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8 a day healthy eating challenge

8 a day challange

I’m interested in eating healthily, but at the same time I make an effort to avoid reading anything about it online, because most healthy eating posts make me ragey. So often health chat is nothing but thinly disguised weight loss chat (“I feel great: I’ve lost a stone already”) which I have no time for at all. And all those fad diets/eating trends that come and go, all with their own made up science. At the moment it still seems to be the whole 30/paleo. I’ve seen so many bloggers say they are doing a modified version of it, adding quinoa and oats, yoghurts and lentils and all manner of other healthy but ‘forbidden’ foods. So basically, taking all the ridiculousness out of it, and also making it really nothing like the original any more. Which is sensible obviously, but then why label it paleo, if not just because it’s the fashion?

Anyway, I did want to do something to improve my diet in the new year, because in the run up to Christmas I had gone a bit mad with eating all the sweets – it’s my weakness, I generally eat pretty well, but then have all this unnecessary sugar on top. In the past I’ve cut out sugar completely for a few weeks, but it never lasted, and once I started again, it wouldn’t take long before I was back to having biscuits at any opportunity – it’s so hard to resist when your desk is next to where the whole office puts their brought in treats.

I wanted to do something sustainable, focusing on positive choices, not cutting things out. Plus, being pregnant and all, it’s really not sensible to cut anything out, and it’s difficult enough without throwing a thing that needs lots of willpower. I decided to go for fruit and veg consumption as the most obvious positive choice. I always got my five a day anyway, so I knew that wouldn’t be a challenge. I originally thought about aiming for ten, but I thought that would maybe be a step too far, so went for eight portions a day instead. Which turned out to be just fine

I reached the target every day but one (when I managed 7), although most days I went over by quite a bit – up to 12 on quite a lot of days, and a record of 13. I recorded it most days on Instagram, if details are your thing (I’ll stop that now though, I just wanted to put it in a public place for accountability to change my habits). I’m hoping that a month of counting my portions has changed my habits to the point where I don’t have to count any more. We’ll see!

The main change I made was around lunch, at work I would usually have had a sandwich (one portion if lucky) or oatcakes with cheese (zero), and at the weekend we would often have bagels (zero) or cheese toasties (maybe half a one, if we put in mushrooms). Instead I had salads or leftover from dinners. I also made an effort to always have enough fruit about for snacks – the problem before wasn’t usually that I didn’t want fruit, just that I didn’t have any. Apart from that I didn’t really change much, I usually have a fruit smoothie type thing with oats for breakfast anyway, so I made sure I had that every day, and we have something like pasta, potatoes or rice with veg for dinner. I did get Ottolenghi’s Plenty More for christmas, so there was a few new dishes, but mostly it was really just standard dinner fare, but making sure to put in loads of veg every night.

I didn’t at all try to restrict my consumption of sugars, and certainly not the starchy foods lots of diets try to cut out, so I didn’t. But I did find that I craved sugar less and didn’t have that mid afternoon lull where I just needed some to keep me going. As a result I was able to actually enjoy what I did have more, rather than wolfing it down.

I can’t really say anything about other benefits in terms of how I felt, because when you’re pregnant everything changes every two days anyway. I am having a pretty good second trimester so far, but then I felt good before I started ramping up the fruit and veg consumption, so who knows.

I think it could make a really big difference to people who have a lower starting level though, and it’s easy, and doesn’t funnel money into the hands of the diet industry, or some self-appointed expert, so worth giving it a shot?

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  • Steph 2 February 2015, 1:27 pm

    I am with you on the issues of reading about healthy eating online, it quite often just sets me off on a rant. I have quit exercise groups before due to too much of a focus on diet, not a healthy one but rather on a very prescribed one.
    I have quite enjoyed your fruit & veg log on Instagram, it has inspired me to up my fruit and veg intake. I realised I sometimes don’t even get 5 and I’m vegetarian so really it shouldn’t be that hard! Cheers for the visual kick up the arse I needed – I’m also thinking that an oat smoothie sounds pretty tasty!
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    • Franca 6 February 2015, 10:00 am

      I’m glad you didn’t find it boring! I highly recommend my smoothie: 1 banana, 1 apple, orange juice, natural yoghurt, oats (I tend to not smoothiefy them). 3/5 before you’ve even left the house!