2016 is finally here! As far as new years go, a lot of us would have resolved to change something in our lifestyle this year provided that a new year is generally indicative of a new slate for most people around the world.
Changing the way we see food and consume it features atop the list of New Year’s resolution that people make across the globe. We vow to make healthier choices in terms of food and give a greater attention to our health.
Investing time and money in making healthier eating choices is self-rewarding, but it’s a process that grows organically and all quick-fix attempts are ultimately going to lead to failure.
“You learn to crawl before you walk, similarly, when you have decided to adopt a healthier lifestyle, you shouldn’t try to block out all the ‘unhealthy’ things in the first week of the new year , because that’d ultimately lead to failure. Set yourself up for small challenges, everyday, so that the changes are more sustainable in the long run,” said Pooja Makhija, a consulting nutritionist and clinical dietician.
“It’s important to try and understand that we should be making basic changes in our diets instead of making them complicated or following the latest fad diet. Finding basic faults in our habits which are wrong and resolving to correct them one by one can go a long way in making us healthier,” added Kavita Devgan, a nutritionist and weight management consultant.
As well meaning as our intentions may be, it’s difficult to determine where to start. Fret, no more though.
With the help of experts, HT has compiled a list a to-do list for beginners to healthy eating. Here’s to being the healthiest that you will ever be:
1 Eat more home-cooked food: Get nutrition from unprocessed food
The ultimate benefit of eating home-cooked food is that you know exactly what’s going in your food, since you are the one preparing it. By cooking your own food you have the liberty to choose fresh veggies and vegetables over the canned variety. This makes sure that you are getting the proper nutritional value of the foods without the excess sodium or the sugar found in the canned variants. Cooking your own food also provides with the incentive to go grocery shopping, where again you can make healthy choices in terms of what you buy. Making a grocery list before you go shopping and sticking to the list can help you avoid make any last minute purchases and hence help you in abstaining from buying unhealthy junk in the first place.
2 Choose whole grains, load up on fiber
“The only two grains that we have feeding our bodies are wheat and rice; we should try and experiment with different whole grains because it’s important to give your body the variety of macro nutrients that it needs, which can be found in grains like ragi and bajra,” Devgan suggested. Carbohydrates form a major part of our diets and swapping simple carbohydrates like white rice, white pasta and bread for the more complex ones including whole-grain flours, hearty vegetables, oats and unprocessed grains is beneficial for your body as complex carbohydrates take longer to be digested, are full of fiber and keep you full for longer. They are also rich sources of vitamins and other nutrients. “Don’t make carbohydrates your enemy. They are essential for your body.” Makhija said.
3 Eat more protein
“I find that Indian diets are faulty in the sense that we do not consume enough protein. We should make a conscious effort to increase both the quality and the quantity of protein in our diets. Try and eat protein rich foods for at least two out of the three major meals in a day,” advised Devgan. You should aim to satisfy between ten to 35 percent of your daily calorific needs through proteins. Consumption of protein helps in the building of muscle and provides energy that lasts throughout the day. Some rich sources of protein include eggs, lentils, fish, soy, tofu, beans etc.
4 Eat a lot of vegetables and fruits
“To begin with, along with your regular diet, incorporate two to three servings of fruit everyday. Add a glass of vegetable juice to your diet for healthy skin,” Makhija suggested. Focus on eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day as the different coloured fruits and vegetables contain different concentrations of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, all of which are essential and beneficial for the body.
5 Portion control
“Looking at the portions of the foods you are consuming is of utmost important. Even the ‘wrong’ food in the right proportion is okay for you, whereas the ‘right’ food in wrong portion can do you more harm than good,” Devgan stated.
6 Cut back on salt
Anything consumed in excess is harmful for the body and so is the case with salt. Even though we need salt in moderation, excess consumption of salt can lead to a variety of health problems including elevated blood pressure and osteoporosis. Use other herbs and spices to season your food and check your salt intake. Consume more unprocessed, fresh foods to drastically cut back on the extra salt in your diet.
7 Reduce the amount of sugar in your diet
Apart from adding empty calories to your diet, the sugar present in the processed foods that we consume today not only leads to weight problems but too much sugar can cause energy spikes which have been linked to diabetes and depression. Cut down on sweet snacks like candy, chocolates and cakes. Replace your dessert with a fruit containing natural sugars. Avoid drinking sugary drinks. Be wary when buying processed food: Always check the label for low-sugar products. Slowly and gradually, whittle out the amount of sugar that’s a part of your diet for a healthier you.
8 Replace bad fats with good fats
Despite popular belief, your body needs fats to function. However, there is a distinction between good fats and unhealthy fats. Consumption of trans fats and saturated fats should be avoided as much as possible as consuming them can raise your risk of heart diseases and a hoard of other diseases. In their place, good fats like monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids which are found in olive oil, nuts and various seed oils should be consumed.
9 Keep yourself hydrated
Makhija insists on incorporating at least two to three litres of water to your diet, everyday. Staying hydrated with plain waiter is one of the best ways to keep you healthy. Avoid sweetened drinks like juices, soft drinks that contain artificial sweeteners; not only will you cut back on the amount of sugar consumed; water will help you in feeling full for longer. If you feel like snacking, drink a glass of water first, as some people tend to confuse thirst for hunger. If you are still hungry after 15 minutes, it’s time for a snack.
10 Don’t skip breakfast
“Never skip meals. Eat within the first hour of rising and then eat every two hours.” Makhija added. Considered by many as the “most important meal of the day”, eating breakfast, even if it’s a small breakfast shouldn’t be avoided. Eating breakfast gets your metabolism going and keeps it active throughout the morning. Skipping breakfast can lead to increased hunger by lunchtime, when you might binge to compensate. Skipping breakfast may manifest itself as a lucrative way to shed pounds, but research has shown that a healthy breakfast can actually help you in controlling your weight woes.
11 Moderation is the key; Don’t keep anything ‘óff-limits’
“Stop trying to deny yourself everything. Every day eat one thing that makes you happy. Combine this with the mantra of portion control and you will still be able to achieve your health goals,” reasoned Devgan. Eschewing your favourite foods completely will only lead to a depravation-binge cycle, wherein you are bound to break down and binge on your favourite item after having felt deprived of it. To break out of this cycle, do not keep any food off limits. Instead, practice moderation. Allow yourself the pleasure of small ‘cheats’ every once in a while, as a celebration of you sticking to your healthier routine.
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