Do you know why most diets don’t work? It’s because you can’t be on one forever. Give up carbs all you want, eventually you’re probably going to start eating them again. And then the weight will pile back on.
The secret (and it’s not really a secret) is to inculcate healthy eating habits. Sustainable ones. We’ve explored the best ones from all around the world to give you a few tips that you can stick to – for life.
Add vegetables to every meal and you can eat any meal you want.
The Japanese diet is considered the best in the entire world – and the Japanese people have longer lifespans than any other. If there’s one thing you need to take away from Japan – and no, it’s not the fish although that’s good too – it’s the emphasis on vegetables. The Japanese eat them for lunch, dinner, even breakfast.
They’ve found ingenious ways to snack on them too. Dried seaweed, for instance, is a delicious alternative for people who can’t bear carrot sticks. And it’s a great habit to follow. You don’t have to ditch burgers entirely. But have a side of colourful veggies with them.
You can have your cake and eat it too – so long as it’s not two cakes.
Americans have always wondered how the French enjoy their red meat, cheese and wine without sliding into obesity but the answer is pretty simple. Apart from habits that include not snacking on junk or in between meals and sticking to fresh ingredients, the French have mastered portion control. Which is why you should eat your toast with butter – just don’t lay it on too thickly. Go on, have a cupcake. But just one. Not two and definitely not three. And never, ever order supersized anything. Stick to the smallest serving of popcorn available at the movies. Don’t order large sodas. And don’t refill your glass. In America, taking a second helping is the norm. It shouldn’t be. Stick to one moderately sized helping. It will be easier not to overeat if you eat slowly. Keep an eye on the clock so you don’t finish what’s on your plate before a certain amount of time.
Move from sugar to spices.
Indian food is among the spiciest in the world. Spices like hot pepper can increase your metabolic rate but the main benefit is that it slows your eating. Try cumin and pepper, and use whole chillies to flavour your food. You don’t have to bite into them. But adding them to a stir fry or curry will release their flavour and nutrients.
Try spreading your toast with chutney instead of jam. Use spicy dips instead of sweet ones. These are small changes you can make at home and they’ll be a lot more effective than ordering from your local Indian takeout (which is full of sugar to attract the western palate).
Don’t ditch the dairy.
Dairy’s been getting a bad rap these days. But it’s an incredibly important source of calcium. Quitting dairy can lead to diseases like osteoporosis. The trick is knowing what kind of dairy to consume. For most Americans, it’s sugar-laden flavoured yogurt or over processed cheese. Instead, snack on a small tub of full fat, unsweetened yogurt (which also makes a great dessert – if you want, you can add a handful of chopped nuts, fresh fruit and maybe a teaspoon of honey). Skip sliced cheeses and string cheese. Instead, buy good quality cheddar, parmesan and stilton. Remember the French and eat them in small quantities.
Keep it simple
The Italians are masters at whipping up a healthy meal with just three or four ingredients. Which proves that you don’t need a myriad of ingredients to get all your nutrients in. In fact, it’s better to keep your eating habits uncomplicated because that makes them easier to sustain. The Caprese salad is a perfect example: sliced fresh mozzarella and tomatoes with some sweet basil, seasoned with olive oil and salt. Delicious. Healthy. Easy.