Learning how to eat smarter and healthier can help you to lose weight and live longer.
On my consultations, I teach my clients how to adopt healthy lifestyles, not just simply how to follow a diet plan. Learning new and healthy habits will help you to maintain your healthy weight for the rest of your life without you making much effort.
In this post, I will give you some tips that you should adopt if you want to have a healthy lifestyle. Remember that, small changes repeated over time, brings great results. Sometimes, it requires a great effort at the beginning, but after a while, it will come to you naturally.
1 – Always have breakfast. You probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is because of the long period of starvation during the night. To have breakfast could be challenge for those who don’t have appetite in the morning however, you will find that having breakfast will boost your energy levels and control your appetite for the rest of the day. If you normally don’t have breakfast, try to introduce just a piece of fruit or an yogurt, within 30 minutes after waking up. After a while, you will feel more appetite and by then, you can add a slice of wholemeal toast and a tablespoon of peanut butter to your breakfast, for example.
2 – Snack smarter. Snacking between main meals helps you to keep you energy levels up, maintaining the blood sugar constant in your body. However if you snack when you are not hungry or if you snack high fat and sugary foods, you can easily put on weight. You should feel hungry, usually 3h/4h after your main meal. If you are spending your day away from home, bring your snacks with you. In this way, it’s more likely that you eat healthy. Here are some examples of healthy snacks:
3 – Get enough sleep. Many studies have suggested that those who sleep less than 6h per night have irregular eating habits, snack more, and are more likely to eat unhealthy foods. Other study found that not getting enough sleep, makes you crave sugar more to try to compensate your low levels of energy. To keep your blood sugar in balance, try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
4 – Have balanced main meals. A balanced meal should consist in one source of carbs, preferably wholegrain, a source of protein and a source of vegetables. Having the main three groups of foods represented in your plate, will give you the energy, protein, vitamins and minerals you body needs to function well. Try to vary as much as you can, eating different kind of foods everyday. Each particular food will have different health benefits. The proportions that these groups of foods should occupy in your plate are: ¼ plate of protein component (lean meat, fish or eggs), ¼ plate of carbs (wholegrain rice, or pasta or potatoes) and ½ plate of vegetables.
5 – Stay away from sugary and fatty foods. Not all fat is bad for you, however you should pay attention to saturated fat, in particular. This fat is normally found in foods like crisps, chips, cakes, cookies or biscuits, butter, larder and meat products, like sausages and bacon. Too much sugar or saturated fat, or the combination of both, can have negative effects in your health. Usually, these kinds of foods are also energy dense, this means they contain a large amount of calories in a small portion of food (1g fat contains 9Kcal). You don’t need to eat a large amount of these foods to rapidly eat more energy that you need. This can then, contribute for the weight gain.
UK health guidelines recommend that: the average man aged 19-64 years should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day; the average woman aged 19-64 years should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day.
Sugar is usually hidden is most of the foods. Reading the list of ingredients can help you to make smarter and healthier choices. Foods like yoghurts, ketchup, sauces, juices, fizzy drinks, syrups, biscuits, cakes, breakfast cereals could contain lots of sugar. Sugar can also have different names on a label of a product. Always read the ingredient list and look for these words: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, syrup and table sugar.
The new advice says children aged 11 or over and adults should consume no more than seven teaspoons of added sugar a day – 30g, equal to less than a single can of Coca-Cola, which contains 39g. Children should consume much less than that.
6 – Use the traffic light system to compare products and to make healthier choices. On the front pack of the label of the products there is nutrition information for calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. The ‘traffic light’ system uses green, yellow or red indicators to show as to whether the product has low, medium or high content of the above ingredients and nutrients. Comparing similar products using the traffic light can help you to choose healthier options and control your calorie intake.
I invite you to adopt at least one of these recommendations to eat smarter and healthier. I recognise that adopting all new habits at once could be difficult. However if you adopt at least one of these at each time, you will see a massive positive change on the way you feel. Ultimately, you can see your weight dropping on the scale and gain more years of life.
If you would like to read more, see the links below.
The festive season is usually a time that we tend to have lots of parties with families and friends with lots of delicious food. This fact could make us worried if we want to maintain our healthy weight. The good news is - it´s possible to maintain your weight during this time of the year! The following tips will help you to have more control in what your eat and drink during this festive season:
#1 Always fill your plate with veggies
The veggies are the less caloric part of the meal, and will fill you up because contains lots of fiber. When filling your plate with more veggies, you will have less space on the plate for the meat and carbs, meaning you will eat a smaller portion of the most calorific part of the meal.
#2 Eat slowly
The festive season is the time to celebrate reunion with friends and family. Focus on those conversations around the table, than on the actual food and try to eat slowly. This will give more time to your stomach to send the signal of satiety to your brain and stop you of eating more.
#3 Don´t skip any meal
Don’t skip any meal of the day, trying to save your calories allowance for the big meal. If you keep your regular meals during the day, your blood sugar will be controlled. This means, you will have a good control of your appetite.
#4 Drink more water and less alcohol
Alcohol is empty calories, this means from the nutritional point of view it doesn’t contribute with good nutrients but instead with extra calories. Try to always have a glass water, next to you glass of wine, this will remind you of drinking more water than wine.
#5 Compensate with physical activity or by eating less on the next day
If you still overeat on the party lunches or dinners, try to compensate on the next day – exercising more or eating lighter meals on the next day (for example, soups, salads and fruit)
I hope you find these tips useful. Most importantly, enjoy the time with your family and friends and have a Merry Christmas!
Hi, I'm Joana, a Portuguese registered dietitian in the UK. I am passionate about helping others achieving their health goals.