logo Healthy diets: The pitfalls – NHC

Eating healthily is an important ideal for many – whether it is to achieve weight loss, lower cholesterol levels, manage diabetes, perform better in sport or simply to just feel better.

Most people know the basic fundamentals of healthy eating, i.e. eat more fresh fruits and veggies, limit portion sizes, drink more water, use complex and not refined carbohydrates, and limit fat intake.
Yet translating this basic knowledge into a practical, day-to-day, meal-by-meal, plan is often a challenge to many.

What are some of the stumbling blocks / barriers that those trying to follow healthy eating plan experience?

Lack of planning

It is true that to fail to plan, is to plan to fail: many people fall into the trap of spontaneous shopping (without a list), spontaneous meal preparation or, at times resorting to fast-food or a ready-meal.

Spend some time each week planning a 7-day menu: keep it simple!

  • Simple, healthy breakfasts, e.g. muesli, fruit and yoghurt OR Soya-Life instant porridge + milk and fruit; or wholegrain toast + boiled egg.
  • Use leftovers from supper for lunch OR prepare a tasty healthy sandwich of rye or low GI bread + a low fat filling such as low fat mozzarella and tomato, or tuna and low oil mayo with salad; or make a colourful salad with added protein such as tuna / chicken / chickpeas / feta and have this with some Provitas or Ryvita.
  • Keep the balance at supper: use a fist-size portion of starch (brown rice / baby potatoes) + a palm-size portion of protein (lean steak / chicken / hand-size portion of baked fish) + 2-3 colours of veggies..either as salad or steamed or stir-fry veggies.
  • Plan mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks to keep that blood sugar level steady and sustained: fresh fruit is first prize OR Provitas + avo / cottage cheese etc.

Shop accordingly

  • Make a list!
  • Eat something filling before going shopping!
  • Read labels:
  • Include chicken and meat 3-4 x/week; and add in fish and vegetarian options 2-3x/week.
  • Buy fresh veggies and fruit that are in season
  • Add some frozen and/or ready prepared veggies for stir-fries, to save time on those ultra-busy days.
  • Have the foods at the ready, even snacks so that when time becomes tight the healthy options are ready to grab and run.
  • Keep all meals simple yet balanced ( ¼ of your plate as your protein, ¼ as your starch, and ½ as your veggies)

Excuses, excuses

I have no will-power! I see good food and I cannot resist it!

TIP: if you are going to a function or a meal out: ensure that all meals and snacks prior to the event are still eaten, and are healthy and balanced this way, when you arrive at the event, you are not starving and over-eat or drink too much.

Enjoy the good food, and especially enjoy the company Even eat a little of something you would not otherwise eat on a healthy eating plan: control your portions and SAVOUR! Nobody enjoys the company of an obsessive dieter at an event so let this event just be part of the normal course of events.

Remember if you eat 3 meals + 2 snacks per day this equates to 35 meals and snacks per week: having a treat meal (don’t use the word cheat meal!) and a treat snack once a week is not going to destroy all your good habits and intentions!

I have no time to prepare healthy foods

Plan ahead, shop and stock up on good healthy choices once a week and time management becomes a breeze.
In cases where there is genuinely not enough time to eat, then choose a healthy, balanced meal replacement drink: Soya life Instant Meal Replacement Drink, to ensure sustained blood sugar levels and thus energy levels.

Cost: healthy foods are expensive

  • Fresh vegetables, fruit, beans and soya products (all components of a healthy eating plan) are cost-effective, filling and sustainable foods.
    By planning half a plate of veggies and reducing your protein portion size you save on costs.
  • Add beans and lentils to meat / chicken dishes to extend the meal.
  • Grow your own veggies.
  • Junk food is expensive!
  • Drink water!

Confusion about foods: what IS actually healthy; and should whole food groups be excluded?? The media hype worsens this confusion

Stay with a healthy balance: choose foods in moderation from ALL the food groups. This way you cover a healthy nutritious balance of all macro-nutrients and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Stress and food

I eat the wrong things when I am stressed.

This is a common complaint amongst those with all the best intentions in the world of eating correctly.

Follow the above-mentioned tips of:

  • Planning
  • Eating regular meals and snacks
  • Drinking enough water (2l/day)
  • Choosing foods that sustain blood sugar levels and thus energy levels (low GI breads and crackers; soya-based cereals e.g. Soya-life porridge / Soya-Meal replacement shake; fruits and veggies).

This way one ensures at least that the body is adequately fuelled’ as an important tool to manage and cope with the stress.

Sue Scharf RD(SA)

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