Making smarter food choices can have a huge impact on your health and happiness. But it can be tough to know where to start making these changes.
Here at ESMI, we’re always keen to help our customers lead as healthy a lifestyle as possible, so we hope our tips will help you on your way!
Ready, Set, Go!
The basics of eating well are pretty straightforward. Essentially, it comes down to eating lots of fruit and vegetables, protein and complex carbohydrates.
It’s also important to try and eat less processed foods, salt, sugar and some types of fat. This is what an average healthy diet looks like, according to the NHS:
- One third of your food should be starchy carbohydrates, such as wholegrain bread, pasta, rice or cereals.
- Over one third of what you eat each day should be fruit and vegetables- that’s at least five portions.
- Eat some protein, whether that’s chickpeas or other legumes, meat, or dairy products. Vegetarian proteins are generally higher in fibre and lower in fat than meat alternatives, so if you’re losing weight they can be a good option.
- Use unsaturated fats to cook and as spreads, as these are healthier than saturated fats.
- Minimal processed foods, as they tend to be high in salt, sugar, fat and calories.
- Lots of water! Around 6-8 glasses per day is a good baseline to aim for.
The list above may only be six bullet points, but we realise that’s rather a lot, particularly if much of it is new to you! It’s often much easier said than done to make radical changes to your diet, so to help you on your way, we’ve got some fun tips towards making smarter food choices.
Swap Out Unhealthy Foods
If you want to change your diet but can’t bear to part with your favourite comfort food, try swapping it out for a healthier version.
- Dark chocolate is lower in fat and sugar than milk or white, and contains more good-for-you cocoa solids, which are packed with antioxidants.
- Swap sugar for pureed apple or banana when baking muffins or desserts. It makes your baking softer and moister while keeping processed sugar low.
- Swap cheese for butternut squash in mac and cheese, to create a creamy, good-for-you version.
Play with Presentation
How we see food can affect our appetite and how much we eat.
- If you’re aiming to cut down your portion sizes, placing food on a smaller plate can make your meal look larger, helping you to eat less.
- If you’re trying to convince yourself to eat more healthy options rather than reaching for the sweets or crisps, presentation can be the key to success. Make your meals fun by arranging food in appealing ways, such as using a Japanese bento box to arrange food into attractive compartments.
- Studies have shown that diners rate food presented more appealingly as tastier. So the extra minute to arrange dinner on a nice plate might make all the difference!
The Vegetable Challenge
New research suggests that for optimal health, we need to eat 10 servings of fruit and vegetables daily. And you thought 5+ a day was hard!
Why not challenge yourself to meet the 10 a day goal every day for the next 10 days? If that scares you, take a look at some of these quirkier ideas that might inject a bit of humour along the path to a healthier you too!
Lettuce for Breakfast
OK, not really. Unless it’s the height of summer you probably want something more filling to start the day. Luckily many breakfast classics can be revamped to include at least a couple of fruits or vegetables.
Try finely chopped courgette and tomato in your next omelette, for a Mediterranean feel. Porridge is already a healthy choice, with its slow-burning oat energy, but you can make it even better by throwing in sliced seasonal fruit and berries.
Add a few mint leaves and strawberries on top of your oats with a dash of maple syrup and you can almost convince yourself you’re drinking a strawberry mojito for breakfast! Check out NHS Healthy Choices for more delicious breakfast ideas.
Just Hide Them
If eating raw or even just whole vegetables is a challenge for you, try blending them so you don’t even notice them! The classic way to do this is in soups, homemade pasta sauces and smoothies.
Combine soup with wholegrain crusty bread and some lower-fat cheese and you won’t even notice you’re eating vegetables. You can also sneak vegetables into many other meals through many other weird and wonderful ways!
Grill It Better
Ok, so you’ve tried a couple of vegetable soups and are now willing to move up to the next stage- roasting!
Peel and chop a bunch of assorted vegetables – potato, carrot, brussels sprouts, broccoli, garlic cloves – whatever you have in the fridge, into a big roasting tin and lightly coat with olive oil. Roast at 190 degrees for 20-30 minutes and enjoy.
Try this Jamie Oliver recipe for extra crispy roasted veg.
Roasting vegetables brings out their natural sweetness. Soapy raw carrots become meltingly delicious, sweet and savoury bites. You can eat vegetables with any lean meat of your choice, or on their own with dip (hummus with a squeeze of lemon works well), or wait till they’re cold and take them to work the next day, if you have any left!
Finish with Fruit
Fruit for dessert was once a special treat, but nowadays we’re lucky enough to have a wide variety of fruit available cheaply. Try a fruity finish to the meal with one of these recipes, and save the cake and cream for special occasions!
Preparation and meal planning is key
If you have half a weekend day spare and a freezer, cooking ahead is a brilliant way to save both time and money. It will also maximise your chances of eating healthier in the week. Check out this guide to get started with meal prep.
Home cooking is often healthier as you can see exactly what goes into what you eat, and cut out unnecessary fat, salt and sugar.
Processed alternatives save time but can sneak large amounts of these into your diet – wherever you can it’s better to home cook.
Storing food in meal-sized containers makes defrosting easy and ensures you stick to healthy portion sizes.
Making Smarter Food Choices
Remember that the internet is full of contradictory advice about what constitutes healthy eating, so it’s really important that you trust what you’re reading.
Get the right information by checking your sources and following the advice which has been based on research, such as that found on the NHS website.
Following these simple tips will get you started on the path towards making smarter food choices! Remember it can take time to make a change – so don’t get discouraged if you slip up. Aim to choose a slightly healthier option each day and you’ll soon be on the path to a healthier you!
For more healthcare advice and information, please see the other articles on our blog.