Many people seem to think a “diet” is a short-term decision which includes cutting out ‘bad’ foods, and simply eating more fruits and vegetables. However, this isn’t the case at all. Your diet is lifelong, and refers to your overall eating habits. Everyone has a diet, but nobody has to diet. You can simply change your eating habits to have a more balanced diet, which will give you a healthier lifestyle.
The new year is one of more popular times people choose to change their diet, however failure to keep up with New Year’s resolutions is something we have all faced. Changing your eating habits can be notoriously difficult to do, and you may face a lack of willpower after the first few days, causing you to give up altogether. This increases the risk of yo-yo dieting, which refers to a cyclic weight loss and gain over drastically changing diets. Ultimately, this does not help with lasting weight loss, and could damage your overall health.
Psychologists have found that this is due to the relationships we have with food, as well as the food choices we make when stressed. It’s actually much easier than most people think to implement a more balanced diet, which can aid in weight loss, and drastically improve your health.
A balanced diet includes healthy portions of all food groups
There are six types of nutrients your body needs for survival, and to be as healthy as possible: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Proteins, carbs, and fats are considered to be macronutrients—which essentially means our body needs these in large amounts, as they provide us with energy. In order to have a balanced diet, you don’t actually have to cut your favourite foods out completely. Instead, you can simply make small changes, and consume foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar less often.
The nutrients you’re consuming are much more important than the foods you’re eating, and as long as you have the right levels of nutrients, you’re on your way to having a more balanced diet. It’s now easier than ever to get the right nutrients, with the rise of “nutritionally complete” foods, such as the powder-based Huel, which provides the body with its daily nutritional needs. The UK based brand now have a line of products that includes Huel bars and granola with the intention of offering 100% of the daily recommended amounts of nutrients stipulated by the European Union.
However, you may also choose to focus more on each meal you eat in order to ensure it’s as balanced as possible. According to the Eatwell Guide, you should base your meals around starchy carbohydrates, and fruit and vegetables. Proteins and dairy should be eaten in smaller, moderate amounts, while fats should be used sparingly in your meals.
Keep track of everything you’re eating
Whether this is done by counting macros, or keeping a food diary, consciously keeping track of what you’re consuming is one of the best ways to ensure you have a balanced diet. Using apps like My Fitness Pal, or taking a pen and paper account of your intake can make you think about what nutrients you’re eating, as well as the portion sizes of each meal.
Studies have shown that keeping a food diary can help aid weight loss, with people who keep regular track of what they eat losing 30-50% more weight than those who don’t. A food diary can also help you find food sensitivities or intolerances, and keep you honest about your diet and how much you’re eating, which is key to maintaining a balanced diet.
You can still enjoy your favourite ‘bad’ foods from time to time
Even if you have chosen to follow a specialist healthy-eating meal plan, with the right levels of nutrients per plate, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to deprive yourself of the foods you want. Dietitian and nutritionist Nichola Whitehead even explained how it’s perfectly fine to stray away from your healthy eating plan every once in a while, explaining that it’s “overeating consistently day in and day out over the long term that causes weight gain”.
Instead, eat things in moderation and be specific with how much you consume each day. Healthy eating and having a balanced diet isn’t about deprivation. Rather, you should make sure you enjoy everything you eat, and don’t be afraid to indulge in the occasional treat. Completely removing your favourite foods from your diet can leave you struggling to find the willpower to maintain a healthy diet, which can lead to binge eating. However, you should try and avoid ‘cheat days’, which can promote binge eating, which is the opposite to having a balanced diet.