Many times, in my career I have come across people who ask me to develop diets for them for different reasons. Some want to lose a few kilos while some want to avoid one of the many diet-related diseases they dread.
Many of the same people soon realize how difficult it is to stick to a rigid diet especially with work, home and other responsibilities. The world seems designed to squash our dreams.
The real problem here is usually the desire to make drastic changes to one’s lifestyle without considering every issue affecting it. And failing to follow that diet further harms confidence leading to outright defeat.
My suggestion for anyone intending to change their eating habits is to start small and build confidence. After all we all had to crawl before we could run.
In this article, I will highlight a few hacks or adjustments one can make to their diet without changing the quantity of food eaten.
This would be the first, not final, step to a comprehensive change in lifestyle.
Hack 1: Switch your favourites
We all have foods we love and most times they are the ones we eat in excess. What if you could keep the food on your plate but switch to a healthier option? I know it sounds good, so I’ll go on. Most foods we eat daily have healthy alternatives which don’t taste too different.
These simple food substitutions can help us to reduce the number of calories we consume at each meal, reduce the amount of cholesterol in our diet and stabilize our blood sugar. Below is a list of substitutions we can make
1. Use brown rice instead of white rice
This brown rice has more nutrients and fibre meaning you get more from each bite. Brown rice is also more filling and you feel full faster meaning you eat less and feel full for longer.
2. Use egg whites instead of whole eggs
If you love baking, then you probably use eggs often. Consider using just the egg white instead of the whole egg and you have drastically cut your cholesterol intake. Your heart will thank you later.
3. Use whole grain instead of refined mealie meal
Most of us eat mealie meal that’s why it is regarded as the nation’s staple food. Switch to straight-run and you get more nutrients and fiber. You can also use small grains instead of maize and reap the benefits our ancestors enjoyed before maize was introduced in the country.
4. Use low-fat options for dairy products
This could be your cheese, milk or yoghurt. The low-fat options reduce the intake of saturated fats as well as the calories you take in without affecting flavor.
Hack 2: Take it slow
Ever hear the phrase “there is no hurry in Africa”? Well, I suggest you apply it to your eating and take your time. Many of us are busy with one thing or another and eating has become a ritual we want to get over with as quickly as possible.
Evidence suggests that this could be contributing to our poor health. When you rush through your meal you tend to eat more because you sneak in extra calories before your body has noticed. This is because it takes a while for your body to register that you have had enough and make you feel full.
Eating slowly gives your body that time. You also allow the body to digest your food better as digestion begins in the mouth. As a result, you are less likely to feel discomfort such as bloating caused by indigestion.
There are many other benefits including the fact that you enjoy your food more as you become mindful of what you are eating.
Hack 3: Set the tone
This point is related to the one mentioned earlier but I will elaborate further. You must be mindful of your eating habits and eliminate unhealthy settings. Here I am saying stop eating in front of the TV or while you stand or work. These habits will make you rush your meal as you lose count of your mouthfuls.
As a result, you will eat more than you need and pack on the kilos. Eating while under stressful conditions such as those you experience at work and while you while your favorite thriller may cause food to become a crutch for your emotions. Next time you go through a breakup you will pick up that tub of ice cream instead of going for a jog. I hope you catch my drift.
Adopting and maintaining a healthy diet is a big step that should be viewed as a process rather than an event. I have highlighted what I suggest should be your first step to eating healthy. Switch your favourite foods for healthier options, eat slowly and in the right setting. Do you think you can do this? Have you tried something similar? Feel free to get in touch and let me know how you took your first step towards eating healthy and all the challenges you came across.
Brief Bio: Craig Nyathi is a Nutritionist registered with the Allied Health Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe. He has over ten years’ experience practicing public health nutrition in Zimbabwe. He writes in his personal capacity.