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You are what you eat!

Closeup of young woman eating healthy foodHealthy eating is not about strict nutrition philosophies, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. It’s about feeling great, having more energy and keeping yourself as healthy as possible.

Think about planning a healthy diet as a number of small, manageable steps, rather than one big drastic change.

Below are a few useful tips to help you stay healthy.

Simplify. Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories or measuring portion sizes, think of your diet in terms of colour, variety, and freshness. Focus on finding foods you love and easy recipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients. Gradually, your diet will become healthier and more delicious.

Start slow and make changes to your eating habits over time. Trying to make your diet healthy overnight isnt realistic or smart. Take small steps, like adding a salad to your diet once a day, or switching from butter to olive oil when cooking. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices to your diet.

Every change you make to improve your diet matters. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy to have a healthy diet. The long term goal is to feel good, have more energy, and reduce the risk of cancer and disease.

Water. Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, however many people go through life dehydrated. This can cause tiredness, low energy levels and headaches. It’s also common to mistake thirst for hunger. So aim to drink at least 1.5 litres of water per day.

Think smaller portions. At home, use smaller plates, think about serving sizes in realistic terms and start small. Try adding more vegetables, or rounding off the meal with fresh fruit.

Take time to chew your food and enjoy mealtimes. Chew slowly and savour every bite. We tend to rush our meals, forgetting to actually taste the flavours or feel the textures. Reconnect with the joy of eating.

Listen to your body. Ask yourself if you’re really hungry, or just thirsty. During a meal, stop eating before you feel full. It takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that is has had enough food, so eat slowly.

Eat breakfast and smaller meals throughout the day. A healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism. When not on an intermittent fasting diet, eating small, healthy meals throughout the day keeps your energy up and your metabolism going.

Greens: Kale, broccoli and Chinese cabbage are just a few greens packed with calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc and vitamins A, C, E and K. Be sure to incorporate more into your mealtimes.

Sweet vegetables: Corn, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, onions and squashes add healthy sweetness to your meals and reduce your cravings for other sweets.

Fruit: A tasty and satisfying way to fill up on fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. Berries are cancer fighting, apples provide fibre, oranges and mangos offer vitamin C. The list goes on and on.

Healthy carbs: Sometimes known as good carbs. These include whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. They are digested slowly, help you feel fuller for longer and keep blood sugar and insulin levels stable.

Unhealthy carbs: Known as bad carbs. These include white flour, refined sugar and white rice that has been stripped of all bran, fibre and nutrients. They are digested quickly, causing spikes in blood sugar levels and energy. So avoid them as much as possible, as well as breads, pastas and breakfast cereals that are not whole grain.

Add to your diet: Monounsaturated fats (e.g. olive and plant oils, avocados, nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and pecans and seeds such as pumpkin and sesame). Polyunsaturated fats, including Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids found in salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and some fish oil supplements. Other sources of polyunsaturated fats include sunflower, corn, soybean, flaxseed oils and walnuts.

Reduce or eliminate from your diet: Saturated fats (e.g. red meats, whole milk and dairy products). Trans fats found in some margarines, snack foods, baked goods and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Downsize your proteins but also try different types and focus on quality sources. Focus on equal servings of protein, whole grains and vegetables. Try sources such as beans, nuts, seeds, peas, tofu and soy products, fresh fish, chicken or turkey.

Add calcium for strong bones. These include dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese, vegetables, leafy greens and beans.

Limit sugar and salt. Avoid sugary drinks and eat naturally sweet foods such as peppers, fruit or natural peanut butter. Avoid processed or pre-packaged foods, opt for fresh or frozen vegetables, cut back on salty snacks such as crisps, choose low salt or reduced sodium products and try to slowly reduce the salt in your diet, giving your taste buds time to adjust.

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