By Rachael Anne Hill MSc R.Nutr
Hectic lifestyles, lack of time and an abundance of convenience foods can result in even the most health conscious eater straying off track. Here, Rachael Anne Hill shows you a range of super quick fixes that will transform your eating habits in a day.
Kick Starting With Caffeine
Caffeine stimulates the nervous system helping you to feel more awake and wards off drowsiness. However, too much of it results in excess production of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol which, over time, will leave you feeling burnt out. Excess caffeine affects your ability to sleep well too setting up a viscous circle of needing to consume even more to feel alert.
The Fix: Gradually cut back to a maximum of 3 cups of tea, coffee or cola a day. Start your day with a herbal brew or a cleansing cup of hot water and lemon. Focus on adding plenty of slow releasing, low GI foods into your diet such as wholegrains, beans, pulses and vegetables and make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. This way you’ll wake feeling naturally energised, raring to go and free from the burning desire to start your day with a cuppa.
Missing breakfast cheats you of a great opportunity to bank a whole host of important nutrients. It also causes blood sugars to plummet making you far more vulnerable to over-eating throughout the rest of the day. This is the reason why so many studies show that breakfast eaters are invariably thinner and healthier than breakfast skippers.
The Fix: There are two main reasons why people avoid eating breakfast – lack of appetite and lack of time. Both these problems are easily remedied by preparing a breakfast in advance that you can take with you and eat a little later when time and appetite allow.
Try a fresh fruit smoothie, a wholemeal pitta spread with a little peanut butter or tahini, banana slices and honey, a tin or carton of fruit in natural juices, a small pot of low fat rice pudding or a home-made, wholemeal fruit muffin.
Cravings for sugary, fatty snacks usually kick in about mid-morning as a response to falling blood sugar levels but these can over stimulate your hormonal system leaving you feeling perpetually tired.
The Fix: The best way to avoid yo-yoing sugar levels is to eat a low GI breakfast such as porridge, granola or fresh fruit topped with low fat yogurt and a handful of mixed nuts or seeds.
Lower the overall GI rating of the rest of your daily diet too by swapping high GI, fast releasing carbohydrates such as most breads, rice, pasta, processed breakfast cereals, cakes and biscuits to much slower, more sustaining, low GI alternatives such as stone-ground and rye bread, brown basmati rice, beans, pulses and oats.
High Fat Lunches
Seemingly healthy commercially prepared sandwiches and salads can be far higher in fat than you might think and poor labelling can make it difficult to know exactly how many calories you’re eating.
The Fix: Always read the nutritional label of your lunch.
These guidelines allow you to work out whether a food is high or low in a certain nutrient at a glance.
|A lot means these amounts or more||a little means these amounts or more|
|20 grams||FAT||3 grams|
|5 grams||SATURATES||1 gram|
|10 grams||SUGARS||2 grams|
|3 grams||FIBRE||0.5 grams|
|0.5 grams||SODIUM||0.1 gram|
Alternatively, make your own lunch or have it made to your specifications at the local deli or sandwich bar.
Important Tip: Keep fat levels low by swapping butter and margarines for a light scraping of low fat spread and instead of mayonnaise which has an average of 240 calories per tablespoons go for chutneys, pickles, cranberry or apple sauces instead which contain an average of just 40 calories for the same amount.
Liven up your salads with a drizzle of good quality balsamic vinegar or sweet chill dipping sauce (both have approximately 14 Kcals per serving) instead of oily salad dressings which can add up to 250 calories per serving.
The Sugar Break
A regular ‘lets eat something sweet’ habit can add a lot of extra calories, fat and sugar to your diet. However, that didn’t stop us collectively chomping through a whopping 141 million packs last year alone.
The Fix: If you love a sweet bite with your afternoon cuppa why not try a handful of nutty, fruit filled granola instead. The fruit and nuts are a source of essential fats, antioxidants and iron and the protein and fibre from the nuts will help your blood sugars stay stable until supper time.
Important Tip: Try nibbling on a handful of walnut halves pushed into the centre of a semi dried date. Sweet, crunchy, delicious, high in fibre, essential fats, immune boosting vitamin E and very filling.
Reaching For The Ready Meals?
When you arrive home after a hard day’s work it can be all too tempting to rely on a ready meal.
The Fix: Cook in bulk and freeze meals in disposable aluminum trays. The day before you want to eat them simply transfer from the freezer to the fridge to defrost and re-heat in the microwave as you would a ready meal.
Important Tip: Invest in a slow cooker too. Simply throw a few ingredients in the morning and come home every day to a house filled with the delicious aroma for hot casseroles, curries, soups and stews.
Winding Down with Wine
Whilst the occasional glass of wine won’t do you any harm, relying on it to put a full stop to your working day is never a good idea. Alcohol lowers blood sugar levels making you feel tired and over stimulates your appetite making you eat more than you otherwise would. It also robs the body of a great many essential vitamins and minerals and may increase the likelihood of calories from food being stored as fat.
The Fix: You will invariably find the desire for your favorite tipple subsides quite considerably after eating. If you do still want a drink have one but in a small glass. Alternatively, have a spritzer instead or an elderflower cordial with sparkling water, ice, fresh mint and slices of lemon served in a large wine glass can make a refreshing substitute.
Also Read: 5 Food That May Contribute to Stress At Work