So here it is, the inevitable truth, if we want to lose weight and be healthier we have to make good food choices. It's not exactly earth-shattering news, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, but sometimes it's just not that easy making it happen in real life. In your head it all sounds fine - eat more veg, nuts and seeds, sure - but that doesn't always translate to what ends up in your shopping trolley!
This week, just as an exercise, write your shopping list out or look at what's in your online order and see what proportion are Nutri Foods, in other words foods that pack a heavy nutritional punch. To give you a steer just remember that Nutri Foods are:
High in nutritional value (for example, brightly coloured fruit and veg, nuts, seeds, eggs, wholegrains, lean protein such as fish, chicken etc.)
Minimally processed (so a block of cheese is fine but cheese strings no so much!)
Have no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or unrecognisable ingredients
I was really surprised when I first did this exercise because I was convinced that the majority of what I was buying was pretty healthy but in reality that wasn't the case. I had jars of pasta sauces and bottled salad dressings, boxes of fishcakes and fish goujons, a frozen pizza for 'emergencies', packet cereals (even the 'good' ones are quite high in sugar and highly processed), sausages, bacon .... a pretty regular shopping basket but not one that is particularly healthy. But before you get too discouraged I'm not suggesting that you never buy any of these things or that you go scouring specialist shops sourcing obscure organic pulses - that way madness lies! It's just a question of redressing the balance. Here is a list of easy swaps you can make:
Processed meat (bacon, sausages etc) -> Good quality* meat and chicken, also look for nitrate-free meats if you are buying bacon, sausages or ham
Regular sliced bread -> Freshly baked wholegrain bread
Soft drinks and juices -> Sparkling water with fresh lemon juice
Vegetable oils -> Olive oil
Low fat spreads -> Butter
Instant Oat Mixes -> Whole oats
Shop-bought mayonnaise -> Homemade mayonnaise or Greek yogurt
Most packet cereals -> Sugar-free muesli or homemade granola
Cereal/granola bars -> Raw nut and seed mixes
White pasta -> Wholegrain pasta
White rice -> Brown rice
Cous cous -> Quinoa or bulgur wheat
You get the idea. It’s not rocket science but this list illustrates how a few good shopping choices can really improve your diet overall. The aim is to get to the point where you buy very little processed food. Going back to our original list it's a piece of cake to make your own pasta sauces, salad dressings, fish cakes or fish goujons. I make my own sugar-free granola (if you have The Midlife Kitchen book check it out - Midlife Grown-Up Granola) which is super simple, and if you do fancy a treat there are a some really easy, healthy cake recipes in there too including an amazing Yogurt Cake with Almonds and Orange and a Spiced Apple and Cranberry Cake.
I hope that gets you off to a good start thinking about Nutri Foods this week. I know it can be tricky, especially if you have a family with varying degrees of tolerance for healthy food, but if you start to slowly incorporate more Nutri Foods and cut back on the less healthy alternatives they will barely notice and if you whiffle up a delicious homemade cake that will go a long way to quell any protests!!
And as ever, don't forget that this is a process, moderation is the key and none of us are perfect. I still keep an emergency pizza in the freezer!
If you have any questions please drop me a comment below and I'll do my best to answer them and if you have just subscribed to the blog, welcome!!
P.S. Here's a great dal recipe packed with Nutri Foods to get you started : www.stealthhealthblog.com/post/recipe-luxe-or-lean-makhani-dal
*Buy free range or organic chicken and pork. Lamb and beef generally have higher welfare standards so the basic ranges are fine.