In a society where we undoubtedly make more effort with our health and fitness in the lead up to the summer months, it’s time to take a step back and make sure we adopt a healthy, sustainable diet that is fulfilling year-round. Avoid falling into the pattern of restricting and subsequently binge-eating, by cautiously substituting unhealthy foods with healthy ones. Try these foods in a range of delicious recipes that keep you full for longer whilst giving you energy and satisfying any sweet cravings.
Starting your day with oatmeal has been recommended by nutritionists across the globe. One bowl of this can keep you full for up to four hours and provides your body with slow-releasing energy, meaning you won’t feel the need for a mid-morning snack and your energy levels can power you through any work you have!
Try to avoid the instant packs of oatmeal as they tend to contain added sugars and artificial flavours. Instead, try a regular bag of oats (even own branded ones) which you can mix with any toppings, fruit and milk or water that you like in a mason jar, then place in the fridge overnight. The ingredients will merge together during the night, ready for you to eat in the morning!
This is an excellent breakfast as you can tailor the toppings to suit you and they can be switched up throughout the week – try banana and Nutella, apples and maple syrup or even add in mini versions of your favourite snacks like a few mini-Oreos or mini-Jammy Dodgers to satisfy those cravings in a balanced way.
Known as one of the main ‘superfoods’, broccoli is an excellent source of a variety of vitamins and minerals such as iron and vitamin C, with half a cup providing 84% of the recommended daily intake of this vitamin. It also contains sulforaphane which is said to fight off body fat storage.
If cooking broccoli, steaming has proven to be the healthiest method to ensure you get as many of the health benefits as possible. This vegetable can be incorporated into almost any lunch or dinner, simply as a side or mixed through pasta. Try incorporating it through recipes like an Italian broccoli and salmon bake, a pork and broccoli stir-fry or a broccoli and stilton soup.
Another of the ‘superfoods’ is spinach, which is great for your heart and a brilliant source of protein, vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as antioxidants. Dark, leafy greens like spinach are essential to improve skin, hair and bone health. It can also benefit the health of your eyes, reduce stress, reduce blood sugar levels and help prevent cancer.
Just a single cup of spinach has almost as much protein as a hard-boiled egg but with half the calories and can be eaten with a range of meals, as well as part of a protein shake or smoothie. Add it to pastas, soups, casseroles, wraps, burgers or even make your own dip by mixing it with artichoke or goat cheese! Try a spinach and halloumi salad, spinach and lemon risotto or mix with bananas and berries for a delicious smoothie.
Another nutritious leafy green food is kale, which contains vitamin A, phosphorus, vitamin B and twice as much vitamin C as spinach! It is also great for your heart, as studies have shown that those who consumed a large amount of green leafy vegetables like kale drastically decreased the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases. Kale is rich in antioxidants, helps with weight loss due to its low-calorie content and contains cancer-fighting compounds.
This vegetable is just as versatile as spinach, as it can be added to a range of meals or as part of a juice or smoothie. Try a creamy pesto and kale pasta, spiced kale crisps as a snack or blend with avocado, lime and pineapple for a refreshing green smoothie.
Although high in calories, avocados are a good source of healthy fats and fiber. Just half an avocado contains 4.6 grams and a whole one contains more potassium than a banana. They have antioxidant properties and are also great for keeping you full, as studies have also shown that people who eat half a fresh avocado had a 40% decrease in cravings to eat for hours later. Other benefits of eating this fruit include lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Avocados are the main ingredient used in guacamole but can be used in many other forms in a variety of dishes. A popular breakfast is avocado toast with poached eggs or try making some home-made nachos with your own creamy guacamole. For lunch or dinner, add some avocado to a vibrant salad or to a chicken tortilla wrap.
Beans are known to be good for your heart, but they come with so many more benefits through their richness in proteins, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as helping with brain health and fighting type 2 diabetes. They are a favourite of vegetarians and vegans as an alternative protein source to meat and there are many different kinds of beans such as black, kidney, navy, fava, and more – giving you variety to make it that much easier to incorporate into your meals!
Add them to soups, salads, brown rice or with some steamed vegetables for extra nutrition. Try making healthy beans on toast, kidney bean curry or mixed-bean chilli.
Another way to improve your heart health is through consuming cocoa through dark chocolate – which many will be happy to hear! It has been proven that consumption of one to two servings of dark chocolate per week lowered the risk of heart failure in women by 32% due to its anti-inflammatory compounds, polyphenols and flavanols which work to protect the heart. It has also been shown to have many other benefits including reducing the risk of diabetes, liver cirrhosis and Alzheimer’s.
Being the easiest one to incorporate into your diet, have a few squares of a dark chocolate bar or get creative and bake a delicious dark chocolate cake, some dark chocolate truffles or a dark chocolate banana loaf!