9 ways I’m going to eat healthier in 2019
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Food and drink editor Charlotte Smith-Jarvis reveals how she’ll (try) to be a bit healthier this year.
As I write it is New Year’s Eve. I feel like a dumpling. A big, squishy, mallowy dumpling, filled with cheese, cake, chocolate, panettone, crisps, crackers…oh and more cheese.
And I didn’t even indulge that much this year! I don’t know about you, but I find it really hard to stay on top of my weight. In my pre-children years I managed to somehow run three times a week, swim, go to the gym and cram in a few exercise classes in between, all while working full time.
The Millennial obsession of ‘prepping’ was my jam. Of course I had time to batch cook loads of meals for two. To fill Tupperware with salads, crudites and fruit for the week.
These days climbing the stairs to the upper floor of our office forms part of my grimly negligent bodily maintenance routine. And my swimming costume is more like an unflattering corset, untidily squeezing in my flabby parts.
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It doesn’t help that part of my job involves eating out and recipe development. Eating plus sitting around is not a successful formula for a lithe body.
So this year I’m determined to tip the scales in my favour. And here are some of the tricks I’ve implemented in the past to trim down. I’d love to hear your tips too. Email me at email@example.com
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1 Always eat breakfast
Something I hardly ever do. I’m a grab and go kind of girl and I don’t have time to faff about in the morning making omelettes or sandwiches. My new thing is overnight oats. They’ve been around for an age, but I’ve only recently cottoned on to how handy they are. All you need is a jar and a couple of minutes in the kitchen before you head up to bed. Simply chuck 35g rolled porridge oats, 1tsp chia seeds (they make it nice and thick – if not use 40g oats) 200g fat-free yoghurt or 150ml milk or milk alternative into a jam jar, shake and leave overnight to do its thing. I like to add a grated apple and a small grated carrot with a pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon and a tiny bit of honey to make a kind of carrot cake flavour. Honey and cocoa powder give a chocolatey vibe. Eat cold, or spoon into a bowl and blitz in the microwave to warm through in the morning.
2 Infused waters
One of my worst habits is that I don’t drink enough water. My mate Lisa is always ribbing me about it and when we went on holiday together a few years ago she really was the water police! My skin never looked so good – despite the sunburn from an open-top bus ride. I don’t really like those water infusion bottles where you add fruit (it can go manky during the day unless you stick to citrus fruits), but I recently bought a Twinings Cold In’Fuse starter kit (it was £7.50 at Waitrose). The bottle, with a handy grippy lid, comes with three flavoured sugar-free infusions which I think taste pretty yummy and have made reaching for water more enjoyable. That said, you don’t need to buy one of these. Any water bottle will do. Simply add a herbal/fruit teabag and leave it to steep. Much healthier than a diet drink filled with sweeteners.
3 Cut down on meat
I don’t eat a great deal of meat anyway, and only really eat red meat if I’m out. Now I don’t think there’s anything especially wrong with eating meat –particularly if it’s free-range and higher welfare, but we should all be thinking about introducing more grains and pulses into our diets. A trick from my slimmer days was to use half meat/half lentils in loads of dishes. Bolognese, chilli, curry, shepherd’s pie, burgers. Not only is this cheaper, but it bulks your meal out with fibre too. I’ve filled a cupboard with chickpeas, lentils, beans and grains to experiment.
4 Mindful eating
How often do you go to make dinner, and eat while you’re cooking? Case in point. I made my husband a cheese omelette last night and cut off and nibbled chunks of fromage in the process. Before I knew it I’d got through a fair amount, without really thinking about it. A big thing for me this year is to only eat when I’m sitting down to a meal. No hovering in the shadow of the fridge light at bedtime a la Nigella. It’s scary how those stolen bites here and there add up!
5 Eat more fibre
Soluble and insoluble fibre are invaluable for health and I’m guilty of not eating enough – as are many many others. It’s recommended we have about 30g per day by filling up on wholegrains. I’m talking sugar-free cereal, brown rice, brown pasta, porridge, and of course fruit and vegetables. When they were smaller my kids would eat ‘brown’ versions of everything without fuss. Now they’re older there’s a resistance. But in our house you eat what you’re given. Wholewheat pasta it is from now on.
6 I must like yoghurt and low-fat cheese
I don’t do yoghurt. As a child I think I managed to get down those cheapo toffee yoghurts which were probably 80% sugar, but I cannot stomach them as a grown-up. Before Christmas I bought an organic Yeo Valley lemon yoghurt thinking it would illuminate me. Nope. Instead my friends got to see me gagging over the pot in the kitchen. I’m not giving up though. This year I fully intend to try lots of different varieties of low-sugar and fat-free dairy and non-dairy yoghurt. Oh and Quark..which looks like vomit but apparently is high in protein and makes a decent low-fat quiche. Watch this space.
7 Frying in water
When I was around 19 I lost three stone by loosely following the Slimming World plan. One of the biggest changes I made was not frying or baking in oil. I didn’t think it would make a difference. But it did. Now, there are some recipes which cannot be the same without butter or olive oil. Those will continue to be cherished in their original form. But for everyday, bog standard cooking, I’m back to sauteeing in a decent non-stick pan with a splash of water.
8 A little bit of what I fancy
Denial is the worst. Life is here for the living, for the enjoying and cutting out favourite foods is not only completely unconducive to staying on a healthier path for longer, but it’s sinful. Let’s not forget the utter joy of food. But let’s have less of those naughty things every day. I have moved my ‘naughty food’ to an upstairs cupboard and separated it into portions so each night I can go and grab a little something I fancy’. Why the hell not?