Go whole or go home Supermarkets are full of pre-packaged food packed with salt, sugar, fat and preservatives. The easiest way to avoid these nasties? Eat whole foods. That means looking for ingredients in their natural form – think fresh fruit and veggies, raw nuts and lean meat.
Read food labels Too busy to cook? Having one of those weeks? If you have to buy your lunch or breakfast, pay close attention to the label, checking the sugar, salt and saturated fat content. To give you an idea, 5g of sugar is equal to about one teaspoon of the sweet stuff and anything that contains over 15g per 100g is considered high in sugar. When it comes to saturated fats, anything over 5g per 100g is considered high. And if sugar and salt are among the first few ingredients listed, you’re probably better off putting it back on the shelf.
Give snacks the boot Fight that 4pm urge for cakes and chocolate treats with an apple, peanut butter on a Ryvita cracker, carrot sticks and houmous or a handful of nuts. The key to preventing cravings is preparation. If you’re desperate for the sweet stuff, go for some dark chocolate as it’s high in antioxidants and relatively low in sugar and fat.
Live on the edge You may head to the shops with the best of intentions, but it’s easy to get derailed by the tempting treats that line the aisles. Your strategy? Stick to the sidelines. Most major supermarkets are laid out with whole foods such as fruit and veg, meat, milk and bread around the outer edges. So, keep to the sides to stay on track.
Go organic Cut back on your exposure to chemical nasties by choosing organic food. If you can’t afford to buy every item on your list from the organic section, just target the ingredients you tend to eat regularly. Shopping with the seasons will also help keep organic costs down, so read up on what to buy when.
Cut the carbs It’s obvious that crisps, chocolate and cake are never going to score highly in the health stakes, but you should keep an eye on your intake of refined carbohydrates such as white pasta, rice and bread, too. They can have a similar effect to sweets on blood sugar levels, contributing to unruly peaks and troughs in energy, so swap them for their wholegrain cousins for a sustained energy release.
Change your oil So many of the meals we rustle up require an oil base – it’s a kitchen staple. But, not all oils were created equal! Extra virgin coconut oil is made up of medium-chain fatty acids which help stimulate your metabolism and quash cravings. It also contains lauric acid, which has antiviral properties. And because it doesn’t break down at high temperatures it’s a great replacement for your regular cooking oil.
Shop around Looking for a new healthy snack, sugar alternative or organic peanut butter? There are now a bunch of health food shops which stock huge ranges of organic and natural foods, and you can shop online too. They’re the best place to get hold of those hard-to-find ingredients like xylitol, chia seeds and raw chocolate. They also stock great ranges of gluten-free, wheat-free and dairy-free foods.
Make simple swaps Rework your favourite meals by searching for healthier recipes online or swapping out calorific or sugar-laden ingredients. Think sweet potato chips with grilled fish, turkey mince instead of beef mince Bolognese with wholemeal pasta, and xylitol-sweetened cakes.
Go green Think you’re getting your full quota of green veggies? Write down everything you eat for a week and you might be surprised at how little you’re really eating. Green veg is packed with minerals and vitamins that are essential to keep bodies healthy. Many of us reserve a small portion of our plates for greens come dinner time and often skip them all together at lunch. Top up with a big serving of broccoli, kale and spinach or take a green supplement such as spirulina, barley grass or wheat grass to up your quota.