The key focus of any healthy, balanced diet is to make sure that you feel good both physically and emotionally. This means eating a balance of foods that offer you nutrients to thrive, and flavours that satisfy your taste buds too. Indulging in your favourite pastries can be part of a healthy diet, meaning no food is off the table. Rather, the focus should be on how often and how much of different foods you're having. This is a topic of conversation that I regularly have with clients - and they're always delighted to know that no food is forbidden!
More often that not, small, simple changes to your diet can create the greatest of changes. Find just 5 of my top tips for making sure that you're eating a healthy diet.
Tip 1: Eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables
I can see eyes rolling already... I know that you know you should be eating your 5-a-day. But I'm not here to tell you this. Instead, I'm telling you to eat as many colours of fruit and vegetables as you can.
The different colours of fruit and vegetables represent the various nutrients within them. Carrots and sweet potatoes (yes, sweet potatoes count towards your 5-a-day) are orange from beta-carotene, which is a form of vitamin A. Red fruit and vegetables, such as tomatoes, contain lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant, which helps protect your body cells from damage caused by free radicals. Meanwhile, blue or purple foods, such as beetroot and blueberries, contain anthocyanins which also have antioxidant properties.
The more colours of fruit and vegetables that you eat, the wider the range of nutrients you're offering your body.
Tip 2: Eat regularly
Food is crucial to survival - you need the energy and nutrients that it offers. Going long periods of time without eating will cause your energy levels to dip. Not only this, but you'll likely find that your mood dips at the same time too. The next time you go a long time without eating, notice what your energy levels and mood are like before and after you eat.
Aim to eat regularly - snacks can be a great way to keep your body fuelled whilst packing in some extra nutrients and goodness.
Tip 3: Keep hydrated
Dehydration can lead to numerous side effects: constipation, tiredness, lightheadedness and dry lips, to name just a few. Now no one strives to be dehydrated - just like your 5-a-day... you know you should be drinking plenty. But that doesn't make it any easier.
The best advice I could give anyone to help up their fluid intake? Always have water with you. Whether that's sitting at your desk with a glass of water, or carrying a bottle of water if you're on the go. You'll be amazed at how often you end up taking small sips of water, without really realising it.
Tip 4: Choose fibre rich carbohydrates
Fibre is a wonderful nutrient, but it's not very sexy. From helping prevent constipation to keeping you fuller for longer and stabilising blood sugar levels, most of us should be making sure we're getting our recommended 30g/day fibre.
The easiest way to get plenty of fibre in your diet is to eat your 5-a-day and to choose wholegrain carbohydrates, such as wholemeal bread, brown rice or oats. These can be easy swaps without changing up your diet drastically - simply switch your white bread for wholemeal bread.
Tip 5: Focus on unsaturated fats
Fat isn't bad. It's crucial that your diet contains some fats. However, it's important that you focus on prioritising unsaturated fats over saturated fats.
Saturated fats are linked with increasing levels of 'bad' LDL cholesterol, which contributes towards a process known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when fatty deposits build up in blood vessels, narrowing blood flow, and potentially even blocking blood from reaching crucial organs, like parts of the heart. On the other hand, unsaturated fats are linked with reducing levels of LDL cholesterol, and maintaining levels of 'good' HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol helps remove LDL cholesterol from the blood.
In order to prioritise unsaturated fats, focus on cooking with rapeseed, olive or sunflower oils rather than butter, lard, palm oil or coconut oil.
A healthy diet doesn't need to be complicated. By eating a colourful range of fruits and vegetables, focusing on fibre-rich carbohydrates and unsaturated fats, as well as keeping hydrated and eating regularly, you can start to make some positive changes towards your diet and health.