An unhealthy diet is the cause of a number of many serious health conditions, such as high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes. These illnesses affect a large portion of the UK population. For example, according to the BBC, approximately 60 per cent of people across the country had cholesterol levels that were too high in 2015. If you know that you're one of these people, or simply want to improve your health, make a few of these simple changes to your diet.
1. Cook more meals at home
Every once in a while, it can be fun to eat out, especially on holidays and special occasions. However, if you find yourself leaving your food preparation in the hands of someone else too frequently, you may end up unknowingly maintaining an unhealthy diet. After all, even if the meals you order aren't necessarily unhealthy, the amount of harmful ingredients, such as salt and sugar, used to make your food is out of your control. Some restaurants and takeaways also use highly-processed foods to create their meals.
Consider cooking more meals at home and make an effort to work more whole grains, vegetables and protein into your daily diet. Get a family member or friend involved to assist you in selecting and preparing recipes that appeal to you. Cooking and eating with someone else will not only encourage you to maintain a nutritious meal plan, it can also be fun.
2. Replace unhealthy foods
One of the easiest ways to cut back on unhealthy foods is replacing them with similar, but more nutritious, alternatives. The NHS says that this can be as easy as eating whole-grain breads instead of white breads for breakfast and lunch, and choosing leaner cuts of meat. For example, if you're used to having streaky bacon for breakfast, replace it with back bacon, as back bacon usually contains less unhealthy fat. Other simple steps include using skimmed milk in your coffee every morning instead of whole milk and drinking 100 per cent fruit juice instead of cola.
When it comes to your desserts, the NHS recommends trying fruit salads, strawberries and cream and homemade popcorn, as these have a surprisingly low calorie count. For recipes for these snacks, click here.
3. Be more careful of where you eat
According to the Mirror, eating in front of the television is one of the most common triggers for overeating. When you're distracted by your favourite TV show, you're less likely to notice that you're satisfied and more likely to overeat. Consider moving your meals to the table and invite family or friends to join you, as this will also make meal times more enjoyable.
"It may take as long as 12 weeks to adjust your taste buds."
4. Try new foods
Eating becomes less of something you need to do and more of an exciting activity when you start treating your taste buds to new foods. This is one of the best ways to cut foods that are high in salt, fats and sugar from your diet, as it will retrain your taste buds to appreciate whole foods with natural flavours.
To do this, you can take small steps that make the process less daunting. For example, if you're trying to switch from white to brown rice and don't like it at first, mix the two. It may take as long as 12 weeks to adjust your taste buds, so it's important to be patient, according to Dr. Richard Mattes, a professor of foods and nutrition at America's Purdue University.
5. Balance nutrients with price
It's common for processed foods to be less expensive than natural, organic products. In fact, according to the Telegraph, researchers from Cambridge University conducted a study in 2014 that found healthy foods can cost up to three times more than unhealthy foods. However, in addition to staying within your budget, it's important not to ignore the ingredients labels and to find foods that contain sufficient nutrients. Before deciding if the food is worth the cost, compare the vitamins, minerals and fibre with the sodium, sugar, fats and chemical additive found in each product.
At Gracewell care homes, our chefs prepare a nutritious daily menu served in our dining rooms and cafe to ensure our residents have access to a healthy diet.