What we eat has a direct impact on our cognitive performance (enter: the 3:30pm slump). And although I’m not a wildebeest exerting cognitive function to traverse unknown ground in migration for grassland as mentioned in this study about the nutritional impact of food on brain health, I can relate to the biological need for a fuelling diet to carry me through the early morning rush, that presentation at work and a weekend full of activities.
Three healthy meals a day. It sounds easy in theory, but when your daily routine involves meeting deadlines, multi-tasking between parent duties (human and/or pet babies), replying to emails and several non-negotiable coffee breaks, making healthy food choices can quickly become a hindrance.
My new year’s resolution to eat healthily (for the third consecutive year in a row) lasted three weeks before life got busy, leading me to believe that willpower isn’t the best thing to rely on here. Since then I have tried a more sustainable approach that involves ditching unhealthy habits and routinely making healthier choices.
Here’s what I do to keep on track:
Double (or triple) the recipe
Keep healthy food on hand by doubling your recipe when you cook. If veggie burgers are on the menu tonight, double the ingredients and cook as per instruction. When you’re finished cooking, freeze half for a quick and healthy dinner the following week.
Prep fruit and veg
Healthy snacking or quickly whipping up a salad is a feasible option when your fridge is stocked with prepared fruit and veg. As you unpack your groceries, take a few extra minutes to julienne your carrots, wash your lettuce, slice your capsicum and dice that pumpkin. Store and refrigerate in airtight containers to save time prepping during the week.
Stock up on healthy snacks
Keeping healthy snacks on hand is a sure-fire way to incorporate more healthy whole foods into your diet. Get prepped for your snacking needs this week with this Oat and Honey Anzac Biscuit recipe.
Eat at the same times every day
The best kind of notifications are the ones that tell you to eat. Avoid chowing down on the most convenient takeaway option between meetings with set reminders. A study featured in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society identified that eating at the same time every day helps to minimise the risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiometabolic risk factors, including BMI and blood pressure .
Choose whole foods
This is the only question you need to ask yourself when adding things to your trolley at the grocery store: “Is this from a farm?”. Cutting down on ultra-processed foods will increase the nutritional value of your diet.
Studies suggest that diets rich in whole foods minimise the risk of many diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease and IBS to obesity and mental health conditions such as depression . There are so many processed to whole food swaps you can make in this category, but here are a few to get started:
- Swap margarine for organic butter
- Swap white rice for brown or basmati
- Swap vegetable oil for extra virgin olive oil
- Swap potato chips for popcorn
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself when you momentarily fall off the healthy eating wagon, these habitual foundations will make it so much easier to get back on track. Find more healthy eating recipes and motivation at Fitness First.
 Meal irregularity and cardiometabolic consequences: results from observational and intervention studies, Gerda K. Pot, Suzana Almoosawi and Alison M. Stephen, https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/meal-irregularity-and-cardiometabolic-consequences-results-from-observational-and-intervention-studies/1969DB83C64B09E221A4B8929B7D8A8C
 Consumption of ultra-processed foods and health outcomes: a systematic review of epidemiological studies, Nutrition Journal, https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-020-00604-1