After following four years of study with clinical practice at the University of Greenwich and the UK College of Nutritional Health (BCNH), Mary van der Westhuizen qualified as a Nutritional Therapist. She now runs a private practice in London, meeting clients with a wide range of health and lifestyle objectives. In this article, Mary will guide you through her top tips to help you build new healthy habits and fit good nutrition into your busy lifestyle. Over to Mary...
When we’re really busy with work or family life it can feel impossible to fit in healthy eating and exercise on top of everything else. We’ve all been there. However, it’s worth remembering we can accomplish more when we have a healthy mind and body because we are likely to benefit from increased focus, fewer sick days and more energy to get through our to do list. Good nutrition is an essential way to achieve this. So, how can we incorporate it into our lives?
When you order your food (if you’re not already into online food delivery I urge you to give it a go as a brilliant time saver), think ahead to what meals you’ll be eating at home over the following week and start with making small tweaks to your shopping basket. Most importantly, add more vegetables to your trolley and choose varieties you don’t usually eat so that you’re eating a more diverse range of foods.
Start slowly and cheat if necessary
If you’re not used to cooking, it might be an idea to just start cooking one or two meals each week instead of every meal. For example, homemade chicken bone broth is a great staple to start eating at this time of year to ward off colds and viruses. The collagen and glucosamine, together with the many vitamins and minerals in it, offer endless benefits to your gut and immune system. However, the idea of making bone broth from scratch (12 hours of simmering a carcass) can understandably overwhelm many people. If that’s the case for you, start by buying in a really good organic chicken broth like one from Daylesford Organic (their Chicken Bone Broth with ginger and vegetables is a brilliant time-saving base for a quick veg soup or for a slow roast chicken casserole). Yes, a great tasting, organic bone broth or stock is relatively expensive, but it’s worth spending a bit on this kind of good quality product when you first start out because it can really help to inspire more regular good habits. Then, over time, you may feel ready to cook more and you may even find you want to try making your own chicken broth.
Schedule in more vegetables
The best way to fit in healthy eating is to plan your meals a little and think ahead. It can be helpful to sit down every Sunday evening and work out when you’re going to eat your daily quota of vegetables (7-a-day, remember?), e.g. if you’re going out for dinner with friends one night, you’re likely to eat fewer vegetables at that meal (why do most restaurants only offer veg as an afterthought?) so make sure your lunch that day is really nutrient dense and vegetable focussed.
Easy salads and stir-fries
Don’t forget, a salad doesn’t have to be reserved for the summer and stir-fries are really quick, easy and healthy. Make your own without worrying too much about recipes or specific ingredients. Just use as wide a variety of vegetables as possible and add in some lean protein too (e.g. tuna, a boiled egg or leftover chicken). It doesn’t have to be complicated and you can use up loads of leftovers this way, so it’s an efficient way to eat. Just stock your fridge with loads of veg. If you find the thought of chopping loads of veg too time consuming then cheat; buy in packs of fresh, chopped ingredients designed for stir-fries or salads. Only warning: don’t use the accompanying sauces unless you’ve checked the ingredients (most are full of preservatives, saturated fat, sugar and salt). You can easily make your own stir-fry base with chopped fresh chillies, ginger, garlic and a splash of soy sauce or tamari.
Always make double of everything you cook then freeze anything you don’t eat that day, or save it for the following day’s lunch/supper. Same applies to core stir fry ingredients (you can freeze mixed pouches of spring onion, chopped chillies, garlic and ginger) and salad dressing (make a huge jar and keep in the fridge). This way you have wonderful, nutritious food available in a flash.
Experts on changing habits recommend making small changes at first. Spend one week perfecting each change before you include another in your life.