An example of what a healthy meal could look like.
We’ve all been there. That moment when we look on the scales and go why on earth did we eat that piece of cake or have that Chinese. That moment where your trousers are just a little too tight or things don’t quite fit as well as they want to. The moment where you say enough is enough and it’s time to make a change. I’m going to admit, I’ve probably been there more than most. The trick for me is sustaining the ability to eat healthily on a long term basis, so that cake one day, doesn’t turn into a week of cake; and Friday night takeaway doesn’t turn into a ‘sod it’ Saturday and Sunday too. Having given this some thought, here are my 5 tips for maintaining healthy eating in the long term.
1. To fail to plan is to plan to fail
My worst habit is not planning enough. If I know what I’m having for breakfast, lunch and dinner days in advance then I am less likely to ruin that and go off script in between. For example – this week I know it’s salmon salad for lunch Monday & Tuesday, curry for lunch Wednesday & Thursday. I have the ingredients in the house, and I know what I’m doing with them. If you don’t use what you’ve bought then the joke is on you because you throw away the food you’ve paid good money for, so in planning I save time by knowing what I’m having, and I save money in being prepared!
Mixed beans can make a fantastic chilli without using mince.
2. Variety is the spice of life
Food can be boring. I find food is at its absolute worst when you are stuck into a routine. Take this for example – Monday is always cold meat and beans, Tuesday is always shepherd’s pie, Wednesday is always a midweek roast, Thursday is always sausages and Friday is always curry. You’d get bored after a while. By looking for different recipes and different things to eat each week you keep yourself more interested in the food you’re eating so again you are less likely to look at the unhealthy food stuffs to eat. A few weeks ago I tried a new curry – was it time consuming? No! I’d planned it in advance, and read the recipe. All I had to do was whizz some ingredients in a food processor (including lemon grass and coconut milk – yum!), pour it over some chicken and oven bake for 45 minutes – it was probably the least labour intensive meal I’d done all week. That and the looks in work the following day when I brought in the leftovers were a picture too. This also brings me to a more specific point…
3. There is more to eating than meat and fish
Sometimes we just don’t say it enough. Meat and fish do not have to make a staple part of every single meal you eat. After all – how do you think vegetarians manage? This is one thing I always forget when considering variety and I always find it one specific thing to bear in mind. Lentils, and other beans (no, not of the baked variety) are absolutely fantastic in making bulky meals that will fill you up and keep you going for longer. Instead of doing a chilli with beef mince – just throw in a load of mixed beans in chilli sauce; instead of a meat curry, do a lentil based one. Essentially we have here a somewhat neglected food group amongst some (not all) people that is massively high in protein, fibre and iron – and yet is extremely low in fat. Ideal if you are looking for variety and trying to eat healthily as well.
Whizz the ingredients, pour over the chicken and oven bake – cooking can be that simple.
4. Don’t deny yourself
Please, please, please take this advice in the way it is intended. I’m not saying if you fancy a chocolate biscuit every day you should have a chocolate biscuit. That’s a habit and possibly not a good one if you are trying to eat healthy. However there will be times when you do crave a particular food stuff. You may spend a week suddenly really wanting fish and chips but then worry about the fact that it’s really greasy. You may spend another week really wanting a jam doughnut, just one – but again worry about the amount of sugar and the fact that it just doesn’t fit in with your healthy eating. However this probably makes you more likely to rebel against eating healthily the whole time anyway! Therefore don’t deny yourself. Eat it anyway – you’ll feel better mentally for having it and you’ll be more willing to focus on the next week of food eating which brings me to my next point….
5. If you slip up, move on
Eating healthily can sometimes be a challenge. Even the best laid plans can sometimes just simply not happen and we eat (or drink) things we later think we shouldn’t have. This is then followed by the customary 3 days or so of beating yourself up about it whilst you then realise that in actual fact this wasn’t too much of a big deal – but by which time you’ve almost given up anyway. These things happen – the important thing is to move on quickly and draw a line under it all. I find planning for the unexpected always helps and if you tell yourself that if x happens then I won’t let it bother me then you’re more likely to draw the line. With that healthy eating becomes a piece of fruit!