Healthy eating is not about restricting certain foods because they are high in sugar, fat and calories. Rather, it is all about maintaining a balance. The key here is to eat them once in a while, or more often but in moderation, and then balancing this out by also consuming nutritious food products and getting physically active.
Your success will depend on developing healthy eating habits that will not just make you healthier and happier, but will also leave you with lots of energy to do everything you wish to do. Remember that people are healthy and happy not simply because of birth order, good luck or family heritage. Instead, they become fit and strong because they adopt the right eating habits.
Here are the top seven healthy eating habits you must develop to lead a healthier life.
1. Eat Plenty of Fruit and Vegetables
Eating lots of fruits and veggies is easier said than done. An easy way of ensuring that you eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables a day is to chop up a banana over your breakfast cereal or to replace your typical mid-morning snack with fresh fruit.
Unsweetened fruit juice, smoothies and vegetable juices are not good substitutes for whole fresh fruits and veggies since they only count as one portion in total. For instance, if you drink a smoothie and two glasses of fruit juice in a day, that will only count as one portion.
2. Base Your Meals on Starchy Carbohydrates
Starchy carbohydrates including rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals and bread must make up one-third of your meal. If possible, choose the whole grain varieties because they contain more fiber. Also, they will help you feel full for a longer time.
Some people might think that starchy food will make you fat, but they actually provide half the calories of fat. So instead of keeping an eye on carbohydrates, be wary of fats when cooking or serving your meals because this will increase its calorie content. For instance, limit oil on chips, creamy sauces on pasta, and butter on bread.
3. Eat More Fish
Fish is an excellent source of protein and it also contains plenty of vitamins and minerals. You should eat at least two portions of fish every week, which includes one portion of oily fish.
Oily fish has omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent heart disease. Oily fish include mackerel, fresh tuna, sardines, herring and salmon.
Choose a wide variety of fish – from frozen, to canned, to fresh. Remember though that smoked and canned fishes have a high salt content.
4. Avoid Saturated Fat
Pay attention to the type and amount of fat you are eating. There are two types of fat – saturated and unsaturated. Consuming too much saturated fat will put your health at risk. Foods containing saturated fat include biscuits, cream, cakes, hard cheese, sausages, lard and butter.
Cut down on your saturated fat intake by choosing foods containing unsaturated fats. These include oily fish, avocado, and vegetable oils. For instance, you can use a small amount of reduced-fat spread or vegetable oil instead of ghee, lard or butter.
When it comes to eating meat, choose quality lean cuts that you can purchase from reputable food service companies and trim off visible fat whenever possible.
5. Limit Sugar Intake
Consuming foods and beverages that are high in sugar will increase your risk of tooth decay and obesity. Plenty of packaged products today have high amounts of free sugars, which are found naturally in syrups, honey and unsweetened fruit juices.
Limit your intake of sugary breakfast cereals, cakes, sugary fizzy beverages, alcoholic drinks, pastries and biscuits. These foods have added sugars. Food labels can be of great help, so check them each time you buy or eat something.
A food is low on sugar when it contains less than 5g of total sugars per 100g. But if it has more than 22.5g of total sugars in every 100g, this means that the food has a high sugar content.
6. Consume Less Salt
Like eating too much sugar, consuming too much salt will also increase your risks of developing heart disease. Even when you do not add salt to your meals, you might still be eating too much. Most foods you buy today already contain about three-quarters of salt, such as soups, sauces, bread and breakfast cereals.
Again, check food labels. If a food contains more than 1.5g of salt per 100g, it means it has a high salt content. Health experts suggest eating no more than 6g or a teaspoon of salt per day.
7. Drink Plenty of Fluids
Don’t stay thirsty. Make sure to drink lots of fluids each day to prevent dehydration. Water and milk are healthier choices. Avoid drinking sugary drinks, smoothies and unsweetened fruit juices.
It’s important to incorporate these eating habits into your day-to-day routine. Small changes will add up to good health benefits in the future. Commit yourself to taking good care of your body now to prepare for a healthier and happier future.
Managing Director, Bidfood Middle East
Hisham’s corporate career started in the UAE in late 1988; he worked for firms such as R.J. Reynolds, Danone Group, and Richemont Group across several countries in the GCC. He climbed up the ladder in roles and responsibilities to manage regions and businesses in the Middle East. In 2003, after 15 years of business experience, he took a leap of faith towards starting up something on his own. At almost 10 years in, the business has grown to cover 3 major markets with a turnover exceeding US$60 million. Hisham’s vision is to continue his regional expansion to the rest of the Middle East markets.