So, you’ve made the resolution to eat healthier during 2023. But what does this mean, and importantly, what is the best way to stick to a heathier diet?
Many of us don’t feel at our best after over-indulgence during the Festive period and so kick starting the New Year with good intentions for a healthy diet is a common goal.
And Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer is on hand to say “you can do it” as she provides inspiration and motivation with her five top tips for maintaining a healthy eating plan.
Firstly, and, most importantly, be realistic about what you are prepared to change but also will still enjoy eating. There is no point in picking a fad diet plan that includes foods that you don’t like; you will quickly fail and become demotivated.
Instead, don’t be a slave to the scales; if you’re eating healthier, the chances are weight loss will happen, as processed foods cause digestive, hormonal and mood disruptions which all have a negative impact on weight loss.
Always remember, this plan is a new start for the rest of your life. It’s important to aim for a nutritionally balacned diet in order to achieve the best outcomes and also, hopefully, protect future health and longevity.
We’ve all heard of the Government recommendations to eat five portions of fruits and veggies a day. This is great advice and has bundles of research to support it (indeed the more fruits and veggies the better).
However, it can be confusing and time-consuming to know how much a portion of each fruit and vegetable is; a portion of tomatoes is different to a portion of berries, for example. Therefore, just look at the amount of colour on your plate at every meal.
Choose fruits and vegetables that you enjoy and that you are happy to eat daily, and then have fun with the number of different colours you can get onto the plate. As I always say, colour equals nutrients, so the more colour you have, the more nutrients you will be consuming. Make the process enjoyable rather than a chore.
Be aware of portion sizes
If weight loss is part of your heathier plan, then you do need to be looking at portion sizes. Whilst calorie-controlled eating is not sustainable and has research to suggest it may be detrimental to a weight loss programme, it’s very important to be aware of how much you are eating. And if you are snacking throughout the day, you may not actually be eating loads of calories, but it will affect your metabolism, making fat storage more likely.
It’s good for the body to feel hungry sometimes too. We have got very used to the availability of food in the developed world and it’s in front of us throughout the day. Once you start to take control of the situation, rather than food controlling you, changes will start to happen.
Become a label guru
Always look at food labels which show you the amount of fat, sugars and salt in food. When reviewing the full ingredients list, if you don’t know what something is on the label, then try to avoid it completely. One of the big issues we have in our foods is that the processing and packaging of them frequently requires other chemicals to be used, including artificial flavourings, as well as sugar in many different guises.
The problem with chemicals is that they are gut disruptors and once the good gut bacteria become imbalanced, an inflammatory cascade starts within the body, which not only affects health but also the ability to control weight. Aim to become much more mindful about what you are putting into your body; the nearer the food is to its natural state – how it started life – the healthier and more nutritious it will be.
Ditch the junk
If you’re starting a healthier eating plan, then junk food really needs to be out of the diet completely or as a treat only. Maybe you have one day a week where you eat what you want and enjoy it. However, this needs to be limited and controlled for the best outcomes.
Fizzy drinks, especially the diet kind, are some of the worst offenders. The chemicals in them disrupt mood, encourage weight gain, discourage retraining our taste buds to want less-sweet foods, and can cause damage to the bones and gut.
Many people are literally addicted to them, so there may need to be a weaning off period, but the rewards are there. Equally, ultra-processed foods are not going to serve your health well. Try to redress the balance in your diet, so they don’t predominate.
Changes won’t happen overnight, but they WILL happen if you’re consistent. Always remember, not every day will be perfect but keep going – you can do this!
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