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

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

Healthy choices: the lowdown

In the first 10 days of my 30 day blogging challenge I have tried to provide an overview of a healthy diet and the healthy choices that we can make in our everyday lives. Did you catch all of last weeks posts?

DIET: One thing we all have in common

BALANCE: What is a balanced diet? –

Healthy eating: Think VARIETY

Next step: A sustainable diet

Healthy choices: SPRING into action

Healthy choices: Breakfast options

Healthy choices: How healthy is your LUNCH

You can access any of these posts (and more!) by checking out the menu on the right of the page

Each person’s diet is made up of the food and drink which may provide important nutrients that benefit their health. Recently news items have highlighted that food manufacturers and the government should take responsibility for making changes to food, drinks and our environment that will assist us all with making healthier choices. While this is true, it is also true that if we wait for these corporations and our government to make changes we will be waiting a long time for any discernible results.

It is important that each of us takes responsibility for our own health. We can each make healthy choices today that can benefit our health in a very short period of time. The food and drink we eat can be changed relatively easily and our taste buds soon get used to the taste of a greater variety of foods.

Keep an eye on my blog for more information in the coming days and follow me on Facebook and Twitter for even more hints, tips and updates.