Approx 800 words.
Diet and health manager Bryonie Hollaert explains why we should all be putting our health first. Check out her top tips for making better food choices in 2021:
As we step into 2021, there’s never been a more important time to look after your mental and physical health. There are plenty of things you can do to boost your wellbeing. I’m not talking about restrictive diets or a new fitness regime — health is about more than that. Focus instead on developing sustainable and long-lasting habits that are good for your mind and body, whether it’s upping your fruit and veg intake, establishing a good routine with mealtimes or eating more mindfully. Here’s to making looking after yourself top priority in 2021.
Find your routine
Has the chaos of Christmas, plus an unpredictable year, thrown you a little out of whack? Me too. When it comes to introducing a semblance of normality back to your life, I find the best place to start is through regular mealtimes. Choosing a set time every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner will help create a sense of structure and routine to your day; it’s a practice that keeps me feeling mentally grounded.
Tip: Start the day as you mean to go on with a strong breakfast. Try this quick veggie brunch for a veg-packed twist on a fry-up. Or, if you have a sweet tooth, a bowl of banana and honey porridge is cheap, warming and takes just 10 minutes to make.
Aim for 5 a day (at least)
You’ve heard it countless times before… If you don’t already eat five types of fruit and vegetable every day, now’s the time to start! One of your 5 a day means 80g of fresh vegetables or fruit. It’s essential for making sure you get all the correct vitamins, minerals and fibre into your diet.
Tip: It’s not just fresh fruit and veg that count towards your 5 a day. Try tinned, frozen, juiced and dried varieties, too.
Make clever swaps
Often, cooking up better-for-you meals doesn’t mean having to give up your favourite dishes. Popular choices that are high in salt or sugar can be tweaked ever so slightly to bring red traffic lights down to amber or green. Swap ready-made jarred sauces, which can be high in sugar and salt, for tinned tomatoes; switch milk chocolate for dark (try Co-op Irresistible Fairtrade Single Origin 85% Cocoa Dark Chocolate); and if you want to ramp up the flavour of your food without adding salt, make use of spices, herbs and low-salt stock.
Eating at your (home) desk or while distracted can lead to overeating, mostly because you can end up feeling like you haven’t eaten at all. Take a break to fit in mealtimes, focusing on the flavour of the food and enjoying each mouthful. The same goes for cooking: enjoy the process of preparing your meals, from the smell of a dish as it cooks, to the joy of watching your ingredients transform into something delicious.
I often find the hurdle that trips me up when it comes to making good food choices is not having the ingredients to hand when hunger strikes. So, before you do a big shop, have a think about the meals you’d like to make that week and write yourself a shopping list. Equally, to save yourself cooking every night, cook up big-batch meals that you can eat over a couple of nights, or pop any leftovers in the freezer for another day.
Less meat, more plants
If you’d like to eat a healthier diet, opting for meals that are packed with plant-based ingredients, such as fruits, veggies, beans, pulses and wholegrains, is a good place to start. Consider swapping one or two meaty meals a week to vegetarian ones, focusing in particular on eating less red or processed meat. My favourites include this loaded lentil dahl, which is low in saturated fat and only takes 20 minutes to make. Or, if you’re looking for new and exciting vegan meal options, then these dosa pancakes and this cauliflower and spiced chickpea soup are both speedy, low in sat-fat and seriously tasty. Be sure to check out Co-op’s GRO range, too, for lots of quick-fix vegan options.
Remember, the key to maintaining a balanced diet and a healthy relationship with food is to allow yourself a bit of what you love every now and then. So, whether it’s a packet of crisps or a slice of chocolate cake, don’t deny yourself a treat from time to time.
Diet and Health Manager