Healthy eating: Take one step at a time

Think of healthy eating as if it were a journey – “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.

Improving your health or quality of life can be as simple as making just one step every day or, even, every week. Think of something that you could do this week that could improve your health…there is plenty of advice available online or in magazines, so choose something that might work for you. Try just one thing at a time, rather than trying to change your whole diet and lifestyle in one go, obsessing over a new healthy eating regime and exercising manically (how did your New Years Resolutions fare this year?)

Although I started my journey towards better health some time ago, there is always more that I can do. Last month I decided that I would stop buying honey because it is a weakness of mine and it was adding too much sugar to my diet. This week I am trying chia seed porridge, just to expand my range of healthy breakfast choices. I have to say that on the first day of this trial period I found the porridge unappetising – a gloopy mixture with no real taste. However I added a teaspoon of sugar-free fruit spread which made it edible. I will persevere this week and see if this is an option that might work for me. By the way, I used only one tablespoon of chia seeds and 8 tablespoons of cold milk (then left the mixture in the fridge overnight), so this is not an expensive option and is quick to make, though forethought is required.

So what could you change this week? Take a ‘back-to-basics’ approach, because getting the basics right can make lifestyle changes much more sustainable in the long term.

Work towards a balanced diet

Most of us have seen a version of the plate (or pyramid) that represents healthy eating, so start thinking about whether the meals you eat in the day are similar to these models. Do you eat from all of the food groups – fruit and vegetables (5-a-day minimum), protein foods, dairy foods, starchy foods, fats and sugars? Do you eat more junk food or takeaways than fruit and vegetables? Take a step to rectify the balance by eating at least an extra piece of fruit or another vegetable every day (for extra fibre, vitamins and minerals) and build from there. If you already eat some vegetables, increase the amount – at meal times serve the vegetables first, being sure to cover at least half of your plate, then add lean protein and starchy foods (about one-quarter of the plate each). Alternatively, start to cook with healthy fats, like rapeseed and olive oil.

Look for ‘hidden’ sugars

Sugar in processed food is not actually hidden – if sugar is in a product it is written on the food label and is easy enough to see. Have you had a look at the food labels of savoury products – ham? chorizo slices? tomato sauce? pesto? mayonnaise? Yep, sugar is found in all of these.

Start looking at food labels and start to weed out the foods that contain various forms of sugar, including honey and syrups.

Plan meals and snacks

Think about the meals and snacks that you could have during the week and write a shopping list if you need to stock up the cupboards or refrigerator. Or, if you have busy week ahead prepare and freeze a few meals ahead of time in order to avoid reliance on takeaways or snacks.

Drink water

Replace all of your soft drinks and squashes with water. Limit juice or smoothies to just 150ml each day. Drink 200 ml of milk each day. Drink tea and coffee without sugar. Just one of these choices counts as a step towards a healthier lifestyle.

Taking one small step at a time will make the path towards healthy eating infinitely easier. At first it can be difficult to avoid gooey chocolate goodies, sugar-laden cereals, ready meals and fast-food outlets. The good news is that you can choose to make the most of your free will and soon your default setting will be to choose healthier options. Along the way you may need to exercise self-control, taking personal responsibility for your health, but in time you will realise that you are saying ‘no thanks’ because you no longer have a taste for some foods. Personally, I can no longer eat deep-fried fish and chips because I find them so oily.

Take a step towards a healthier lifestyle this week by choosing a step that suits you – a step that doesn’t leave you hungry or feeling deprived. In fact, add something to your diet, like a piece of fruit or a glass of milk, either of which will provide multiple health benefits. Your journey can start today.

Enjoy Good Food for Good Health

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