1. Eat protein with every meal.
Protein helps build lean muscle, keeps us feeling fuller for longer & has a higher thermic effect than other macronutrients. You should aim to have around 1-2 palm size portions of protein per meal, depending on how active you are. This is a simple starter guideline to get you eating more protein. Protein rich foods can include lean meats such as chicken & turkey, fish, eggs & dairy products. If you track your calories/macros, aim to hit between 2 – 2.5g per kg of body weight. E.g., 70kg x 2g = 140g protein per day.
2. Eat vegetables with every meal.
Especially green veg! Adding vegetables to your meals can increase the size of your meal without adding excess calories, leaving you feeling satiated. Vegetables provide you with lots of energy, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals and help you maintain a healthy weight. Aim to consume 1-2 closed fists worth of vegetables per meal. Find vegetables you enjoy instead of forcing yourself to eat vegetables you dislike.
3. Don’t avoid healthy fats.
Fats seem to be the least understood nutrient among the general population. A lot of people think that eating fat, in any form, will mean they gain fat. This is 100% not the case. If you over eat any food or nutrient you will gain weight, and this is where moderation comes into play. Fat is more energy dense than carbohydrates and protein, which is why we eat it in smaller quantities. Aim to consume 1-2 thumb sized portions of fat-dense food for each meal. These can include healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, pure butter, oily fish & nuts.
4. Understand carbohydrates
Carbohydrate consumption can be a bit more complicated. The type, frequency and guidelines for carb-consumption varies from person to person so individuals should trial and error what works best for them. Activity levels also play a huge factor in carbohydrate consumption as you will need more carbs to recover from high intensity exercise. You may not have to consume carbohydrates at every meal. However, aim for 1-2 closed-fist size portions per meal as a starting point. Remember fruit and vegetables fall under carbohydrates, not just foods like potatoes, pasta, rice, bread etc.
5. Listen to your body
As I said above about individual trial and error when figuring out how much carbohydrates you should be consuming, the same goes for your food intake on a whole. Don’t get caught up on the ins and outs of nutrition and confused by reading different articles telling you what to do (ironic, I know, but this article is aimed to be a very basic, simple approach to getting you on the right track). Following these realistic tips will only be of benefit to you, not harm. Increasing protein & vegetables are not going to have any negative effects, only positive. If you feel tired a few hours after lunch for example, and feel like you constantly need an energy boost, then think back to what you ate for lunch. A lot of the time when people eat starchy carbs such as potatoes, pasta & rice etc., they tend to hit that slump, which is a sign that their blood sugar levels drop and they feel they need an energy burst. Avoiding these foods at lunch time and keeping them until the evening when you will be feeling more tired anyway can be a simple fix. It’s that simple.
6.Eat whole foods as much as possible
Everyone knows processed foods are bad and that we should eat whole, single ingredient foods for the most part, but who actually implements this in their diet? Realistically meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit and all the other foods that don’t need an ingredient list should be making up about 80% of your daily food intake, at least. The other 10% from more processed, yet good foods such as dairy products; and the final 10% from junk food or foods you just enjoy eating that aren’t necessarily healthy!
7. Drink plenty of water
Another one that you’re all probably thinking, ‘yep, I know that already’. Yet again, how many of us can say we are constantly hydrated? Simply buying a water bottle and carrying it round with you at college, or keeping it with you on your desk at work can make you more inclined to sip on it throughout the day. Anywhere from 2-4 litres per day is recommended. To be more specific, you can multiply your weight in kilograms x 30ml. For example, if I am 70kg, I would need 2.1litres of water per day to stay hydrated (70kgx30ml). Checking your urine can be a way of knowing if you are hydrated/dehydrated. If your urine is a pale yellow/clear colour then you are hydrated, anything darker means you need to drink more water! *Bear in mind that some vitamin supplements may cause urine colour to change slightly.
8. Remove any intolerances/sensitivities/allergies from your diet
Intolerances, allergies and food sensitivities can all suppress hormones and disrupt your digestive system, as well as stalling your progress. The main thing here is to know the difference between an intolerance, an allergy and a food sensitivity.
First off, an intolerance is a physiological response to food, such as lactose for example. Lactose intolerance means that the body lacks lactase which helps aid the digestion of lactose which is found in dairy products. Secondly, an allergy is an immediate reaction and will always be with the person, for example, a nut allergy.
Finally, a food sensitivity has a delayed reaction within the body and can take up to days to feel it. It can be felt through bloating, constipation, tiredness, skin and diarrhea. Removing these foods from your diet is necessary in order to improve your health, therefore it’s important that you ‘listen to your body’ as I mentioned before.
9. Improve your sleep quality and reduce stress levels
This point is just as important as all the nutrition points given. Sleep plays a vital role in how we feel throughout the day. Lack of sleep over time is linked with weight gain due to the hormones leptin and ghrelin being affected by poor quality sleep. High stress environments can increase the output of the stress hormone cortisol, which has also been shown to affect weight over time. Getting into a proper sleep routine and removing stressors all have a knock on effect with our overall lifestyle and diet.
10. Do something active every day
I don’t mean go to the gym every day, but I do think we should be doing something active every single day. Too often we are sat at desks working, on the couch watching TV, driving, playing on our phones etc., and not spending enough time moving. This can be in the form of walking, climbing, cycling, swimming, the gym, Zumba, or whatever it is that you ENJOY! Keeping active should not be a chore.