Healthy Eating Plan
“Oh my goodness, I never realised how much I ate.” I hear that a lot when I ask clients to keep a food diary. They’re always surprised by how much they eat over the course of the day. And so was I when I first did this exercise.
Take the time to keep a food diary and follow the guidelines below, and it should be relatively easy to highlight some areas of your diet that can be improved.
If you find yourself yoyoing back and forth between diets and healthy eating plans then analysing a food diary is a great tool to help you pinpoint improvements to make to your diet.
Now for this to work, I want you to eat what you usually would. I know you’re probably keen to start your diet right away but remember this is only for three days.
To help make your food diaries representative of your average diet it’s best to keep them for at least three days, one of those days should be a weekend day.
Printable Food Diary Sheets
Download and read the instruction for keeping a 3-day food diary here.
Planning Healthy Eating Adjustments
Once you have completed your 3-day food diary, grab yourself some different coloured highlighters and felt tip pens.
Are you getting your five a day?
Now highlight all the fruit and veg you ate and check if you’re getting five portions a day. Here’s a list to help you decide.
A portion of fruit (80g) is roughly equivalent to:
- a slice or half a large fruit e.g. a slice of melon or half a grapefruit.
- 1 medium size fruit e.g. an apple.
- 2 small size fruits e.g. 2 plums or satsumas.
A portion of dried fruit (30g) is roughly equivalent to:
- one heaped tablespoon of dried fruit, which is roughly equivalent to 80g of fresh fruit.
A portion of vegetables (80g) is roughly equivalent to:
- 3 heaped tablespoons of peas, beans or pulses.
- 2 broccoli spears.
- a dessert bowl of salad.
If you aren’t managing 5-a-day, aim to add some in this week.
Our perception of serving sizes has an effect on our balance of nutrients and our calorie (energy) intake. For this reason, it’s a good idea to manage your serving sizes.
Think of portions in terms of weight or easily identifiable sizes, such as using measuring cups, scales, hand size reference and check food labels. Read how serving sizes helped me lose weight for guidance.
If you downloaded the food diary and instructions, you’d have made a note of weights and amounts with every food entry. Take a different coloured highlighter and mark all the portion sizes that you feel are larger than they should be.
For example, an average serving size of breakfast cereal according to the label is around 30g. I’ve seen this doubled and tripled on food diary sheets.
Snacking for healthy eating
Snacking can aid a healthy eating plan adding to your nutrient intake if you choose healthier snacks. Take another colour highlighter or pen and mark or circle all your snacks.
And if you weren’t reaching your 5-a-day then add in or swap some of your snacks for fruit and veg.
Next look over your food diaries and check for added sugars. I’m not talking about natural sugars found in foods like fruit or milk that contain nutrients and fibre.
I’m referring to sugars that have been added to foods by yourself or manufacturers. A lot of our sugar intake comes from foods like cookies, cakes, breakfast cereals, savoury dressings, fizzy drinks, squashes, milkshake and hot chocolate powders and unhealthy snacks.
You may find you’ll be underlining or highlighting items you’ve already marked. Adults are advised to have no more than 30g (around 7 cubes of sugar) a day.
Below are some food swaps you could plan to make.
Food swaps and tips
Drinks Swap fizzy drinks for water; low-fat milk; dilute fruit juice; sparkling water mixed with fruit juice. If you take sugar in hot drinks, try cutting back a little at a time.
Breakfast swap sugary cereals for plain cereals like Weetabix or porridge (add fruit for sweetness)
Snacks swap cookies, cakes, sweets and chocolate for fruit; a slice of toast with low-fat spread; bagel or rice cakes (I like to top these with low-fat cream cheese and thinly sliced apple). Unsalted nuts or crispy vegetables.
Desserts swap for sugar-free jelly or low fat, lower sugar yoghurts.
Sugary yoghurts swap for plain yoghurts with fruit (I do have to have a little honey for sweetness).
Tinned fruit in syrup swap for fruit in natural juice.
Try halving the sugar in your recipes (except meringues and jam).
Oil and Fat intake
It’s important to include fat in our diets (current UK guidelines recommend 30 – 35% (around a third) of your diet should come from fat. However, check you are consuming healthier fats and keep saturated fats (any fats from animals, eggs and dairy) low.
Check your food diary for
- Fatty meat
- processed meats like burgers and sausages
- Cakes and pastry items
- Ice Cream
- Spreads and butter
- Deep fried foods like chips and crisps
- Salad dressings, mayonnaise and creamy dips
- Seeds and Nuts
- Oily fish
- Cooking oil
If you find you have consumed a large number of these foods in one day, it’s possible that your diet is made up of more than a third of fat.
Think of ways to reduce fat such as grilling and baking food instead of frying. Choose leaner cuts of meats like chicken or turkey. And choose lower fat options and measure out salad dressings, mayonnaise and dips.
A Rainbow of Colours
Your food diary sheets may now be looking very colourful, highlighting where you may need to consider adjusting your diet. Get yourself a pen and some paper and write the healthy food changes you plan to make to improve your diet.
It’s ok to start incorporating just one or two from your list. I’m a huge fan of making a couple of small adjustments and running with those until you’re confident that you can implement them into your diet. Then add in other changes you’ve listed.
This isn’t a quick fix weight loss plan; it’s more of a steady progress to avoid being overwhelmed by a restrictive diet and food cravings. And hopefully, it will help guide you to a sustainable, healthy eating lifestyle.
Highlighting your food diary like this is a great starting point but by no means a definitive guide for a healthy eating plan. For more advice on an overall healthy eating plan check out the Eatwell Guide.
Be sure to download your diet sheets and instructions from here.
Leave me a comment and let me know how you get on.
Lucy G x
Please note: this is not meant to be a prescriptive post, and your personal health requirements should be taken into account before implementing any of the guidelines above.