Since its New year’s soon, most of us must have started making their New Years Resolution lists. And one of the most common resolution is “getting fit and starting to eat healthy”. But somehow, our resolutions last only for a couple of months, like our gym visits. This is because we usually look for or turn towards short term and short cut measures to achieve them. And not just as a new year’s resolution, but lot many of us decide to eat healthy every now and then and lose our way soon.
What we don’t realise is, that eating healthy is a ‘lifestyle change’. It should be such that you can follow easily and that lasts you the entire year.
Developing sustainable habits is very important in this journey. Most of our eating habits are established during our childhood, but that doesn’t mean we can’t change them later in life. As I always say, ‘getting fit & eating healthy’ is a conscious effort. It takes a lot of work and time as well.
Here are a few pointers that have helped me with my healthy eating journey over the past year.
Plan ahead- until last year I never planned our meals ahead. So many a times, when you cant decide what to cook, we ended up ordering outside food. This not only burns a hole in your pockets, but stocks up on unnecessary calories on you. This was the first step that I took on my healthy eating journey. To start with, I started to meal plan for the next 2 days. When I succeeded in following that, I started planning for the entire week. So, after stocking up on the groceries, I sit down and plan all the meals for the whole week or you can even do it the other way around, plan your meals and then stock up on groceries accordingly, and post it on the fridge. So every morning I know what all I have to prep for the day. This will help you staying away from junk. Having a break once in a while is ok and needed too. But for the most part of the week, follow as planned.
Maintain a food journal/ app- to be honest I am not very good at this. I always end up missing days together. But if you do this religiously, it helps a lot. Every night, before going to bed, note down what all you have eaten that entire day. Do this for a week. At the end of the week, REFLECT on those notes. It will give you an account what all bad and good food choices you made and where you need to cut down. This is especially helpful with snacking.
Read the labels on packaged foods- packaged foods contain high amounts of preservatives, fats, sugar, salts, man made food colourings and other chemicals. These foods aim at convenience and lack the necessary nutrients and fibres.
Mindful Stocking up of groceries- stock up on everything fresh (fruits and vegetables). Stock up on pulses and other wholesome foods. Do not get any fried foods or ready to eat or 2-minute foods. I know we crave for these things when we want to snack on something. But when it won’t be available to you, you will look to other healthy food choices. Snack on cucumbers and carrots, include nuts in your daily diet. This point has worked best for me. I always ended up eating French fries and smileys as snacks. But now when I don’t see them, I don’t crave for them. As I read somewhere “Put the treats out of sight and the fruit bowl on the counter”.
Cook often- cook as much as possible. Home cooked food is any time better and nutritious than packaged or take-home food. If you are not able to cook every day, do all the meal prep once or twice a week. This will save up on cooking time plus and you will eat home cooked healthy food. You can even play with spices and flavours according to your palette. Plus it’s the best way to know what’s on your plate and in your system.
Mindful eating- it is your foundation for adapting healthy eating. Be aware of what you are eating/ what you are putting in your mouth. This is very important for making healthy food choices. Never eat in front of the TV or while scrolling on the phone. Stay away from any sort of distraction and pay more attention to what you are putting on your plate. You will automatically stop eating when full and will feel more satisfied.
Eating slowly- I remember, my father telling me as a child, that I need to chew every bite 32 times. He used to tell me no. of times= no. of teeth. Now, I realise that he was making sure that eat slowly. This helps in proper break down and digestion of the food. Plus, it also makes us aware of our hunger levels. Gobbling up the entire food mindlessly is a bad habit. You will end up eating more than what your body wants or needs. Pause before taking a bite, and chew slowly & intentionally.
Eat 5 to 6 meals a day- instead of eating your whole meal at once, and gobbling it up to clear your plate, divide your food portions. Like for example you are used to eating 2 rotis for lunch, so make a change by eating 1 at lunch and the other 2 to 3 hours later. Eating small and frequent meals helps keep the body metabolism up, which is very important for getting fit and weight loss. This will also help you to control your portion sizes.
Eat all the colours/ seasonal fruits- every fruit & vegetable has a different colour because of the constituting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants etc. and each of these have a specific role to play. So it is very important that we fill our plates with all the available colours. This way, we get more variation nutrient wise. Plus, the colourful presentation will be interesting to eat. It will also give you an opportunity to try new food groups.
Water first- I have personally realised, that lot many times, when we feel that we are hungry or we have the urge to put something in our mouth for no reason whatsoever, we are actually thirsty. Drinking a glass of water before eating anything, will help you in such situations. And trust me, I have tried this and it has turned out to be true most of the times. Water is an essential for life. It is required for absorption, digestion and transportation of nutrients, it is also needed for removal of body wastes and regulating body temperature. So use this method to stay hydrated.
Eat early/ at least 2 hours before bed time- post dinner the usual thing we do is lie down on the bed. And since there is no or very less physical activity post dinner, our food is burned and digested properly. Plus we feel full and groggy the next morning. The best way to avoid this is to have a minimum of 2hours gap post your dinner. What I usually do is, I try and complete my 10k steps during this time. So I either take my kids out to gaze at the stars and moon, or I do some chores for the next day like soaking the nuts for the morning etc. the idea behind it is not to sleep immediately post meals.
Snacking- Snacking is the best way to curb our cravings and also doesn’t let us starve. With our daily office work, household chores, kids etc. we forget to keep a tab of what and when we have eaten, often leading to starving and then we give in to unhealthy cravings. Snacking throughout the day and especially in between meals will keep us from staving. Snack on healthy options like nuts, fruits, carrots and cucumbers with hummus, fox nuts, puffed rice etc.