Need to get to a healthy Weight? Summer is a great time to start
Often when we think about healthy eating we conjure up visions of dry, tasteless food and months of deprivation. Just thinking about this can put many of us off even trying to eat healthily. But summer is one of the best times to get your diet, as well as your health in shape. So many fruits and vegetables are in season at this time of year and anything in season always tastes fantastic. This means you can have all the low-calorie, nutritious food you need to be healthy, but without having to sacrifice any of the pleasure.
With over half of all Irish adults overweight – and Irish children not far behind – it is important for us to think about the food we eat and how it affects our body’s weight and well-being. One of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight is to eat plenty of high fibre foods and to include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in what we eat. Read on to find out more about getting to - and keeping – a healthy weight and how to make the best use of the fantastic summer flavours.
Having a healthy weight
If you are thinking about getting to a healthy weight or just want to eat a little healthier, start by keeping a food diary for 3-4 days. Write down everything you eat and drink – include meals, snacks and ‘nibbles’ as well as water, tea, coffee and alcohol. Once you have done this you can see some of the places you may need to make changes.
Check out your portion sizes. This is where most people pick up extra weight. Do you really need a big dinner plate? Try using a smaller breakfast or salad plate. Do you really need to clear your plate? If you start to feel full during a meal – stop eating! Feeling full is how your body tells you it has enough food. Look at the portions you put on your plate – remember pasta and rice should only be 1/3 of your dinner plate, and potatoes should only make up 1/3 of the meal at most. Add in plenty of fresh vegetables and salad – you’ll get more vitamins and minerals as well as fewer calories.
Check out how many portions of fruit and vegetables you are eating everyday. You need to get at least five portions a day – 1 portion is 1 medium sized fruit, 2 small fruits, one glass of fruit juice or 3 dessertspoons of vegetables or salad. As a good rule of thumb, vegetables or salad should make up at least 1/3 of your lunch and dinner.
What about exercise? You need to get active everyday – go for a walk, join an exercise class, get involved in sports clubs. Aim for at least 30 minutes activity everyday – you’ll feel the difference in your energy levels as well as you waist band! Start setting a good example for your children - they’ll be more active if they see that you are.
Using Summer’s In-Season foods for a healthy, balanced diet
Fruit and vegetables are low calorie foods but are also rich in the vitamins and minerals you need be at your best. They are an excellent source of fibre and studies show that people who eat a high fibre diet find it easier to get to, and to stay at, a healthy weight.
Use fruit as a low calorie snack in between meals – berries are especially tasty at this time of year, and have plenty of crisp salads and tasty summer greens with dinner.
Try fruit smoothies for breakfast – use lots of ripe peaches and nectarines and try some of the more exotic fruits like mangoes and passion fruit. Simply add some soft fruits (like berries, peaches or banana) to some pure fruit juice and liquidise.
Summer greens – asparagus, green beans, broccoli and mange tout – all cook quickly and need little preparation. They are a source of calcium as well as fibre and make a tasty addition to any meal. Try them stir fried in a little peanut oil and add a splash of soy sauce at the end. Even children have been known to eat them like this…
Try lots of homemade soups. Try homemade tomato soups with in-season Irish tomatoes, vegetable soup with new season carrots, parsnips and turnips. At this time of year they are all wonderfully tender and sweet. Cook them with new season onions and leeks for a deliciously flavoured, filling soup.
Experiment with new salad combinations: Try crisp Irish apples with celery and a little mayonnaise. Try chickpeas with cherry tomatoes, scallions and a little balsamic dressing. Add chopped fruit such as mangoes and grapes to mixed salads and slice courgettes as well as cucumber for green salads
We would all like to think that our children have a perfect diet – eating lots of fruit, loving vegetables and avoiding junk food at all costs, but in real life there are few kids who wouldn’t throw away an apple for a treat any day of the week.