Nutritionist and gut health expert Clarissa Lenherr has given us her top tips on creating healthy habits, and how to add into your diet, rather than take away!
At this time of year, the focus is all about what to remove from your diet - removing carbs, alcohol, sugar etc. But for sustainable health change, reshift your focus and think about what can I add to my diet to support my health this January?
Paying attention to adding healthy foods into your diet, rather than just taking the unhealthy foods away, is more likely to leave you with long-lasting habits and positive results.
What can you add to your diet that is beneficial for your gut?
Gut healthy friendly foods are vast, but to experience a significant change, it is important to be consistent with your habits. Try out a few of the food groups below that appeal to you:
- Live yogurt/ kefir - a great source of gut-friendly bacteria, ensure you opt for sugar-free, full fat versions and jazz up with chopped fruits, nuts, cacao nibs or Clarissa’s granola butter (recipe can be found on @clarissalenherrnutrition instagram page). Alternatively, try simmering apples with cinnamon and water for a delicious gut-friendly kefir topping and a punch of prebiotic fibre.
- Miso - made from fermented soya beans, which contain a variety of goodies such as helpful bacteria and enzymes. Try miso as a yummy and nutritious topping for your tofu or salmon stir frys- but ensure it is added in once your food is cooked, as intense heat may destroy the gut-friendly benefits.
- Sauerkraut- A fermented finely chopped cabbage- full of probiotics, fibre and vitamins. Sauerkraut is great as a healthier replacement to coleslaw, try topping your burger with it or adding a heaped tablespoon to your salad.
- Garlic- with its strong antibacterial and antifungal properties, garlic may help keep bad gut bacteria under control, helping to balance yeast in the gut.
- Sourdough - More digestible than regular bread due to the fermentation process, try topping it with other gut-friendly foods such as avocado and sauerkraut or eggs and kimchi.
- Olive oil - studies have shown that a good quality extra virgin olive oil may help to reduce inflammation in the gut! Drizzle over salads or cooked veggies for an added dose of omega 3’s.
Where to start?
Often we assume to make significant health changes, we have to overhaul our entire diet and lifestyle - and it isnt true! Try out one or two things from the below list to feel empowered but not overwhelmed:
- Aim to try one new ingredient or recipe per week that you haven’t tried before. This could be a new plant-based recipe, a healthy baking alternative such as Clarissa’s tahini paleo brownies or a new vegetable such as okra or aubergine.
- Aim to incorporate a protein, fat and carb source at each meal to contribute to a balanced plate and to keep you feeling fully satisfied- Aim for ½ of your plate to be full of veggies, ¼ complex carbs and ¼ lean protein.
- Planning in advance can be super helpful when on the go. Carrying healthy snacks on you when you're on the move can prevent you from grabbing something highly processed that won't satisfy your hunger or your gut microbes. Try to think ahead when it comes to meals, when travelling and on the go by always having a healthy snack on hand just in case.
- Mindfully eat - It can take between 10-20 minutes for our stomach to send signals to the brain to tell us we are full and satiated. If we are eating slowly, we are less likely to miss these cues and overeat. Take time when eating to chew and put your fork and knife down between each bite.
Small changes you can make that aren't removing the foods you love
- Opt for wholegrain, complex carbs over refined, white versions to keep you fuller for longer, and to get an added fibre hit! My favourites include chickpea pasta, wholemeal sourdough bread, sweet potatoes, brown rice and quinoa. They will eventually taste as delicious as the refined versions!
- Include a protein source at every meal and snack- protein keeps us full and satiated, whilst contributing to many processes in the body including muscle synthese. Some great protein sources are tofu, turkey, chicken breast, cod, salmon, tempeh, chickpeas, beans, lentils and greek yogurt.
- Hydration is key. Aim to drink 1.5- 2 litres of water daily. Staying hydrated can contribute to skin health, energy, keeping us full, keeping joints lubricated and proper organ function.
- Bake or roast your food over frying. This method of cooking uses less oils and lower heat cooking helps to retain more nutrients in food. Roast in avocado or coconut oil and season with herbs and spices for added nutrients.
- Aim to cook from scratch as much as possible. Invest in easy hacks such as frozen chopped garlic, onions and ginger to make life easier and to throw into any meals to save time.
- Incorporate some form of green veggie with every meal. A handful of kale, spinach, cavolo nero, broccoli or rocket will super-boost the nutritional content of your meal. The darker the green, the more nutritious.
- Eat skins on fruit and vegetables for added fibre and nutrients to keep your bowels regular and your gut happy.
How to stick to changes for the long term?
Try not to have an all or nothing approach - every food has a place and can be part of a balanced diet, it’s important to eat foods you ENJOY and that taste good to you. Try mixing up your herbs and spices to make meals more interesting and have easy to reach, healthy prepared snacks in the fridge such as chopped veggie sticks, humous, roasted chickpeas, chopped fruit, greek yogurt and edamame beans for when hunger strikes.
Try to motivate yourself by thinking about how good you feel when you eat better. Aim for the 80/20 approach to food- letting go and having a more relaxed approach 20% of the time and focusing on delicious whole-foods 80% of the time.