A short while back I realised that as a family, our food choices had migrated from unprocessed, healthy wholefoods, to more salt, sugar, ready made and not so healthy options. My reliance on sugar was becoming somewhat ridiculous and I was needing something sweet such as cake, sweets or biscuits at regular intervals throughout the day or I would become shaky and moody. Um, sugar addiction – I think so! There has been a lot of hype recently about how bad sugar really is for you, and it has even been likened to cocaine. Lets just say that if the cocaine laws were applied to sugar, I may find myself in a lot of trouble!
One reason our diets had changed so drastically was the convenience factor. When you have a toddler to look after, a house to keep reasonably tidy, laundry to do, food to buy, not to mention running my childminding business and writing articles, a quick pre prepared meal seems irresistible.
Then of course there is the taste. You start by having one or two pre made sandwiches or ready made sauces each week, but don’t consider what they are filled with. Before too long you find yourself craving these things and you eat even more of them. It becomes a bit of a trap and your health suffers for it.
I heard someone on tv recently saying that the reason the British are recommended to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day is because they had no hope of persuading us to eat any more than that. Our bodies thrive when we fill up on fruits, vegetables and grains. It is so easy to get in to habits where processed foods filled with unrecognisable ingredients are the norm, but we suffer the consequences; poor health, low energy, mood swings, dull skin, constipation, sleeping difficulties to name but a few.
So I decided to make a change. Not in a drastic or sudden way, obsessive diets and strict rules are not sustainable and in my opinion, not healthy either. Instead I started to make small changes which encourage me to look at my food choices and make healthier decisions.
-Switch to sugar free – muesli, cereal, anything you eat which has a sugar free version, make the switch. After a few days you wont even notice the difference!
-Introduce grains and seeds. Sprinkle them on salads, cereal, pasta dishes, even in sandwiches. They are packed with nutrients and so easy to include in your diet.
-Make fruit more inviting. Apples and oranges can get a bit dull if they are all you ever buy. Try buying a larger selection of fruit to pick and choose from. Slice watermelon and mango and keep in a tub in the fridge so you can grab it on the go.
-Replace sandwich meats and cheeses with healthier fillings. Rocket, avocado, hummus, tuna, roasted peppers, grilled tomatoes.
-Switch from white bread to granary or wholemeal.
-Cram in the veg! Whatever you are making, add 1-2 extra portions of vegetables to it. Get inventive!
-Add fruit to your meals. Sprinkle raisins on your cereal, chop grapes in to porridge, have a banana with lunch!
-Replace some of your sweet treats with healthier options. Fruit and natural yoghurt, baked apple with cinnamon, sugar free jelly with clementines are a few yummy ideas.
-If you drink a lot of fizzy drinks, tea or coffee, try replacing them with water, and herbal teas. This is something that you should do gradually or you may experience side effects such as headaches by stopping suddenly.
-Fill your kitchen with healthy snacks – rice cakes, dried and fresh fruit, cucumber and carrot sticks, raw food bars, granary crackers. Eat regularly throughout the day to prevent hunger clouding your judgment causing a panicked rush to the biscuit tin. It is much better for you to eat frequently than to let your blood sugar repeatedly drop and peak.
All of these small changes introduced a few at a time have added up to a huge change for our family and our health. Why not give it a go too?