10 healthy eating tips

In time for summer, Health Navigator is helping families get smarter with how and what they eat with these top 10 tips for healthy eating every day.

Credit: Health Navigator. Reviewed by: Julie Carter (NZRD), Community Liaison Dietitian

1. Start with breakfast – every day!

Why? To increase metabolism, energy levels and help avoid snacks between meals.

  • Pick something ‘grainy’ and add protein, eg, porridge or Weetbix with fruit and light blue milk.
  • Try wholegrain toast with eggs or baked beans or banana and peanut butter.


2. Eat regular meals – at least 3 each day

Why? To help manage hunger and extra snacking.

  • Include some starchy carbohydrate (bread/rice/potato), protein (meat/fish/egg/beans/dairy) with veges and fruit.
  • Take lunch from home to work – it’s cheaper and means you’re not tempted by less healthy options.


3. Have smarter snacks – and only if you need them

Why? If you’re not hungry between meals, you don’t need snacks. If you do feel peckish, reach for one of the following snacks:

  • a piece of fruit or small handful of nuts (30g)
  • a cup of soup
  • a cup of low fat milk or yoghurt
  • vegetable sticks or grainy crackers with hummus or cottage cheese.


4. Be mindful – take your time; notice what you eat

Why? Eating quickly while you’re on the run and distracted can mean you eat more food than you need.

  • It takes 30 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full.
  • Many of us eat for reasons other than hunger – recognising this is the first step in making changes.
  • Slow down and wait for meals to digest.
  • Sit at the table, with friends or whānau.
  • Minimise distractions such as phones and TV.
  • Enjoy your food.
  • Some people find it helpful to write down what and how much they eat and how they feel before and after.


5. Portion sizes matter

Why? Eating too many healthy foods can still cause weight gain.

  • How much you eat is key to keeping a healthy body weight.
  • A good rule of thumb is food that will cover your palm is 1 serving.
  • For a healthy evening meal, picture you plate divided into 4: one quarter is for meat or a meat alternative, one quarter for grains or a starchy vegetable and a half for non-starchy vegetables.


6. Think about what you drink – water is always best

Why? It’s free from the tap, healthy, good for the environment and good for you.

  • You need 6–8 cups of fluid each day.
  • Some of these can be from food, coffee, tea, milk as well as from water.
  • Other drinks often add empty calories – and they don’t fill you up as well as food.
  • Cordials, fruit juice, sports drinks and fizzy drinks are all loaded with sugar – a 300ml glass or bottle of fizzy drink has 8 teaspoons of sugar in it!
  • Alcohol adds up too – a 350ml can or bottle of beer has 155 calories and a 150ml glass of wine has 124 calories.


7. Fill up on vegetables and fruit – 5+ a day

Why? For extra fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are also low in energy (calories), are packed with goodness and help prevent heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, and some cancers.

  • Eat fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and veges.
  • Eat fresh fruit rather than dried fruit.
  • If you eat tinned fruit, choose fruit in clear juice rather than syrup.
  • If you are not good at eating fruit and vegetables, make a pact with yourself to change one thing, eg, to reach for fruit or raw veges rather than biscuits or sweets.
  • Stock the house with the types of fruit and veges you know you’ll eat so you don’t end up with a bowl of rotting apples when you prefer tinned peaches.
  • Try buying different types of fruit and veges when they’re on special and see if you like them.
  • For a hearty, winter meal make vegetable soup – a great way to up your vege intake.
  • If you prefer raw veges to cooked, eat them as a snack or just lightly stir-fry them for dinner.


8. Have whole grains when you can

Why? They are high in fibre, so keep you feeling fuller for longer. And they’re good for your gut health.

  • Use wholemeal flour instead of white flour.
  • Choose grainy breads, crackers and cereals, eg, wheat biscuits, porridge, wholemeal breads.
  • Add wholegrain cereal, like barley and brown rice, to bulk out soups and casseroles.
  • Find out about the glycaemic index (GI). Wholegrain foods have a lower GI than the more refined white varieties so are better for you.


9. Cut back on the fat

Why? Eating less fat helps with weight loss. The type of fat you do eat is also important.

  • When you cook with fat, use 1 teaspoon per person of liquid oils, eg, canola, soy, peanut, rice bran, olive.
  • Avoid animal fats and coconut products.
  • Bake, grill or steam instead of frying.
  • Choose lean meats and replace with fish when you can.
  • Make the switch to low fat milk, cheese, yoghurt and ice-cream.


10. Replace salt with other flavours

Why? To improve blood pressure and decrease risk of heart disease.

  • Choose low salt/sodium foods where they are offered.
  • Use the taste test – add a little salt to your food and taste it before adding more.
  • Find low-salt snacks you enjoy – fruit, unsalted nuts, plain unsalted popcorn, yoghurt, biscuits and crackers low in sodium.
  • Eat more fresh and frozen foods – salt is often added to processed foods such as sausages, salamis, packet soups and sauces.
  • Use herbs and spices to flavour food, eg, fresh herbs, garlic, mustard, ginger, dried herbs, ground spices, lemon, etc.
  • Cook food in minimal water or in the microwave to retain flavour and so you need less salt.
  • Ask for no added salt when buying takeaways.
  • Choose vegetables and fish in canned water without salt.

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Julie Carter (NZRD), Community Liaison Dietitian, Te Whatu Ora | Te Toka Tumai (formerly Auckland DHB)