I love food. I always have. I especially love the foods that aren’t always so good for me, and therein lies the problem. I’ve struggled with food and weight my whole life. In 2020, I made a number of poor food choices. In those uncertain times, feeling cooped up at home, I turned to food delivery, fast food, and junk food for comfort.
There’s this beautiful saying in Tamil, unave marunthu which translated means food is medicine. Food, the right kind in the right proportions, nourish the body and give us the goodness and nutrients we need to lead healthy lives. Towards the end of last year, I began to realise that the food I was feeding my body needed improvement. There’s a history of heart disease in my family and eating right is so important, especially as I get older.
Plus, my husband and I hope to start a family soon and diet is something that’s pretty important when it comes to fertility as well. As such, I began making small changes in my diet to move towards healthier eating. Here are 7 small changes that can make a big difference in the long run:
1. Opt for healthier alternatives
As an Asian, I really enjoy eating rice. In the past, when I tried no-carb diets, I failed miserably because I just couldn’t go without eating rice! When we love certain foods, it’s tough to go cold turkey. Instead, we could find healthier substitutes for the foods we love.
So, I switched from white rice to brown rice. I still get my rice fix, but in a healthier way. I’ve made similar substitutions for other things too. Switching from white sugar to brown sugar/honey and from fattier cuts of meat to lean cuts allows me to prepare healthier, more nutritious meals at home.
2. Be mindful of portion size
I don’t just enjoy rice, I freakin’ LOVE it. I used to take two or more helpings of rice along with other dishes. As my weight started to increase, I began to realise I needed to practise moderation in my diet.
I decided to measure my rice serving using a small bowl and I stick to that portion size for my meals. Instead of loading up on rice, I try to add more vegetables on the side.
Cooking for one can be especially challenging as it’s tempting to finish off any extras you may have cooked. Nowadays, when I’m cooking for one, I measure out everything – rice, meat, and vegetables – and cook enough for just one serving. If I want to cook extra for later, I take that portion out, pack it, and set it aside to avoid overeating.
Being mindful of portion size ensures we don’t overindulge in the foods we love and instead, eat everything in moderation.
3. Have healthy snacks around the house
I often fall off the wagon when it comes to diets due to snacking. I get hungry in between meals and reach for junk food or order a sweet drink like bubble tea to satisfy my cravings.
Nowadays, I try to keep fruits such as mandarin oranges, bananas, and watermelon to snack on when I get hungry. When I’m craving something extra sweet, I have some apple slices with peanut butter on the side.
Stocking up on healthy treats such as fruits instead of junk food prevents us from binging on unhealthy snacks. Of course, this doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our favourite junk foods now and then – in moderation of course.
4. Eat more fruits and vegetables
Lately, I’ve been trying to add more fruits and vegetables to my diet. I add vegetables to any dish I cook, and I have a piece of fruit after my meal. When my husband and I feel like having a light dinner, we make a simple fruit salad with apples, oranges, watermelon, and pineapple with a simple dressing of honey and lime juice.
Many of the nutrients our body needs can be obtained from a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables. However, certain fruits such as mangoes and cherries are high in sugar and hence, it’s important to have them in moderation.
5. Drink more water
I started making a conscious effort to drink more water when I realised how dry my skin was getting. As I was chatting about this with my dad, he casually asks me, “Are you drinking enough water?”
Then it hit me. I hadn’t been drinking enough water, other than the occasional sips throughout the day. I’d start my day with a full bottle of water and by tea time, I would have barely made my way through half the bottle.
Despite the bucketloads of moisturiser that I applied on my face, my skin was screaming for more H20. Nowadays, I try to drink at least one cup of water with every meal and take breaks in between work to chug down some water. Full disclosure, drinking more water makes me pee way more, but hey it’s a small price to pay to stay hydrated!
6. Reduce sugar intake
I love myself some sweet drinks, especially coffee and tea. I’d sip on coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon along with sweet snacks. Once I started to turn my diet around, I knew I had to cut down on sugar.
Nowadays, I stick to one sweet drink a day and that’s my cup of joe in the morning. For the rest of the day, I sip on either water or green tea. When I eat out, I opt for water – it’s not only the healthiest choice, but it’s usually the cheapest too!
I have a sweet tooth for sure, and it’s hard to avoid treats altogether. So I still eat treats once in a while, but I’m more mindful of how much I eat. It’s all about moderation and portion size!
7. Avoid depriving myself
Whenever I’m on a diet and I feel hungry and deprived, that’s when I’m most likely to start binging. Instead of depriving myself, I eat when I’m hungry, but I try to make better food choices. Instead of snacking on junk food, I reach for a fruit. Rather than cutting out rice from my diet, I opt for a healthier alternative.
Tiny servings and deprivation isn’t a sustainable lifestyle for anyone. Eating isn’t a crime, and it shouldn’t be viewed as one. Healthier eating requires us to be more mindful of what we’re eating and how much; it doesn’t mean we can’t eat the foods we love at all.
Healthy eating involves a lot of small decisions we make about food over time. I’m slowly learning that to eat healthy, I don’t have to deprive myself and expel sweet treats from my diet – I just need to make better food choices. Nourish my body with delicious and healthy meals loaded with vegetables, reach out for fruits and healthy snacks to curb those hunger pangs, and indulge in my favourite treats once in a while. A slice of cake instead of two, every week instead of every day, savoured slowly instead of wolfed down.
The key to any sustainable lifestyle isn’t deprivation, it’s balance. I’m slowly learning to find that balance in my diet and my relationship with food. I hope this article helps you find your balance too.