You go to the gym regularly to exercise your muscles and tone your body. You enroll in Art of Living classes to improve the quality of your life and get a handle on your temper. You always try to groom yourself well to project a good personality. But, if your eating habits are not healthy, then all your efforts to feel and look good may be in vain.
We are living in an Instant World. In our quest for instant gratification, we indulge in instant coffee and instant food. No time for a proper breakfast?Not to worry, you grab a burger to go from a fast food joint. Meetings and conferences eating away your lunch hour? Well, you skip lunch and have an early dinner. Late night party with a bunch of friends? You drink like a fish and keep the hunger pangs at bay while munching on chicken tikkas.
These are choices we make every single day, without a thought to what we are doing to our bodies. Today, eating healthy has become hard work. What should have been a way of life is almost like an alternative lifestyle.Come to think of it, eating healthy has actually never been easier. There is a lot of information floating around from grandma’s tips to professional advice. Any food and drink item that you pick up is labeled with its energy constituents. Every other person is on some kind of a diet, either to lose weight or maintain an ideal body weight. So why is eating healthy such a difficult proposition?
What we are trying to do is make it easy for you to eat healthy. Read on and find out how you can enjoy the benefits of healthy eating.
1. A Week in Review
More often than not, we eat without actually realizing what we are consuming. So you had a chicken burger for lunch. What exactly did you get out of it? What percentage of it was fat or carbohydrate? Does the lettuce layer in the cheeseburger make it healthy? We don’t really worry about what we eat until we suffer the consequences.
As a first step to healthy eating, make a log of you everything that passes your gullet. Keep a written diary of what you eat, how much, and when. Also note what you were doing while you were eating. If you skipped dinner, put that down in the log. It’s important not to cheat on this log its your eating habits that we are trying to rectify.
2. Plan the Objectives
Why do you want to eat healthy? Do you want to shed those extra kilos? Or are you looking for an increase in stamina? Is you blood pressure bothering you?You have to make the decision -what will your objectives be? This will help you judge if the changes you made in your eating habits served any purpose or not.
3. Planning for Dietary Needs
Its not always advisable to follow your friends diet chart blindly. You have to make allowances for your own dietary requirements and make adjustments accordingly. If you have high blood pressure, it makes sense to reduce the consumption of sodium in your diet. This may mean elimination of canned foods and cooking low salt food. Similarly, for diabetes, you may have to cut down your sugar intake. If you are overweight, you will need to decrease your calorie intake or increase the amount of physical exercise.
Meet with a nutritionist to discuss your specific health issues. It is dangerous to embark on a healthy eating spree with half baked ideas.
4. ABCs of Healthy Eating
We understand that sometimes it can feel like you are being bombarded with more information than you can process with clarity. If you don’t know where to begin, follow these basic guidelines to help you understand how you can eat healthy.
Eat a variety of foods.
Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Reduce the intake of sugar and salts.
Eat foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Switch to 1% skim milk rather than full cream milk.
Choose to bake, broil, steam, grill and poach, instead of deep frying.
Use canola oil or olive oil for stir frying.
Now that we have got you started, you won’t find it difficult to wade through the morasses of information to pick up other healthy eating habits.
5. Variety is the Spice of Life
There is no single food which can provide you will all the nutrients required for your body to stay healthy and function properly. Ideally, you should choose a variety of foods from the five different food groups.
Eating healthy is all about striking the right balance. You should choose a variety of foods from each of the main food groups in the right proportion. It’s not imperative that you maintain this balance at each and every meal. But at least once in a day, you should strive to achieve it. Remember, many food items can belong to a variety of food groups. A pizza for example, has a bread base, a vegetable, meat and cheese topping.
6. A Kings Breakfast and a Paupers Dinner
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It helps you kick start your day with zest and energy. It not only lulls you out of physical inertia, it also makes you alert mentally.
Eating a healthy breakfast is also known to reduce the number of calories you consume later in the day. Researchers have found that the calories consumed in the earlier part of the day are more filling than the same amount of calories consumed in the later half.
An ideal breakfast should contain some amount of carbohydrates for quick energy and also some proteins to help you last until lunch. Poached eggs, low fat yogurt, oatmeal, bagel and low fat cheese, all make good breakfast options. The latest health trend is to completely skip the traditional concept of breakfast, lunch and dinner, and have six smaller meals instead. Eat in smaller plates and exercise portion control.
7. Bad Eating Habits- A Complete No-No
Skipping meals or starving yourself is not the way to go. The first step that your body takes in response to a skipped meal is storage of fats. You not only end up eating more for your next meal, your body thinks that it’s important to store the calories because it’s not certain when you will take the next meal.So skipping a meal will only be counterproductive.
Also, when you are eating, concentrate on eating. Multitasking may be important in the corporate world, but when you try to do something else, like read your email or watch TV while you eat, you end up eating more than you otherwise would.
Try and lessen the amount of fast food you eat. When you are bored, you may pick up a bag of potato chips or sip on a fizzy drink. But it makes much more sense to munch on fruits or vegetables, like a stick of celery or a carrot.
8. Read those Labels
One of the benefits of living in today’s world is that all packages, canned and prepared foods have labels on them which list out their ingredients and their nutritional values. The nutrition labels indicate the serving size and also the percent of daily values of saturated fat, carbohydrate, fiber, protein and sodium in each serving. These values are based on a 2000-calorie scale.
When you have this facility at your disposal, why not make the most of it? Look for hidden fats and sugars, high amounts of sugar and sodium. Don’t pick up items which have hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in them.
9. Junk the Junk Food
If there is no junk food in the house, then you won’t eat it. Follow this maxim religiously. Don’t linger in the fast food isle and pick up popcorn, frozen dinners, wafers, chips and colas. Keep a steady supply of fresh fruit and vegetables in the house for those times when the urge to snack kicks in. Plan ahead so that you never run out of healthy snacks.
One surefire step towards unhealthy eating is going grocery shopping when you are hungry. When you are hungry, everything looks appetizing, nothing more so than those calorie laden, fried stuff. If you shop when you are hungry, you are liable to pick up chocolate bars and snacks, none of which will help you eat healthy. So fill up that tummy before you head out to replenish the stock.
10. Don’t Go Overboard
And finally, too much of a good thing is not really good in the long run. You may decide to embark on a healthy eating fad by consuming only vegetables and fruits and non fat food. You may completely give up those chocolate pastries, the fizzy drinks and the one peg of whisky which was your night time ritual.
But beware! This extreme diet may not last long and when it goes for a toss; your body will feel the repercussions. You may end up gorging on deep fried foods and everything else that is not healthy. So moderation is the key. Accept those eating habits which you are comfortable with. Remember one piece of chocolate once in while will probably not cause you any harm.
Delicious food is one of life’s greatest pleasures and all kinds of foods can be part of a healthful diet. So, give in to your cravings sometimes. Indulge in your favorite sinful foods once in a while. No food is bad for you; its your total diet that matters.