This article was first published in the August 2014 issue of Australian Tennis Magazine. Subscribe now!
Have you ever thought about why you make certain food choices? Is it due to habit? Do you believe it’s the right choice because you read it somewhere? Or do you eat in a certain way because your mum guided you in that direction when you were younger?
The habits we form and decisions we make are rarely questioned. They simply become a part of us and it is often these behaviours that are the hardest ones to retrain, or even break, when we realise they may not be the best options.
There is often a lack of thought in many of our food decisions that we make. The things that you might tell yourself include:
- “I wanted something to warm me up.”
- “I was feeling low so I wanted a treat.”
- “I am always so rushed in the morning that breakfast is never an option.”
Many of these behaviours need to be broken to maximise health and ensure optimal nutritional intake is achieved.
The good news is that there are some easy steps that will help in the process.
Eat regularly throughout the day
This is essential for two main reasons: Firstly, it ensures the body receives a variety of nutrients. By eating more than three times per day, the variety of foods consumed and therefore nutrients is greater. Eating frequently also ensures that energy levels are consistent and maintained. The trick is to keep portions down so you are genuinely hungry every three or so hours.
I would say the majority of people walk around each day dehydrated. If you are in an office, at school or even in the car where there is heating or air conditioning, your dehydration may go unnoticed. The body is 70 per cent water and therefore keeping hydrated is important for the cells to function. If you are not a water drinker, start with having a 600ml bottle and sip on it all day for a week. The next week increase this amount by 200ml each day. This gives your bladder time to get used to the increase in fluid.
Eat single ingredients
Single ingredients are our basic foods. We don’t need an extensive ingredient list to know what is in them. The beauty of eating single foods such as banana, meat, eggs, spinach, milk and other foods in their natural state is that we know exactly what we are receiving, without any extra chemicals added by a factory during the manufacturing process. This then touches on my next point.
Minimise added sugar
Many foods we purchase today have hidden sugars in them. This has predominantly been driven by the low fat movement. If you remove fat from food, you lose flavour. Sugar gives the flavour back. It is a given that majority of our snack foods are laden with sugar – including low fat yoghurt – but there are also many savoury foods high in sugar, such as tomato sauce, mayonnaise and biscuits. Check the label to see if sugar has been added. You may want to choose something else.
I bet your mum or dad said this to you often. We have all heard it and often we are so unaware of what we are doing that eating fast has become a part of our lifestyle, as everything we do these days is on the go. Eating slower means you will probably eat less at a meal, due to the fact that the message of being satisfied or full will have time to set in and stop you from going back for more.
Food is a wonderful pleasure in life that needs to be a large part of how we live. Ensuring you enjoy what you eat is important. Always remember food is also a form of medicine for the body, so the nutrients you provide the body will give you a better result long-term with respect to performance and functioning.
It is possible to retrain your eating habits.
Sports dietician for Tennis Australia and the Melbourne Football Club, Jo Shinewell is a food lover, nutritionist and eating coach with a holistic approach to nourishment.