10 simple habits that encourage healthy eating
By Sandro Demaio for ABC Life
When it comes to deciding what to cook and eat, many of us can get overwhelmed quickly — and I get it.
Whether it's on social media, television or even on food packaging itself, we're constantly bombarded with complex and often conflicting advice about what we should be eating.
But it doesn't have to be this hard.
Good food should be easy. It's about keeping things simple so we can make the best food choices throughout the day — quickly and affordably.
Instead of a rule book on what not to eat, follow these guiding principles to help you live well and feel great.
1. Eat ingredients, not products
A fail-safe way to eat well is to choose whole foods over products.
This doesn't mean we need to make absolutely everything from scratch, but choosing more fresh foods and fewer packaged ones will go a long way to improving our nutrition.
Fresh foods are generally higher in micronutrients and fibre, and will help us avoid hidden added fats, sugar and salt.
2. Start with vegetables
Get used to filling the plate with at least 50 per cent veg, as eating more vegetables is one of the most important things we can do for our health.
Work out which vegetables you love and enjoy these regularly rather than trying to eat them all, and pile plates high with veggies first when serving up.
When it comes to snacking, cut and store vegetables to make them an easier choice.
3. Embrace diversity
Eating a wide range of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses provides a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
Aim for a range of colours, add lentils and beans to dishes, and try a different leafy green in salads each week.
By eating a range of foods, you don't need to worry about missing individual nutrients.
Embracing diversity in what we eat means we're also less likely to need expensive extra nutrition supplements.
4. Break up with added sugar
Ditching 'free sugars' — those added to products or concentrated in products either by the consumer or the manufacturer — is a great step to take to good health.
It's important to learn the many other names for sugar on labels, such as fruit juice concentrate or glucose, and question healthy claims on packaged foods — they're usually trying to distract you from reading the nutrient label.
Be okay with sugar sometimes, because it can still be enjoyed occasionally.
5. Be smart about fats
While fats have had a bad rap in the past, healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fats are essential to our health — supporting our cell membranes, brain development and heart health.
Our bodies don't make these fats; they're only available in our diets and so it's important to choose the right foods.
Oily fish such as salmon and tuna, avocados, and nuts and seeds (such as chia seeds, pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds and cashews) will do the trick.
6. Cook and eat with the ones you love
Science proves that eating with others results in us eating less, and maybe even better.
Dining with friends and family tends to slow down our eating, allowing our stomach to send a message to our brain when we are full.
It also offers an opportunity to connect and check in with loved ones, supporting mental wellbeing and overall happiness.
7. Keep an eye on your portions
Even when eating well, eating too much will hinder your health.
Simple ways to manage not only the quality but the quantity of our diet is to serve smaller portions and return for seconds if desired, use smaller plates, go slow and do mindful checks on your appetite.
Lastly, if the plate is still looking a little light on, opt for more veggies instead of adding more pasta, rice or meat to the plate.
8. Halt the salt
A high intake of salt is associated with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
An easy way to manage your salt intake is to live by the first principal of whole foods over products. But when needed, check the nutrition panel of these foods and aim for less than 120mg of sodium per 100g.
9. Choose water
Drinking water assists all bodily functions. It's filling, hydrating and helps with concentration and focus.
It's also one of the easiest and cheapest things we can do for our health.
Start each morning with two glasses of water, enjoy water with each meal, and invest in a reusable water bottle so water is always handy, available and free.
10. With alcohol, less is more
While most of us enjoy a drink from time to time, alcohol is associated with increased risks of a number of cancers, heart disease, mental illness and more.
If you've heard that a glass or two of red wine is actually good for us, this is sadly not true, with science generally stating that no level of drinking is safe.
To sum up…
OK, it's a long list but each one is achievable for us all. Choose a few goals and start with those, then work on adding more.
Take your time and be flexible and understanding, as we all have setbacks sometimes.
Best of luck — and here's to your health!
This article was originally written for and published on ABC Life.