Most of us try to develop healthier eating habits at the beginning of the year. Chances are you’ve spent Christmas overeating – and doing so for the weird time between Christmas and New Year where you forget what day it is or what your name even is. Trying to eat a more balanced diet is good, it’s healthier. But, as with most healthy things I find, it can be difficult to achieve.
For some people it’s even more important for their health to mind what they are eating: if you’ve got IBS, diabetes, anemia, food intolerances, etc. So this week, in honour of sticking to our goals that we set last week, here are a few things that I’ve found helpful when it comes to adopting a healthier and more balanced diet.
Figure out what your needs are
We all have different dietary needs. These, as well as your goals can determine what your diet should be. Are you wanting to gain more muscle? To lose some weight? To feel more energised? To overall just eat healthier? Or to correspond to your dietary restrictions better? Whatever your case is, figure out what will work for you and figure out a plan from there.
The easiest at the start is to find some recipes and make a meal plan. That way you won’t be walking around the shop aimlessly for hours trying to figure out what you could eat. When that happens to me, I usually end up picking something up that I shouldn’t. So to avoid future guilt – or an upset stomach – have a plan.
I don’t know many people that don’t overeat during the holiday season. The stores are filled with so many tasty and comforting foods that it’s hard to resist the temptation. However, it’s important not to overeat all the time. I know I’m guilty of that, either making too much food (measuring the correct amount of rice or pasta is impossible in my opinion) or trying to avoid wasting food. I would rather eat too much, even to the point of feeling sick, over throwing food out.
It’s definitely not healthy to do that. Try to listen to your body. If you’re not hungry anymore, put the rest in a Tupperware and eat it over the next few days or invite a friend over for dinner. Quite often, we make more food then we actually need, thinking “oh that’s probably not going to be enough, I better add a bit more of that”. You can try eating slightly smaller portions and have more of them throughout the day. This is recommended for people with IBS for example, as it makes it easier for your body to digest things and make it harder for you to overeat.
Avoid skipping meals
Skipping meals isn’t good. It’s just as bad as overeating because you are not giving your body the fuel it needs to keep going. I’ve started becoming guilty of this when the low-FODMAP diet drastically limited what foods I could eat. So when I’d have a full day in uni, I would only snack a bit and have a real meal 10 hours after having had my breakfast. It’s easy to forget to have a meal if you’re very busy, or to prioritise work over having breakfast or lunch.
Find ways to make it easier for you to eat: bring your own food, buy something the night before that you can eat cold or microwave or find a nice café that makes nice, quick lunches and has free WiFi. Finding someone to have food with can also encourage you to eat. Try out different ways and find the one that works best for you!
Have a good breakfast
Tying in with the previous paragraph, do not skip breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day because having a good breakfast will give you energy for the whole day. It’s my favourite meal and I genuinely cannot start my day until I’ve eaten something. However I know that a lot of people don’t like eating in the morning because they’re not hungry and the thought of eating something turns their stomach. If that’s your case, pack a breakfast to eat later on.
The easiest is to pack a good breakfast the night before so that you don’t have to worry about it in the morning. If you can’t be bothered making something, there is bound to be a café or a store on your way to work or uni. Go in, grab something quick and pop it in your bag for later. I’m sure that you will feel the positive effects of having a good breakfast soon.
Have a lighter dinner
Having a large, hearty meal shortly before going to bed can negatively impact your sleep. Your stomach will need so much energy to digest the food that your sleep quality will greatly suffer. Many people then have nightmares, can’t fall asleep for ages or wake up a lot that night. To avoid this, try having a lighter meal at night. This could mean not overdoing it on the carbs, having fish instead of meat and having a good side of veggies.
Whatever it could look like for you, the most important thing is to avoid eating large quantities before bed. Your body will have all this energy from the large amount of food it’s digesting that it won’t know what to do with because you’ll be asleep. If it’s evening time and you’re feeling peckish but aren’t starving, don’t make a huge meal for yourself. Having something light to satisfy your hunger will make you feel much better and less sluggish than not listening to your body and forcing too much food into it.
Find healthy(-ish) alternatives
We all get cravings. For all you gals out there, PMS and the cravings are very much real. When you’re trying to eat healthier, getting cravings for crisps, Maccies, chocolate, pizza – and anything else that tastes good but isn’t good for you – can be very tough. As if not being able to eat what you want all the time wasn’t hard enough (mentally roll your eyes).
I found that ignoring these cravings is not possible. So I suggest that you find some healthier alternatives to your favourite snacks. Popchips are SO good, better than normal crisps in my opinion. Sparkling water is great when you’re craving a fizzy drink. If you’re lactose intolerant but can’t go without milk chocolate, NOMO chocolate and Tesco brand dairy-free chocolate buttons are amazing. Whatever you’re craving, you are bound to find something that will fulfil it while also being slightly healthier. You might have to try different ones but I’m sure you’ll find something eventually!
Snacking is normal. We all get a bit peckish every now and then. I think that snacking has a really bad reputation, but it’s not as bad as it seems if you do it sensibly. First, make sure you choose something good to snack on. If we’re talking ideals, nuts would be the best. However, if you’re not that much of a health nut, pun intended, oatcakes, fruit or dark chocolate are also good snacks. They should give you some energy to keep going. If you’re really craving something “unhealthy”, limit how much you have of it by putting it in a bowl rather than eating straight from the bag.
Don’t snack too close to your meal times. I find it helpful to eat when I’m having a bit of a slump, usually around 4pm. Having a small snack when you’re feeling tired and slightly sluggish can help give you a small boost. Have a tea or coffee with it for maximum effect. But more importantly, stay hydrated. Coffee and black tea don’t hydrate you, they only make you pee. So drink lots of water. Sometimes when you’re craving something, your body really just needs water. So have a glass of water before reaching for the crisps.
Have 1 protein and 1 vegetable on your plate
Whenever I’m having a meal, I like to have a protein and a veggie on my plate. It’s just a way to make myself eat more of my “5 a day”. Depending on your situation, protein might be meat or something plant-based. But ensuring that you don’t just have carbs on my plate helps make sure you get all the nutrients you need from food such as iron, vitamins and fibre. If you’ve been around for a while, you might remember me saying I’m not a great cook. If you feel that way too, this technique can help you eat more varied things.
Eat a balanced diet
The most important thing about your diet is making sure that it’s balanced. By this, I mean that you should eat a bit of everything (where possible), even if it’s not always the healthiest. Balance means eating well but also allowing yourself to eat something that’s not necessarily the most nutritious – if you go out for a meal for instance.
Balance is important in every area of your life, for example when we’re told about the importance of work-life balance. Eating a balanced diet ensures that you get all the nutrients you need from having different kinds of food while not restricting yourself too much. Which brings me to the last point in this post.
Don’t forget to treat yourself
When deciding to eat better, a lot of people restrict what they eat immensely. This can make it that much harder to keep up a healthy diet. You’ll get more cravings and feel bad about not allowing yourself to satisfy these. So as I mentioned previously, balance is key. If you are eating better, it doesn’t mean that you can’t treat yourself every once in a while. On the contrary, you should! I’m not saying to have fast-food 4 nights a week, but going out for a meal here and there or having some crisps or chocolate one day won’t mean the end of the world.
So don’t beat yourself up if you eat something you shouldn’t really be eating. You’ll make up for it by having a healthy day the next day for example (that’s balance right there for you). And treating yourself, not feeling deprived of everything you enjoy eating, will help you stick to this healthier eating long-term. If you like treating yourself a little too much – like I do – go back to the point I made about finding healthier alternatives!
So that’s this week’s post, I hope you find it helpful. If you’re trying to adopt a healthier way of eating, it’s no easy task. But you can do it. Find some easy and healthy recipes you love, find some good alternative snacks and enjoy your treats even more when you don’t have them as much. I hope you have a lovely week, come follow me on Instagram (@relatablesunday) and I will see you on Sunday (hopefully) with a new post!