I recently conducted a series of polls via my InstaStories to find out what people were interested in seeing. According to the poll results, many of you are interested in learning about health and wellness, and how to live a better balanced life. In today’s post, I’ll present a few key questions you can ask yourself on a daily and/or weekly basis, that’ll help you achieve greater balance with food. Other lifestyle choices will be discussed in a later post.
There’s been a proliferation of “meal prep Sunday” posts online over the past few years. And while meal prep is a key to dietary success, I think that many of us require assistance in taking steps BEFORE preparing anything. Perhaps you’re a procrastinator, or you purchase groceries based on daily or weekly sales, or maybe you prefer to decide what’s for dinner depending on your mood. Whatever your personality, here are some of the things you may want to think of at your next meal:
- Am I eating enough fruit?
- Am I eating enough vegetables?
- How much water did I drink today?
- Have I included legumes into my meals this week?
- Can I switch up my starches?
- Have I included various natural colours in my diet?
- How many processed foods have I consumed today?
- How many fried foods have I eaten this week?
- How many baked goods have I eaten today?
- Have I (or someone I trust) prepared most of what I’ve eaten today?
Am I eating enough fruits and vegetables?
We know all too well that we should be eating more fruit and vegetables. However, no matter what your eating plan is like, it’s easy to miss out on these essential nutrients. I find that it is best to eat fruit for breakfast, since it digests well and cleanses the system during the body’s natural cycle. It also helps to know that we’ve had a couple of our recommended daily servings before the day has even started.
Eating enough vegetables may be trickier, but fortunately, there’s a large variety to choose from. Think about whether you enjoy raw or cooked vegetables, and plan your meals accordingly. Before trying to reinvent your eating habits, you may start by supplementing your meals with a side portion of salad or roasted veggies.
How much water did I drink today?
Set yourself an achievable target of drinking at least 5 glasses of water per day, and keep a daily checklist of this goal until you’ve developed the habit.
An easy way to check those glasses off your list is to start with some warm water and lemon, first thing in the morning. Then aim to drink at least three (one glass for every hour perhaps) between your morning session and lunch time.
Have I included legumes into my meals this week?
Legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils) are great sources of protein, iron and zinc, and unlike meat products, they are naturally free from cholesterol, are low in saturated fat, and contain fibre. Why not try one meat-free dinner a week? Tinned beans can be used to make curries or dips, and come together in minutes.
Can I switch up my starches?
South Africans largely have a bread-eating culture. Many of us even eat bread at multiple meals. Try to rotate your starches by including rice, pasta and potatoes, as well as wholegrain varieties. Brown rice, wholewheat pasta, and whole meal bread are alternatives to their white counterparts, but can feel a bit heavy. Rather than avoiding all wholegrain alternatives, try to include some of these options in your weekly rotation.
Have I included various natural colours in my diet?
Have you ever noticed how baked and fried goods tend to be… various shades of brown? (If I said golden, it would sound more enticing, wouldn’t it? ;))
Incorporating naturally occurring colours into your diet means that you’ll instantly be increasing the nutritional profile of your meals.
How many processed foods have I consumed today?
Think about how many of the foods you’ve eaten today came directly out of a box or plastic wrapper. Potato chips, chocolates, biscuits and other snack foods often hold a cosy spot in our pantry, and find themselves at our desks, on our pedestals and within reach of the couch. These snacks are mostly loaded with sugars, oil and preservatives that don’t do us any good.
This is where preparation really comes into play. While the convenience of store-bought snacks may be appealing, why not attempt to make your own, at least sometimes. You can make anything you fancy, but you’ll get to know what’s in your food, and how long it should stay fresh for.
How many fried foods have I eaten this week?
The uncomfortable truth is that sometimes we think we’re doing better than we actually are. There are few things as comforting as fried food, and while I believe we should allow for indulgences, it’s important to keep track of these habits. In addition to limiting your fried food intake, if you have a family history of cholesterol and/or heart disease, I’d like to urge you to think about your meat and fat (all added butter and oil) choices.
How many baked goods have I eaten today?
If you’re not a baker, you probably don’t realise how much sugar your favourite treats contain. Biscuits, cookies, cakes easily contain 2 cups of sugar or more, per batch! To put this into perspective, the World Health Organisation recommends that we limit our daily sugar intake to approximately 25g of sugar for women, and 38g for men, which equates to 6 teaspoons and 9 teaspoons respectively.
If you are a baker, or would like to start preparing your own treats, consider the varieties and amounts of sugar you add to your baked goods.
Have I (or someone I trust) prepared most of what I’ve eaten today?
You may find this question strange, but I mean it. As with many topics in life, we may not see eye to eye, and while it’s fairly simple to agree to disagree, your health is something you must take charge of, for yourself and your family. So if you are not the cook in your home, or if your lunches and dinners are usually prepared by the local takeout, restaurant or supermarket, you may want to rethink how many times a day you allow someone else to make your food choices for you. Remember, packaged and restaurant food is meant to be indulgent. If it tasted ‘just okay’ or ‘average’ why would we ever go back?
I hope that this list has stimulated some thought around how you can make better food choices. We’ll continue this conversation over many months.
For now, I wish you well in your endeavours to attaining better health.