It’s not difficult to switch to a healthy diet. The key is education: which foods are good for you, which should you eat more of and which should you avoid. Below are some easy-to-follow tips on mastering a healthy diet. However, if you are seriously overweight, make sure you contact a doctor and/or a health professional before getting started.
If you would like more advice on following a healthy diet you can attend counseling or one-to-one sessions organised by the Ministry of Health. For more information, click here.
1. One step at a time
If you want to eat healthily, don’t make drastic changes overnight. If you do so, the chances are that you will only manage to keep up the new regime for a short while and will soon find yourself reverting back to old habits.
Make small steps like switching your portion of fries to baked potatoes or a salad and changing from butter to olive oil in your cooking.
2. Moderation is key
What is moderation? What is a moderate amount? This really depends on you and your eating habits. The goal of eating healthy is to develop habits that you can maintain for life. And despite what certain diets tell you, we all need a balance of all the food groups: carbohydrates, protein, fat, fibre, vitamins and minerals to sustain a healthy body.
Rather than making certain foods off limits, try to reduce portions. Sometimes telling ourselves we can’t eat something only makes us crave it more. By reducing portions or quantity, you will probably end up craving them less and less.
And don’t forget to drink water! The recommended amount is two litres of water a day.
3. It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat
Eat with others: Eating with others has many benefits and allows you to learn from others. Avoid eating in front of TV or computer as this often leads to mindless overeating.
Chew your food and enjoy mealtimes: We tend to rush though our meals, forgetting to actually taste the flavours and feel the textures of our food.
Listen to your body: Sometimes we eat when we are just thirsty. Drink a glass of water to see if you are thirsty instead of hungry. During a meal, stop eating before you feel full. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly.
Eat breakfast: A healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism, and eating small, healthy meals throughout the day keeps your energy up and your metabolism going.
Avoid eating at night: Try to eat your last meal earlier in the day. Studies show that eating only when you’re most active and giving your digestive system a long break each day may help to regulate weight.
4. Fruit and Fibre
Try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day and with every meal—the brighter the better. Did you know that colourful, deeply colored fruits and vegetables contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants? Think kale, broccoli, carrots, corn, apples and oranges. Aim for a minimum of five portions each day.
Also aim for healthy carbs. These include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. Healthy carbs are digested slowly, helping you feel full longer and keeping blood sugar and insulin levels stable. Avoid unhealthy carbs such as white flour, refined sugar and white rice as these have far less nutrients, are digested quickly and cause spikes in blood sugar levels and energy.
5. Healthy Fats VS Bad Fats
Good fats mean healthy hair and a healthy brain. Try to eat monounsaturated fats like plant oils like canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil, as well as avocados, nuts, and seeds. Also look out for polyunsaturated fats, including Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and some cold water fish oil supplements.
6. Protein and Calcium
Protein helps us grow, keeps muscle mass at a healthy level and makes the heart and respiratory system strong. It is especially important for children who are still growing.
Sources of protein include:
Beans: e.g. black beans and navy beans
Grains: e.g. quinoa and lentils
Nuts: e.g. almonds, walnuts and pistachios
Soy products: e.g. tofu, soy milk and tempeh
The grain quinoa is also very high in protein and makes a great, healthy alternative to starchier foods such as pasta.
Calcium helps keep our bones strong. Good sources of calcium include:
Dairy: e.g. milk, yogurt and cheese
Vegetables and greens: e.g. turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, celery, broccoli, fennel, cabbage and asparagus
Beans: e.g. black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans and white beans
7. Less sugar and salt
Sugar can cause ups and downs in our energy levels. Too much sugar also makes us put on weight and damages our teeth. To reduce your sugar intake:
Avoid sugary foods: like sweets, cakes and chocolate. Even soft drinks and some fruit juices are full of sugar
Sweeten food yourself: buy unsweetened ice tea, yogurt, etc and sweeten yourself with sweetener or fruit and honey in the case of yogurt
Eat naturally sweet foods: like fruit, peppers, dried fruit and nuts