To say it bluntly: If you eat crap, you’ll feel like crap.
Mind you, I am not talking about the occasional cupcake or chocolate ice cream every now and then. I am referring to specific food choices, which have become unhealthy (daily) habits and will eventually affect the way you feel, and ultimately the way you look (e.g. weight gain, eye bags and under eye rings, sallow skin tone, brittle hair and nails etc.)
I get it, we’re busy with our jobs, school, housework and taking care of the children and often enough it seems like there just isn’t enough time at the end of the day to wrap up a healthy meal. Except, there is! Remember, we are striving to become the best versions of ourselves and in order to do so, we have to make time for these kinds of things. Starting with taking a close look at our everyday eating habits and making some necessary changes.
A beautiful body is a healthy body and to obtain a healthy, glowing body we have to feed it with the right foods to help it function properly.
You can’t indulge in fatty foods and candy every day and expect your body to function – let alone look – it’s very best. It just doesn’t work that way.
With this statement, I am appealing to your common sense. Because, let’s be honest, we all know what it takes to have a lean physique: incorporate plenty of veggies, fruits, lean meat and unrefined carbs and limit your intake of refined carbs and sugar. There, it’s not rocket science.
Once you have embarked on this journey of becoming the best version of yourself inside and out, adopting a healthy diet will come natural to you, trust me. When I first started, I discovered a new interest in that I really enjoyed researching nutrition tips and the more I educated myself on the subject, the more I wanted to try out new things and learn more about the way my body responds to certain foods.
Here are some of my tips when it comes to eating well
1. Never skip breakfast
Not only that, but make sure you eat enough as well. A muffin and coffee on the go will not do the trick as it will inevitably leave you feeling hungry just an hour after having eaten it, and most likely cause you to over snack and indulge in something unhealthy. So, make sure you leave the breakfast table feeling full.
I am a big fan of oats and believe porridge is the best breakfast choice you can make. Unfortunately, I somehow developed an allergy to oats a couple of years ago and can’t eat them as much as I’d like to. So, I substitute it with millet or quinoa instead and switch it up every day.
A serving of porridge contains all the nutritious components, which come with unrefined carbs, leaving you fuller for longer and giving your body and brain the energy they need to start the day.
The good thing with porridge is, that you can combine it with a lot of things. I like to prepare it with warm water (some prefer milk – I suggest you do half and half) and always add blueberries (I try to get the fresh, organic ones and in winter I’ll go for the frozen ones) and a handful of pumpkin seeds, almonds or sunflower seeds. A tablespoon of cinnamon and vanilla and I’m good to go.
Apples, dates or bananas work well with porridge too. Experiment around and figure out what suits you best.
I don’t drink coffee, so I never have coffee in the morning like most people do. But I get that it’s important for some and it’s totally fine. Just make sure to stay hydrated as caffeine is a natural diuretic.
Personally, I just have a plain glass of water or a cup of fennel tea, which I prepare the night before. Again, staying hydrated during the day is key and you’re first liquid intake should be in the morning at breakfast.
Be careful with the classic orange juice or any other fruit juice for that matter, as they contain loads of sugar, adding unnecessary calories to your tab. If you enjoy a fresh, fruity drink in the morning, try making your own juice by blending your favorite fruits together with a cup of water in a blender. Alternatively, you can vamp up your plain water by adding a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon or lime and mint leaves. Ideally you can prepare it the night before and let the lemon and mint work their magic during the night.
The occasional egg every now and then, is a healthy choice too as it’s a good source of protein, which is equally important. If possible, opt for the organic free range ones. Hard boiled works best.
Yogurt (preferably unsweetened) works great too, although personally I prefer curd, of which I’ll occasionally add a spoonful to my quinoa or millet porridge.
2. Carbs are not the enemy
Carbs are in fact the most important source of energy for our working muscles. Especially if you work out, including carbs in your diet is a must.
Just be smart and choose the right carbs. Unrefined carbs (complex carbs) contain more natural nutrients as opposed to refined carbs (simple carbs), which have been over processed and stripped of their natural vitamins and minerals, resulting in empty calories.
Refined carbohydrates are carbs that your body can break down into glucose and burn as energy almost immediately. Consuming big quantities of these carbs will cause your blood sugar levels to spike and crash, which is what causes that sluggish feeling after eating a bowl of white pasta, pizza or any other baked goods made from white flour.
Unrefined carbs on the other hand are digested more slowly as your body requires more time to break them down. Thus, it takes more time to convert them into glucose, which is then gradually released into your bloodstream over time. You’ll feel fuller for longer as your blood sugar levels will remain steady.
That being said, unrefined carbs are your best choice. Include any of the healthy carbs below in every meal:
- whole grains (brown rice, oats, barley, whole wheat, millet, quinoa, popcorn)
- veggies and fruits
- pulses (beans, lentils, peas)
Avoid processed carbs – or any processed foods for that matter – such as: breads, baked goods and pasta made from white flour.
Avoid canned foods, frozen meals and processed meats as they are packed with chemicals, high sodium and sugar levels and are really unhealthy (although they claim otherwise).
And last but not least, while I’m a supporter of the low carb diet when trying to lose weight, please keep in mind that it’s low carb and not no carb. Never completely eliminate carbs from your diet. It will only make you look and feel tired and exhausted. Not a good look and totally not worth it.
3. Stick to an eating routine
There are so many contradicting and quite confusing messages out there as to how many meals you should consume a day. I think it’s important to listen to your body and do what works best for you. If consuming 5 smaller meals a day works for you, then go for it.
Personally, I stick to the “old fashioned” 3-meals a day version, simply because 5 small meals a day would be too much for me and quite frankly, I don’t have the time to sauté veggies and what not five times a day – let alone come up with ideas for that many meals a day. It’s too complicated for me, so I’ll stick to breakfast, lunch and dinner and always make sure that I have 4 hours between every meal.
Your body knows what it needs, so listen to it and go with that. However, make sure not to mistake any cravings for messages from your body, that you need sugary or fatty foods. In fact, these kinds of cravings are a sure sign that something is off with your diet in general and that your body is missing vital nutrients and is therefore crying out for calories. It’s basically a cry for help from your body, which you should not ignore.
Whatever you do, don’t give in to your craving, but make a conscious effort to feed your body a nutritious meal instead, including a portion of unrefined carbs (e.g. brown rice, wholegrain pasta etc.), a protein serving (chicken, pulses, fish etc.) and plenty of veggies as a mineral and vitamin source. Think of a rice bowl with grilled chicken and sautéed green veggies and red peppers, for example. I guarantee that you will have forgotten all about that chocolate fudge ice cream once you’ve eaten up your healthier option.
Sticking to a routine will help avoid cravings and over snacking. Which brings me to the topic of snacks. I don’t consciously include them in my eating routine. During especially stressful times, I may have an apple or a handful of almonds around 4 pm but not regularly.
4. Drink plenty of water
As mentioned earlier, keeping your body hydrated is crucial. It aids in flushing out any toxins or excess liquids from our body.
The choices of what you can drink are plenty, with water being the obvious first choice. Depending on where you live, tap water is totally fine. Any kind of unsweetened tea is great too. Be mindful of what you drink and make sure to compensate with an extra glass of water for every alcoholic beverage or sweet drink (soda, fruit juice, latte etc.).
The goal for women is an average of 2 liters/ day. Depending on your level of activity, it can increase to 2.5 liters. I have a reminder on my phone to remind me of drinking enough, or else I would never reach that target. There are a variety of great apps in this regard, which you can easily download or you could just simply set your alarm accordingly.
The recommended amount is 8-9 glasses during the course of the day. Make sure to drink in regular intervals, so as not to put too much strain on your kidneys if you drink the whole 2 liters at once.
I start with a glass in the morning for breakfast at 7:00 am and another one, once I reach the office about an hour and a half later around 8:30 am. And from there it’s basically a glass every 1.5 hours until I leave the office at 5 pm. If I work out, I always have water with me and will finish the whole bottle during and after the workout to make up for any lost water.
Make drinking a habit. It’s super important and not to be underestimated.
5. Know your macros
Macros is short for macronutrients, which are essential for proper body functioning. There are three macronutrients and each one should be included in your diet.
Proteins are fundamental elements within every cell of our bodies and are responsible for growth and repair of our cells. Our hair, skin and muscles are built of protein, and need protein to be healthy. So, make sure to include one serving of lean protein with every meal.
Good protein sources include: chicken, turkey, fish (especially tuna and shrimp), lean beef (make sure you get good quality meat from grass fed animals), nuts (especially almonds and peanuts), eggs, low-fat dairy products (cottage cheese, Greek yoghurt), quinoa, oats, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, lentils and soybeans.
Our body needs fat for the absorption of certain vitamins, which is why it is important to include fats in our everyday diet as well. Just make sure to distinguish between unsaturated fats (good fats ) and saturated fats (bad fats).
Unsaturated fats include: olives, peanuts, avocados, nuts, seeds, fish, oils (olive oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil). Include them in every meal.
Saturated fats are mainly found in animal foods (especially fatty red meats) and should be taken in moderation or avoided altogether, in order to prevent heart disease.