Easy swaps you can make at every meal for healthier living

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Choosing healthier foods is easier than you may think. There are some simple everyday changes you can make to get you on your way to a healthier lifestyle without losing all the things you love.

It’s all about cutting down on foods that are high in calories, fat, salt and sugars and swapping them for something healthier, including more fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.

Healthy eating and getting active can help you lose centimetres from around your waist and reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as some cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

While staying healthy might seem like an uphill battle – particularly if you’re stressed or overwhelmed by what’s happening in the world around you – it doesn’t have to be like this. If you’re able to, it’s all about making small, positive choices to benefit your body and mind.

Making small swaps throughout the day can help, starting at breakfast and ending at dinner.

Breakfast

A healthy breakfast will help start your day as you mean to go on. This doesn’t need to be a complicated meal that takes ages to make; why not swap a bowl of cereal, which is processed, with overnight oats? All you have to do is mix half a cup of oats with half a cup of milk the night before, adding in anything you like – maybe it’s berries, bananas, a scoop of peanut butter or a drizzle of honey. This way, you can control how much sugar is in your breakfast. In addition, oats are nutritious and, as detailed by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, may help with weight control and digestive health.

Lunch

Few things are as classic as a sandwich for lunch. This is where you can make one of the easiest swaps of the day – by subbing out white bread for wholemeal. You’re still having the midday meal you’re used to, just with some sneaky added health benefits. Whole grains mean the bread hasn’t been stripped of useful nutrients, and research has linked whole grains to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Afternoon snack

If you’re anything like us, you can’t get through the 3pm slump without a little pick-me-up – and it is all too tempting to reach for processed, sugary snacks. To eat more healthily, you needn’t forgo an afternoon treat entirely, but this is a perfect opportunity to make some better decisions. For example, try making your own version of trail mix by simply throwing together a combination of your favourite nuts and dried fruit, and have a handful if you feel your energy flagging. There are a range of health benefits of eating nuts – for example, they have been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and can help you manage your weight and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Plus, dried fruit is high in natural sugars so will satisfy your sweet tooth if that’s what you crave mid-afternoon.

Dinner

Eating a few more meat-free meals throughout the week could have a big impact on your overall health. Luckily, vegetarian dinners can be hearty, delicious and interesting. You might like to cook up a curry packed full of flavour with chickpeas and sweet potatoes, or indulge in a BBQ with charred corn and stuffed peppers.

People consuming plant-based diets tend to have a lower BMI and eating this way also appears to help weight loss, according to a 2017 review of the evidence. Eating more vegies when they are in season could help save you some money and boost your health, too. Start small – perhaps with one meat-free dinner a week – and see if you can slowly increase this over time.

What swaps have you made to feel healthier in the new year? What’s your favourite healthy meal to cook and eat?

– With PA

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