Healthy eating is a very complex and personal thing. Everybody has different needs, goals, values and beliefs but in the end of the day we all aim for the same thing – we want to feel good. There are various ways to achieve that but building the right grocery shopping habits is the first step for EVERYONE. So, before thinking about more specific diets and directions in nutrition let’s lay the foundation!
Article by Bella Trost
One day I decided to compete as a bikini model. The decision was followed by 5 years of extreme diet and training regime. I won many times and I had the body I’ve always wanted. But I paid a high price for it. My hormones got out of balance, I missed my period for months, and I experienced the yo-yo effect, cyclical weight loss and gain, and all the frustration that comes with it. I’m not complaining. My lifestyle was my choice but it took a long time to get back to and maintain a healthy body weight; to stay fit and have good, stable energy. I learnt a lot from my mistakes. Now I do not diet but I’m very conscious about what I eat and I follow a few simple rules that I will share with you here because I believe these are the basics for healthy eating.
80 percent of your basket should be filled with single ingredient foods. Fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, lean meat, fish and poultry, whole grains and unflavoured dairy. Try to avoid packaged food, processed food and pre-made foods. If you buy packaged food always choose the unflavoured version. Just an example: yogurt should only have one ingredient – yogurt. If you buy it flavoured, you can be fairly sure that there is added sugar and any number of strange additives. Buy the natural version and you can add to it at home for yourself.
This is an easy way to track what and how much you eat.
Read the labels!
Always. On every food and drink. You will be surprised how much sugar, fat, preservatives and other unpronounceable ingredients you can find in foods that are considered ‘clean’. Sugar is everywhere – maybe in hidden names like fructose, glucose or syrups but it is still there. Don’t put anything in your basket if the list of ingredients is unreasonably long and there are too many unfamiliar, artificial things on it. If you get used to reading the labels, believe me, your choice of supermarket becomes very narrow. You won’t have anything
else to do other than follow step 1.
Just because the ad or packaging says ‘healthy’ it doesn’t mean it really is!
Maybe the best example of this is ‘fit’ cereal bars and fitness ‘low calorie’ foods. Back to point 2: if the ingredients list is too long and there are too many numbers and capital letters and unpronounceable things on it, whatever the ad says, that food is not healthy. Back to step 1: shop simple! Buy single ingredient foods.
Don’t buy more than you need!
Often we eat something just because it’s there… in the fridge, in the cupboard, in our head. If we don’t buy cookies, we won’t eat cookies. (Not that we would anyway… we read the label and put them back on the shelf or we didn’t even go near the processed food aisle). As an experienced fitness competitor I can assure you this is a guaranteed method. If snacks are not within arm’s reach you probably won’t walk down to the store at 10pm to buy something. Most of the time this trick keeps you from mindless snacking. The same is true of portions. Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you have to buy it! We want to save money so we take the 2 for 1 pack or the bigger size, even though we don’t need it. But if it’s there, we are going to eat it. Not a good approach for weight loss.
Start with small changes!
You will be surprised how big a difference it makes just to get rid of the added sugar and fill your fridge with single ingredient foods. Making label reading a habit will already be a huge step towards a healthier, leaner you.
Bad news, you do need to have some discipline!
Changing our grocery shopping habits won’t come with a big sacrifice. You don’t have to starve yourself or give up your social life. But to make a visible difference you do need to have a little discipline. (I have to keep repeating this!). And you have to start by filling your fridge with the right food. This is a slow process but it is worth it.