Health and nutrition play a massive part in your life, and if you’re eating a poor diet, chances are you’ll be feeling this. The effects of a poor diet include feeling bloated, sluggishness, poor bowel movements, lack of energy, dull skin and obesity, to name a few.
With two-thirds of the UK being obese, mainly due to a poor diet and food choices, there has been a renewed focus of late to help people get back to basics as far as their diet is concerned and improve the meals they are eating.
While socioeconomic factors are at play when it comes to poor food choices, after all, any food is inherently better than no food; there is also a lack of understanding around nutrition and, thanks to the many years of diet culture, a fear around some foods that are leading people to avoid and over restrict only to binge when the cravings get too much.
Moving forward, how can people get more nutrition in their diets and make better, healthier choices that can not only support their body how it needs to but also help to break the cycle of poor eating habits and misinformation around certain foods?
Sadly, there will always be misinformation around on many topics, not just food and nutrition, and people will make their own minds up as to what they believe. But this post is going to look at some of the healthier food choices people can make to improve their diet and how to do this moving forward.
Tips for Improving Nutrition and Eating Healthier
Drink More Water
Let’s start with water. If you want to improve health and nutrition, then you need to drink adequate amounts of clear stuff. Your body needs around 2 litres of water per day to remain hydrated, and this should be increased when the weather is hot or when you are exercising to replace lost fluids.
Drinking enough water will also help with hunger. Sometimes, if you’re not drinking enough, thirst can be mistaken for hunger, leading you to eat more. There are many theories on how you can drink more or should drink more water. You can opt for a bottle with markings to encourage you to drink a certain amount every couple of hours; you can choose to drink 500 ml with each meal, making it an easy 1.5 litres per day without trying or setting a timer to drink as you wish. It’s entirely up to you.
Remember you also get water from food and other drinks too. The water in your coffee counts and coffee has surprising health benefits too. Of course, when you load it up with different sugar syrups or add them, this makes them drink more unhealthy. Still, a cup of the black stuff made from high-quality coffee beans with little to no milk, sugars and syrups, for example, has many health benefits, including increased energy, protection against heart and liver conditions, as well as supporting brain health.
You can also get your water intake from fruit and some vegetables, i.e. cucumbers, celery, spinach and broccoli, as well as putting fruits and veg in your water for added flavour, too
Eat More Whole Foods
Everyone knows they need to eat more whole foods, but what exactly are whole foods, and why do you need them?
Whole foods are foods that haven’t been processed or have undergone minimal processing. Processed foods are often referred to as ready-made foods, frozen foods, ready-made meals, aka junk food, and whole foods, which are the opposite.
Generally speaking, whole foods are foods that have been left as close to their natural state as possible, making them healthier and more nutritious.
It’s not always about what is being added to foods when they are more processed or increased levels of salt, sugar and fat but the structure of the whole foods you eat that offer benefits. Let’s take dairy, for example. While you can expect cheese milk and yoghurts to have the same amount of fat as butter, they don’t raise cholesterol levels as much, and this is thought to be down to the structure and combination of nutrients with these foods that are not present in butter.
That doesn’t mean you should cut all processed foods; simply be aware of what you eat. One good example of this is tinned tomatoes; while you would automatically think that fresh tomatoes are better, tinned tomatoes actually have higher levels of lycosene which is a beneficial antioxidant than fresh. So, in some cases, such as tinned tomatoes and hummus, processed foods can actually be just as healthy.
So, including more whole foods and reducing the ultra-processed food you eat can be a great way to boost nutrition and improve your health easily.
Eat More Nutrient Dense Foods
Following on from eating whole foods in your diet, you need to focus on more nutrient-dense foods, too. These foods are pens that have more health benefits, vitamins and minerals, etc, than standard foods. And while there is no such thing as a “superfood” that is healthier than everything else, there are foods that can offer more health benefits if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to boost your nutrition.
Foods like fruit, leafy green vegetables, whole grain, lentils, beans, tofu, greek yoghurt, red meat, liver, exotic berries, and fermented foods such as kombucha are all classed as nutrient-dense dense, meaning they have many different nutrients in them and offer more benefits from eating fewer foods.
You want to be getting as many of the nutrients you need from food and fewer from supplements as this will be more beneficial. For example, for good gut health, you can eat more fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi or probiotic yoghurt over taking probiotic supplements as not only will you be getting the gut-healthy bacteria but a range of other nutrients at the same time too.
Eat More Protein
You need to be upping your protein intake for a healthier, more balanced diet. It is recommended that you eat around 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight. This equates to around 56g of protein per day for a person weighing 75 kg. If you’re trying to lose weight, you can up this to about 1.5g per kilo of body weight. The reason for this is that protein keeps you fuller for longer and more satiated, and it takes more calories to digest protein than any other food. So, if you eat 100g of protein, your body will use around 25 calories just to break it down.
Protein is also essential for healthy muscle growth and repair; it’s why you will often see people drinking protein shakes or having protein bars when leaving the gym. It will also help you to feel fuller for longer, meaning you are less likely to snack more throughout the day.
For optimal protein intake, you should get as much as possible from whole foods sources such as lean meats, e.g. chicken, turkey, beef and from foods such as beans, greek yoghurt, eggs, fish seeds, nuts and tofu. If you cannot eat enough of these foods to get your protein fix, looking for good low-calorie supplements like protein shakes and bars can give you a boost to reach your goals.
Plan Your Meals
If you’re not planning your meals, then the chances of you grabbing food on the go will undeniably be higher. You need to plan in advance for improved nutrition and better-quality meals.
Firstly, making a meal plan or having an idea of what you will be eating, even a loose plan, can help you ensure you have the right foods to make the meals.
Then, you must ensure the foods you make and eat are easily prepared to avoid spending hours in the kitchen. This can mean meal prepping if you are busy and know you are more likely to grab a takeaway after a long working day or even prepare some elements of a meal; for example, if you like to have a salad with every meal, then prepping a tub of salad to last few days will help you make your meal easier. Pre-cooking certain foods like chicken breast to use for a different meal will help you get started, too, so you’re not making an entire meal from scratch.
Have healthier snacks in and make sure they’re front and centre when choosing what to eat, and try to look for healthier, more nutritious and filling foods to keep you fuller for longer while eating fewer calories. Let’s say you enjoy dessert and have a massive sweet tooth, but you’re watching your calorie intake. In this case, you want to think about volume eating, which is eating large quantities for the same or fewer calories. So, plan to make foods that meet these goals. For example, 100g of Greek yoghurt is around 50 to 60 calories, and 10g of honey is 30 calories. Break up a small chocolate bar, which is about 100 calories, into the mix and add in anything else, e.g. 10g of chopped nuts, fresh berries, or a meringue shell for 50 calories. You will have a more filling, nutritious snack than simply eating a chocolate bar with 300 calories in it. Planning ahead and knowing your options means you will be more likely to make better choices than winging it each day.
Eating healthier doesn’t mean cutting out all processed and junk food. Keeping them in your diet and to a minimum can help you reach your health goals and improve your health and nutrition. By making the changes in your diet, you can find something that works for you to reach your goals and eat better.
I’m Eshé the lady behind the blog. That’s me cooking on the set of The Hairy Bikers. I LOVE food and I don’t mean I really like it. I mean my whole world revolves around it.