Health Q&A

New Year – New You: Healthy Eating Habits For You & Your Family

January 1, 2018

It’s a fine time to start a healthy eating plan

It’s likely that you filled your plates for December with hefty portions of Christmas dinner. All that comfort food may have taken its toll on your waistline – and your overall health. So, as it’s a new year, why not usher in some healthier eating habits as a family?

Healthy eating in South Africa is at an all-time low. Lisa Ronquest-Ross’ research from 2015 found that South Africans were drinking more sugar-sweetened beverages and eating more packaged and processed food and less vegetables than they were in 1994. There was also a 30% jump in the consumption of sweet and savoury snacks, meat, fats and oils.

Plus, South Africans were found to consume salt at levels of 8.1 grams a day. That’s nearly double the World Health Organisation’s daily recommendation. Having increasingly poor diets is bound to have a detrimental impact on your health and can cause illnesses such as heart disease, type two diabetes and even strokes.

However, healthy eating is about more than just dieting. Rather, it’s about getting as close to the original source as possible. The less refined and processed, the better. It’s a lifestyle choice that’ll leave you healthier and stronger.

But, it can be a daunting prospect knowing where to start with healthy eating. It’s something that doesn’t have to be expensive, complicated or even dull. That’s why we’ve come up with five easy, healthy eating habits for a smoother transition for both you and your family.

Tip #1 – Define what healthy eating means to you as a family

Everyone has their own definition of healthy eating. For some, it means cutting out sugar all together while for others it’s more about creating a healthier balance within their diets. It’s important to decide what it means to you as a family. Some families follow one or two basic guidelines:

  • Healthy sources of fats: ensuring that all fats are eaten from healthy sources and cutting back on saturated fats, which can make you gain weight and raise your cholesterol

  • These healthier fats include coconut oil, olive oil and nut oils. You can also sprinkle nuts on your salads instead of cheese, or swap mayonnaise in a sandwich for some avocado slices

  • Nothing white: cutting out white sugar and white flour (particularly in pasta and breads)

  • More vegetables and fruits: adding more to all dishes. Ideally, one fifth of your meals should be protein-based, another fifth carbs-based, while the three remaining fifths should be vegetables

  • Whole grains and lean meats: sticking to certain food groups can make the process of eating clean a lot less daunting

Tip #2 – Don’t go 100% healthy

With a busy family life it can be hard to stick to a regimented schedule. That’s why we don’t recommend cutting out every single thing. Instead, allow yourself enough time to transition over, and still have the occasional treat or two.

It’s also important to get the whole family involved and to make them see why you’re changing the way you eat as a family. You could explain that it’s about making them healthier and strong. And, why not let your children pick out their favourite fruit or vegetables that you can then add to their meals? This should make healthy eating more inclusive and exciting.

Tip #3 – Make unhealthy foods healthy

Most people assume that healthy eating is bland and unappetising. But, that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, most recipes can be adapted to a healthy eating lifestyle. For example, if your children are head over heels in love with pizza and spaghetti, then just swap the unhealthy elements for healthier alternatives:

  • For pizza: use whole grain pita for the crust, low sugar pizza sauce and lots of vegetables on top

  • For spaghetti: use brown rice noodles or whole wheat pasta and make your own sauce without added sugar

  • For meat alternatives: swap meat for dried beans, split peas, lentils or soya, which are a fantastic source of protein, low in fat and high in fibre

You could even sneak extra vegetables into dishes that you already love. For instance, if you have a favourite family casserole, then just load up the greens. These alternative dishes aren’t completely healthy, but that’s where Tip No. 2 comes into play. It’s about transitioning slowly to make healthy eating a long-term plan.

Tip #4 – Make yourself a healthy meal plan

Putting together a healthy meal plan can help with deciding what it is you’re going to cook for the family. It also allows you to see where you can add in a treat or two throughout the week. The South African Guidelines for Healthy Eating and Food Guide recommends enjoying a variety of foods from each food group within a day, from week to week and during the year when different foods are available.

You could also experiment with the five meal plan. This involves three balanced meals and two snacks a day to keep those cravings at bay. Here’s an example day:

  • Breakfast: Wholemeal or brown toast with a boiled egg

  • Snack: Vanilla shake with berries

  • Lunch: Open-faced turkey sandwich on whole-grain pita bread with vegetables

  • Snack: Raw, chopped cucumber and carrot sticks with hummus

  • Dinner: Homemade chicken noodle soup

Tip #5 – Meal prep for the upcoming week

Being faced with the challenge of having to create healthier meals for the week can be quite intimidating. However, along with your meal plan, meal prepping on the weekend for the week ahead can provide a more manageable solution.

Simply cook a large batch of whatever you fancy and freeze it, such as a delicious and healthy casserole. You can also pre-cook chicken, turkey or homemade hamburgers for the week, or make a large batch of oatmeal for healthy breakfast options.

Your freezer can be stocked with plenty of other clean eating foods, like fruit and vegetables. Just make sure to factor in any leftovers within your meal plan and you’re good to start your clean eating journey.

There’s no better time than the new year to say goodbye to bad eating habits – and hello to a healthier, happier family. You can also stay healthy in 2018 with medical aid specifically designed for families. Why not contact us today?

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