How many times have you promised yourself to start eating healthy? And how many times you gave up only one week later? Or maybe you are simply confused with all the controversial information you hear about proper nutrition. And then, of course, all these temptations of eating your favourite ice cream, sipping on French vanilla, and snacking on Holiday treats do not help maintain your “healthy” diet. Eating healthy is challenging, especially for students who are always short on time and money. Here are some lifehacks that will help you with this challenging but very important goal! The best part is you can use some of these tips even during holidays!
Don’t worry! I’m not going to tell you to ditch all your favourite snacks at once, as balance is the key to everything, including diet. Another thing you should remember, healthy eating is not about losing weight or gaining muscle mass. It is about the diet that will provide you with energy and help your body function well.
Tip number 1: Add more whole (unprocessed) foods to your diet.
Whole or unprocessed foods are great for your gut health and contain a variety of vitamins, fibres, and nutrients. These foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and grains. Vegetables and fruit are rich in fibre, which is very important for intestinal microflora (a balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut). In addition, vegetables keep you satiated for a longer time. Don’t fixate on cucumbers, lettuce, and broccoli – there are so many more vegetables, and all of them are great for you!
Furthermore, the more variety you have on your plate, the more your food will look attractive and flavourful. Just imagine, would you eat a chicken breast with rice or a nice bowl with a mix of chicken with rice, corn, beans, and tomatoes? Here are a couple of ideas on how you can make your diet healthier while making food look more attractive:
- Try pasta salad as an alternative to your typical pasta.
- Add some beans and corn to your rice.
- Add some nuts or new veggies to your salad.
Also, don’t forget to explore such products as chickpeas, edamame beans, buckwheat, and all sorts of lentils.
Tip 2: Protein and Veggies first
Protein is one of the essential micronutrients, as it is a critical component for building and maintaining muscles, promoting our immune system, and regulating hormones. Moreover, a lack of protein in the diet makes us hungrier, so we constantly look for quick and readily available snacks, which are often not the best for our health. Meanwhile, as mentioned above, veggies are rich in vitamins and fibre. Fibre helps us to keep our gut healthy while also making us feel more satiated after we eat. So if you are constantly reaching for snacks or feeling hungry, ensure you eat enough protein and greens. Mayo Clinic suggests having at least 0.8 grams of protein per 1 kg of your body weight, but you should increase that amount if you go to the gym or have a highly active lifestyle.
Tip 3: Consider the energy density (ED) of products
Food’s energy density (ED) is the amount of energy in a particular amount or weight of food, which is usually reflected by calories. Products that are very light in their weight but contain lots of calories are referred to as high-energy-dense foods, for example, French fries, chips, all butters, and high-fat cheese. Meanwhile, other products contain lots of fibre and water and thus have fewer calories per gram. Examples of low-energy-dense foods are lettuce, apples, chicken, and yogurt. So if you want to stay full for longer or avoid overeating all the “unhealthy” foods during holidays, choose more low-energy-dense foods.
Tip 4: Don’t say no to sweets if you like them
If you have a sweet tooth but still want to eat healthily, you don’t need to avoid all your favourite treats completely! Here are some tips on how to be smart about sweets in your diet. First, don’t completely avoid sweets instead, minimize the amount you eat. Second, choose treats with natural and simple ingredients. You can also select the products that contain sugar substitutes, but be careful which ones you prefer. Research suggests that erythritol, stevia, xylitol, and sucralose are most safe lower-calorie alternatives. Meanwhile, it’s best to avoid such sweeteners aspartame and saccharine as they negatively affect the number of good bacteria in your gut.
Tip 5: Meal prep!
You might say that you don’t have time for food prep, but you will save much more time if you prepare food a couple of days in advance rather than cooking each meal individually. You might also think eating food out of a container is “lame,” but you might change your mind after considering how much money it will save you! Moreover, food prep will help you avoid buying high-fat processed on your busy days. As you start prepping meals, it might take some time, but you will get better at it! Here are some lifehacks on how to make meal prep easier! An idea for an easy breakfast is to make a huge batch of homemade granola (don’t substitute it for store-bought versions, as many brands contain excessive sugar and fat) and eat it with milk, yogurt, and berries. Use special oven bags for baking juice and flavourful meets. This way of cooking will save you so much time as all you need to do is put your meat of choice in the oven bag, add some spices, and put it all in the oven. Disclaimer: you need to use a specific type of bag made for oven use (you can get them on Amazon), DON’T use general plastic bags! Another way to save time for meal prep is to get frozen vegetable mixes. It’s easy to use them, and they cost less!