Eat Well – Don’t ‘diet’

In Britain many of the population are already overweight or obese and many more are likely to become overweight in the years to come. Our current lifestyles make it easy for us to develop poor health or gain weight, with so much food available to us and little need for physical activity in our day-to-day lives.

We can improve our health if we eat well and undertake some activity on a regular basis. Eating well is not about starting another ‘diet’ and is not just about losing weight. Eating well is not something that you start and then finish in a few weeks. Eating well is about making choices that can be maintained throughout your lifetime.

When we choose to eat well it may be for one of many reasons:

  • to limit further weight gain
  • achieve modest weight loss
  • get into a regular eating pattern, which might make it easier to resist tempting, high calorie foods
  • balance the variety of food that you eat
  • reduce your tendency to overeat

When choosing to eat well, part of the challenge is to overcome the barriers that may make eating well more difficult. For example, you might find it difficult to eat differently to your friends or you might think that healthier choices are more expensive. Look for advice on overcoming your barriers to eating well.

Weight concerns

Generally, overweight results from eating more than we need on a regular basis.

We eat more than we need when we underestimate the amount of calories in our food and overestimate the calories burned during the activity that we do. While factors like genetics, glands, metabolism, and ageing may contribute to weight gain for a small number of people, these factors can still be overcome with careful eating and regular activity. Overweight and obese people are at a greater risk of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and more, so eating well can be an important step to long-term health.

Check reliable websites like NHS Choices to determine if you might be overweight – checking your waist measurement or Body Mass Index (BMI) will give you a rough indication in most cases. If weight loss is your aim then it is generally recommended that you aim for 1-2 pounds (0.5-1 kg) a week weight loss with an overall target to lose 5-10% of your current body weight.

Take some time to learn how to Eat Well

Over many years you may have developed habits that have lead you to a point where you are now unhealthy or overweight. Learning new, healthy habits will take time. Make just one change at a time, in order to establish a new habit. For example, choose wholemeal bread instead of white bread and establish that as a permanent change before making another change to your eating habits. There is no need to put a time limit on developing changes that will last a lifetime – the important thing is to keep making changes to your habits with the goal of improving your health in the long term.

Eating well for better health will involve:

  • sticking to a regular eating pattern
  • getting a healthier balance/variety of foods
  • reducing the quantity of food that you eat

Your health may also benefit from:

  • reducing the amount of time you spend sitting down
  • increasing your everyday activity – eg: walking to school or work
  • doing more organised activity – eg: team sports or activity classes

To make changes to your lifestyle, you need to have knowledge, skills and the motivation to change. Look for reliable websites that provide healthy eating advice. Think about the skills you might need to develop to assist with your goals – for example, learning how to avoid ‘comfort eating’.

Consider how motivated you are to change. Is it important to you that changes are made? What happens to your health if you don’t make changes? How confident are you that the changes will be successful?

Goal setting

Consider setting goals that are very specific, rather than a general goal. ‘I want to be healthier’ or ‘I want to lose weight’ are not useful goals because they are too vague.

Think in terms of behaviour change goals rather than a target weight. You can no more guarantee yourself a certain weight than you can a certain blood pressure or cholesterol reading.

Behaviour change goals might look like this:

  • Week 1 – use wholemeal bread instead of white bread
  • Week 2 – use semi-skimmed milk instead of full-fat milk
  • Week 3 – take a walk at least 3 days a week
  • Week 4 – stop putting butter on vegetables
  • Week 5 – stop adding sugar to fruit
  • Week 6 – have one meat-free day every week – Meat-free Monday is easy to remember
  • Continue…and tweak…there are always more changes you could make…

Eating well can be simple and inexpensive. Choose simple, nutrient-rich, everyday foods for better health. Over time you will have established healthier habits that enable you to eat well without really thinking about it.

Choose Good Food for Good Health

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5 Goals for Good Health

Developing and maintaining good health need not be difficult. Take steps to achieve these goals that will be the basis of a healthy eating plan and pave the way to better health in the long term. Overall, the goal is to have a healthy lifestyle all year which is so much better for our health than embarking on a short-term diet for a week or two every summer.

Changing how, when and what we eat can help us to look and feel better, provide us with the energy we need to be happy and productive, as well as stave off all manner of illness. When considering ways to improve our eating habits we should think about mealtimes, snacks and drinks, our choices at the supermarket, the recipes we use at home and eating out.

Choose healthy meals – what do healthy meals look like?

Foods from each of the five food groups can be eaten throughout the day. Eating a wide variety of foods will provide the important nutrients we need for good health.

See the Eatwell Guide for information on eating a variety of foods.

For example, a main meal might include:

  • Lean protein – like chicken, fish, eggs or tofu
  • Starchy carbohydrates – such as a small baked potato, brown rice or a wholemeal roll – choose wholemeal or wholegrain options whenever possible
  • Vegetables – try broccoli, spinach or a salad

When shopping at the supermarket choose foods that will make it possible to prepare healthy meals and snacks at home. I like to look out for recipes that encourage me to use ingredients that I haven’t tried before, like different beans and pulses, since I am currently trying to eat less meat for health and sustainability reasons. When eating out choose meals that include proteins and vegetables – for example, a Sunday Roast at the pub is a great choice.

Maintain your energy levels

When we eat the right foods and drink plenty of fluids we can sustain good energy levels throughout the day. A good variety of foods will include a combination of  protein, complex carbohydrates and fibre – for example:

  • Breakfast – wholegrain cereal with milk, fruit, juice, tea or coffee
  • Lunch – an egg sandwich made with wholemeal bread, yoghurt, fruit, water
  • Dinner – Jacket potato with beans and side salad, fruit, water, tea or coffee

Healthy snacks between meals may help us to avoid hunger, fatigue, food cravings and energy slumps. Healthy snacks should consist of a drink and a small amount of food that also incorporates a combination of  protein, complex carbohydrates and fibre – for example:

  • fruit, a small piece of cheese, water, tea or coffee
  • crackers with homous or nut butter, vegetable crudités (eg cucumber or carrots), water, tea or coffee

Keeping your fluid intake consistently high is a surprisingly effective way to maintain your energy levels, so we should aim to drink at least two litres of fluid every day (includes water, milk, juice, tea, coffee).

Eat a proper breakfast

Don’t skip breakfast since your energy levels will already be low after a night’s sleep.

Eat a healthy, filling breakfast that includes protein – such as milk, yoghurt, nuts and seeds, beans, eggs, or meat. Don’t forget your starchy carbohydrates and fibre, as found in cereal, muesli, porridge or wholemeal toast. Whenever possible avoid highly processed foods with added sugar (such as some breakfast cereals).

When short on time grab a yoghurt and fruit before leaving the house and eat these while travelling or at work.

Choose good fats for great health

Some fats are beneficial to the body and it is necessary to have fat in our diet for optimal health, including good hair, skin, nails and a well-functioning body.

Healthy fats are naturally found in a range of foods, including:

  • Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna steaks, trout, and sardines)
  • Avocadoes
  • Olives
  • Raw nuts and their oils (eg: walnut oil)
  • Seeds
  • Wheatgerm

Choose healthy fats instead of saturated fats (like butter) for better health.

Treat yourself occasionally

If you choose healthy options at least 80 percent of the time it is possible to eat the occasional dessert or enjoy a party without feeling guilty. If there are times when chocolate becomes a necessity, have a few squares of good quality dark chocolate – preferably with more than 70% cocoa (the higher the cocoa content, the lower the sugar and fat content).

As long as treats are occasional (that is, not every day) and do not become a habit, we can indulge occasionally.

Learning about healthier options and establishing good eating habits can help us to develop and maintain better health. The goal of good health is within our reach.

Enjoy Good Food for Good Health

Plant-based eating

There is more and more discussion of the need for us all to eat a sustainable diet and many people are adopting plant-based diets for a variety of reasons, including health, ethical and environmental reasons.

In general, a sustainable diet is one that includes more plant-based foods and fewer animal-sourced foods, such as meat and dairy foods. It is not necessary to exclude any food groups to have a sustainable diet.

Plant-based meals can be delicious and filling. In addition plant-based meals are often less expensive than meat-based meals. A plant-based meal could contain vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and fruits.

oats2Examples of simple plant-based meals

  • Muesli or porridge with fruit and/or nuts
  • Toast with bananas, peanut butter  or avocado
  • Oatcakes with homous
  • Butternut squash soup
  • Black bean chilli with rice
  • Risotto with mushrooms
  • Pasta with pesto, olives or sun-dried tomatoes

Plant food groups have been found to be the most protective against diet-related chronic diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes. To optimize health it is important to eat a wide variety of plant foods in order to obtain sufficient vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phyto-chemicals (plant nutrients).

A plant-based diet need not result in nutritional deficiencies. The nutrients most likely to be lacking from a plant-based diet are iron, vitamin B12 and calcium, but we don’t need to eat a lot of meat and dairy foods to obtain these nutrients. For example, eating meat just three times a week, along with a good variety of grains, pulses, nuts, fruits and vegetables, enables us to avoid iron deficiency.

Plant-based eating is easy and inexpensive. Choose simple, everyday foods and make just a few changes to your favourite recipes – for example, try quorn mince in your spaghetti bolognaise sauce (my husband has never noticed that I changed to quorn mince…shhh!).

Enjoy Good Food for Good Health