Rules, rules, rules. Our lives seem to be ruled by rules – especially when it comes to food.
But eating well isn’t all that hard if you follow a few simple, sensible…guidelines. Whatever time of year it is, wherever you live and whatever your age or level of health some guiding principles of healthy eating do apply. Here are five of our favourites which are easy to integrate into any lifestyle.
1. Cook lightly
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t cook your food. Some foods like tomatoes positively benefit from being cooked, since cooking concentrates their beneficial lutein.
But some foods are best eaten raw or lightly cooked. The most heat-sensitive nutrients are water-soluble vitamins, like folate and vitamins B and C, which are common in vegetables. Lightly steaming helps retain these vital nutrients.
Likewise add fresh herbs towards the end of cooking to preserve their nutritional benefits and flavour.
2. Choose variety and try new things
Our modern diets have become too reliant on a handful of mass produced foods which we eat year round, regardless of whether they are in season or not. Nutritionists now understand that this just isn’t good enough.
Our bodies need variety not just in terms of taste but in terms of the different nutrients and co-factors that different foods supply. It may seem daunting at first, but once you begin you will find how easy it is to substitute for instance one type of egg or milk (including non-dairy and nut milks) for another or to use barley or buckwheat instead of rice, or rye instead of wheat or to use fresh rhubarb in your desert instead of long stored apples.
3. Season well
Herbs and spices are a fantastic way to get more variety in your diet. Making a salsa verde or salad dressing, or adding fresh herbs to salads, or spice rubs on fish or meats all help to increase your dietary diversity.
Learning to use herbs and spices well often means you can cut back on seasonings like salt – which is also a good thing for health! We like to think of herbs and spices as aromatherapy for your kitchen.
4. Eat with the seasons
Let your food choices be guided by what’s in season. Seasonal food also tends to be less expensive. Learning to do things like pickle and make jams can help make the short seasons of certain foods last a little longer, but ultimately it’s better for your health and more sustainable to eat what’s naturally available close to home.
If it can be organic, so much the better since what’s not in organic foods – pesticides – is as important as what is – higher levels of certain nutrients.
5. Challenge assumptions about food consumption
This can include, for example, challenging what constitutes, a ‘meal’ at what time of day. We have become very used to eating certain foods at certain times, when in fact there is no reason why you can’t have a salad for breakfast, or a cereal for lunch or a smoothie for dinner.
Try to be bit more playful and experimental with meals. Many of the recipes in Neal’s Yard Remedies Healing Foods – Eat Your Way to a Healthier Life book, for example, can be eaten any time of day depending on your tastes and your needs. If you are convalescing, for instance, it may benefit you to have a nourishing savoury broth for breakfast. More important than what you eat when, is that you get the variety of nutrients you need from day to day.
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