After completing my first two weeks back at uni as a Dietetics student, I can definitely say that I have chosen the right career path for myself! It reiterated to me how imperative diet is to achieve optimum health, and I love that I will soon be able to help many people do this.
Whilst I’m learning the nitty-gritty of becoming a Dietitian, I do realise that for many people, gaining ideas of what to eat and why can be very difficult. This is mostly due to the many conflicting ideas and a number of nutrition “experts” who controversially like to endorse fad diets and foods, claiming that they will make you lose a ton of weight or protect you from certain disease or illness. Naturally many people would hear this and (although it makes me cringe) believe it. This being said, with further research we will be able to gain more information about foods and the roles they play in the body but for the time being, here are some tried and true ways in which you can adapt your diet and see positive results.
First and foremost, make small changes:
I can’t emphasise how important this is. How many people, or people that we know of have tried making a change in their diet and was not able to maintain it? It is imperative that you set yourself small, realistic and achievable goals that you can adhere to. If you’re willing to change something small then it will naturally become a part of your daily routine and be a sustainable option. Once you’ve done that you can look at changing other areas in your diet and also physical activity.
Limit saturated fat and high sugar intake
Try choosing low-fat versions of foods where possible, such as milk, yoghurt and cheese. Avoid highly processed foods that contain refined sugars, as these will only give you more cravings and extra kilojoules. If you use butter in your cooking or on your toast, try switching to a healthier spread such as an olive oil spread. I know there has been much debate about whether margarine is good for you or not, but it should no longer be worried about, as there are so many great, healthy options on the supermarket shelves today so try a few and see what you like best.
Be aware of how you prepare and cook your food
When you’re buying meat and poultry, purchase leaner cuts and trim any visible fat, which will decrease the amount of saturated fat you’re eating and help to reduce your cholesterol levels. Make veggies a big part of your meal and cut back a bit on the meat, bread, rice, pasta etc. as this will not only help you to feel better after you’ve eaten but significantly cut back the kilojoules and provide you with many essential nutrients. Try different healthy cooking methods (check out my previous post on this), such as grilling, steaming and poaching. We may be using all the right ingredients but can come undone when it comes to the flavourings that we use. Avoid adding extra oils, salt, sauces and other condiments. Instead try using herbs and spices – they really pack a flavour punch and are much healthier.
Eat a wide variety of foods
When I say this, I’m referring to the 5 food groups:
- Grains/Cereals: breads, rice, pasta
- Vegetables, legumes, beans
- Dairy: milk, cheese, yoghurt
- Lean meats, poultry and seafood, nuts and seeds
As these types of foods are generally nutrient, but not kilojoule dense, they are great to include in your daily meals and will help to lower how many kilojoules you’re consuming overall. By doing so you will be able to reduce your overall energy intake, which can aid in weight loss. Enjoy foods from these groups and mix it up every day or two so your meals don’t get boring or repetitive. There are so many recipes and ideas out there so experiment with ingredients you may not have used before.
For more information on these food groups check out the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating website
Look at possible substitutions for snacks
By mid morning or late afternoon most of us would succumb to a snack and that’s absolutely fine. It’s important to keep our energy levels up to help us get through the day, but we need to think a little more carefully about what we’re snacking on. Some common favourites tend to be chocolate bars, chocolate biscuits or a bag of chips but these aren’t the most sustaining foods for us. If you really want to have chocolate, have a small piece of good quality dark chocolate, for something sweet have a piece of fruit or a plain sweet biscuit (nothing chocolate covered or jam filled and not 3 or 4!). Another great snack that you can always keep with you is nuts. A great source of protein and an easy snack, having a handful of nuts will help to keep the cravings away. Even raw vegetables like carrot, cucumber and capsicum are easy snacks and will contribute to your five a day, which for some people I know can be difficult to achieve.
If your try all, or even one of these ideas then you will definitely be on your way to an overall healthier diet and lifestyle.
If you want some more information and ideas about how to improve your diet and lifestyle, take a look here