A Beginner's Guide to Eating Well in Changing Times
Struggling to stay away from the fridge or motivate yourself to eat healthy foods is a tough challenge any day of the week or time of the year. Particularly, right now in a time of constant changes, broken routines, and continual uncertainty in how our lifestyles have been impacted.
The current environment can make it hard to maintain our sense of normalcy when it comes to food-related practices.
Food can be a source of comfort in these current times, cure of boredom, and a way to boost our creativity (when cooking up a storm) - but eating well and in appropriate amounts isn’t always an easy task. With the constant temptation to indulge in those “sometimes” foods, like those favourite bikkies in the cupboard or that sweet chocolate, it can be hard to keep a balanced diet.
...so what does a balanced diet look like during these times of uncertainty?
Well, there are no strict rules on the “do’s” and “don'ts” when it comes to our food habits. However, it is important to fuel our body with the best options available to make us feel healthier and stronger.
A balanced diet helps us feel great, fight off and prevent diseases, and helps us build up a strong immune system. Eating well also helps you concentrate more, sleep better, and make you less likely to crave foods with a high content of fat, sugar, or salt.
Here are some suggestions on the types of foods that will fuel your body and help you create a healthy headspace. Following these are suggestions for what to do if you find yourself munching more on the unhealthier foods.
What kind of foods should I opt for?
The better foods (eat most)
- Colourful fruits and vegetables (aim for 5 a day if you can!)
- Wholegrain foods like breads and cereals
- Lentils, nuts, chickpeas, beans
- Fermented foods (think olive oil, fish, unsweetened yoghurt)
- Non-fat and low-fat milks
The “sometimes” foods (save as treats or occasions)
- Doughnuts, muffins, cookies, chips, cakes, pies
- Soft drinks or sweetened fruit drinks (that are filled with all the ‘added’ ingredients)
- Sweetened breakfast cereals
- Meats like sausages, bacon, fried chicken, nuggets
- Fried foods
It can be hard to know where to make a start! What can help me make good food choices?
Start by making small changes! You don’t have to completely change what you eat in a day. By making small changes per day to your diet, you are more likely to build healthier habits that you will stick to. Most importantly, you will still enjoy what you are eating. Start small by picking one meal a day that you can change. This may be that unhealthy afternoon snack you reach for around 3-4pm (like that packet of chocolate biscuits), which can be replaced by a piece of fruit, some yoghurt, or a muesli bar. Remember to be kind to yourself, these things take time!
Find out what healthy food choices you enjoy eating. Experiment with different snacks and meals. If you enjoy the taste of the food, then incorporating it into your diet will be made easier than forcing yourself to eat something you don’t like.
Rearrange your environment. If the temptation to eat those “sometimes” foods becomes too hard for you to say no to, a suggestion to help with this is to avoid having those foods at home. Instead, you may choose to enjoy these selections of ‘sometimes’ food at your favourite cafe, restaurant or opt for a takeaway option and enjoy at your favourite nearby spot.
Plan your meals. Sometimes deciding what to eat for all meals of the day can be exhausting (and time-consuming!). The grocery shop for this can also mean that you pick up extra foods, that you might not need for your meals. It’s a good idea to spend a day in the kitchen, selecting and making up meals you enjoy. Not only will it boost your cooking skills and creativity in the kitchen, but it will also give you the convenience of freezing and reheating in later use.
Planning and maintaining a nutritious diet can be difficult, and sometimes stressful. It can be super tricky to know where to start. The good news is that there’s no perfect way to eat well.
It’s totally okay to feel any uncommon or unpleasant emotions in the current times, and you’re not the only one. So remember to be kind to yourself (and to others).
If you’re having troubles with trying to improve your diet or relationship with foods, you can start by reaching out to a trusted loved one. You may find they are able to help you by providing advice or pointing you towards organisations who can.
These include our Youth Access Clinicians (YAC’s) at headspace Campbelltown, or the eheadspace service at 1800 650 890. By accessing this service, you will be in contact with trained professionals who can support and motivate you to improve your lifestyle.
Lastly, stay positive and know that there are plenty of people (and resources) available to help you on the right track if you need! Take it one step at a time - and it's okay if things don't go to plan all the time.
Check out this handy interview with our YRG member, Larissa, for some useful tips!