No matter if this is the first time you have read a So Just Be Blog, or if you are a follower of ours, one thing you will know is that we are big fans of self-care. So often, as we get caught up in the rat-race of life, our own needs get placed firmly on a backburner.
We often talk about the importance of self-care, sharing lots of tips and ideas with you. From sleep to exercise or even our hobbies and pastimes, we can all find ways to put our own wellbeing in the spotlight.
But there is something we all do every day that we overlook. If we are what we eat, should we be looking at our plates to get smarter with our self-care? Here are our top foodie tips to introduce to your self-care routines:
Remember to eat!
How many times have you sat down in the morning and cracked on with a piece of work, only lo look up and notice that it’s suddenly coming up to 3pm? Or maybe you mindlessly grab something to nibble at your desk, getting through the day on something that probably has more nutrients in the wrapper.
Are your evenings and weekends so busy that you eat on the go, or grab so many Subways that the guy in there knows what you will order before you even say hello? When you fail to plan ahead, all you can guarantee is a rumbling tummy, bad food choices and snacker’s remorse.
It’s easily done. You can be so focussed on leaving the house on time with everything that you need for the day, that you simply forget to eat. It’s important to make time for food. Make sure you have something easy to grab if you are genuinely on the go. Or maybe you can’t face breakfast first thing and prefer to eat a bit later in the morning.
As we get older our appetites change. A slower metabolism might mean you need to eat less calories, but it’s still important to eat regularly. Set an alarm on your phone (if you are really forgetful) and plan your day around when you will take your breaks. Keep your meal times semi-flexible, but eating meals at a similar time each day is important and planning is the key.
If you know you are going to be busy at mealtimes, eat in advance and take a snack with you. Keep your options open and ensure you always have some key basics in the house – bread to make toast or a sandwich, cereal, nuts, fruit, eggs, cheese and even tasty leftovers. By ensuring you have things you like in the fridge and cupboards, you are halfway there.
Drink plenty of water
Water plays a huge role, from looking after our joints and body temperature, as well as the more obvious job of keeping us hydrated. We all know it’s important to drink plenty of water, yet many of us struggle.
The amount each person needs each day is not an exact science, and some of will need more than others. If we exercise more or it’s a hot day, we will need more than the days where we are cooler or less active.
If you struggle to remember how much you have had, maybe keep a log – if you are using the Noom or Fitbit apps, for example, they both offer simple logs. Or use a reusable water bottle and take it with you so you have something to sip on the go.
You could consider replacing some of your drinks through the day with water, especially if some of your usual go-to drinks are carrying a hefty amount of sugar. Cutting our calorie intake and ensuing we drink more water is a win-win right there.
Something we learned on Noom was to eat more foods with a high water content. Not only is this super healthy, but it’s a great way to help keep hydrated if you are not a fan of plain old water. Melon, cabbage, celery and lettuce are all at least 90% water, so by introducing more of these to your diet you will really help increase your water intake.
We’ve already touched on how planning is key when it comes to making good food choices, but you can take this a step further.
Do you often open your fridge, freezer or cupboards and feel rather uninspired by the contents? Do you shrug when faced with the ‘what’s for dinner’ dilemma? Meal planning is your answer.
Planning your meals ahead is easier than you think, and even if you get to Thursday and decide that you no longer fancy cottage pie, if you keep a few key ingredients to hand, those same ingredients can quickly become a chilli, spaghetti bolognese or maybe a lasagne. Meal planning does not have to be restrictive.
The whole process is easier than you think. All you need to do is ask yourself what is for dinner seven times, then break those meals down into their key ingredients and make a shopping list. It does not have to be entirely home cooked – you can throw in the odd pizza, ready meal or jar of sauce for the days where you have less time.
Keep a small range of spices, rice, pasta and condiments in your store cupboard and you have all you need to make quick revisions to the plan if you change your mind. Cook a little extra and you also have healthy left overs for lunches, soups and even the freezer.
If cooking feels like a chore, get the family involved. Divide the tasks up between each other and any prep can be completed much more quickly, but with an added bonus. By cooking together, you have the opportunities to tackle all kinds of things.
For example, get your partner to help you, put some music on and talk about the meal you are making – sometimes the most important ingredients as you cook together are the music and the wine. You could even tackle a conversation that could have been tricky or even considered confrontational face to face, but is easier side by side.
Teach the kids knife skills and help them learn how to prepare ingredients – so many kids are leaving home and barely know how to boil pasta. Put away the phones and devices and enjoy each other’s company.
Divide up the jobs – even if some of your skills are currently only at the ‘stirring the pot level’, work around each other’s strengths. Grab a sneaky cuddle and flirt with the cook – what’s the point in cooking together if you don’t use it as an opportunity to be together.
Add a sprinkle of mindfulness
It’s easy to fall out of love with food – if cooking is a chore and food choices are poor, if mealtimes are rushed and we don’t pay attention to the food we are eating, then it’s easy to see why we end up feeling unsatisfied and over eat.
Slow down and pay attention to what you are eating – consuming food should be intentional, not a process of automatically shoving it into our mouths. Chew your food. Savour the smell, flavours and textures. Look at the food on your plate – we also eat with our eyes, so try and add some colour to your plate.
We need to learn to love and appreciate our food again. By eating mindfully we can pay attention to how it makes us feel – we can recognise the triggers that make us reach for the ‘bad’ choices, learn the signs our bodies give us when we are hungry or thirsty, but also understand the signals to tell us we are full.
With so many of us on a ‘diet’, we can see food as an enemy as we become obsessed with syns, points and calorie counting. We’ve tried so many diets and have finally come to the conclusion that food is not the baddie here, it’s our relationship with food that’s the issue.
Sticking to a strict diet is not actually healthy, as we often end up depriving ourselves of some foods that we love and actually need. Instead, we need to understand how to nourish our bodies. If we don’t eat enough, we become tired, have headaches and lose our focus.
When our body does not get the fuel we need we can become anxious, irritated or stressed. We can manage nutrition with our diets, but at certain times in our lives our bodies can be lacking certain nutrients. This can be purely because of the food we like and don’t like, or could be because of a health issue.
Taking a multivitamin might be a solution if you are unable to get what you need from your diet, but always take the help, support and guidance from a health professional to ensure you don’t end up self-medicating and doing more harm that good.
Try to prioritise a balanced diet. If you aren’t a lover of fruit, try and introduce more vegetables into your diet instead. If you love bread, maybe move to a seeded loaf. If you eat meat, try and reduce your red meat days each week, or even have a meat free day now and then.
Nail the healthy stuff, but balance it out with treats and make sure you enjoy that scoop of ice-cream or that glass of wine. Buy better chocolate with a higher cocoa content. And never feel guilty for enjoying the odd slice of cake now and then.
Feel good factor
It’s all about moderation. We have all pigged out on foods that have left us feeling very full and in a ‘carb coma’ – too much pizza or pasta will do the trick with us! But these food aren’t the enemy if we control the portion size.
In fact, starchy foods like rice, potato and pasta are actually part of the ‘feel good foods’ family when eaten in moderation, and certainly not the devils that most restrictive diets have labelled them.
Fruit and vegetables are obvious good guys, but we rarely get excited about broccoli. Experiment with fruit and veg, try something new and colourful. Add some variety to your meals and you will soon feel the influence they have on your energy level and even your mood.
Some foods have been branded ‘super foods’ and we have found a great article here that lists 10 foods that promise to make you feel fantastic along with recipes to try. What more could you ask for?
Enjoy a glass of wine. Have a few squares of your favourite chocolate on a Friday night. Order that pay-day take-away guilt free once a month. If we are going to experiment with food as part of our self-care routine, it’s important to have treats to look forward to.
Low nutrition means low mood, but so does deprivation. Control your portions and the frequency of the naughty stuff and you really can have your cake and eat it. Just make sure you get the balance right.
There is no point feeding our minds if we don’t feed our bodies, so food and nutrition is a really important part of any self-care routine. In fact, eating well could possibly be the best self-care of them all.
Now that is food for thought …