Carolyn McAnlis, Dietitian and Pink Hope Ambassador discusses the basics of healthy eating and gives some recommendations that you can use every day to help you eat a bit healthier.
One easy way to improve the nutrition in your meals is to think of a normal dinner plate – half of this plate should be fruits and vegetables. One quarter should contain a grain or starchy vegetable (rice, pasta, potatoes, dinner roll, etc) and one quarter should contain a source of lean protein. Most of us have meals that centre around a large piece of meat or pasta, when we should be focusing on veggies. The old Aussie classic meal of “meat and 3 veg” actually has something to it! Make one of the vegetables a starchy one like a baked potato, and you’ve got the beginnings of a healthy meal. Try to plan your lunch and dinner meals around this concept.
Choose whole grains where possible. This means that anytime you have the option to switch from white to wholemeal or whole grain, choose whole. If you’re ordering a sandwich at a cafe, order it on wholemeal bread. At the grocery store, choose brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Both breads are made from wheat; the difference is the part of the wheat kernel used in the flour. Kernels have three main components: endosperm, bran and germ. In white bread, only the endosperm is used. But it’s the bran and the germ that are rich in protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Wholemeal flour includes all parts of the kernel, so you get those good nutrients. When choosing white bread, you’re eating a product that isn’t benefiting your body as much as it could. Aim for half of your grain intake throughout the day to be from whole grains.
I think we all remember a parent saying to us as children, “eat your vegetables!” But few of us understood why. There are many benefits to increasing the amount of plant foods in your diet. Fruits and vegetables are made up of mostly water, therefore they are low calorie and nutrient dense. What I mean by nutrient dense is that you get a lot of bang for your buck – few calories but loads of beneficial vitamins and minerals. These vitamins and minerals, like potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A (to name a few) help our bodies run smoothly, fight off disease, and heal properly. They also provide fibre, which keeps us feeling full as well as lowers blood cholesterol and has been shown to lower the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Choose healthier fats by reducing your intake of saturated fats and increasing your intake of unsaturated fats. Saturated fats, contained mostly in animal products like meat (especially red meat), cheese, milk, and anything that contains milk (yes that means chocolate) or animal products. A high intake of saturated fats increases the amount of fat in your blood, which in turn can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Unsaturated fats are found mostly in plants, like nuts and seeds, and also fish. These fats are often called “heart healthy,” because they reduce inflammation and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. If you don’t like fish, add nuts to yogurt for a bit of crunch or try a natural peanut butter on toast for breakfast. This healthy tip is all about making substitutions. Love hamburgers? Buy lean mince and make them at home. Love mayonnaise on a sandwich? Try mashing up a bit of avocado. Love sour cream on your tacos? Try low-fat greek yogurt! While you’re at it, try a different cheese that is lower in fat. Making these small choices can add up to a much healthier diet.
One of the best things I can recommend as a way to eat healthy is to cook at home as much as possible. Take your own meals to work instead of buying something. This helps you control what exactly goes into your food. Unfortunately, you have no idea what is in a restaurant meal, therefore you can’t really be sure that it’s healthy for you. If you want pizza, make it at home – it’s easier than you think! And if you have kids, get them involved as much as they are able. Let them sprinkle the toppings on or mix things. This also saves money! Instead of going out to a nice restaurant, buy some nice fish and experiment with a new recipe at home. You’re saving money and nourishing your body at the same time.
• Prepare your food at home instead of eating out as much as possible to know exactly what’s in your meal (and also save money!).
• Picture a dinner plate: Make half your plate fruits and vegetables, ¼ of it lean protein, and ¼ of it a starch or grain.
• Choose wholemeal or whole grain options whenever possible.
• Make small substitutions like choosing fish instead of beef, or low-fat dairy instead of full-fat options, as a way to decrease intake of saturated fats.
• Snack on nuts to increase unsaturated fat intake.