Five simple steps to a healthier diet

The UK has seen a rise in "dry" bars serving mocktails since 2011

The UK has seen a rise in “dry” bars serving mocktails since 2011

From fast food restaurants to bakeries and the chocolate aisle to those pizzas in the bottom of your freezer, temptation is all around us and maintaining a healthy diet can be something of a challenge.

However, by making changes to your lifestyle and eating habits you can transform your diet in just a few easy steps. Here are five ways to make your diet healthier (without sacrificing taste), from watching what you drink to learning to cook.

1. Go soft and natural on the liquid front

Despite ongoing stories about binge drinking in Britain the latest Office of National Statistics figures show that up to 19 per cent of adults are teetotal in the UK and, perhaps more tellingly, that young people aged 16 to 24 are drinking less than their parents.

This gradual shift away from alcohol has been marked by the opening of the first 21st-century Temperance Bar, in Rotherham earlier this year and by London’s first “dry” bar, the Redemption in the Portobello area of West London.

There is a growing trend in London for mocktails such as coco-tinis and watermelon daquiris and non-alcoholic bars are reviving vintage favourites such as Dandelion and Burdock and sasparilla and serving refreshing drinks using home-made cordials and fresh herbs.

These drinks may be a notch healthier than alcohol, but from a health perspective nothing quenches the body like water. Add a slice of lemon, lime, ginger, lemongrass or mint leaves and you have a “drink”.

Healthy drinks don’t have to mean boring drinks and if you’re not keen on water there are plenty of alternatives out there. Coconut water has seen a huge growth in sales in the past year and cranberry juice is a versatile seasonal favourite that is great simply diluted with sparkling water.

Be warned, though. Studies this year have found that a single serving of some fruit juices contains as much sugar as a dozen biscuits or four doughnuts. The lack of fibre in juices also means that the sugar is absorbed faster by the body which could lead to overload for the liver.

Star anis is one of the ingredients in some natural soft drinks

Star anis is one of the ingredients in some natural soft drinks

As an alternative to juices and the sugar loaded carbonated drinks on the high street, a “healthy” drinks market has burgeoned with offerings such as the Russian branded natural soft drink Zeo, which often contain lower levels of sugar and only natural flavourings – it claims its own “secret garden” formula is a blend of these 32 herbs and botanicals.

“Liquid calories are the ones that the body has the hardest time monitoring, this means we can consume a lot easily,” says Drew Price, nutritionist and author of the DODO Diet. He suggests replacing high-calorie drinks that reinforce a sweet tooth and extra visits to the dentist with simple teas (minus milk and sweeteners) or fizzy water with a slice of lemon or lime.

2. Buy fruit and veg in season
All too often the fruit and vegetables we buy from the supermarket are dull and tasteless. If you buy fruit and veg in season, they’re much more likely to be ripe, delicious and packed with nutrients, making them the perfect addition to your healthy diet. To become attuned to the seasons, sign up for a weekly fruit and vegetable box from the likes of Riverford or Abel & Cole.

3. Don’t ban your favourite foods

“There’s no good or bad foods, just bad amounts to eat a food in,” advises Price. “Nothing is off the menu, you just have to focus on trying to choose better more often.” One mistake that many people make is to put a total ban on their favourite foods such as cheese, cakes and pies. Although cutting down on these foods is a good idea, banning them completely is unrealistic and may only make you crave them more.

4. Make sustainable changes peppered with rewards

Making healthy changes to your diet are only really worthwhile if they’re sustainable. It’s no good eating raw food or cabbage only if you’re going to go back to your old ways after a month or two. Try to make any changes sustainable by making them realistic and easy to incorporate into daily life. Price says: “Eat to a plan on ordinary days through the week, at work, breakfast and dinner, then save ‘treats’ for when they really matter, when you’re out with friends and family.”

5. Don’t be afraid to experiment

Learning to cook a variety of meals is a great way to ensure a healthy and balanced diet. So if you’re not confident in the kitchen, grab an inspiring but manageable cookbook such as Dale Pinnock’s Medicinal Chef and get practising or sign up for some healthy cookery classes.  According to Price, practically speaking this means mastering a repertoire of 3-4 breakfasts that are quick and tasty, 5 lunches around work and 5-8 meals that you can have for dinner that you like and are healthy choices… “because, of course, healthy food can be tasty you just have to give it a little thought.”

A healthy beetroot risotto from Dale Pinnock's The Medicinal Chef

A healthy beetroot risotto from Dale Pinnock’s The Medicinal Chef

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