October 10, 2023
“You are what you eat” is a saying that we’ve all heard but many of us haven’t stopped to take in the full impact of that statement. Poor diet is listed as the leading cause of death worldwide and the second-highest contributor to diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. It is estimated that one-third of all cancers are caused by poor diet and regular consumption of processed meats carries the same risk as smoking when it comes to cancer. There is more and more evidence that poor diet has in the development of mental health issues such as depression and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption can improve mental health and even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s in elderly populations.
There are lots of different diets that can be found on social media and sometimes it can be confusing to know what we should and shouldn’t be eating. A healthy diet is one that contains a variety of minimally processed foods; limiting foods that are highly processed. Highly processed foods, also known as ultra-processed foods, contain a large number (five or more) ingredients, many of which you don’t recognise or wouldn’t have in your cupboard at home. These foods are often high in salt and sugar and include processed meats such as polony and fish fingers, biscuits, pies and sugary drinks (including energy drinks and fruit juice. Instead of these foods, we want to focus on eating fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods such as oats and barley and legumes such as beans and lentils. We should aim to have more than five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
While certain healthy foods can be expensive, there are many very affordable healthy foods. Making foods at home instead of buying meals helps to make foods healthier and cheaper. Some tips to make budget-friendly healthy choices are:
If you are not used to including fruits and vegetables it can be challenging to start eating these foods more regularly. Try these tips to start increasing your intake:
Making any change can be overwhelming and it’s difficult to make sustainable changes, especially when we’re trying to make too many changes at once. It can be helpful to start with one or two small changes and then once those have become your ‘new normal’; you can try the next change. It may help to identify one unhealthy food/ beverage that you want to try to limit and one healthy food you want to include more often.
Be specific when you make these goals. For example, it’s not enough to say you want to reduce the number of energy drinks you consume. Decide that you are going to reduce it to only twice a week, or once a week or whatever is a challenging, yet realistic option for you. Instead of saying you want to eat more vegetables; set the goal of including vegetables at least once a day. As you achieve these goals you can continue to change them- i.e. once you include vegetables once a day for a few weeks; try to make it twice a day. Or you can further reduce your intake of energy drinks to only once a week.
Making dietary changes is challenging and the results aren’t always immediate. Remember that you’re investing in your health and your future health every time you make a healthy food choice.
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