As someone who wasn’t paying much attention to my food choices in my teenage years, I gradually came to a point where my body started to betray me. In my early twenties, I started realizing I don’t have the energy to carry on with my busy days and started to experience frequent headaches, stomach discomforts, mood swings and fatigue, which inevitably started taking its toll on my productivity, performance, and motivation.
Food for productivity and energy!
(How to make better food choices?)
Little did I know diet had to do a lot with those symptoms. As most people at that stage of life I was constantly busy and juggling between university, job, some side activities and the challenges of becoming an adult. I wasn’t focusing much on making good food choices and often opted for a takeaway meal or some quick snack that wasn’t the healthiest choice.
I used to skip breakfast and lunch during the day, rushing and eating on the go, having late dinners packed with quick carbs and comfort foods and …yeah…no wonder I started facing the negative results of all that crazy regimen.
The change in my approach to food came after I realized that nothing good expects me if I carry on like that. I needed to give my body the right fuel if I wanted it to listen to me. However, as you probably know, making the right food choices can be quite a challenging task. Finding time to plan ahead the meals, shopping and preparing them is another story.
So, I needed to create a guideline that can help me to cut down on stressful food decisions and make healthy eating easier. What I have discovered is that understanding basic nutrition, reducing the complexity of your meals, and having a couple of choices at hand are the three major steps that can take you to healthier food options.
I won’t say that making changes in your diet is easy. It is not. Therefore, I will advise you not to make any drastic changes and introduce your better food options gradually, without putting pressure on yourself.
I now eat pretty healthily compared to what I used to eat a few years ago, but my current diet is a result of small changes I made over time. So, if you want to shift to healthier food choices, start small.
Initially, I started with making myself a good breakfast and carrying a water bottle along. Then I slowly incorporated more fruits and veggies in my meals. I switched to good-quality fats and oils for cooking and dressing. Stocked on nuts and seeds for midday snacks and slowly tried out different recipes for smoothies, salads, soups, and stews. I started planning my meals and preparing them ahead and discovered the joy of simple cooking. Honestly, I’ve learned so much from reading, watching, and from trial and error over the last couple of years that I feel I’ve discovered an entirely new food world that it worth to be shared with all of you. That’s why, in the next lines, I will share my tips on how to gradually switch to better food choices which can help you boost your productivity and your energy level.
How to make better food choices?
♦Make yourself a priority and take time to care for yourself. Everyone needs different foods in order to perform at their best and there is no “one size fit all” formula when it comes to diet. Therefore, it is important to get personalized nutrition information based on your age, gender, height, weight, and physical activity level. Consult your GP and a Dietitian and look at reputable sources for Dietary Guidelines to gain a better understanding of the basic food requirements for your type of lifestyle.
♦Start small by picking one or two things to change about your diet. Every other day, try something healthy and include it into your daily/weekly meals.
♦When trying to cut on something bad, focus on replacing it with healthy options that are tasty and you love. It helps a lot to make a list of your favorite healthy foods that you enjoy and always have it at hand.
♦Roast, boil and steam instead of frying, and deep frying.
♦Don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen. Developing your cooking skills is going to help you to make healthier meals and enable you to try out new recipes.
♦Switch your focus from “how to cut down on junk” to willingly replacing those junk foods (like McDonald’s, sweets, donuts, candy and soft drinks) with tasty and healthy stuff that you love.
♦Think about what you should eat, rather than what you should cut back on. Search for inspiration and surround yourself with ideas for good food options.
♦Embrace superfoods as part of your meal plan – they not only give you essential vitamins and nutrients but also keep you satiated. Start by adding one or two superfoods to your meals each day.
♦Reduce foods with lower and limited nutrition value. These are the foods high in fats, sugars and salts. They have a very limited nutritional value and hardly will bring you any essential nutrients but will ultimately increase the likelihood of you gaining weight.
♦Add healthy snacks in between the meals. This will reduce your hunger and will help you naturally reduce your portion size and the overeating problem.
♦Eat on the slow and really enjoy your meals. I wake up early to have my breakfast on the slow and try to enjoy each bite to the maximum.
♦Plan your meals and your snacks for the day/week. If you are running around all day, you are more likely to grab something convenient (fast food) but if you have a healthy pack of nuts, a fruit, yogurt, veggies or a small homemade sandwich in your bag, you will quickly fuel your body with some good stuff that will give you energy.
♦Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables – this is a guideline I try to follow as much as possible and really see the benefits of it. You can even get a visual portion control plate to help you with your targets.
♦Hydrate yourself during the day – sip on water, tea, milkshakes, smoothies or other healthy drinks (with no added sweeteners). Keep a water bottle in your bag or at your desk to satisfy your thirst throughout the day. Nowadays there are these cool water bottles that actually remind you to stay hydrated.
♦Choose whole grains like brown rice and whole-grain pasta and bread. Foods with high-fiber content provide key nutrients and can help you feel full.
♦Learn what is in foods – there are apps that can help you check both ingredients and nutrition facts to discover what various foods contain.
♦Become a better cook – get inspired, grab some cookbook, watch videos, discover new recipes.
♦Be active whenever you can – get down one bus stop before your stop. Go walking, go biking, join a dancing class or jogging or just do some stretching at home.
♦Focus on the benefits – the instant rewards when you start eating right are you’ll sleep better, have a regular stomach, higher energy, mental clarity, and better skin.
♦Reward yourself for the progress with non-food rewards like pampering yourself in a saloon, getting a massage, buying a new magazine, going to a movie, etc.
♦Indulge in your favorite foods on occasion. It’s Okay to treat yourself from time to time, so don’t deprive yourself completely but keep the amount small. Choose cakes, cookies, candies, and ice cream as just occasional treats.
♦Stock up on healthy options – this is for those moments when you want to open the fridge or the kitchen cabinet and grab on a snack. Make your healthy options available to grab. Put them in the front of the fridge, or keep a stocked snack drawer you can visit from time to time.
♦Pair up with a partner, a friend or a coworker and share your health plan with someone who can keep you accountable. “Make plans to have salads for lunch, meet at the park or start a new dancing class. Encouragement makes it easier to stick to your healthy lifestyle.
♦Keep your food simple. I strongly believe the closer a food is to its original form the better. That’s why, I focus on foods that have a short ingredient list and haven’t been highly processed.
♦Make it convenient. Keep your healthy foods on hand, ready to snack on or prepare a meal. Frozen food is the next best thing for maximum nutrition content if you can’t eat fresh.
♦Experiment with new flavors. Next time you go grocery shopping, pick up something healthy, which you’ve never had.
♦Be mindful with toppings, sauces and condiments – they boost flavor, but they can also add significant calories and fat.
Be patient, and don’t look for quick fixes. Applying these tips to your everyday life will help you to not only make better food choices but also achieve your health goals. Once you understand what you need to eat and what is in your food you will be able to have a balanced diet, which will reward you with more energy, more productivity, and a better mood.
A food journal or a diary can greatly help you to keep track of your progress and stick to your meal plans until it becomes natural to you to make healthier food choices even without thinking about it.
This isn’t about a short-term diet. This is a long-term healthy lifestyle, the benefits of which are better productivity, greater energy levels, weight management and, generally, better health.
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