Health

Nutrition with Jane McClenaghan: Make time to sit down and enjoy your food this summer

Food is more than the sum of its nutrients, so if an ice cream is going to make you happy, then surely that is to be celebrated - especially on a summer's day.
Jane McClenaghan

IT is the start of a new month and for many of us, July is a time to take things a little slower and move away from the daily routine as we take a break. Taking time off is vitally important for our wellbeing.

Whether it is a week in the sun, a staycation or a city break, it is a chance to get out of our daily routine and time to rest and reset. What's not to love?

If there is a downside, it's that we can get out of the routine of eating well and making healthy choices. Not a problem for a few days, but if you're the kind of person who finds it hard to get back on track afterwards, those few days can turn into weeks or months of poor choices, and that ultimately can have a big impact on your health and wellbeing.

I hear clients say things like, "I need to get back in track", or "I have been bad". When we think of our diet as being 'good' or 'bad', we can bring a lot of guilt into our food choices, and blame ourselves for making the 'wrong' choices.

I am keen to get people to strike a healthy balance, and sometimes that means allowing yourself to have an ice cream, eat some chips, or go out for dinner and eat whatever you want without feeling guilty.

Of course I want people to eat healthy, nourishing, good food, but there is certainly room for balance. Food is so much more than the sum of its nutrients, and if an ice cream is going to make you happy, then surely that is to be celebrated.

Rather than all or nothing, being on a diet, or off the rails, I prefer the 80/20 rule. Eat a healthy diet 80 per cent of the time, but allow yourself occasional treats on high days and holidays. One unhealthy food is not going to make or break our health, but a lifetime of yo-yo dieting likely will. Giving ourselves permission to eat the occasional treat means we are less likely to feel bad, or guilty about our food choices.

Be prepared. Think about you have going on over the next few days and make a conscious decision about your food choices. This might mean taking some healthy options with you, or having a think about what you might eat in advance.

Allow yourself the space to enjoy foods that you wouldn't usually eat. If this is a trigger for you to binge eat, then try naming the day you are going to have your treat, and stick to it.

Connect to how food really makes you feel. When we become more mindful about the food we eat and how it affects us, we are much more likely to instinctively make healthier choices.

Sit at a table to eat. Over the summer holidays it can be easy to get out of your regular routine. Make time to sit down and enjoy your food. If you have taken the time to prepare yourself a snack, eat that at the table too, rather than mindlessly munching as you sofa surf through Netflix.

It is a great time of year to change your diet and eat the best that the season has to offer. From strawberries to tomatoes, new potatoes to salad leaves, it is the best time of year for some of the tastiest fruit and veg going.

Batch cooking is not just for soups and stews. In the summer months, make up big batches of super salads, blitz herbs with olive oil and lemon juice to make a dressing or marinade for fish, or chop up lots of seasonal fruit and keep it on hand for breakfast or snacks, so that when you open the fridge there are some tasty, nourishing treats there to enjoy.

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