Living in a society where we are becoming increasingly aware of the effects our diets can have on our bodies - and consequently our overall health and wellbeing - it’s not all too surprising that many of us are looking for healthier ways to eat! Now, there are plenty of trends and fads out there and not all of them are all that they make out to be. So, to prevent you from wasting your time, let’s take a moment to look at a few different steps and techniques that can help to get you started off in the right direction when it comes to your diet!
Cut Out Fast Food
Millions of us consume fast food on a regular basis. This is why there are so many outlets about! If there wasn’t huge demand for fast food, there wouldn’t be fast food restaurants and take aways on pretty much any street you find yourself on. So, what is it about fast food that keeps us all coming back for more, time and time again? What sends us in droves to drive thrus rather than cooking a wholesome meal of our own accord? Well, fast food is convenient. It’s fast. It’s relatively cheap if you choose the right places to go. It also tends to taste good and has genuinely addictive qualities about it. So, why cut it out? Well, while fast food might be fine as an occasional treat, you simply can’t lead a healthy lifestyle when eating it for every meal. Items on takeaway menus tend to have an extremely low nutritional value. THey also tend to be filled with high amounts of saturated fat, high levels of salt, and excessive levels of sugar. They’re scant when it comes to genuine nutritional value! So, significantly cut back on this type of dining. Your body needs a lot more than these meals are offering in order to function productively.
Vegetarianism and Veganism
We’re coming towards the end of veganuary, so it’s highly likely that you’ll have been surrounded by a whole lot of hype surrounding vegetarianism and veganism lately. Major brands are releasing vegetarian and vegan options, capitalising on this trend! But this could be so much more than a mere fad. Vegetarianism and veganism are lifestyle choices where you consciously cut animal based matter and materials from your diet and life. This means no meat, eggs, dairy, honey, gelatine, or other animal products. These choices are on the rise and experiencing boosted popularity due to many of us being more conscientious on the whole. There are a host of reasons that going vegetarian vegan is an ethical lifestyle choice. You can do it for the sake of animals (who are cruelly harmed and slaughtered in the production of meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal derived products and for the sake of the environment (livestock industry results in the production of huge amounts of methane, as well as contributing towards deforestation and water pollution). But let’s focus on going vegetarian or vegan for your own sake and the sake of your overall health and wellbeing for now. While propaganda spread by the meat and dairy industry suggests that you cannot achieve a balanced and nutritious diet without animal products, you should know that a vegetarian or vegan diet can genuinely be much healthier for you! You just have to make sure you get it right!
Cutting Out Meat
Various studies have been carried out on meat consumption and results have found that individuals eating red meat in particular tend to have higher individual risks of developing serious health problems down the line. They can run a higher risk of developing heart disease, type two diabetes, and high cholesterol.
Milk companies spread many myths surrounding why we need to add dairy into our diets. The majority of us have been raised believing that we need calcium from milk and other dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt, and cream in order to lead a full and healthy lifestyle with strong bones. But this isn’t necessarily rue. In fact, while milk based products do contain a lot of calcium, we do not actually absorb much calcium from the pasteurised products that we purchase from the store. In fact, studies have found that increased milk consumption can actually increase calcium loss from our bones. Instead, you should focus on getting your calcium from leafy greens!
Ensuring You Get Enough Protein
If you do decide to take on this type of diet, you need to make sure that you do get enough protein into your body. Most of us rely on getting protein from meat, so when we cut it out, we can feel at a loss as to where to get it. Before we get started on this, let’s discuss what proteins actually are. Put simply, there are two different types of proteins - complete proteins and incomplete proteins. “Complete proteins” are amino acids. Twenty different types of amino acids can make protein. Our body can produce eleven of them independently, however, we need to get the other nine from our food. These nine amino acids that we need to find in food are referred to as essential amino acids and you really don’t need meat to find them. You can get them from:
Mycoprotein - this is perhaps the easiest, most common, and most accessible source of non-animal derived protein. Brands such as Quorn create meat substitutes out of mycoprotein. If you are following a vegan diet, make sure to double check packaging, as the company is known to use egg for binding in certain items.
Seitan - seitan is another protein packed meat substitute that is receiving increased interest and popularity. Try out a seitan burger! Just bear in mind that it might not be suitable for you if you do not consume wheat or gluten.
Soy - soy is a complete protein. Tofu is a soy product that can be purchased in most stores. Generally speaking, the more firm tofu is, the better, as it’s likely to contain more protein.
Buckwheat - believe it or not, buckwheat isn’t actually a form of wheat. It’s actually pretty closely related to rhubarb! Try incorporating it into your dishes for a protein kick!
If you haven’t tried paleo out before, now could be the perfect time to try it out and follow a Paleo diet. Put simply, a Paleo diet is a type of “caveman diet”. A simple guideline is that while on this diet, you wouldn’t eat anything that a caveman wouldn’t have access to. This means no bread, no pasta, nothing with artificial colours, preservatives, or additives… you get the gist. This can prove to be an extremely good diet in terms of health and wellbeing, as you cut out a lot of the artificial ingredients you would otherwise casually fill your body with. You are encouraged to eat all natural dishes and you are also likely to eat a lot more raw fruits and vegetables. Not only does this tick off your recommended five a day, but raw foods tend to have a higher nutritional content than cooked foods.
Reduce Your Sugar Consumption
Sure, there are much worse substances in the world than sugar. But sugar really can wreak havoc with our health if we don’t consume it in moderation. Sure, a little sugar here and there can form a part of a generally healthy diet. But you do need to monitor your sugar consumption and ensure that you aren’t letting your sweet tooth get the better of you! Now, this can be easier said than done. It’s extremely rare that someone actively dislikes the sweetness that sugar provides and there are evolutionary reasons behind this. Theorists believe that in the past, our ancestors actively sought out sweeter fruits, as they were more likely to be ripe and ready to eat. The sugar would help to fuel their bodies for a longer period of time. However, nowadays, we have such easy access to mass manufactured sugar, and it is incorporated into so many different foods, that we can easily find ourselves eating way too much of the sweet stuff. This can negatively impact us in various ways.
It can create serious problems with our overall oral and dental health. Sugar provides the bacteria that lives in our mouth with a source of easily digestible energy. This fuels it, allows it to multiply, and can have an end result of tooth decay. Excessive amounts of sugar in your diet could leave to fillings, root canals, and even tooth extraction.
Sugar is essentially empty calories. It makes our bodies feel full, but doesn’t help our bodies to function.
The good news is that there are a few simple steps that you can take to seriously reduce the amount of sugar you eat on a daily basis. Start out by exchanging your usual drinks (tea, coffee, fruit juices, squash, or carbonated drinks) for water. Not only will this help you to keep hydrated, but it will reduce your sugar intake at the same time! Also try switching up your chosen snacks. Most of the sugar we eat is consumed as snacks - chocolate bars, cakes, sweets. Instead, opt for something savoury and a little healthier. If you do want something sweet, have some fruit. These contain natural sugars.
These are just a few dietary changes to consider. They may seem simple, but they can make a huge difference!