Summer body or dad bod, each to his or her own. But to avoid yo-yoing between the two, and to keep your figure on an even keel, there are certain good habits that you need to adopt. To help you, here are our top ten good habits.
1. Opt for fresh produce
This is a very simple rule aimed at cutting down on processed foods, which are full of sugar and useless additives that can be toxic. When you cook with fresh produce, you are in control of what you’re eating, the ingredients you use and the way you cook them. It is much harder to control when all you do is rip off a plastic film and pop a container in the microwave. Most of the time, the ingredients are pre-digested, extruded, excessively heated and soft, which can lead to health problems in the long term. You also need to know that processed foods can contain high levels of undesirable and toxic substances called AGE (advanced glycation end products). In other words, forget it.
2. Over half the food you consume should be of plant origin
Of course, there’s the theory and then there’s the practice. If you’ve just wolfed down a 1.2 kg entrecôte steak, you don’t have to counterbalance it with the equivalent in lettuce. You’re likely to cause yourself mischief. What it does mean is that over half of the food you eat, in weight, should be raw, dry, fermented or cooked food of plant origin. Adopting this habit is great for your gut microbiota, the good bacteria that lives inside us and helps make us healthy.
By following this rule, you will also be maximising your intake of fibre, which can be found in fresh or dry fruit, cereals and pulses and influence the blood sugar level and gut transit.
3. Choose food with low calorie density
Calorie density – what’s that then? It’s the amount of calories per gram. As you can probably guess, you should favour foodstuffs with low calorie density. In practice, this means food with a lot of bulk and few calories such as soup, salads, raw vegetables, vegetables in general and fruit. You feel full more quickly. Great for the figure but also for your life expectancy, because eating frugally increases the likelihood of living a longer, healthier life for all animal species including humans. Living better and longer is a wonderful approach to life.
4. Opt for food with high nutrient density
New terminology: nutrient dense. The more nutrient dense food is, the more vitamins and minerals it contains for a given number of calories. This means that by eating this kind of food rather than other food that contains empty calories, you’ll be providing your body with the micronutrients that it needs to give of its best. Examples of empty calories include soda drinks, chocolate bars, crisps, crackers and refined foods. Examples of nutrient rich foods include fruit, vegetables, pulses and cereals.
5. Opt for antioxidant foods
You’re in for a nice surprise here, but before we reveal what it is, let’s explain what an antioxidant food is. It protects cells and tissues from attacks by toxic particles – the so-called free radicals, which are partly responsible for ageing and degenerative diseases. Antioxidant foods fight to keeps us healthy and include red fruit, walnuts, hazelnuts and red wine! From there, it’s not a huge jump to work out that a glass of red wine and peanuts before dinner is good for you!
6. Eat less meat
The best tactic here is to stop eating meat out of habit and start eating it for pleasure. You can do this by eating mostly vegetarian on a day-to-day basis without depriving yourself of a tasty morsel of meat from time to time. The key issue here, in restaurants or at the butchers, is to avoid consuming GMO beef that travels huge distances before arriving on our plate, and is responsible for a large part of global deforestation.
Not good for us, and not good for the planet. Maybe you’re afraid of missing out on certain proteins and suffering from protein deficiency if you reduce your meat consumption? If you look around, you won’t see vegans dropping like flies, and you’ll realise that cereals and other pulses are packed with protein. That should be enough to reassure you.
7. Achieve a balanced diet with different dietary fats
You may not know this, but many essential biological functions such as keeping our mood stable, blood circulation and inflammation levels in the body depend on the quality of the fat that we eat. Some fats reduce inflammation, prevent blood clots and help boost our morale. Our health depends on the balance between the main fat groups (saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated omega 6 and polyunsaturated omega-3). One particular oil used for seasoning near enough achieves this balance – rapeseed oil.
8. Eat slowly
Easy to say but harder to achieve when you’re wolfing your lunch down. Nevertheless, learning to eat slowly has many benefits. The first is to really be able to taste what you’re eating and be able to pick out the different flavours and combinations in your dish.
Another advantage is that you have a feeling of satiety more quickly. Sati- what? We have introduced lots of new words, but eating well is a science. Satiety is the message that your stomach sends you when it is full. By eating more slowly, you’ll be eating the right quantity and avoiding excess.
9. Reduce sodium and ingest more potassium
Today’s food is too rich in table salt (sodium chloride) and too poor in potassium salts. This has consequences, including high blood pressure, arterial stiffness and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Go for a diet with less salt and more potassium. How? Vegetables, vegetables and more vegetables. And to vary a bit, pulses, although that’s roughly the same thing if you’re new to this, namely chard, spinach, potatoes, lentils and white beans.
10. Watch out for liquid calories
Keeping an eye on what you drink is as important as being careful about what you eat. It seems obvious but if you start following the previous nine good habits then you swig a litre of soda a day, that’s like getting annoyed that your Fiat Punto won’t move with the handbrake on.
Daily consumption of sugary drinks (150 calories per can) equals 7 extra kilos a year and doubles the risk of diabetes. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation (and no, excessive drunkenness isn’t one of the benefits of consuming alcohol). For the same reason, stop taking sugar in your tea and coffee. They’re just as good without it and it reduces the risk of kidney stones and type II diabetes.