Healthy eating advice and messages in the media can be confusing. We’re sold simple solutions when the underlying problems are far more complex. Content Manager Hannah shares her healthy swaps for a more balanced life and diet…
Since joining the Cook&Count team I’ve realised just how complex the world of health behavioural change is! It’s hard to keep up with all the contradictory messages and diet advice that’s out there. I’ve always aimed to live a healthy lifestyle, my biggest weakness being a sweet tooth (maybe that’s where my surname comes from!).
I read a lot of health news as part of my role in the team, and it’s pretty overwhelming. One week “all natural” is best, the next “butter leads to type 2 diabetes”. Then we hear “sugar is the enemy” but “artificial sweeteners increase appetite”. It’s hard to know what advice to pass on to friends looking to improve their diets.
While making a real effort to read up on the science behind claims and avoid simple messages, I do believe in simple switches and small steps leading to big changes. It’s all about habit forming. So here are my top 5 healthy swaps:
1. Squash to water
As a teenager I could never seem to get used to the taste of pure water, but after a short period of conscious effort I’ve come to drink barely anything else. My trusty bottle of water goes everywhere with me. Sugary drinks aren’t so good for hydration, as after the water has been absorbed, some of it must be used to digest the carbohydrate. Find some more sugar reducing swaps, plus learn about how sugar is affecting our kids, on NHS Change4Life.
2. Refined to whole grain
I automatically buy wholemeal bread and pasta and brown rice whenever I can. It baffles me why restaurants don’t often have the option of brown rice or pasta! Whole grains have more of the good stuff left in than refined grains. From vitamins and minerals to healthy fats, protein and fibre. It’s National Nutrition Month this March, so what better time to make the switch!
3. Milk to dark chocolate
I’m a big chocolate eater. I like to claim it’s for the iron and magnesium, but I really just like to end a meal on something sweet. It took a bit of getting used to, and it may be a little pricey, but 90% cocoa dark chocolate is now my top choice. Even 85% cocoa solids tastes a tad too sweet! And the sugar difference is surprising. While standard milk chocolate contains 56% sugar, some of the darkest chocolates contain just 7%. Here’s a nice infographic from Prevention.com examining the pros and cons of dark vs milk chocolate.
4. Step it up (swap the lift for the stairs and the bus for the pavement)
Walking, to me, is one of the most powerful tools for health and fitness. Few of us enjoy the gym, and walking is something everyone can fit into their daily routine. I know a number of people who’ve had huge weight loss success simply by increasing their step count. As a team we always try and take the stairs when we can! Check out the NHS 10,000 steps challenge to get walking more.
5. Watch your mood (swap snacking for sleep)
We all experience how tiredness and stress affect our mood and eating habits. When I’m low on sleep I’m always craving food to keep up my energy levels. It’s an obvious one, but the benefits can’t be overstated. Keep well rested to control your cravings! As it’s Sleep Awareness Week next month in the US, take a look at this video How much sleep we really need? from the National Sleep Foundation.
What are your healthy swaps? Download Coo&Count on iOS or on Android to see what changes you can make to your home cooked recipes to improve your health.