For too many of us, healthy eating is a lifestyle goal we just don’t have time for. Or at least this is the excuse we keep telling ourselves as we rush between meetings, deadlines and are blasting emails by the hour. Keeping your health on track may be easier than you think. Try these 8 smart healthy eating hacks for on-the-go professionals.
1. Size matters
Believe it or not, the feeling of being full is partly controlled by our perception of how much food we’ve consumed. Changing the size of our serving plate creates a visual illusion that distorts our perception of how much we have eaten. Try serving the same amount of food on a smaller plate – even though the quantities are the same, our eyes assume that the smaller plate is loaded with far more food than the larger plate. For your next meal, serve your vegetables in the large plate and anything unhealthy on a small plate.
2. Don’t skip meals
As tempting as it is to keep ploughing through your work come lunch time, the worst thing you can do to your body is to not top up on sustenance when you’re running low. The hunger hormone, ghrelin, will start to signal hunger to your brain and the longer you go without eating, the more your cravings will intensify. To avoid being driven by your hunger to eat more than usual, eat a small, balanced meal once every three hours before your body’s ghrelin levels spike.
3. Colour blocking
Colour has more of an impact on our eating habits than you may think. Where red is a colour that inspires action and appetite, blue acts as an appetite suppressant. Whether it’s your office or kitchen, shake up your eating area by filling it with blue-toned décor. Use plates that contrast sharply in colour with the food you’re serving. This will draw your eye more to your meal and will force you to be more mindful of how much you are consuming.
4. Unplug at the table
Believe it or not, people who are distracted by technology actually end up eating more at the dinner table than those who unplug and focus on their meal. Spend a moment to put down your phone and close your inbox. Pay attention to what you eat and you’ll find yourself being more mindful of your appetite.
5. Cut out the caffeine
Caffeine – the miracle drug that has you working around the clock without needing a moment’s shut-eye. While in the short term, overdosing on coffee fuels us with temporary energy to plough through the week, in the long run our overdependence makes it easy to overlook the health problems that come with constantly running on low energy. Instead, use your spare change on superseeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds to make your own trail mix. Nuts and seeds provide long-lasting energy and are the perfect snack to store in a desk drawer or handbag to munch on when your mood drops.
6. Snack attack
Hunger is your body’s natural response to coping after three to four hours of not eating, and will often lead to overeating on bad food choices come mealtime. Snacks should only be a stepping stone between meals, helping you get over the hunger hurdle while smoothing out your blood sugar levels. Keep what you eat under 200 calories and avoid adding more sugar into your system, as tempting as it can be. Pick low-GI foods that release energy slowly – think low-fat yoghurt, a punnet of berries, or some of our delicious protein balls full of the healthiest nuts and seeds.
7. Blend it!
If the popularity of this health trend has made you dubious about its benefits, don’t be! Drinking your fruit and veg is a powerful way to get in a nutritious, balanced meal on your way out the door. Ingredients like kale, flaxseed oils, chia seed, bananas and goji berries are perfect for smoothies and juices. Add soy or delicious dairy-free yoghurt for extra texture and flavour.
8. The 15-minute rule
So you’ve wolfed down the food on your plate and now you’re looking around at your friends or family for the socially appropriate moment to ask for seconds. After finishing your plate, wait at least 15 minutes before asking yourself if you still want a second plate. This is how long it takes for your stomach to send a signal to your brain telling it that you’re full. Next time, wait for your body to digest before you continue eating – it’ll make you realise just how often we overestimate how much food we need to feel satisfied.