For the last few years I’ve been following quite healthy eating habits – not in an obsessive manner though. When a few months ago I graduated from uni and started working full-time, I soon realised that the new lifestyle resulted in my habits getting worse – unhealthy snacks, heavy lunch meals in our on-site bar etc. I spent a while making a plan on how to improve in that field without too much effort and missing out on taste (my goal wasn’t weight loss diet but maintaining a healthy lifestyle that still contains delicious food). Here’s my list of ideas, some of them I’ve been following for a few years, the others for a few months only – but I already know they work for me and I definitely don’t constantly think that I’m missing out on something. Life’s too short to eat food we don’t like after all. 🙂
Find healthier replacements for plain wheat products
Choose whole grain instead of plain pasta, dark instead of white bread, brown instead of white rice – those are the easiest places to find healthier replacements and, if you’re lucky like me and don’t find whole grain products to taste worse or even any different from plain ones, you won’t even notice that you’re eating healthily now (but your body definitely will!). Additionally, venture out and explore other types of grains and grain-like products instead of sticking to pasta and rice. Millet, quinoa, buckwheat, couscous, bulgur, oat groats… the variety of products available in supermarkets is astonishing, there’s no reason to keep your diet boring!
Choose real fruit instead of fruit-flavoured products
This mostly applies to two categories – juices and yoghurts. Most juices that you can buy in a supermarket are made from extra-sweetened fruit concentrates diluted in water – they’re extremely sweet and they’ve mostly lost all the goodness that fruits have to provide. Better eat an apple! The same applies to fruit-flavoured yoghurts which usually contain tons of sugar and barely any real fruit. A natural or Greek yoghurt with a handful of fresh berries is definitely a healthier option.
Plan your snacks
If you often like to have a snack at work and know you won’t avoid it, try to plan them in advance and keep a small supply of thought-through, healthy snacks in your desk instead of using a vending machine filled with junk food. Find snacks that you enjoy eating and which aren’t completely unhealthy and have them at hand. That way you’ll be less tempted to buy much worse ones for immediate consumption. I like to always have a good reserve of a selection of different nuts and dried fruit – they’re not only healthier than regular snacks, but also have very long expiry dates, so you can just buy them once in abundance and store for ages. Unless, of course, having too much would tempt you to eat it all immediately!
Beware ‘healthy’ gluten/fat-free products
First of all, let’s talk about gluten-free products. It’s been a hot topic for quite a while now and I still have a feeling that many people don’t understand it at all. Gluten isn’t your deadly enemy and eliminating it from your diet won’t magically make you healthier. Up to 1% of population suffers from celiac disease and up to 10-15% from gluten sensitivity. For those belonging to either of the two categories gluten-free products are indeed healthy and necessary. But that’s still just the minority of population and definitely not everyone on a gluten-free diet actually needs it. Gluten-free products are supposed to not contain gluten. That’s all. No one says they’re supposed to be healthy! They still contain bad types of sugars and fats, as well as possibly many artificial, harmful ingredients added to replace gluten-containing ones. So if you don’t suffer from gluten intolerance, buying regular products might actually be a lot healthier for you. And definitely a lot cheaper.
Fat-free products are a trap a lot of people fall into. Eliminating fats from our diets won’t automatically make us healthier. They are necessary in the process of absorbing some vitamins and we still should provide them to our bodies – what matters is their quality and avoiding excess consumption. Also, for example, very often sweet products come in low-fat versions. However, a product containing an equivalent of a few tablespoons of white sugar can’t be called ‘healthy’, even when it has no fat, can it?
If you want to make sure you eat healthily – make a habit of reading ingredient lists! Don’t take labels such as ‘gluten-free’, ‘fat-free’, ‘sugar-free’ and so on as a sign of healthy, natural product.
Think twice when you eat out
This is particularly important when you do it often (e.g. have lunch in a bar at work every day). It’s way too easy and tempting to always simply go for the tastiest looking dish on the menu. And if it happens occasionally, it’s fine – but if you do it every single day, it might not be a great idea. At least go for something that’s not deep-fried, swimming in oil – instead, try to choose a plate with tons of fresh vegetables, non-fried meat etc. There should still be plenty of delicious options that meet those restrictions!
And by the way, salads may seem tasty, but they often come with heave dressings, which alone contain a few times more calories than the rest of your salad (so, veggies).
Avoid sweet drinks
This is such a cliché, I know. But honestly, when in doubt – take a bottle of water. One cup of fizzy drink can often contain a few teaspoons of sugar. Same goes for alcohol – you may not realize how high in calories alcohol is!
These are just a few simple ideas that might help you make the first step towards cutting down on unhealthy foods. One thing’s sure – they work for me. 🙂 If you have any other suggestions – share them in the comments below!