Don’t focus on cutting out the “bad stuff”

Embarking on a mission to eat more healthily and get extra vegetables into your diet, is often portrayed as launching a complete overhaul of your current way of eating. That’s why for so many of us, from the get go, it feels like it’s going to be a struggle. Everything that we eat is so personal to us, it’s one aspect of what makes us unique. As households, we may well have our regular meals, but even then family members have their own likes and dislikes. There are foods and meals that we absolutely love and some we hate with a passion. Some of the foods we enjoy the most can, unfortunately if eaten too regularly, be detrimental for our health. These are often sugary, high fat foods, processed foods or alcohol.

So of course, when we “draw a line in the sand” and decide to change our ways, often the first thing we think we should be doing, is to get rid of the so called ‘bad stuff’. This makes us very uncomfortable, and we often find ourselves resistant to the change. Or we start to make a change and then after a couple of days our willpower wains and slowly our resolve cracks and we go back to our old favourites.

Where to focus your efforts

But what if instead of focussing on getting rid of the ‘bad foods’, we focus our attention on adding more healthier wholefood ingredients to our meals, and in particular, vegetables. Imagine if to every meal we’re having – lunch, dinner and even breakfast, we simply add 1 extra portion of vegetables. A handful of spinach, a few stems of broccoli or a courgette for example. It could be just an extra portion/variety to our plate, but it could also be adding them into our stir-fries, curries, casseroles, bolognaise, chilli, etc. This works particularly well for children or those less keen on vegetables, as if cut small enough, can be easily hidden in or blended into a sauce.

What difference does it make?

So how does this help our efforts?….Well by adding an extra portion of vegetables to every meal we’re adding more fibre and fibre helps add volume to the meal, helping us to stay fuller for longer. We’re also adding additional texture and flavour to the dish, giving us extra dimensions and more enjoyment, meaning we’re getting more nutrients and will be subconsciously less inclined to reach for less beneficial foods.

So, rather than focussing on getting rid of some of the foods that you love, which can feel very negative, focus on adding vegetables to your meals which will feel like a much more positive action to take towards a healthier lifestyle. Consistent healthy eating is all about creating habits that become second nature to maintain. As you take small positive actions that you feel the benefit from, the old less desirable habits and food choices will start to get squeezed out making sustainable long term change inevitable. Want some inspiration for adding more vegetables to your meals, take a look at my recipes from  The 500 Calorie Kitchen.
If you need a more structured meal plan for the week, incorporating lots of seasonal salads, fruits and vegetables, check my Nourish and Move – 7 Day Kickstarter Plan

Additional resources include the NHS 5-A-Day Guidelines