We all know that eating healthily is key to better wellbeing, but the term is so often associated with sacrifice, confusion, expense and plain hard work.
So let’s ban the term ‘healthy eating’ altogether. Let’s call it ‘eating for #Enerjoy!’ instead. Food should taste great, it should be easy to eat and prepare and above all, give you the right type of energy to get the most out of life!
Although the concept of good nutrition goes back a long way, even to 400 B.C. when the great Hippocrates pronounced “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food”, the fact is, nutrition as a science is still in its early stages. With countless myths and fad diets, eating ‘healthy’ can seem so complicated and confusing, and, unless you’re a complete saint, so hard to do on a consistent basis. The latest evidence even suggests that we are all so different that there is no one-size fits all approach to nutrition. Add to that our unhelpful food environment, be it ‘healthy’ claims on ultra-processed foods, supersizing in restaurants or the type of food available to us when we’re on-the-go, it’s no wonder most of us struggle at times to know what we should or should not be eating.
It doesn’t have to be a daunting task! The secret, I believe, is an ‘everything in moderation’ approach, being pragmatic and above all, keeping things simple.
Try this easy-to-follow framework which, I believe, puts the easy into eating! It’s a model I’ve adapted over the years, based on advice from the British Nutrition foundation, the Swedish government’s dietary guidelines and my own experience.
Eat better in 5 easy bites
1. Cook simple meals from scratch
The great thing about this is that it makes you gradually become less dependent on processed foods. Your house will smell delicious and you’re more likely to sit around the table with the family. You’ll save money too! As a starting point, head to the recipe section.
Top tip: Planning ahead means you get in the right ingredients to cook from scratch
2. Eat more variety of plant-based foods
These include wholegrains, veg, fruit, berries, nuts and seeds.
Here’s why this is good:
- The foods we eat are combinations of many nutrients and all these nourish our bodies in different ways. That’s why it makes sense to eat a diversity of foods, as much variety as we can.
- Plant-based foods tend to be higher in fibre. Current recommendations are to eat 30g of fibre a day and actually, as a nation we eat around half that. Fibre helps us feel fuller for longer and keeps our digestive system healthy. It not only keeps us regular, it's super gut-friendly as it feeds our gut microbiota. According to the latest science, gut health is the key to a better immune system, a healthy weight and improved mental health.
- Eating more plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds and avocados helps increase our intake of healthy, unsaturated fats. These reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and may even play a role in improving your mood and cognitive function. Fats also help transport fat soluble vitamins
Top tip: Fill half your plate with colourful vegetables, at lunch and dinner.
3. Find your balance
We hear over and over again that eating well is all about balance. But what does a balanced diet actually mean?
Firstly, it’s about not cutting out whole food groups such as fats or carbs – this is not only hard to sustain but can also deprive the body of essential nutrients. It’s important to understand the role of macro nutrients (carbs, protein and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) (here’s the link to our free downloadable resources which explain these) but the fact is most foods contain a range of these nutrients, so it’s easiest to find your balance by eating a combination of the following:
- Fruit and veg – your 5+ a day!
- Wholegrains and starchy veg – wholemeal bread, oats, wholemeal pasta and brown rice, sweet potato, squash, that sort of thing
- Fish, meat, eggs, beans, pulses, lentils, nuts and seeds
- Dairy or dairy alternatives
A variety of the above will help your body get the nutrients it needs, help sustain your energy levels, improve your sleep, concentration, focus and mood, and strengthen your immune system. If you have children, you’ll notice a difference in behaviour too. So you can all #Enerjoy! your life.
Top tip: combining slow-releasing, unrefined carbs (eg. brown bread or sweet potatoes) with sources of protein (e.g. chicken, eggs or beans) will keep you fuller for longer and sustain energy levels
4. Eat ‘real’ food
If you focus on either fresh food or packaged foods with shorter ingredients lists (which you can recognise) you’ll find that you’ll reduce the amount of ‘ultra-processed’ foods you put in your shopping trolley. Eating fewer foods with ingredients you’ve never heard of will, as a general rule, lower your intake of salt, saturated fats and sugar in your diet.
Here are some simple upgrades you can make at home to up your ‘real’ food game
- Upgrade your cereal cupboard. Swap packaged cereals for alternative breakfasts such as porridge or overnight oats, homemade granola, healthy pancakes or simple eggs on toast
- Upgrade your goody cupboard. Swap highly processed and high sugar biscuits and cakes for homemade treats and less processed snacks with simple, recognisable ingredients such as Go Bites and nuts and seeds.
- Upgrade your fridge. Swap sugary fruit yoghurts and dessert pots for natural yoghurt with fruit and a drizzle of honey, processed meats such as salami for cooked chicken breast or plant-based alternatives like hummus, high sugar sports drinks, processed protein shakes and fizzy drinks for water, fruit juices in moderation and, if you like fizzy, for flavoured unsweetened waters.
Top tip: swap packaged cereals for homemade granola
5. Think about calories in a new wayLife’s too short to count calories! What really helps though, is to think about the quality of the calories you eat and the benefits those calories can give you to nourish your body and give you the right type of energy.
Let’s compare the energy you’ll get from a bowl of chocolate Krave cereal to those in a poached egg on a slice of wholemeal toast or porridge with fruit and almond butter, for instance.
The latter two will provide a fantastic source of sustaining carbohydrate, quality protein, healthy fats, vitamins, fibre and other nutrients, nutrients which occur naturally in the food.
The former highly processed sugary cereal will provide a short-lived energy spike, and limited nutrients – ‘empty’ calories! Maybe fine for a treat if you like that sort of thing, but not a great idea for your everyday breakfast if you want your energy levels, concentration and focus to last until lunchtime.
If you are extremely active, training for a marathon for instance, or if you have very active children, the amount of calories you consume everyday will be more than those who are more sedentary. Your child will not only need to fuel his or her exercise, but also extra calories to fuel growth. Likewise as an active adult, you’ll need to consume enough calories to fuel your training, to recover adequately after training and to keep your muscles healthy. Limiting your calorie intake can lead to injury and lack of energy.
Top tip: think about all the benefits good calories can give you: better energy, healthier skin, hair and nails, stronger bones!