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Six ways to improve your diet

Over the past year we have all had to think carefully about eating well and living a healthier lifestyle. Medical research has made it clear the food we eat doesn’t just affect our weight it also affects how likely we are to get certain diseases, including COVID-19.

Here are some of the most important things we can do to improve our diet and health without necessarily focussing solely on weight loss.

  1. Eat 30 plant foods a week

Professor Tim Spector at King’s College, London, says that many of us are only eating around 5 different plants a week. He advises eating 30. This may sound a lot but if you start making a list it is easier than you think. Plant foods include oats, rye flour, beans, oranges, apples, bananas, cauliflower, peas, walnuts, pumpkin seeds etc. One way of increasing the diversity of the plants in your diet is to try a new fruit, vegetable, nut pulse or type of seed each week. Eating a diverse range of colourful plant foods provides a nutrient rich diet full of dietary fibre and phytonutrients which help the immune system fight infection and keep the organs of the body working well [more].

  1. Make changes to your shopping basket

We are all creatures of habit and can get in a rut buying the same foods week after week. Use till receipts from previous shopping trips to review the food you buy to see if you can make some improvements to your diet.

For example, can you replace;

  • ready meals with meals you cook using fresh ingredients?
  • some of the white rice, noodles or pasta with wholegrains such as pearl barley, spelt or quinoa?
  • salted snacks with unsalted nuts which are high in protein and keep you fuller for longer?
  • carbonated soft drinks with freshly squeezed orange or lime, added to sparkling water?
  1. Sign up for a cookery course and learn some new skills

Learning new cookery skills helps you prepare food quickly and skilfully. Good cooks can make a sumptuous meal out of ingredients others would overlook. Learning to cook well is a good way to invest in your health and learn more about the food you eat.

  1. Eat some fermented food 

Fermented foods have been changed by the activity of living microorganisms. They include, live yogurts, kimchi, fresh sauerkraut, kombucha, unpasteurised artisan cheese and kefir. These foods have been shown by scientists to be good for many aspects of our health.

  1. Cook one freeze one

Cooking from scratch means you are in control of the nutritional quality of the ingredients that go into your food and makes you less reliant on ready meals and take away food. But cooking from scratch takes time.

One way round this is to cook double portions so you can freeze the extra portions for another day’s meal. Examples of nutritious dishes that can be made in bulk and freeze well are: fish pie, chicken casseroles, chilli con carne, fish cakes, dals and curries, vegetarian lasagne, cottage pies.

  1. Grow some of your own food

Food can be grown in pots on window ledges, front gardens as well as in back gardens, allotments and community spaces. Salad leaves such as rocket, cress and lettuce are quick and easy to grow even if you do not have much space. Peas and beans grow vertically and can produce magnificent crops of fresh produce from mid-summer through to autumn. Growing plants connects you to the food you eat and helps you to develop a healthy relationship with food. It also has positive effects on mental health.