While grocery shopping is a great way to ensure you are keeping track of what foods are in your diet, many individuals have limited time to shop throughout the week. A HelloFresh decision making survey found that about half of all Australians find budgeting for groceries and deciding what to eat for dinner the two most stressful decisions of their day.
Figuring out your diet on top of working daily and other responsibilities can be stressful, especially if you don’t have much knowledge of what a balanced diet consists of or you have little time to spare. It’s definitely not an uncommon as many Aussies admit they face this ordeal.
Maintaining a balanced diet doesn’t have to be hard. By implementing small steps in your meal planning and following certain tips, you’ll be able to establish a good method for eating well even if you are short on time.
1: Cook more meals at home
By preparing more meals at home, you will be able to better keep track of what you’re eating. Homemade meals made with whole ingredients are always a great deal healthier when compared with the food you get from restaurants and takeaway stores.
By cooking your own meals, you will have total control of what ingredients are used and can make informed choices about portioning. This ultimately helps reduce food wastage as you are only using the ingredients and portions you are actually going to finish.
Food subscription boxes allow you to cook at home without having to do the shopping and recipe research by yourself. This means that you can monitor what you eat without becoming bogged down with all of the boring grocery shopping and ingredient measuring.
2: Watch your portions
It’s important for you to watch your portions when you are having a meal. Even if you are eating healthy food, having the wrong portions can cause your diet to fall out of balance. Consider the five important food groups and whether you are eating them in the right proportion.
It can be easy to overdo eating meats and grains, for example, so make sure that you keep a tab on how much you are putting in your body. While it is okay to eat unhealthy foods once in a while, our bodies would ideally not indulge in them at all.
Portion control is particularly relevant when you are snacking or eating out. This is because snacks aren’t an actual meal and as you often eat snacks out of a bag, it can be hard to keep track of how much you’re actually packing away. Try to pour your snacks onto a plate before eating them so that you know when to stop.
When you are eating at a restaurant, make sure that you aren’t ordering more than you need. Many restaurants tend to have oversized portions, so consider ordering an entrée or sharing with a friend rather than overeating – or just get the leftovers to go.
When eating at home, don’t feel the need to fill your entire plate, especially as many plates are oversized. Remember, you can always get seconds if you’re still hungry.
3: Prepare balanced meals
Make sure that the meals you are eating are well-proportioned in terms of the types of foods they contain. For example, if you are having a sandwich for lunch, be sure to add a bunch of vegetables along with your meat. This will help you reach your recommended daily nutrition intake.
Adding a salad or a piece of fruit to a meal is a good way to ensure you are ticking more of the essential food groups off your list. Remember that your consumption of the food groups is not meant to be equal – aim to include more vegetables in your diet than read meat or grain.
If you are eating foods that do not fall into the five essential groups, try to keep your consumption to a minimum.
4: Start a food diary
By keeping track of everything you eat in a food diary, you will have a better understanding of what you need to work on and if your diet is balanced well. While it might seem pedantic to have to keep track of everything you eat, this benefits of doing this make it well worth the extra effort.
Having a food diary will also help inform any adjustments you make in the future, or any meal planning you do. By keeping a record of what you eat, you’ll be able to clearly see what you should be changing to achieve better diet.
A food diary will also give you a point of reference if you happen to notice any changes around your energy levels or overall wellbeing. Getting into the habit of writing down what you’re consuming can help you understand your body and how the food you eat is affecting it.
5: Eat a variety of foods
Eating a variety of foods is essential to maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. You should be aiming to include the five important food groups in your diet – fruits, vegetables, legumes and meat, whole grains, and dairy or dairy alternatives.
Fruits and vegetables should make up half of what you eat, so you should definitely aim to consume more of those in your meals. Try to substitute carbs with vegetables to get a better proportion of the food groups.
Within the food groups, you should be trying to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables rather than sticking to the same type. All foods contain a different combination of vitamins and minerals, so switching up your choices can help you to get a wider range of health benefits.
For example, you should try eating fruits and vegetables of different colours. Eating a variety of coloured produce will help increase the variety of nutrients your body is extracting.
6: Watch your liquid calories
It can be easy to forget to consider liquids as part of your diet as they aren’t specifically meal-related. However, drinking sugary drinks can up your calories significantly and throw off the balance of your diet.
It is okay to enjoy these drinks in moderation, but you shouldn’t be constantly having drinks such as alcohol or soda. And while fruit juice seems like a healthier option, it still contains a relatively high amount of added sugar.
Drinking lots of water is essential, so try to replace soft drinks and coffees with ice cold water. Adding pieces of fruit to your water can enhance the flavour and acts as a good alternative to artificially sweetened drinks.
Maintaining a balanced diet can be hard, but by establishing good habits and sticking to them, you can overcome the initial hurdles and achieve a better quality of life.