A quick search of the Internet for how to eat healthily is more likely to result in confusion than clarity. Nutritional advice seems to be as changeable as traffic lights. One moment fats are bad, then they’re good again; carbs? In or out? Or should we be eating like cavemen or foragers? Or only have vegetables and water for a week? Many people experience nutritional advice as inconsistent and somewhat confusing. Another factor that impacts on people’s ability to eat healthily is being time poor.
Today's constantly "on-the-go" lifestyles provide a fertile seabed for the notion that one is too busy to spend much time contemplating what to eat, let alone having the time to prepare healthy nutritious meals!
If you count yourself among the nutritionally confused and / or mega busy, fear not. Help is at hand. It is possible to eat healthy nutritionally balanced meals every day. You don’t even have to hire your own personal chef to do it.
Let’s start by looking at what is a healthy diet. It is not that hard to get the principles right: a little bit of everything is a good mentality to start with when wanting a healthy and balanced diet. Being extreme in one direction or another will not help your body, your health, nor your wellness. So let’s take that further with some practical examples to help you fit healthy food around your hectic lifestyle!
The vast majority of nutritional experts agree that a healthy diet is one that provides sufficient calories for your daily energy requirements; such that your body does not store surplus energy as fat. It also provides you with a balance of nutrients required by your body to keep your heart beating, your brain active, muscles working, bones strong and your skin glowing.
The major nutrients are protein, carbohydrate, and fat. In addition to providing energy:
- Protein (found in fish, meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, nuts, and beans) is used by the body to build and repair body cells, and forms part of various enzymes, hormones, and antibodies
- Fat (found in animal and dairy products, nuts, and oils) is use to carry, store and absorb fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K); forms part of cell membranes and membranes around nerves. It insulates your body and help sustain a normal core body temperature. Fats are also responsible for making hormones and also help maintain healthy hair and skin.
- Carbohydrate (found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans and other legumes) is the principle energy provider for the body
How to make your diet healthy
The real key to eating healthily is knowing how to combine the nutritional building blocks. At its simplest, healthy eating is a matter of balance and moderation. You should eat a variety of foods from all the food groups to ensure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Things to avoid are nutrient poor and calorie dense foods such as sugary beverages, or refined carbohydrates high in sugars. For example white bread, cakes, confectionery and biscuits. Other things to eat sparingly are foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium (added salt).
Moderation is all about portion size. In a world where super sizing and "fries with that" have become the norm, many people find it difficult to control how much they eat because we’ve been conditioned to go for more than what satisfies us. A good way to counteract this is to adopt the 80/20 healthy eating habit. This involves stopping eating when you're 80% full.
Train yourself to slow down your eating and periodically throughout your meal check-in with your body to see what it is actually telling you. How full do you actually feel? Are you getting the "I’ve eaten enough but need to finish the plate" feeling. Thinking 80/20 as you eat can help you be more mindful and in tune with your body, which prevents overeating.
Tips for eating healthily for busy people
If you lead a busy life the secret to finding time to creating healthy nutritious meals is preparation and planning. Instead of coming home from a hard day’s graft to a cooker and raw ingredients, you can quickly take out prepared healthy meals from the fridge or freezer and be eating it in minutes.
Clearly, this will require dedicating some time to the preparation on Sunday. However once you’ve done it, you will have healthy meals for a week. Indeed you need not just stop at meals. You can pre-prepare your snacks and healthy treats too. To get you started here are three healthy recipes for breakfast, a snack and a main meal that you can prepare at the weekend to eat during the week.
Fruit and oatmeal muffins
Oats contain Beta-glucan, a type of fibre that's been shown to help lower cholesterol when eaten regularly. Oats are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium. The fruit topping will provide part of your 5 a day and lots of vitamins to fight off those free radicals.
(The below makes 24 muffins.)
3 cups oats - use rolled or steel-cut varieties as thy have more fibre. Gluten free oats can be substituted where necessary
¼ cup brown or Demerara sugar, 2 table spoons honey or to taste (optional)
3 cups water
3 cups milk of choice (soya, diary etc)
A pinch salt
Assorted chopped fruit or berries (blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, banana) fruit can be fresh or dried, chopped nuts, chocolate chips, or seed mix
Mix oats, sugar, water, milk, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium and cook to desired consistency. 5-15 minutes depending on oats used.
Set aside to cool slightly.
Grease two 12-cup muffin tins with cooking spray.
Divide the cooked oatmeal between the muffin cups, and top each with desired toppings.
Cover with plastic wrap and freeze.
Once frozen, store in a freezer container or in sandwich bags or plastic wrap.
To use, serve one to three muffins per portion. Either defrost over night or heat in a microwave.
Veggie Nori Rolls
Avocados are high in healthy monounsaturated fats and a good source of fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
Nutritional yeast is packed with nutrition, particularly B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein.
The chickpeas in the hummus provides protein, good carbs, and fibre.
(Sufficient for 2 or 3 snack servings.)
2 sheets nori
4 tablespoons hummus
1/2 cup sprouted sweet pea or watercress
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 small cucumber, cut into thin stick
1 medium avocado, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Use a bamboo sushi mat as this will make rolling the nori much easier.
Place the nori sheet on a work surface and spread the hummus in a thin layer over it.
Use the sprouted peas/water cress, carrots, cucumber sticks, and avocado to cover the bottom third of the nori sheet.
Sprinkle with lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Gently but firmly, start rolling from the edge with the vegetables toward the centre of the nori wrap, to create a sushi-like roll.
Once completely rolled up, use a sharp knife to slice the roll in to 5-6 portions.
Keep in a container in the fridge and transport in a small plastic lunch container.
Spicy chickpeas, coconut and tomato soup
Soups are a great healthy meal to prepare in advance. They can be kept chilled in the fridge or frozen. Modern food processers make soup making a breeze. Served with whole meal bread, this soup is full of protein and good carbs. Makes a great lunch or the perfect end to the day meal.
(Sufficient for 4 servings)
2 x 400g cans of chickpeas
2 x 400g cans of plumb tomatoes
500ml coconut milk
2 finely chopped fresh red chillies
1 golf ball size piece of ginger (grated)
1 large chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped cloves of garlic
zest of one lime or lemon
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin
6 cardamon pods
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh parsley for garnish
Heat up olive oil in a pan and add onion, garlic and ginger, season with salt and pepper to taste.
When onions and garlic start to brown, add chilli and continue to brown.
Stir in the spices and lime zest.
Add tomatoes and cook until tomatoes start to break down (6 minutes).
Add coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add chickpeas and cook until heated through.
Store chilled in the fridge for the week or freeze in serving size containers. Defrost over night before heating and eating.