Getting healthier (and thinner) doesn’t have to be complicated. A few smart tweaks is often the only thing any meal plan needs to go from problematic to helping you power through. We’re here to simplify everything to give you nine healthy eating habits that will transform your approach to breakfast, lunch, dinner and every snack in between.
The trick is to pick up one of these healthy eating habits each week, and stick to that habit zealously for the next seven days. Then, tag in another until you’ve mastered every healthy eating habit on this list. Let’s get to learning:
1. Swap to Whole Grains
Most grainy supermarket products contain either whole grains or a refined version. Just pick up a cereal box and scan the nutritional facts: you’ll quickly learn which kind is inside.
The big difference between these grains? The clue is in the word “whole”. Whole grains contain the entire grain (bran, germ and endosperm), which means they’re loaded with fibre. Refined grains have been milled to remove germ and bran.
Fibre doesn’t just aid the digestive process, it has been shown to benefit the immune system and your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Skipping the refined grains in favour of their “whole” siblings can be one of the smartest tweaks to your meal plan.
2. Steer Clear of Unhealthy Fats
If you haven’t heard yet, the old science is out: fat is good for you. Well, not all fats. Instead of scanning for fat-free fare, keep your eyes peeled for saturated fats and trans fats. Trans fats, for instance, have been shown to spike your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. On the flip side, eating a diet consisting of 8% to 10% monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can improve your heart health and reduce your risks of heart disease.
3. Nix Your Salt Intake
A little bit of salt (sodium) goes a long way. Too much? You could be wrecking your health. According to the World Health Organizaiton (WHO), almost everyone across the globe is consuming an excessive amount of this seasoning. In fact, adults are eating 4,310mg of sodium per day (around two teaspoons) which is more than double the recommended amount.
Overindulging on sodium can cause your blood pressure to skyrocket putting you at serious risk of heart disease or a stroke. The WHO suggests trying the following tips to reduce your intake:
- Eat fresh, unprocessed food;
- Stick to low-sodium products;
- Half the amount of salt used in your recipes;
- Use other spices and herbs to flavour your food;
- Ditch the condiments or whip up your own low-sodium ones at home;
- Cut out processed foods (that includes takeaways); and
- Keep your salt shaker out of arm’s reach.
4. Load Up on Fruit and Vegetables
It’s recommended that we eat around five portions (400g) of fruit and vegetables every day. But SA’s report card is in, and we’re falling dangerously short of a passing grade. On average, guys are only getting 235g daily.
Eating these fibrous morsels can drastically reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases and many types of cancer. It’s time to put greens back on the menu. Here are a few sleeper hits you can grab from the produce section on your next trip to the shops:
Rip open a bag of frozen kernels and you’ll find what canned ones lack: flavour. Plus, the blanching that corn goes through before its deep freeze can raise levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that fight vision loss, by as much as 120%, according to research in India.
One cup of raw spinach is loaded with magnesium, a mineral necessary for our bodies in the energy process, Goldstein notes. Popeye was right about this green veggie, but instead of canned spinach try organic.
Low in calories and high in fibre, asparagus also contains asparagine, an essential amino acid that helps break down brown fat. Bottom line: if you’re trying to lose weight, a few sprigs will keep you satiated while putting the torch to your flab.
Basically devoid of calories (there are only 34 in every 100g of this superfood) and high in fibre, vitamin C and water, this green machine may be able to help ramp up weight loss. Vit C, especially, has both anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties that may help you shed the extra kilos.
HEALTHY EATING HABIT PRO TIP: If you’re not a fan of the flavour of greens, we suggest taking a seat. Research has found that standing while eating, even for just a few minutes, can dull your tastebuds and ruin your “dining” experience.
Research has found that the anthocyanins in blueberries could help prevent cancer and heart disease. You can max out levels of this heart-happy compounds by nuking frozen berries in the microwave for 60 seconds before snacking.
5. Power Up Your Protein Intake
Are you getting enough protein? Scratch that: are you getting enough of the right protein? Processed meats (like those you’ll find in the deli section) and red cuts can hurt your health. Observational studies have shown that eating excessive amounts of either can ramp up your risks of certain cancers.
Instead, opt for eggs, lean chicken breasts, fish and (low-fat) dairy. These will help you hit your recommended intake without putting you in the firing line of health crisis.
6. Track Your Meals
We don’t mean counting every calorie, but keeping tabs on the number of morsels you’re wolfing down every day has been proven to help you shed weight. A Duke University study found that even without following a specific diet plan, participants were able to lose significant baggage with the help of a free smartphone app to log their platefuls.
We like Lose It!, an app that simplifies tracking down to the most important digits and has compiled a library of almost every packaged food known to man.
7. Eat Greek Yoghurt
Your typical yoghurts are loaded with sugar, so it’s best to steer clear of these containers while browsing. If you need a yoghurt fix, nothing beats the Greek kind: it’s packed with nutrients and vitamins like potassium, calcium and B12. Bonus: you’ll also be slurping up spoonfuls of probiotics, turning this snack into a gut-friendly hero that won’t blow up your boep.
8. Ditch the Cool Drinks
Swallowing can after can of your favourite sugar-laced beverage could put you on track for an early death. A study published in the journal Circulation found that the more cool drinks you knock back, the greater your chances of kicking the bucket prematurely. Go “sugar-free” or drink water instead.
9. Seriously, Start Drinking More Water
Dehydration is no joke. Prolonged periods without adequate H2O can leave you at risk of kidney stones, kidney failure and urinary tract infections. And that’s not to mention that a lack of aqua can also wreck your sleeping pattern, slow weight loss, affect your concentration and much (much) more. Tapping into a healthier life is as simple as turning the tap: aim to drink around four litres of water a day to keep your levels topped up.