Getting started with healthy eating
Why should we eat healthier?
There are so many reasons to eat healthy, we hear about them all the time: “Healthy eating helps you to live longer, reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, wards off cancer, it lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes...” Have you switched off yet?
Regardless of how many times we hear the warnings and statistics, the things most likely to motivate us to change our eating habits are personal and unique to each of us. It’s simply a matter of finding the reasons that matter most to you and harnessing them to shift you into gear.
Finding the motivation to eat healthier
These are some of the reasons HBF members say they have started to eat healthier:
- I want to be the ‘fit mum’ who can help out with school sports.
- I want to have more energy to stay alert at work and play around with my kids.
- I want to look and feel my best on our wedding day.
- I want to see my children grow up, get married, and be a fit and active grandparent.
- My mother passed away of cancer. It was lifestyle related and I don’t want my children to go through the same things I did.
Once you’ve established your motivation, write it down and pin it on your fridge or cupboard – somewhere you’ll see it every time you go to eat. Read it think about it whenever you prepare a healthy meal or reach for a healthy snack (we say ‘healthy’ because by now you will have thrown out all those unhealthy options – right?).
Finding your motivation encourages you to get started, reminding yourself of it every day helps you to keep on track.
Once you’ve harnessed those feelings and emotions you associate with your motivation, you’re ready to get started.
“Get started? Right now? But I’m not ready, what if I fail?”
Don’t worry, most people get a little freaked out by the words, “get started.” It’s natural that when we start something new we want to succeed - and that’s good - it’s this ambition that drives humanity to achieve amazing things.
However, for many of us this can also be what nips our big plans in the bud. It manifests into a fear of failure that convinces us to delay the start date, bow out at the smallest hiccup or find excuses to talk ourselves out of trying altogether.
Before making any changes, ask yourself what you want to change and then set a realistic plan to achieve it. Read this article on SMART goal setting for more advice. Once your plan is set, use the following healthy eating tips to get you off to the best possible start.
Step 1: Clear out the cupboards
Plate sizes have increased dramatically over the last fifty years, and so too have our waistlines. The first step to improving our eating habits is often replacing the supersized crockery we keep in our cupboards.
Research shows that using larger plates and bowls causes us to serve ourselves larger portions, which in turns makes us eat more. In fact, research from Cornell University claims we consume up to 25% more food when we eat from larger containers.
HBF dietitian Mary Du Heaume recommends we pack up any oversized plates and replace them with plates which have a serving diameter no greater than 20 cm. “Now is the perfect time to do this as you can pick up some great bargains in the after Christmas sales.”
She says that if your drinking glasses hold more than 250ml, swap them too. “Keep some larger glasses in your cupboard for drinking water, but when pouring fruit juice try to limit yourself to a single 250 ml serve.”
“That old saying, ‘what you don’t know won’t hurt you’ applies here. You’ll naturally reduce your portion sizes and lower your calorie intake without noticing.”
Next stop, your fridge and pantry. Throw out any junk food and replace with healthy alternatives: If your goal is to try a new vegetable each month, make sure it’s in there. If your goal is to cut back on treats, rid your cupboards of the temptation.
If you can’t do without the occasional unhealthy treat, the same rules apply as with your plates and glasses - go with the smaller ’fun-sized’ packets. Remember your mother’s pearls of wisdom and reserve these until after you’ve eaten your healthy dinner.
Step 2: Get your proportions right
Visually divide your shiny new, 20 cm plates into quadrants. When serving food fill half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables and salad, one quarter with carbohydrates (wholegrain is best), and the remainder with protein foods. The below diagram illustrates this best:
For more information of the type of foods that fall into each of these groups, see the
Australian Dietary Guidelines.
Step 3: Download healthy recipes
Before you head off to the supermarket with your best intentions in tow - have a game plan. Download healthy recipes for the week that taste good and are easy to make, then add the relevant ingredients to your shopping list. Otherwise you may end up wandering up and down the aisles uncertain of what to buy, making impulse purchases and potentially dumping half a trolley load of unused, rotten vegetables in the bin at the end of the week.
Step 4: Categorise your shopping list
Healthy eating starts with healthy shopping. Aim for half of your shopping trolley to be fresh produce from the fruit and vegetable aisle. (Include some canned or frozen varieties too - they are an easy and nutrient-rich alternative in a bind). The other half should be a combination of lean cuts of meat, low fat dairy, and wholegrain breads, rice and cereals.
Before you go to the supermarket compose a shopping list that adheres to these rules and stick to it. Don’t even bother walking down aisles you don’t need anything from (lead yourself not into temptation).
If you’re going to buy a treat, a good trick is to apply the ‘one treat, one hand’ method. Your shopping basket is sacred and should be reserved for foods that provide nutritional value. When you pick up a treat hold onto it as you shop. By limiting the treats you buy to what you can hold in one hand, you’ll limit the discretionary foods you eat.
Healthy tip: Knowing what produce is in-season can help you take advantage of fruit and vegetables when they’re at their tastiest and most affordable. For those of us with a sweet tooth, seasonal fruit is a healthy way to get a sweet hit and some important nutrients too.
Download the Livelighter Guide to Eating in Season
Step 5: Be kind to yourself
As you begin making wiser food choices remember to give yourself the credit you deserve. There’s nothing more important than your health, so opting to make it a priority is the best decision you will ever make. If you fall off the wagon, don’t beat yourself up. HBF dietician, Mary Du Heaume says it perfectly:
“In any journey of change there will be setbacks, but every time you eat you have another chance to make a better decision. A healthy habit is just an accumulation of better decisions.”
Are you planning to eat healthier in 2015? Tell us on Facebook #makinghealthyhappen