Following healthy eating advice doesn’t need to mean simply swapping out all those delicious flavours for salads. Making healthy choices and opting for a lifestyle change can be both simple and scrumptious. Those old adages of eating more fruit and veg and drinking lots of water still hold true – as does more recent wisdom to avoid junk and fast food - but there are a few other aspects of your diet to consider so you can ensure you are enjoying a healthier way of life that contributes to your wellness.
The benefits of healthy eating range from protecting against disease¹ to improving immunity and generally helping you feel better in yourself. No matter how hectic your lifestyle, you’ll be eating and feeling better in no time by focusing on healthy eating.
Our four top tips for healthy eating can help improve your habits and health.
1. Eat slowly
Slow down. Finding time for lunch can be hard, but wolfing down your food at the earliest opportunity isn’t doing you any favours. The same is true after exercise – the need to refuel can get the better of you and can lead to over-eating. Eating more slowly may help you to eat better, thanks to a reduced feeling of hunger that will mean junk foods don’t seem quite as appealing. It might take around 20 minutes for your body to realise it’s full, so taking your time rather than raiding the fridge should stop you from eating too much. When you get sudden urges to eat quickly, it’s usually for fatty and unhealthy foods too.
2. Love the vegetables
Once it was an apple a day that kept the doctor away, but now the recommendation is five portions of fruit and veg. However, statistics on obesity, physical activity and diet for the UK show that in 2019, less than 30% of adults actually meet the five a day recommendation². It can be a big challenge to get close to this target, but there are little changes you can make that will help. Introducing veg-filled starters, for example, is an effective way to instantly improve your intake.
One portion of fruit or veg is around 80 grams. To help visualise this, it’s approximately the equivalent of:
- A whole carrot
- Two broccoli spears
- Four tablespoons of cooked spinach
By combining a few in a delicious starter, you can get a head-start towards meeting your daily target. Pack spinach into stuffed mushrooms and peppers, sizzle some sweetcorn fritters or make a batch of homemade pea soup.
If you have a veggie-packed starter, you might find it easier to enjoy a more modestly sized main too, helping aid your balanced approach to eating.
3. Serve smaller portions
Trick your mind with a smaller plate. One study found that switching from a 12 to a 10-inch plate could mean you eat less, resulting in a 22% drop in calorie intake³. The psychological impact of seeing a fuller plate – even if it’s just because it’s smaller – tricks your mind into thinking you’re eating more, when the portion size is still the same.
What’s on the plate matters as well. A standard meal should be half-filled with vegetables, a quarter with starchy carbohydrates – like potatoes – and some protein, lean if it’s meat.
4. Shop the outer ring
Supermarkets are a sensory smorgasbord⁴, from the colours and smells of flowers, fruit and veg near the entrance, to the scent of baking bread.
Stick to the outer edges for the freshest and generally healthiest produce – doughnuts and other sweet treats in the bakery aside. It’s where you’ll usually find the fresh fruit and veg, the fish counter, lean meats, eggs, dairy, nuts and bread.
Try shopping from the peripheries and see how your food plans change for the better. This way you’ll avoid much of the frozen, processed and packaged items that can be higher in sugar, saturated fat and additives.
Try not to shop on an empty stomach either. This can cause cravings for carb-filled foods to tame your hunger in the short-term. Instead, if you’re feeling hungry before you go food shopping, eat a piece of fruit or a healthy snack. Studies suggest⁵ this can make you purchase more fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods.