How to make healthy eating incredibly simple this year

by sophie on January 1, 2011 · 21 comments

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Today is 1/1/11. There’s been a lot of talk about resolutions already, particularly around health, nutrition and exercise. And you know what, it’s all getting a bit complicated out there – do eat this, don’t eat that, cook it this way, not that way.

Rather than create a set of complicated resolutions, how about we make healthy eating incredibly simple in 2011?

I’ve found that if I concentrate my efforts on this one action, everything else just falls into place.  If I work on eating at five a day, not only do I get all the benefits of those fruits and vegetables, there’s a knock-on effect on everything else that I eat too. I’ve seen this principle work really well for other people too.

Put your efforts into eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. The rest will take care of itself

Here’s what I mean…

  • If I’ve got my eye on eating five portions across the day, I’ll do that little bit more meal planning. This means more healthy meals planned and shopped for (and therefore eaten)
  • If I’m snacking on fruit, I’m not eating low nutrient density biscuits or snack bars
  • If I’m having plenty of vegetables and salads I’ll cook them in healthy, monounsaturated fats (generally olive oil) and the overall balance of fats I’ve eaten will be better
  • If I’m aiming to get at least one portion in at lunch time, I’ll make the effort to take a packed lunch to work and so won’t buy a plastic sandwich.  The consequence of that is that I’ll eat more wholegrains and legumes as well as the vegetables
  • If I’m having a couple of portions of veggies or a big salad with my main meal, I’ll can’t help but eat a balanced, modest portion of protein and carbohydrate
  • If I’m focused on including those veggies, I’m more likely to cook from scratch and avoid a whole load of saturated fat and salt
  • If I’m including plenty of plant-based foods in my meals, I’ll have a smaller portion of any rubbish high GI, refined carbohydrates
  • If I eat my five a day I’ll be eating less of some other more energy dense foods.  I’ll eat less calories overall and be able to maintain a healthy weight with less fuss

Need more convincing? New research from Oxford University suggests that eating five a day is the one that ‘makes the most difference‘ when it comes to saving lives.

What do you think? Do you think this principle might work for you or have you got another way of keeping healthy simple?


Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours January 1, 2011 at 18:59

Happy New Year Sophie!
As always a great post from you.
Does the “postaweek2011” tag mean that you will be writing more this year? I do hope so!

Elaine January 1, 2011 at 21:42

What a simple but powerful principle for healthy eating. No, I cannot think of anything better.
I’ve also discovered social and physical activity benefits to emphasizing fruits & vegetables. I try to buy some if not most seasonal produce from Farmers’ Markets, which I walk to. Each market location is about a 30 minute brisk walk from my home. Hearing from the farmer the story behind the produce adds appreciation and enjoyment to the eating.
A great post, with a lovely photo as usual, to begin 2011, Sophie. Thank you.

kathryn January 1, 2011 at 22:00

Absolutely cracking post Sophie. You are right and like Elaine, I can’t think of a simpler, but more powerful principle to follow. I’m going to start sending my clients to this post.
I also find the meals I make with plenty of vegetables tend to be more interesting. I make a bit more of an effort, try to use the veg in new and different ways.
Great way to start the year Sophie.

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen January 1, 2011 at 22:08

Sound advice for sure. I try to incorporate as many veggies as I can into my meals by eating salads and soups on a daily basis. I will make a variety of steamed veggies ahead of time and keep them in the fridge so that they are always ready to be tossed into a salad or soup for added nutrition during the week when I am short on time.

martin January 1, 2011 at 22:38

Yes, yes, this is great and all makes sense, will do my very best to implement this month. And as it goes, it shouldn’t be too difficult all except for that 3pm ‘oh i really need a Snickers bar’ feeling…and an apple isn’t really what I have in mind ) :

Jenné @ Sweet Potato Soul January 2, 2011 at 00:47

Happy New Year!
I think the principle of 5 a day is fantastic. I’m sitting here talking to my grandmother about it. She wants to loose weight in order to get her high blood pressure under control. 5 a day is a great idea for anyone trying to make a healthy lifestyle change.
Thanks for sharing. I’m going to print the post, enlarge the text (so she can read it), and paste it all over her kitchen :)

Wendy January 2, 2011 at 06:57

Happy New Year, Sophie!
Love this post. It makes perfect sense and I’m going to start focusing on it today.
Tell me – do baked beans count as a vegetable?

Anne January 2, 2011 at 16:51

Hi Sophie,
Happy New Year.
Great post ! I totally agree with you. If you do make a point of thinking about eating your five a day, you will already be full and will eat less rubbish besides it.

Sophie January 2, 2011 at 22:42

Hi Helen, I thought I’d be able to sneak that postaweek2011 tag through with nobody noticing :-) But yes, I am intending to post more often and I thought this would be good encouragement to get on and write (there’s a postaday2011, imagine!).
Elaine, I think you’re spot on in expanding this idea into how we shop for and grow our fruit and veg. I was thinking when I was writing this how much more time I spend outdoors in the growing season. I love the idea of including a 30 minute walk to the farmers market once or twice a week (and maybe an hour or two in the garden) as part of the plan.
Kathryn, I’m really pleased that you’re thinking of pointing your clients towards this post as I know you’re a master at finding ways of making nutrition more straightforward. And you’re right, meals are just more interesting when you’re planning around a few different veggies.
Sylvie – that’s a really good tip to keep a batch of lightly steamed veggies in the fridge ready to throw into salads. I do often have ready prepared raw fruit and veggies but cooked is a very handy idea. Thanks for that tip!
Hi Martin – I’m glad this way of approaching things sounds doable. Sometimes you do need something more than an apple – my take on it is that if you’ve had the apple *as well* there’s that bit less room left for the other stuff.
Jenne – Hello to you and your grandmother – I hope she finds some of the information useful (and how nice to have your grand-daughter looking out for you)
Happy New Year to you too Wendy! I’m looking forward to another year of your beautiful photos. Baked beans definitely count (they’re one of my faves). The people who make the rules have decided that beans and pulses can only count as one of your portions each day, no matter how many portions of them you eat (a portion of beans is 3 heaped tablespoons). It’s still worth including more than one portion if you enjoy them for all their other benefits
Exactly Anne – it’s the knock on effects of eating all those fruit and veg that make this strategy so helpful, not just the nutrients from the veggies themselves

Therapist January 3, 2011 at 15:04

Thank you for your time and concern about healthy eating. I am a huge proponent of healthy choices. It is amazing how food plays into not just our physical well being, but also our emotional health. I can’t wait to continue to follow your blog.

Denise @ Do you have that in my size??? January 7, 2011 at 19:42

I love this idea! I remember once a RD telling me that I should eat all the fruit and veggies I wanted because, “No one ever became obese by overdoing it on the fruits and vegetables.” They’ve got loads of nutrients, they help you feel full, and they’re lower in calories than most other snack-type options you’d choose. I’ve actually been trying to get a fruit or veg in with every meal since January 1st and it’s really so much easier than I’d thought!

Johanna GGG January 9, 2011 at 21:09

this post reminds me of the wise comment that common sense is not so common any more! it makes sense and yet like martin says there are times when an apple just doesn’t seem right!

We managed to go to a farmers market today for the first time in ages (though I have been trying to go to our fantastic vic market regularly last year because it is walking distance from work) and I brought some fantastic apricots that make me just want to eat fruit – just shows that good in-season quality helps to enamour us with fruit and veg

hope my blog reader shows up your posts last year as I missed some through some problems with the feed! (have changed the feed so hope that helps)

Jacqueline January 9, 2011 at 21:11

Such a good plan and great advice. Part of my plan is too eat lots of homemade soup.

heather January 10, 2011 at 01:35

Terrific site re-vamp, and I’m thankful for your continually thoughtful and informative nutrition posts. We need all the voices we can get to show people just how simple it is to make small changes — small changes that can turn in bigger changes, and bigger, and bigger… One thing I’ve found when fresh produce is too expensive or looks bad at the market is to have frozen fruit (either that I’ve done myself or from the freezer section) and dried fruit on hand. Great to munch on, and just as healthy.



Michael January 11, 2011 at 23:08

Kudos on a great post!

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated, and you don’t have to buy exotic, organic or unfamiliar foods either. Focusing on eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables each day as you suggest is the best place to start. They are full of vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber and very low in fat. They are very calorie sparse, so you can eat a lot of them without consuming a lot of calories. And they also tend to keep you full longer. Good advice!

Hannah January 17, 2011 at 03:33

Love this post! It’s so true as well, boosting your fruit/vegetable intake means you’ll be eating less ‘unhealthy’ food in return. Great blog too!!
Hannah x

Jenn @LeftoverQueen January 17, 2011 at 18:28

These are great rules to eat by! Simple and they really work!

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