With New Years resolutions still in full swing, there’s plenty of generic tips and pieces of advice being shared to supposedly help you achieve your goals. Problem is, most of them are unpractical and pretty useless. Here’s some of the most useless generic nutrition advice and tips I regularly see doing the rounds, and my alternative recommendations for a healthier, happier year.
Don’t eat food containing E-numbers or ingredients you don’t understand
Nutrition is a science. That means lots of nutrition words are ridiculously complicated scientific words that no one can pronounce or remember. Even all natural foods are made up of some pretty natural sounding chemicals when you look at what they are made up of. You’ve probably seen some of these all-natural infographics doing the rounds over the past few years. Fancy a bit of limonene with your linalool? Not particularly appetising but apparently that’s naturally just part of what makes a strawberry a strawberry.
While sometimes you might find the scientific name on an ingredient list, it’s often replaced by an E number for simplicity. More infamous for preservatives or artificial flavours and enhancers, E numbers also replace natural ingredients like tumeric which can be added naturally to a food for colour. Just because it contains an E-number (or a long-scientific name) doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not okay to eat. If it wasn’t safe, it wouldn’t be allowed on the ingredients list. That’s why we have food safety regulatory bodies.
Never buy or eat processed food
If you seriously cut out all processed foods from your life, you’re going to be one hungry cookie! It’s probably not going to be very tasty or flavoursome either. If you never eat any processed foods that means perfectly healthy (not to mention delicious) foods like rolled oats, extra virgin olive oil, cheese, yoghurt and even herbs and spices will be off limits. They’re all processed to some extent, and probably better for it.
Cutting out ALL processed foods isn’t particularly practical. While it’s all well and good to go telling others to soak and cook your own beans and legumes all the time, seriously, hands up anyone who has time to do that all the time? If you find them, send them my way so they can teach me their secrets. A processed can of chickpeas, a tin of tuna or bag of frozen peas is ready at your last minute convenience. And a perfectly healthy one at that.
Only shop the perimeter of the supermarket
Supermarkets have clocked on to this! Never shopping the middle aisles means that you get subjected to all aisle end specials. If i only bought foods on the perimeter of my local supermarket, I would be only eating olives, seafood, deli produce, bread, eggs, flour, peanut butter, ready-made cakes, alcohol and soft drinks. Not particularly nutritious or appealing. Those inner aisles are full of good stuff – dairy products, fruit and vege, whole grains, lentils, beans, canned tomatoes…. Don’t give them a miss.
Instead, avoid regularly going down those aisles full of treat foods that you find irresistible and aren’t essential for good health – be it the chocolate, crisp or icecream aisle. For most people out of sight, out of mind and not having those foods in the cupboards means eating them less. If you go down those aisle’s chances are you’ll end up putting something in your trolley or basket.
Only buy organic
While I totally agree that organic produce on the whole generally tastes better than the generic supermarket varieties on offer, it’s not practical advice to make blanket statements that everyone must only eat organic. Especially considering the fact that the majority of the population world wide don’t eat enough fruit or vegetables to start with. Baby steps please. Once we get EVERYONE eating fruit and vege every day, then we can talk about moving on to organic.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% in favour of sustainability, promoting local farmers and reducing food miles. It’s a good thing and something we all need to be aware of. But naively saying that only organic food should be eaten is unaffordable and off-putting to many – particularly with the increased cost at the till. Start with increasing your overall fruit and vegetable intake – whether from fresh, frozen or canned to improve your health. And if buying that organic tomato means you are more likely to eat that tomato and get an extra serve of vege in a day, go for it.
Have a happy and healthy 2016!