We're a few weeks into the new year with most of us are working hard to keep those New Year's resolutions to be healthier, but if they've fallen by the wayside and you need a little extra help, there are some simple ways to reboot your eating habits for a healthier you. It can be easy over the winter months to eat the wrong foods, but there are some simple ways to change your eating habits and feel healthier as a consequence. So, here are some ways to reboot your eating habits and help you feel great in the process.
1. Partner with Protein
Protein is your best friend when it comes to meals, so make sure that you include protein with all your meals. This could come in the form of low-fat dairy, fish, lean meat or eggs. If you're meat-free, then plant based proteins are your best buds. Lentils, butter beans, quinoa, nuts, seeds and chickpeas all contain those essential amino acids that can be found in animal protein. Adding protein to your meal will help curb those sweet cravings and keep you feeling fuller for longer. This is one of the simplest ways to reboot your eating habits for a healthier you this year.
2. Swap Those Snacks
Take a closer look at your snacking habits. Are you reaching for the cookie jar or the secret drawer under your desk where you've stashed away those candy bars? Yeah, you thought I didn't know about that one. Well, we all know that a treat every now and then won't do much harm but you should also think about swapping those high calorie sweet treats for ones which are a little kinder on the waistline in the long run. For example, opt for fruit and nuts, and instead of potato chips, make yourself some homemade apple chips. One of my favourite sweet snacks, which gives me the sweet satisfaction I need and is naturally nutritious, is a dried fig stuffed with almonds. Three of these when the mid-afternoon Cookie Monster comes a calling and I can send him on his merry way.
3. Go Crazy with Colour
Jelly Beans don't count here, I'm afraid. I know they're colourful but we're going for the natural kind of colouring and not the ones that give sweets and cakes their beautiful hues. Have you ever noticed how the food which is bad for you is predominantly beige in colour? Pastries = beige. Bread = beige. Fried chicken = beige. The brighter the colors of your food, the more interesting and nutrient-rich they are. Nature is amazing and has the capacity to make some amazing foods. We on the other hand make a lot of beige stuff, which in excess, can be bad for you as it's highly refined and carbohydrate heavy. Colour up your plate instead with a delicious stir fry consisting of red and yellow bell peppers, purple sprouting broccoli and green beans. It will be an assault on the senses as you indulge in this colourful creation.
4. Be Label Wise
I don't think people should spend hours and hours looking at the food labels because life's too short for that, but being a little more label wise will help you make better choices when shopping. As a rule of thumb, foods should have 3g of fat or less per 100g and 1.5g of saturated fat. Also, look at the sugar content. Quite often, food which is labelled as low fat is actually high in sugar, defeating the object methinks! Look for 5g or less of total sugars per 100g.
5. Try Something New Today
And next week and the week after. In fact, see if you can try something new as often as you can. There are always new foods that people are raving about and say you must try. There are probably many exotic fruits and vegetables that you have passed by in the aisles, as you've mindlessly packed your trolley full of the same ingredients you do every week. Why not try a different grocery store? I find that if I shop in the same store for a few weeks, my buying habits start to stagnate and I know it's time to try another store, just to shake things up a little. It means that I often end up buying different produce. Strange how the brain works!
6. Have Fun Cooking
I believe everyone can cook and if you're sitting there thinking no, not me, I promise that you can too. If I can cook, anyone can. It just takes a little imagination and a little inventiveness with ingredients and you will be able to create a healthy meal and have fun in the process. Why not have a Come Dine with Me Evening with your friends? If you haven't heard of this, it's a game show in which a group of people compete against each other by hosting a dinner party for the other contestants. They then have to score each other out of 10. It's very entertaining and obviously there is some strategic point scoring, but it's fun nevertheless.
7. A New Recipe a Month
I always say it to my students and feel like a dinosaur when I do, but we are so lucky to have information literally at our fingertips. I remember being at school and being shown this new mysterious device called the World Wide Web on a computer in our school library. We all huddled round and the librarian showed us what it could do as we watched in awe at nothing much happening for a while because it was so slow. Anyway, my point is that there are so many blogs and recipe ideas out there, you could set yourself the challenge of cooking something new and exciting every month.
These are a few ways to change your eating and cooking habits and see changes. What would you recommend as healthy eating and cooking resolutions for this year?