When you’re trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, the food you eat plays a huge part. But eating healthily doesn’t just mean having a garden salad every day for lunch and dinner.
Sevenoaks Medical Centre show there are ways to make your meals healthy just by switching and swapping the ingredients you use, the food types you select, and the portion sizes you serve.
Salt – Salt is used as a major seasoning ingredient in lots of dishes, both sweet and savoury. However, salt is high in sodium, and can increase blood pressure. Opting for reduced sodium, or sodium-free, salt, which is available in most supermarkets, can work as a good substitute. It functions in the same way as normal salt, without imparting any change in taste.
It’s possible to even leave the salt out of many dishes and, instead, taste before you serve. If you don’t think the dish needs salt, don’t add any.
Sugar – There are many alternatives to using sugar in dishes. Honey, stevia or agave all work as alternatives to sugar in tea and coffee, and on fruit or cereal. This small change can significantly reduce your sugar intake, especially if you have a particularly sweet tooth when you have a tea or coffee.
Oil – What you use to cook your food in can help or hinder healthy eating. Consider avoiding butter or olive oil and try a low-fat cooking spray, coconut oil or rapeseed oil instead. These types of oil are lower in unhealthy saturated fats, helping to significantly reduce the fat content you’d usually add to a meal.
Swapping food types
Meat – Think about the meats you cook with, specifically choosing white meat over red meat. Chicken and turkey, for example, are great lean options and good for making meatballs and burgers. Turkey can also make a great substitute for other meats in most recipes.
High-carb foods – Many people think avoiding foods that contain high carbohydrates is a good way to eat healthily, especially when it comes to losing weight. However, carbohydrates are a staple part of a healthy diet – they give us energy and should be included in our daily meals. It’s best to instead to think about selecting alternatives to high-carb foods.
Try brown rice over white rice and wholemeal bread over white bread. Also, consider whole-grain pasta instead of regular pasta, sweet potato, rather than roast potatoes, or cottage cheese instead of cheddar. Porridge for breakfast is also a much healthier alternative to cereal.
Snacks – Snacking through the day is a huge problem for many people who are trying to eat healthily. It can be so tempting to delve into a bag of crisps before lunch or a chocolate bar in the afternoon.
Instead, try snacking on fresh fruit like cranberries and blueberries, and unsalted nuts, such as walnuts and almonds. This means you can still have something to nibble on through the day, but with the added bonus that the snacks are healthy.
It isn’t just about what foods you eat, but the size of your portions, so consider switching around the quantities. Try favouring more fruit and veg over any stodgy, greasy parts of your meal, such as chips and garlic bread. For example, say you wanted to treat yourself to steak and chips, with a small salad for dinner one evening. Try swapping the portion sizes of the salad and the chips around.
Increasing the portion of the vegetables doesn’t mean the meal will be any less tasty. What it does mean is you’re increasing your intake of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, and decreasing the unhealthier elements of a meal, which are easy to go overboard with and should be taken in moderation.
To help you eat healthy and maintain a healthy diet it can be beneficial to set out a meal plan. Putting together specific meals for each day and working out what will go onto each plate can help. Also, try writing a list of what you normally eat during the week and look at what you can change in terms of portions, healthier options and ingredients.
Healthy eating doesn’t mean you need to cut out the dishes you enjoy, much like it doesn’t necessarily mean completely getting rid of the foods you love. Swapping food types, ingredients and portion sizes can give you a good range of meals and a healthy diet too.
If you’re unsure what the best healthy foods are for you, according to your body and lifestyle, consider arranging an appointment with your GP. They should be able to refer you to a professional dietician, who can give the detailed dietary advice and guidance you need.