Nutrition is the absolute most important thing when it comes to getting healthier and getting the body you want. You cannot out train a bad diet! So many times I see people really putting the work in exercise wise and just not getting the results that they want. It’s because they haven’t made any changes to their poor diets. If you’re only going to change one thing on your journey to getting healthier and fitter make sure it’s your diet.
When it comes to eating healthier it’s all about changing your relationship with food and how you view food. It’s time to stop seeing food as something you mindlessly eat when you’re bored or something that you use as a comfort when you’re feeling down. Your food is your fuel. It’s something to be enjoyed and the occasional indulgence is fine but remember, you get what you give! If all you give your body is crap food all you’re going to get back are crap results.
When you’re first starting out it can be pretty hard to know where to start when it comes to improving the food you eat. There are so many people telling you what foods are good and what to avoid; eat these superfoods or these foods will make you fat. Heck, there are even articles out there saying fruit is bad for you! I’ve been exercising on a consistent basis for around five years now but it was only a few years ago that I really go into it big style. That’s when I started paying a lot more attention to what I ate and my god did it all get a bit much. I remember googling ‘how to eat healthy?’ and every other article had something new to say or some kind of crazy plan that I needed to be following. It’s enough to make your head spin and I was thoroughly confused.
To save you the same headache I’ve put together a list of the things I wished I’d known when I was first starting out as well as some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.
Eat whole foods
What you eat doesn’t have to be complicated! There is no need to subscribe to every new superfood or stress yourself out about how healthy everything you eat is. It’ll drive you insane and take all the fun out of every meal. My best tip for anyone just getting started would be to stick to whole real foods and not the processed stuff designed to look like food. A good way to check this is can you grow or kill it? If the answer is no then don’t eat it. This doesn’t work perfectly for everything but as a general rule of thumb I’ve found it to be some pretty great advice.
Here you want to be keeping healthy things you can pad out any meal with. Things like kidney beans or chick peas help to add protein to any vegetarian meal and are great for making a meal more filling. Whole grain rice and pasta are also cupboard essentials. Just throw them in a pan of boiling water whilst you heat up a chili or spag-bol and you’ve got a cracking healthy meal right there. Tins of fish such as tuna or mackerel fillets make great additions to any lunch, helping to beef out a salad or a sandwich and I’d say about 80% of my meals involve tinned tomatoes in some way so I would definitely recommend keeping those on hand.
Salad bags are fantastic fresh essentials. You can use them to add a bit of greenery to any evening meal or add a tin of maceral fillets for a super quick and healthy lunch without the hassle of actually making anything. You also want to be keeping on hand some kind of fresh protein like lean chicken breast or a soft crumbly cheese. Feta is a good choice as it can add a lot of flavour using only small amount of cheese. Fresh fruit make fantastic snacks you can carry around with you or keep in a draw in the office for when the biscuit tin is passed around. Speaking of fruit, I’m a huge fan of avocados and like to use them mashed up as a mayonnaise replacement in wraps, they taste amazing spread on toast for breakfast and try mixing with a tin of tuna in a sandwich – it’s a bit odd but if you love avocado you’ll love this.
When it comes to eating healthy your freezer is your saviour. A great thing to keep handy are a few healthy meals you’ve cooked up and frozen for those times when you just need a quick and easy fix. Buy yourself a ton of frozen veggies and throw them into everything you cook. They even taste great roasted with a drizzle of oil and some garlic and rosemary. Frozen onions are a lazy gal’s best friend and work great for padding out meals as well. For a super tasty breakfast keep frozen berries to add to your porridge. Stick the berries oats and milk in the microwave for 2 minutes, add a dash of honey and enjoy. I also like to keep frozen chicken pieces for easy evening meals and frozen fish cooks in 15 minutes and can be added to so many tasty recipes.
And I don’t mean putting chicken nuggets and chips on a tray and shoving them in the oven. I’m talking about taking real ingredients and making real food out of them. This is the one that gets a lot of people because no matter how you swing it will always be easier to order a take away or just bang something in the oven but that doesn’t mean cooking has to be hard. If you really hate to cook then I would definitely make use of those frozen veggies and chicken breasts. You can pop all your veggies and your chicken on the same oven tray, add a little oil and your favourite spices and the whole thing goes in the oven together. It’s about as quick and easy as its going to get! If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous or actually enjoy cooking, now is your time to get creative. Invest in a cook book and make the meals you love. Curries taste just as good made at home as they do from the takeaway and you have added benefit of not feeling guilty afterwards.
By cooking your meals yourself you can control everything. How much you make and what actually goes into it. You also have the chance to substitute some of the less healthy things found in your usual favourites for delicious lean meats and hearty veggies. If you don’t start cooking yourself you’ll never get a handle on what you’re actually eating and you can’t truly see results until you do.
Count your calories
So many people over eat without a second thought. Did you know that in one Chicago town pizza there are 1748 calories? When you think that the government’s recommendation for a woman is around 2000 calories a day, that’s pretty staggering. There are plenty of apps out there that make counting your calories super easy. I love My Fitness Pal because it’s really easy to use and has a huge catalogue of foods already inputted so it’s not often I come across something I can’t find. The app remembers the most common foods that you eat and it also allows you to scan the items barcode so it really couldn’t be easier to track the amount that you’re eating. Try popping everything you eat in for a week without changing your diet to get a true gauge of what you’re actually eating and how much.
Don’t restrict your calories
This one is mostly aimed at those trying to lose weight and I’m talking within reason here. If you add everything you’ve eaten up and you’re coming in at a whopping 4000 calories a day, or really anything over 2500 for a man and 2000 for a woman, then it’s time to cut back. What I really mean here is don’t restrict ridiculously. Cutting your calories down to 1200 a day is going to leave you feeling crazy hungry, tired and irritable. All in all, you’ll become miserable and be a pretty miserable person to be around too. Chances are this won’t last and any weight you do lose will come straight back when you start eating normally again. Along the same line, fad diets fail for the exact same reason. Hell, the other day a friend of mine once said she tried living on 500 calories a day, two days a week. It’s safe to say she didn’t get any fitter, healthier or maintain her weight loss.
When it comes to losing weight you need to be restricting smartly and cautiously. If you’re on 2000 calories a day now try dropping to 1800. My Fitness Pal is great for this because if you tell it how much you are trying to lose it’ll give you a realistic drop in calories. By dropping slowly it also gives you a bit of room to work with further down the line when your weight loss slows. You can either drop the calories a little, though I would never recommend below 1700 as this because unrealistic to maintain, or you can up your exercise a little too.
Eat what you love
This might be the best advice I have ever come across. Pick the food you really love and cannot live without, for me its crisps, and eat it. It’s pretty simple, easy advice! Obviously I don’t mean by the bucket load but if chocolate is your thing, have a little every night. If you love fruit and nut make sure you have a handful a day! It makes your new healthy lifestyle much more realistic if the food you love the most is still in it.
Now that you have the food you love it’s time to start turning your attention to the food you like. Try substituting the unhealthy foods you like to eat for healthier alternatives like homemade chillies instead of ready meals or slow cooked curries instead of a takeaway. You can even get adventurous here trying out new fruits and veggies or completely new recipes you’d never have tried before. By doing this you’re bound to fall in love with at least a few and now you have new recipes and foods you can add to your favourites list.
By substituting out the foods that you like but keeping the food that you love you never feel like you’re depriving yourself but are still making real progress towards a much healthier lifestyle.
Prep, prep, prep
I’ve written an entire post on this in my New Year, New Me series so for more detail on how to get the best out of your food, habit and workout prep check out that post. Basically preparation is all about making healthy decisions when you do have time in order to help you continue to make those decisions throughout the day even when you don’t have time. Try doing a large cook up at the weekend and freezing a few healthy meals so you always a quick and easy meal ready to go; lay your gym clothes out the night before and have water ready as a reminder that your workout is scheduled in and keep healthy snacks like fruit at work so you’re not tucking Into the biscuit tin the next time you get a bit peckish.
There are so many things that you can do to really help yourself be healthier and fitter and all it takes is a little forward planning. By giving up a bit of time when you’re free you can be saving yourself a lot of hassle or ‘I just can’t be bothered moments’ later down the line.
I can’t stress enough how much getting the right nutrition really will help spring board you forward in terms of becoming a healthier and fitter person. You really can’t beat a bad diet so it’s time to start looking at the food you eat and making some real changed towards a healthier diet. I hope you’ve found my tips and trick helpful and feel free to share your own.
Thanks, Megan x