Eat well, eat healthily

Take responsibility for the choices you make and the results you get.
Take responsibility for the choices you make and the results you get.

Moderation is the key to dieting, writes Jan Aitken. 

One of the most common things at Fit for Life I am asked to help people with is working with them to change dietary habits, to eat more healthily.

I've never been approached to help someone eat less healthily, but I guess it's a possibility!

There's a mountain of information out there about food and eating, and there's every type of diet you can imagine.

I've not done an in-depth analysis of the common diets, but I've learned a few things throughout my years of nursing, coaching and my own trial and error.

I'm not a dietitian or a nutritionist, so what I offer people is a general common-sense approach to healthy eating.

If you have any medical conditions that impact on your dietary requirements please seek the appropriate professional help.

I have learned that the simpler things are to follow the more likely we are to stick to something, that's if we really want to do it in the first place, of course.

It's the same for making changes to our eating habits. Just take responsibility for the choices you make and the results you get.

Let me get this out there straight away: I am not a fan of fad diets! I think that ''fad'' stands for ''futile and dangerous''.

Futile because any changes to your eating habits that are not life-long changes will not give you life-long results.

Sure, you may lose weight initially, but it will go straight back on when you revert to your old eating habits (resulting in yo-yo dieting).

Dangerous because a diet that bans any particular food/group of foods can lead to a nutrient imbalance in your body and it also sets up really unhealthy mental approaches to food; we can start to label foods good and bad.

No food is good or bad, ok?

Some foods are foods we are better off having a lot of regularly and some we are better off having occasionally, the ''treat'' foods, high in sugars and fats.

Spend some time learning to read food labels.

Seriously, it's one of the best things to do to help you make good food choices.

The Diabetes NZ website ( has an excellent guide on reading food labels for healthy eating.

It applies to all of us, not just those living with diabetes.

 Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach. For more go to

Twitter: @jan-aitken



Tips to healthy eating
Here are my top tips to help you eat more healthily. -


The benefits of maintaining a healthy diet are numerous, including better overall health (maintaining healthy weight, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, more stable blood sugar), stronger immune system, more energy and less stress and better sleep. Know why it's important to you to eat a healthy diet.


... of what you're eating, read food labels. Low fat can often mean high in sugar so don't just think a packet saying ''low fat'' is automatically the best choice. A lot of sweets are low fat but I wouldn't eat packets of them! Advertisers will do unfair things to catch our attention and direct our choices.

... of how much you're eating (never eat straight out of packets/boxes as it's easy to over eat) - put the food on a plate. Be mindful of your portion size.

... of why you're eating. Are you eating because you're hungry or are you angry or bored?

... of when you're likely to have the munchies. Plan for this and have healthy snacks available.


- make a weekly menu for lunches/dinners, avoid the last minute ''what are we having for dinner'' scenario! This tip can take a great deal of stress out of dinner times.

- shop with a list for the menu you've planned.

- have some prepared food in the freezer for times you're home late/too tired to cook.

- have healthy snacks in the cupboards.


... to drink water. A litre a day. It keeps us hydrated and helps us to feel full.

If you feel hungry after you've eaten, have a glass of water and wait 20min before you go back for more. It takes time for your brain to register that your stomach is full.

... healthy eating is only part of a healthy lifestyle. Getting regular exercise is important too.

... look after yourself for 80% of the time. The other 20% you can enjoy a celebration, have some treats. Being rigid and aiming for perfectly healthy eating 100% of the time is too difficult and maybe a bit dull too. Moderation in everything as my grandparents used to say!

... you will have some days that are more busy/stressful etc and your food choices may not be the best. That's life, don't beat yourself up about it, just get back to the better choices the following day. It doesn't mean you've undone the good choices you've made previously - it's just one day!


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