Changing your food habits may seem like a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be! Follow our eight healthy eating hacks, and you will be cooking and eating with confidence in no time!
Tip 1: Go brown or wholegrain
White cereals and grains are often highly processed, with a high glycaemic index (GI) – meaning they behave like sugars. By choosing low GI wholegrain breads, brown basmati rice, and grains such as barley, quinoa, amaranth and teff, you increase your fibre intake and stay fuller for longer. Quinoa, amaranth and teff are also sources of protein, calcium and iron – making them great for vegans and vegetarians.
Tip 2: Add vegetables to (almost) everything
There is no dish or snack a vegetable cannot feature in, in our opinion. Try adding more vegetables and less fruit to your next smoothie, to reduce the sugar content. Avoid mid-afternoon snack attacks by bulking up your wrap or sandwich with at least 3 varieties of vegetables to keep you fuller. Reduce the calorie content of your meal by cutting your portion of meat and starch, and adding veggies to your recipe, or as a side dish. Remember – the aim is 5 serves of vegetables a day.
Tip 3: Read the ingredients list
If you’re goal is to eat well with confidence, the first step is to KNOW what you’re eating! Many packaged foods contain hidden ingredients that are undesirable or artificial, even those labeled as ‘health foods’. Have a look at the ingredients list, and aim for products with mostly wholefood ingredients. Aim for sugars, fats and salts to appear low on the list – or not in the top three ingredients. A general tip – the less ingredients listed, the better.
Tip 4: Buy unsweetened varieties
Many low-fat foods contain large amounts of added sugars, particularly dairy. In fact, a typical flavoured yoghurt contains 2-3 tsp of added sugar per serve! If you like a little sweetness, buy the plain option, and create your own flavours. Frozen berries, when defrosted, swirl nicely into yoghurt, as do unsweetened apple puree and fresh passionfruit. Even adding 1tsp of honey will result in less sugar. The same applies for breakfast cereals – use unsweetened options like rolled oats, Weet Bix or All Bran, then add fresh or dried fruits for natural sweetness.
Tip 5: Choose lean proteins, and portion them prior to cooking
To choose a lean steak, look at the marbling content – the less marbling, the better. We recommend eye fillet, lamb backstrap, trimmed rump and porterhouse steak, chuck steak or heart smart mince. For chicken, choose skinless breasts or properly trimmed thighs. All fish are low in saturated fat – a bonus! Now a word on portions – if possible, get your butcher or fishmonger to provide portions that weigh approximately 150g raw (or seek personalized portion advice from a dietitian). Alternatively, portion these proteins yourself before storing them – so you’re not tempted to eat more than you need!
Tip 6: Find healthy ways to enhance flavour
Cooking with salt, bottled sauces, commercial dips and syrups will add taste to your food, but may also increase your blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol. We suggest using any of these options for a healthier flavour boost: fresh or dried herbs, spices, salt-free seasonings such as dukkah, garlic, ginger, citrus juice, tinned tomatoes and homemade dressings, sauces or dips
Tip 7: Eat from a smaller plate
Forget what grandma used to eat. It’s HOW MUCH grandma used to eat. Our standard dinner plate size has increased by nearly 37% since the 1960’s. Eating from smaller dishes can help you feel fuller even though you may be eating the same amount, or less. One study showed that participants switching from a 30cm diameter plate to the recommended 25cm diameter plate ate 22% less. What size are your plates at home?
Tip 8: Make sure your meal is balanced with macronutrients
Satisfying meals that keep you fuller for longer and prevent sugar cravings will contain a balance of protein, fibre, low GI carbohydrates and healthy fats. Make sure you include all macronutrients at breakfast, lunch and dinner. For example, Greek yoghurt with oats, fruits and nuts for breakfast; a chicken, spinach and quinoa salad with extra virgin olive oil for lunch; and salmon with sweet potato and steamed greens for dinner.