7 Easy Steps to a Healthy Diet
My friend and I talk about health a lot.
But I couldn’t believe what he said to me the other day…
“When you come over, we can go shopping and you can show me how it’s done”.
Uh? Brain freeze! That came as a bit of a shock to me! What could be easier? You go round and put fruits, veg, nuts, seeds and good protein sources in your trolley, then you pay 🙂 …
But then I got to thinking… It’s easy to assume that everyone knows what you know and of course when you think about it, it’s not true.
If you’re used to having cereals, sandwiches and pizza as your staple diet, the fruit and veg isles are going to be a bit daunting.
OK, most folks can manage apples and oranges but there’s also a lot of unfamiliar stuff…. what do you do with asparagus or celeriac, sharon fruit or kumquats? My favorite for confusing check out staff has got to be the cherimoya or ‘custard apple’ — guaranteed to get a minute of stunned silence followed by “what’s this?” 🙂
Then I thought a bit more and realized how many little tips and nuggets of information I’d picked up over the years. On knowing quality when I see it, and making sure fruit is actually likely to ripen (some doesn’t and just goes from unripe to rotten). And on knowing what to actually do with a cherimoya :).
So, to start the ball rolling, here’s my top tips for stocking, shopping and preparing healthy meals. And for making it as painless and efficient as possible. They’re aimed at folks trying to eat more naturally on Healthy Diet 1 but will work for any diet you choose.
1. Go food shopping twice a week or more if you can.
Fresh food quickly loses vitamins even sitting in the fridge, so you want to keep the minimum you can and shop as often as you can. For me, twice as week is a compromise I’m happy with but if you walk past the store everyday… even better.
2. Take stock
Everyone’s stock list is going to be different depending on how many mouths there are to feed and other personal circumstances. My stock list is very simple and is only for my son and me. This list is roughly what I have in the house after I’ve been shopping:
Fruits: 12 bananas, 6 apples, 6 pears or oranges, 4-6 ‘other’ fruit portions, the equivalent of say an apple… Blueberries, mango, grapes etc. Fruit generally needs to be bought in advance as a lot of it is intended to ripen at home. Pre-ripened fruit is usually more expensive. Don’t forget lemon or lime if you want to make classic salad dressings but easy on the oil :).
Salad vegetables: (stuff you can eat raw) 2 bags of mixed baby salad leaves — spinach, watercress, rocket (arugula) etc. 2 salad vegetables other than leafy greens – tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, salad onion (scallions) etc.
Vegetables for cooking: 2 or 3 (depends on pack sizes) vegetables for steaming or roasting – asparagus, carrots, sweetcorn etc. My preference is to steam most things except aubergines and parsnips… stuff like that which are great roasted with a drizzle of olive oil.
Starchy vegetables: New potatoes, sweet potatoes etc.
Fats: 2 fats – olives, nuts, seeds, avocado, linseeds for vegetarians.
Store cupboard items: — Wholegrains, lentils, beans, pasta, olive oil, healthy spread such as ‘bertolli’, cans of tuna and wild salmon. Various different sauces and chutneys for livening up meals. I’m into non-dairy mayonaise and mango chutney at the moment. Celtic sea salt and black pepper mill (used rarely).
Sources of protein: – depending on your ethical and personal choices – eggs, meats, fish, bean sprouts, lentil sprouts, tofu etc.
Wholegrain bread: – 1 average size loaf: Wheat, oat, and rye breads are commonly available where I live. Try buying a different type each time to help identify any intolerances to grains.
Dairy / dairy substitutes: 1 large pot of plain live (bio) yogurt, 2 litres soya milk (make sure it’s made with the whole nut) or rice milk or oat milk etc. As with breads, rotate the types of milks used if available.
Fresh herbs: Great for adding fresh and interesting flavours to spice up lunchtime salads and evening family meals. Very nutritious too! - mint, dill, parsley, coriander, basil, thyme etc.
When it’s time to go shopping, a quick scan in the fridge and fruit bowl and I know pretty much what I need. I know it looks like a lot, but most often the actual list of things I need to replace is quite short. The list changes slightly depending on what’s in season.
3. Keep a ‘Healthy Food that I will Eat’ list
There’s a massive variety of fruits and vegetables available these days. OK a lot of these are going to be expensive so that’s why I stick mainly to the common ones with the occasional exotic :). Point is, it’s a good idea to make a list of the foods within each group above that you’ll actually eat… fruits, salad leaves, salad vegetables, vegetables for steaming / roasting, fats, proteins and so on. The point of this is to have a good mental map of stuff you know you’ll eat so when you’re in the supermarket, those foods will be on your ‘radar’. I’ll put my list up on Passion for Health soon as an example
4. Don’t be too specific
Your list should say “2 salad veg, 2 protein, 6 apples, 3 ‘other fruits’” etc. Point is that you don’t need to be specific about the optional stuff ’til you get there. Then you can go by instinct in the actual choosing. What makes your mouth water when you’re looking at all the fruits for example?
5. Go for best quality at the best price
Choosing quality comes with practice. After a while you can spot a top quality fruit or veg at 100 paces. Many fruits (but not all) are ripe when the skins give slightly when pressed e.g. Kiwi, mango, papaya (paw paw), cherimoya – apples are a notable exception. Oranges are best when the skin feels slightly loose. Watermelons are very tricky. It takes years of practice to test for ripeness by the tapping and listening method but I always leave them for about a week at room temperature and then they’re usually perfect :).
Do a bit of research to find out what’s in season in your local area. Chances are it’s these that’ll be on special offer at your market. Every September I hold out ’til figs hit 25p (50c) each then it’s BUY BUY BUY! 🙂
Get as much organic as you can for your budget. For me that means mainly sticking to the value organic items like bananas, apples, pears and so on and keeping a keen eye on the special offers and reduced section.
6. Try a new fruit or vegetable every now and then
Keep going ’til there’s no more to try! But just ‘cos you don’t like a thing, it doesn’t mean you’ll never like it. Apparently it can take up to 10 tries to get into a new taste. Maybe it’s nature’s way of making us cautious of possibly poisonous new foods?
We tend to like the tastes we know. If you persist, you’ll get to love the healthy stuff. Just keep trying to add more and more to your list of foods you’ll eat. There’s an amazing variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds these days. Each one has it’s own unique arsenal of disease-busting weapons. As with most things in life, it’s so easy to get into a rut with your diet. The beauty of Healthy Diet 1 is there’s infinite variety within the simple plan.
7. Make a meal of it
Healthy Diet 1 is a framework, a crystal clear mental map of your daily healthy diet. Within that framework, you get to choose what veg, what fruit, what salads, what grains, what protein etc. For me it just depends on what I’ve got in and what I fancy. Read: How to lose weight without exercise
It’s so easy to make meals by throwing together well chosen whole foods and they’re almost ‘gourmet’. I’ve rarely had restaurant food that tastes as fresh or as good as ‘Healthy Diet 1‘ and the best part is… you get to feel great! 🙂 Each combination is a new taste sensation so you’ll never get bored.
Never again will you spend time thinking what you’re going to eat. All the hard work’s been done for you… all you need to do is adapt it for your own calorie needs.
You can do this instinctively if you like… weigh yourself (first thing in the morning after you’ve used the bathroom), then keep a diet log for a week (just what you ate, no calculations) and weigh in again. If your weight is stable then you’re eating enough… keep on doing the same to maintain weight. Simple.
Remember, “it’s what you do most of the time that matters”. Be relaxed about food. For me, breakfast and lunch are almost always a fruit smoothie and a large salad. For maybe 5 days in the week I’ll have a ‘Healthy Diet 1‘ dinner. But nothing is set in stone. The framework exists so you can relax, be flexible and get back on track at the next meal.