pasta and all kinds of sugary instant porridge. Wholemeal (W/Z): Buckwheat, millet, wild/brown/brown rice, bulgur, pearl barley, hard pasta. Whole grains, compared to pureed ones, offer more vitamins, minerals, fibre and more satiety.

The easiest way to put it into practice is that half of the cereals you eat per day MUST come from whole grains. For example, pita bread for breakfast, D/H cereal for lunch.

6. Less red meat – more fish and pulses

Pork, beef, veal… if this is a lot (eat it every day or most of the week) and fish and legumes are scarce, I recommend replacing some red meat with fish and legumes. This will reduce saturated fat intake, increase fibre intake (thanks to legumes) and provide an alternative source of protein of both animal and plant origin. And if you eat a serving of oily fish instead of red meat, you get a big bonus in the form of omega-3s.

There’s more. The less processed red meat (sausages, frankfurters, cured meats and the like) in your grocery basket, the better. If you buy these products every time now, buying them in 1 or 2 grocery purchases is a good start. Don’t eat processed meat? Great, better not to start. Just like with alcohol.

7. Fry less.

Do you fry every day or most days of the week? Try frying three days a week for starters, and stewing or at least baking with a minimum of oil on the other days. Aim to gradually reduce the amount of frying to a minimum.

8. Minimise industrial trans fats

If you ask me what should be kept to an absolute minimum in your diet, I won’t hesitate to answer: alcohol and industrial trans fats. Artificial trans fats ‘hit’ the lipid profile (affecting the amount of cholesterol), increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. They have also been linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Trans-fats are listed as ‘partially hydrogenated fat’ in the composition of products. This is exactly what needs to be kept to a minimum. Fast food, frozen pizza, doughnuts, biscuits, crackers, pies and other pastries are major sources. Read labels. If “partially hydrogenated fat” is in the composition, it’s best not to buy.

Mind you, margarine is also a source of trans fats. So if you’re into margarine-based home baking and every time you think, “I’d rather bake home-made than store-baked”… you know what I mean. The alternative is recipes without margarine.

Hopefully, we’ll soon have a ban on industrial trans fats as well. Like the Canadian government did, for example.

9. Plan your purchases

Planning helps ‘concuss the inner Know-Nothing’ and buy things that will really make you feel good and satiated. For example, my grocery shopping kit for a few days ahead includes:

  • fresh vegetables (must be green leafy ones), frozen vegetables, fruit;
  • chicken eggs;
  • chicken/indian fillet or lean fish, rarely veal/beef/pork without visible fat;
  • 1 pack per week (250g) – lightly salted trout/salmon;
  • hard cheese, cottage cheese, high-protein yoghurt without additives;
  • wholemeal cereals and bread;
  • small things: olives in glass, canned corn, beans, nuts.

Get the basic message? The key is to reduce portion sizes, choose healthier options from the same food group, make smarter choices for snacks, minimize what has a strong negative effect on health. The goal is to find a balance, a compromise. This is the essence of making PLENTY of changes in eating habits.

Don’t try to start “perfect”. As soon as you get ready to start “perfect”, you’ve already lost. Our body is like a casino, and the casino always wins. The more you tighten the screws in the beginning, the more you will be hit with the boomerang of “perfect” that you yourself set in motion. Remember that a “perfect” start can become an early finish. Smooth and incremental changes – that’s it!

That’s nine recommendations, but you don’t have to apply them all at once! Choose the easiest to implement and start putting them into practice. Then gradually add 1-2 recommendations at a time.

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