You’ve made the decision to change up your diet and start eating healthily. As a child of the noughties, you’ve done your research online and absolutely everyone has a suggestion: Shakes for breakfast and lunch and a cooked dinner, The Maple Syrup Diet, The South Beach diet, The Atkins diet…aaargghh! What is the best way to navigate through the nutritional maze??
Why not start with these small but very important changes?
Always Eat Breakfast – Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day and I am speaking from experience. I recently made changes to my breakfast and was pleasantly surprised by the changes I noticed within 2-3 weeks. The simplest way to explain why you need breakfast is: Say you don’t feed your body all morning. Come lunchtime, you feel hungry, your mind and your body tell you that you need to eat a lot to make up for not eating breakfast. Of course you deserve a bigger than usual portion of food. Seconds? Why not? I’ve noticed that I eat much more than I need to when I’m very hungry, so I aim to never get to the point where I am “starving” (which I doubt I’ve ever really been).
TIP: A bowl of wholegrain cereal (e.g. quaker oats, weetabix or shredded wheat) with milk. And a piece of fruit.
Drastically Reduce Fried Food – The first thing that comes to mind is ‘dodo’ – fried plantain. You will not find a bigger supporter of how good it tastes than me but (and it’s a big BUT) it is deep fried. When I do fry plantain, it goes straight from the frying pan to a bed of kitchen towels – to soak up the oil and even then, I am still amazed by how much oil it absorbs. Cast your mind back to the last time you ate dodo and jollof rice with fried meat at a party. How much oil was left on your plate when you were finished? If there is that much oil left on the plate, try and imagine how much oil you’ve just ingested? Oil is 100% fat. Do the maths.
TIP: Instead of frying plantain, why not boil, even better grill or roast it – everybody loves ‘boli’.
Surely not that much Oil! – Yes – more on Oil. It does not make food taste better – when you have time, please taste warm oil (not that I have). Does it taste nice? Definitely not. So why are we so insistent on generously pouring oil into the pot when cooking stew?
I recall my friends making fun of me and my “Weight Watchers Stew” while I was at Uni and faithful to Weight Watchers (I had 40 pounds to lose). And for no other reason other than it didn’t have the usual inch of oil floating on top. Did it taste good? Yes it did because I seasoned it properly and I can cook 😉
Remember – chicken and meat have animal fats/oils in them which I believe provides more than enough oil without the need to add unnecessary amounts of vegetable, sunflower, etc oil.
TIP: Swap Fried Chicken for Baked/Roasted Chicken.
Control Your Portions – I love rice – jollof rice, fried rice, white rice, you name it. I love yam – fried yam (yummy!), asaro (love it but why all that palm oil? Yes I can’t stop thinking about oil, lol), pounded yam… Bottom line – I love food. I’m not saying cut out everything you’re used to. Just modify (less oil), eat these processed carbohydrates less often and eat them in less generous portions. No one wants to eat 4 mouthfuls of food and call it a meal. Bulk up your meals with vegetables and no I don’t mean efo and egusi (yes you guessed it – palm oil).
TIP: Rice (fist sized serving), a couple of pieces of chicken (not fried) and steamed mixed vegetables (chopped carrots, peas, sweet corn, etc)
Snack Often – No I don’t mean a pack of plantain chips or chin-chin. Neither do I mean a meat pie or sausage roll. Sorry 😉 I remember when I joined Weight Watchers in 2002, I expected to be told to eat only 3 meals a day, I was surprised when we were advised to eat breakfast, snack an hour or two after, eat lunch, snack again, eat dinner and maybe snack if I’m up later than usual. By doing this, I noticed I hardly ever felt very hungry. I didn’t feel tired and it was easier than I expected to start eating healthier.
TIP: Fruit or a handful of nuts.
Try these and you’ll be amazed by the changes you see within a month. Of course exercise is important but I am a strong believer in taking things one step at a time… So why not start with your diet?
Adura Odesanya is a Fitness Instructor and Trainer who works with Fitter London. Having been overweight in the past, she recognises the challenges that many people face in trying to overcome weight loss and fitness challenges.