Trying to create a healthy balanced diet can feel like a challenge these days. I am not sure about you but sometimes I feel overwhelmed at the nutritional advice which is being directed at us from every quarter. Whether it is low carb, low fat, Celebrity X, smoothie cleanse, Syn counting, Point Counting, calorie counting or the cabbage and beetroot diet (okay – I made that one up!) we literally cannot move for people telling us what to eat to attain our ideal weight and stay healthy.
Some experts advocate an 80:20 rule where 80% of the food you eat over a week is healthy, nutritious fuel for your body and 20% is ‘fun’ food. This works well if you are an expert in measuring percentages over a week but may have its flaws because we are notoriously terrible at estimating portions and assessing how much we really eat. It makes sense, therefore that we wouldn’t be very good at estimating what 20% of our diet is. The ideal solution to this issue seems to be to go for 90:10 instead! This way, there is some room for manoeuvre.
Thinking about creating that 90:10 balance might feel like a tall order so here are my top 10 tips for creating a healthy, balanced diet.
- Nothing is banned. In many commercial diets, certain foods are either heavily restricted or banned completely. But, as soon as you are told that something is not allowed, it is almost impossible not to think about that thing. Just see what happens when I tell you not to think about a pink elephant (I know you are now thinking about one – sorry!)
- Allow for normality. Having a balanced mindset about eating means that there is no expectation that you are perfect all the time. This removes the idea that you have to exist in a world where nothing unhealthy is ever eaten. In this way, you are much less likely to throw the towel in should you have a meal or even a day that is not 100% nutritionally balanced.
- Increase fruit and veg. Instead of thinking about the foods you are not going to eat, try increasing the healthy foods you do want to eat. Recent statistics showed that only 26% of adults eat their 5-a-day. Just by doing that, or actually eating 8/10-a-day which is more scientifically backed, you can improve your health, boost your metabolism and reduce your waistline using a much healthier diet.
- Avoid processed food. The very worst possible food to eat is processed. This means it has multiple ingredients and has been created by people, not by nature. Food like this has added salt, sugar and unhealthy fat which will jeopardise your weight reduction and your health. (Foods that I would put in this group are things like cakes, white bread, biscuits, chocolate, fizzy drinks, takeaways, crisps and chips.)
- Drink lots of water. Water helps to raise your metabolism and flush out any toxins you may produce as you reduce your weight. It is also a great thing to have to squash any cravings you might have as it gives you time to consider whether you are really hungry. Aim for about 2 litres per day. I fill a 2-litre bottle at the beginning of the day and make sure it is all gone before bedtime.
- Keep a supply of healthy snacks with you. Hunger is one of the things which can have us reaching for the unhealthier options particularly if we are out and about. Keeping healthy snacks in the car or your bag really can help when you get caught out with a hunger pang.
- Limit your eating out. Sometimes we want or need to eat out as part of our work or socialising but, if you can try to limit this to once or twice per week, it will help you to reduce your weight. You have literally no idea of the ingredients in food someone else has prepared. If you do have to eat out more often try to choose the most natural food on the menu.
- Don’t cut out food groups. There are so many diets which recommend cutting out foods, such as carbohydrates, all together in a bid to lose weight quickly. Your body needs balance, so make sure you eat properly. And remember, denial is likely to cause you to end up cracking!
- Never skip breakfast. I am probably viewed as a bit old fashioned with this view especially with some diets which advocate a period of fasting each night often until mid-morning or lunchtime. Your metabolism slows at night as you sleep and eating breakfast starts it up again. Try to include protein in your breakfast as this is more readily digested in the morning, boosts your metabolism and keeps you fuller for longer.
- Get creative in the kitchen. The more colourful and appetising your food looks, the more likely you are to feel satisfied after eating it. Cook as much of your food as possible from scratch and take time to plan meals which are enticing and appealing. As I mentioned previously in an article on mindful eating, you need all your senses, including your eyes to be involved in the eating process in order to feel satisfied with your food.
The above tips should help you to begin thinking about how you can change your eating habits, so you can attain and maintain your ideal weight, shape and size easily and naturally. It might seem like a long list at first but just chose one tip (my favourite is number 3) to make into a habit today and notice the difference that makes. Habit change is a long-term process, but it is the small changes you make today which make all the difference over time.