It’s an awful cliché that I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of times however it is bang on the money. What we put into our bodies directly effects how we look and feel. No matter what your specific goals are, the food you eat will play a huge part in your health and wellbeing.
I don’t know anyone out there that makes the conscious decision to be unhealthy. What I do see an awful lot, is people making poor choices when it comes to their diet. It can be difficult to make informed decisions given the choice, advertising and confusing information that abounds in the food sector these days.
Let’s cut through the bull though. We control the food we buy and eat at home so we need to get that right first. See below for what’s in my trolley every week. If the below items aren’t on your list then I bet you can substitute the majority of them with your current weekly shop without a huge fuss. The only difference should be to your health and wellbeing over time!
Here’s what usually makes it onto my food shopping list:
I always choose wholegrain breads, pasta, rice, crackers, tortillas, bagels etc when I’m shopping. From a nutrition point of view they wipe the floor with their refined grain equivalent. As well as being a great source of slow release energy, a diet rich in whole grains can improve blood pressure, gastrointestinal health and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. I always steer clear of “multi” grain products. It could be multi grains of crap for all I know. Wholegrain or bust for me. Here's my favourite wholegrain bread of choice at the moment, the chia seeds give this the edge:
- Lean meats
While processed and cured meats like sausages, bacon, burgers and packaged slices may taste great, they are usually rammed with salt and contain more fat than fresh cuts. As well as being lower in salt and fat, lean meats are a good source of vitamins and minerals, especially iron. Ask your butcher for lean cuts or check the fat content on the packaging in supermarkets. Aim for unprocessed poultry, avoiding the breaded and battered variety. Remove any visible skin or fat from your meat before cooking.
Omega 3 fatty acids are great for your heart, that’s why we should be eating oily fish at least twice a week. The Irish Sea is full of fish high in omega 3 such as salmon, trout and tuna so be sure to stock up with fresh fish at your fish counter every week. And when it comes to fish, eating the skin is good for you!
Eggs are a superfood, one of the most nutritious foods on the planet with more vitamins and minerals than I have time to name here. Including eggs in your diet can lead to a healthy immune system, good energy production, lower risk of heart disease and healthy eyesight to name but a few of the benefits. Recent studies have also found that eggs are not the cholesterol fiend it was once thought they were, however if you do have high cholesterol then be sure to see your doctor.
- Fresh vegetables & fruits
A healthy mix is on the menu here. I’ll usually grab 5 or 6 different fresh vegetables and the same numbers of fruits. I find the more colourful the better while ensuring you’ve a few greens included.
Sweet potatoes vs potatoes
I’m a big fan of sweet potatoes. They provide more Vitamin A, Vitamin C and fibre than regular potatoes as well as containing less carbs, although they do contain more sugar. I haven’t eliminated regular spuds completely though as they’re still a good source of fibre and nutrients (if you eat the skin) however I usually have more sweet potatoes than regular on my weekly shopping list.
- Canned goods
Tins of chopped tomatoes are great for making your own pasta sauces or flavouring rice. I stopped buying pre-made pasta sauces a few years ago due to the high sugar and salt content. It’s so easy to make your own sauce. Chop up and stir fry some onions, garlic, peppers, carrots and courgettes before adding the chopped tomatoes to the pan for a tasty and healthy sauce.
Pick up a few tins of tuna or salmon in water/brine to add to the above pasta or to have separately with a salad.
When buying anything in a can, always check the sodium content (the lower the better of course). Avoid canned goods that are packed in oil or syrup (water, brine or natural juices are preferred).
- Breakfast foods
Porridge (oats) is always on my list. If porridge isn’t for you then choose a wholegrain cereal instead. We’ve already mentioned eggs and bread above so if you have time you can make a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and wholegrain toast really easily.
- Legumes / beans / nuts / seeds
Beans are high in fibre as well as being a great anti-oxidant so add black beans, kidney beans and pinto beans to your shopping list. I’ll usually have some green or red lentils on hand too which, along with plenty of veg, are great to add to a homemade soup or stew.
Nuts are great for a snack, choose the unflavoured and unsalted varieties of almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, pecans and pistachios.
Seeds punch way about their weight, they’re packed full of nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids, protein, iron, vitamins and fibre. Add some chia, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp and flax seeds to your trolley and you’ll find plenty of dishes to add them to at home.
Having said all of the above, I don’t think it’s possible to eat healthily 100% of the time, nor should we try. It’s ok to let your hair down every now and then, it can even help lift our mood. I try to eat well more often that I don’t and that seems to work pretty well for me. I’m fortunate in that I don’t have a sweet tooth so I don’t have too many unhealthy snacks close to hand at home.
The way I see it, if I’m eating well most of the time then I’m entitled to a whopper pizza or a full Irish breakfast every now and then.
A well balanced diet starts in your shopping trolley. Make the right choices there, supplement with regular exercise and you’re on the right path to a healthier lifestyle.