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What An Ideal Healthy Week Of Eating Looks Like

Plus tips for tackling the supermarket so you’re all stocked up.

15/09/2017 7:00 AM AEST | Updated 15/09/2017 7:09 AM AEST
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Hands up if you've made a vow to spring clean your lifestyle now that the warmer weather is on the way? Keep them up if you often fall off the well-intentioned health wagon come Wednesday each week?

Eating well requires planning. If you're prepared you will be far less likely to reach for a food court pad thai in a fit of hunger. So, how do we best prepare for a week of eating well? And what does that look like?

"When it comes to healthy eating, the focus is often on daily requirements – timing of meals and snacks, number of serves, portion sizes and daily calories," Advanced Sports Dietitian Lisa Middleton told HuffPost Australia.

Middleton lent her expertise to help develop the eating plan for the Keep It Cleaner program, a new online wellness offering by Steph Claire Smith and Laura Henshaw.

"When planning your meals, it can be easy to forget about your food and nutrient variety over a week. You may have a perfectly balanced day when it comes to nutrition, but if you repeat this day every day you won't be getting all the nutrients you need."

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Plan for the full week ahead, then hit the supermarket to shop.

"Planning your household menus in advance can help, but even if you aren't a menu-planner, establishing some weekly strategies will provide nourishment to help keep you healthy, happy and energised," Middleton said.

Fruit and vegetables

"You may have heard the 'two and five' message of two serves of fruit per day and five plus serves of vegetables. If you reach this most days you are doing pretty well and if you incorporate different colours, better still."

"But, is it often the same two fruit and five veg that are always in the rotation? Try adding six and six to your two and five -- so six different fruits and six different vegetables every week for different nutrients, fibre and flavour," Middleton said.

Fish and seafood

Even if you love eating fish and seafood, it seems to be a challenge for a lot of people to eat regularly.

"A weekly goal for fish or seafood is at least two to four serves per week for essential omega-3 fatty acid intake. Oily fish like salmon and sardines are the best sources of omega-3, and tinned varieties are equally as beneficial as fresh."

Protein power

Middleton said its best to mix up your protein sources during the week.

"Red meat is an important source of iron. Three to four small serves per week is plenty as there are some health concerns regarding high intakes of meat, particularly processed varieties."

"Other meats, like pork, chicken and turkey are also rich in protein and minerals, and don't forget eggs -- nature's multi-vitamin and a nutritious inclusion in a healthy week."

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Eggs are a great source of protein.

"For vegetarian-style eating, the variety of protein over a week from foods like legumes, tofu and whole grains is critical to get the right balance of amino acids," Middleton said.

Dairy

"Dairy provides high quality protein and calcium, however dairy alternatives are often lacking in these two nutrients, so it's important to check your labels if you are dairy-free."

"Probiotic yoghurts contain good bacteria that have a positive impact on digestive balance and other health aspects, so ensure plenty of probiotic rich foods over your week," Middleton said.

Quality carbs

Make your carbohydrate choices nutrient-dense.

"Go for wholegrains or vitamin-packed starchy vegetables in preference to heavily refined white carbs."

Nuts, seeds and healthy fats

"Choose a variety of different nuts and seeds for vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. Extra virgin olive oil is a sure bet as a cupboard staple for drizzling and dressing," Middleton said.

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Olive oil makes a simple but tasty dressing.

Nothing beats planning and preparation to achieve nutrition, but keep it fun and flexible too.

"There is no such thing as an 'ideal' eating week, but a few easy steps can help improve your nutrient intake, health and well-being," Middleton said.

So now we know what we should be eating, let's go shopping for it.

"For many people, the main strategy we have when supermarket shopping is to remember our green bags and get in and out as quickly as possible -- and home before the frozen stuff melts. Supermarkets on the other hand know us better than we think."

"They know our shopping habits, that we are already in a rush, and have created an environment that can directly influence what we buy and how much. To make nutritious choices we need to be just as strategic to ensure we exit with a healthy trolley and minimal unplanned purchases," Middleton said.

Shop the perimeter

Think about the supermarket layout. The fruit and vegetables are often right near the entrance and there is no better place to start your weekly shop.

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This is the section you want to spend the most time (and money) in.

"Instead of progressing up and down the aisles from there, try heading around the outside edge, where you will find mostly fresh foods like meats, chicken, fish, dairy food, eggs, dips amd the bakery. Most of the foods required for a healthy nutrient intake are found around the edges of the supermarket.

Middleton points out that essentials like milk are often placed at the furthest point from the supermarket entrance.

"It's no coincidence that you then have to walk past every aisle and every end-of-aisle special to get your milk, presenting temptations at every sideways glance."

Write a list

Plan what you need, write it down and stick to it.

"Take a pen with you and cross off items as you find them. Starting with a list and a budget can help you to say no to those extras that so often just seem to jump into your trolley."

Avoid the lolly aisle and use the lolly-free checkouts

Just don't even go there.

"The biscuit aisle is another area of the supermarket that should be labelled 'enter with caution'.

Ben Harding
Step away from this aisle.

The lollies at checkouts were designed originally for families to avoid confrontation with impatient kids, the lolly-free aisles are exactly that -- lolly-free, so helping to eliminate those last-minute impulse buys," Middlton said.

Shop after a meal

Supermarket shopping on an empty stomach can be a formula for poor choices.

"Not only are you hungry, you may have low blood glucose levels that can affect your brain's decision-making ability, leaving you with a trolley full of snacks and goodies that looks like you are preparing for a party."

"If you start your shop well-satiated you may find it easier to make clear and unbiased choices, so your trolley looks more green and lean," Middleton said.

Look above and below

Sometimes the healthiest food options are found right up high or way down low on the shelves, so diverting from eyeline can encourage nutritious choices.

"With so many choices in the big supermarkets, it can be easy to be led astray. Approach your supermarket shop with a plan, to help make strategic choices that support your health, fitness, well-being and vitality."

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