Looking to improve your diet? We could all improve our diet at least a little. But doing so can leave you not knowing where to start. Here are some easy ways to get you going on a healthier path.
Sticking to a healthy diet can be difficult at the best of times, but particularly so when life gets busy and stressful. Dr Michael Mosley, the man behind the 5:2 diet, shares some easy tips to help you improve your diet.
Tips to Improve Your Diet
Follow a Mediterranean diet (and lifestyle)
“There was a huge 5,000-person randomized control trial done a few years ago in Spain, and participants either went on a Mediterranean or low-fat diet – they had to stop the trial early because those on the Mediterranean diet were doing so much better,” Dr Mosley says. “They were 30 per cent less likely to have a heart attack and half as likely to develop type two diabetes, plus they also had a much lower risk of cognitive decline.”
The basic components of the diet include oily fish, which contains three fatty acids that are good for your brain and heart; olive oil, which tastes good and contains oleic acid, which is anti-inflammatory; and oily nuts, like almonds and pecans, which are full of fiber and good fats. “They’re a great snack, but also really good for the heart,” says Dr Mosley. “Then obviously there’s fruit and vegetables, but the combination of nuts and olive oil is particularly beneficial.”
Eat around the kitchen table
Dr Mosley laments the fact that a relatively large portion of the population doesn’t have a kitchen table – which can often mean that the social aspect of eating gets lost. “Socializing is a good thing – enjoy your food, sit around the table and natter. These are huge parts of a healthy diet and help you to savor your food and eat slower, increasing satiety.” Big, communal meals around the table are also typical of the Mediterranean lifestyle.
Count calories – but only if you need to lose weight
There has been a move towards shunning calorie counting or restriction in favor of simply eating a healthy, balanced diet, but Dr Mosley’s app does the calorie count of each meal. Why? “If you’re already pretty healthy, or a child, then I would thoroughly recommend ignoring calorie count [and instead concentrate on eating whole foods] and that’s exactly the direction I think people should go in,” he says. “However, if you have type two diabetes or hypertension, for example, then simply switching to a healthier diet isn’t going to make much difference.”
He references a Newcastle University randomized control trial, where people with type two diabetes were either allocated a healthy diet or told to stick to a specific calorie count. The people who went on the healthy diet lost a little bit of weight, but didn’t reverse their diabetes and became sicker over time, whereas those who did the calorie counting enjoyed rapid weight loss and were much healthier long term. “It depends on what your goal is – we have different options on the app, so you can also do a plan without any calorie counting at all.”
Familiarize yourself with healthy recipes
It’s all very well saying you’re going to eat healthily, but if you don’t have any recipes in your back pocket, the likelihood is you won’t do as you hope. “I recommend finding some healthy recipes and committing them to memory, as well as removing any junk food from your cupboards. Chocolate biscuits are no match for most of our willpower.”
Fill a third of your plate with vegetables
“Try to fill about a third of your plate with non-starchy vegetables – greens in any form are really good, but there are so many health benefits in broccoli. In our recipes, we say not to count greens as calories. Instead, pile your plate with them.” Other good green, non-starchy vegetables include spinach, lettuce, watercress, sugar snap peas, asparagus, cabbage and celery.
Drink a large glass of water with every meal
“I have a seven-a-day rule, which is to try and go to the loo seven times a day to pass urine – if you drink lots of water, then you’ll cut some of your cravings and feel hydrated. This rule means you don’t have to worry about whether you’re drinking one or two liters, either.”
Up your protein intake
Aim to eat at least 20 grams of protein at every meal. “Start your day with a savory breakfast – think eggs, omelets or tofu – something like that,” recommends Dr Mosley. “I think the national recommendations for protein consumption – 45 and 60 grams for women and men respectively – are too low, particularly for women who have gone through the menopause, when they do not absorb or process protein as effectively as they did before. There is now quite a lot of evidence that one of the drivers of weight gain after menopause is a lack of protein in the diet, because most women continue eating as they did before it.”
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