It might be odd to see a topic like this halfway through the year, seeing as though these kinds of topics are usually found everywhere in January as people start trying to implement their New Year’s Resolutions. However, as great as New Year’s Resolutions are, that’s not the only time that you’re allowed to change your life and eat healthier. We think that there’s never a wrong time to talk about eating healthier, and there’s never a better time to start than right now!
Why should we eat healthy food?
Healthy food is absolutely essential to our overall good health and well-being, and what we eat has a huge impact on how our bodies and minds function. We all know this to be true logically, but it’s often hard to actually live like that. The amount of disease and chronic problems that we face that are directly related to what we eat is exorbitantly high. In saying that, the effects of what we eat go beyond only affecting our physical health. A healthy diet can radically improve our mental health and emotional well-being, as well as things like our sleep, and even our memory! I’m sure we’ve all heard the popular maxim ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ Odds are, if you’ve ever been on a diet, you’ll probably remember feeling good about yourself. Never mind keeping the doctor away, what about keeping depression away? A healthy diet can do this and much more.
How to eat healthily?
We’ve compiled a list of ten simple, realistic ways that you can eat healthier this year. Don’t worry, they’re not as scary or difficult as you may think. In fact, a lot of the stuff that we as a society have come to believe about eating healthy is actually quite false. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard, gross, or boring. Not at all! So, let’s look at some of the ways you can start this journey today.
- Fill half your plate with vegetables
Vegetables are high in nutrients and fibre, but they’re low in calories which means they’ll fill you up in a good way! When you fill up with vegetables, you don’t leave much room for any other unhealthy options which is a great way to avoid bad foods. The best way to make vegetables readily available for your meals is to batch cook a big portion at the beginning of the week and then freeze them. Then at the start of each day, you can remove a portion of veg from the freezer and let it defrost for your evening dinner.
- Buy canned and/or frozen produce
This is a great option if you want to know how to eat healthy and cheap. Often people are misled to believe that canned or frozen produce is not healthy because it’s not fresh. That’s just not true, and in fact, there are many canned and/or frozen vegetable options available that are just as healthy as fresh vegetables. The key here is to make sure you read the label carefully because there are canned foods that aren’t healthy at all. Look for low sodium options or fruits containing 100 perfect fruit juice.
- Meal prep
This has become a bit of a trend lately amongst the healthy population who have realised that cooking takes time! Preparing your meals all at once for every day of the upcoming week is a fantastic way to make sure you stick to your diet, and also that you don’t squander money on unnecessary food during the week when you don’t have time to cook. With life’s busyness a constant factor, you’ll definitely benefit from this simple task once a week. Just prepare all your meals and pop them in the freezer. You’ll thank us later!
- Buy non-perishable items
Another great tick in the ‘how to eat healthy and cheap in South Africa’ box is to simply buy non-perishable food. This is food that lasts and is the perfect kind of stock to have in your home for when an unexpected hunger pops up. Stock your fridge and cupboards with items like eggs, peanut butter, whole grain pasta, rice, and canned tuna. This will ensure that you never have an excuse to buy junk food on a whim and that you always have a healthy snack available.
- Plan your snacks
As mentioned above, having healthy snacks available will do wonders for your appetite and any cravings you may have throughout the day. Instead of gorging yourself on dinner at 3 pm, grab a banana and a bottle of water. Snacks like this help curb your appetite, and they don’t spoil your meals when lunch or dinner rolls around. It’s always a good idea to make sure you have a good amount of snack options with you. Some other good options include a trail mix, plain popcorn, biltong, or a granola bar.
- Have a ‘sugar plan’
Go easy on yourself here, we’re not all superhuman! Allow yourself to have a little sugary treat once or twice a week. Don’t go overboard, plan it in advance, and enjoy it guilt-free. Going completely cold turkey from sugar isn’t helpful and can lead to over-compensating and over-indulging, which in turn will lead to severe feelings of guilt. Remember, the goal is not perfection, but rather an overall, sustainably balanced lifestyle.
- Replace your favourite takeaway with a healthier alternative
Eating healthier doesn’t mean you can’t go out for a meal, and going out for a meal doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Finding restaurants and eateries that serve up wholesome, healthy food will be one of the best things you do for yourself this year, because let’s face it, sometimes we just need a break and someone else to cook for us. There’s no shame in that! It’s probably best if you’re honest about it and make plans ahead of time to cater for that feeling when it comes around. There’s nothing worse than being dog-tired from work and having to come home and cook. Plan a meal out at a new, healthier restaurant in advance to dodge this slump, should it come up. Who knows, you might find your new favourite place to eat.
- Have a plant-based protein every now and then
This is a super-efficient way to save some money and eat healthier while you’re at it. Although meat is a great source of protein, it can be quite expensive. This is where we’d suggest replacing said meat with a plant-based source of protein like quinoa, lentils, or chickpeas. This doesn’t mean you have to become a vegan or vegetarian, you can just sub-in one of these plant-based proteins every now and then. Try it!
- Stay away from ‘diet foods’
Food of the ‘diet’ variety like low fat, fat-free, or even ‘low-calorie’ is often deceiving to the naïve eye. This is because in order to replace the lost texture and flavour that fat provides, more sugar and other unhelpful and unhealthy ingredients are often added, so much so that the ‘fat-free’ option sometimes contains more sugar and calories than the full-fat option! Not everybody is aware of this, so beware next time you spot that fat-free chocolate yoghurt. It might not be all that you think it is!
- Don’t go to the shops on an empty stomach
This one is more of a preventative measure than anything, but it’s a helpful one! How many times have you gone to the shops with every intention to buy a nice, solid meal for yourself, and you’ve ended up walking past the hot food section and you catch a whiff of the hot chips or the macaroni and cheese… don’t worry, we’ve all done that! That is precisely why this rule of thumb is so helpful to follow because sometimes it’s our lack of awareness around our hunger that can cause us to buy unnecessary and unhealthy food to satisfy it. If we are more acutely aware of our hunger throughout our days, we can better prepare ourselves to avoid the shops until we’ve eaten, or better still, have a meal that we’ve prepared on hand ready to be eaten. It might also be helpful to go to the shops outside of your peak hunger times.
Ten Of The Best
And there you have it. Our ten best ways to eat healthier in 2022. It’s helpful to note that you shouldn’t expect to take each of these options and implement them into your daily lives at the drop of a hat. Rather, choose the top two or three that stand out to you and focus on implementing them into your daily routine. If you can only do one at a time, that’s okay. As long as you’re slowly building new habits and practices, and reaching new goals that are sustainable and realistic for you to achieve, then you’re on the right path. Give yourself two to four weeks before introducing another one of these ways to healthier eating. Remember, all in good time.