Most people are aware that practicing healthy habits, eating well and exercising are essential to our well-being. However, few people acknowledge why it is so important to implement these healthy habits into your day-to-day lifestyle.
One of the most important benefits of healthy eating is that it can help to prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, depression, cancer, arthritis, diabetes and stroke whilst also keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure within a safe range (1).
Also, healthy eating and regular exercising can significantly assist you in avoiding excessive weight gain and improve your overall well-being.
Here are some tips to help you gain the benefits of healthy eating:
Start your day with a healthy breakfast which includes protein e.g. eggs or porridge with nuts and seeds, which will avoid you becoming overly hungry later, which often leads to overeating in the afternoon
Eating a well-balanced diet will provide your body with the fuel it requires to manage your energy levels. A healthy diet should include whole foods such as whole grains, lean meats, fresh fish, pulses, nuts, seeds and a variety of fruits and vegetables
Eat at least 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables (mostly vegetables) every day which are high in vitamins and minerals. (2) Also, they provide antioxidants which help to fight free radical damage at a cellular level which can lead to premature ageing and degenerative diseases. Additionally, vegetables are a good source of fibre which will help keep your digestive tract healthy and maintain healthy levels of good gut bacteria which are linked to a healthy immune system
Healthy fats are essential, such as oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocados providing essential fatty acids to support the nervous system and brain function (3)
It is important that your diet includes plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates to ensure a constant supply of energy. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates as these are high calorie, low nutrient foods and cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate, which not only will make you feel unwell but will lead to insulin resistance (4)
Make sure you have plenty of healthy foods available to snack on when you are feeling hungry such as nuts, seeds, protein bars, energy balls and homemade smoothies. (As a rough guide no more than a handful of nuts otherwise it can be easy to overeat ‘healthy snacks’). Avoid having unhealthy snacks in the house so that you don’t give into temptation when you are hungry
During the cold months, our bodies tend to start craving heartier foods so it is very easy to overeat on high calorie foods. Therefore, try starting all of your meals with some hot soup as this is not only comforting but it will also fill you up more
Ensure that you are hydrated and aim to drink 1½ to 2 litres of water a day. Top tip: have a 1litre water bottle with you and aim to drink 2 a day. Water makes up to 75% of your body weight and every system of your body requires water to function effectively. Water is vital for metabolism and transporting nutrients around the body so even mild dehydration can drain your energy making you feel tired (5)
Bad habits can be hard to break, but once you begin the process of adopting a healthier lifestyle, you will feel energised and you won’t want to eat unhealthy food.
Food is meant to be enjoyed, so enjoy eating healthy food. Adopt the 80/20 rule (you are encouraged to eat healthily 80% of the time and then have some occasional treats) - you must feel free to reward yourself every now and again, but just be careful to not go overboard, and please don’t feel guilty about it. Many people do this by allowing themselves a treat at the weekend, and keep the week really focused on healthy eating and so this helps keep it manageable. If you do experience a slip-up just get right back to your healthy eating habits. The more positive you stay, the easier and more enjoyable healthy eating will become.
As Hippocrates once said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” (Hippocrates ca. 400 BC). Taking the measures to truly begin caring about your body is the first important step to living a healthy lifestyle.
Balance is key…. always aim to eat whole, natural foods and avoid prepackaged, processed food. You are what you eat.