Ask LH: How Can I Start Eating More Healthily?

Ask LH: How Can I Start Eating More Healthily?
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Hey Lifehacker, I am a 6’2″ 20 year old male university student and it is fair to say that my diet is appalling. It basically consists of frozen food (chips, pies, sausage rolls), pasta, bread, two-minute noodles, chocolate and fast food. As a result I have developed somewhat of a gut and man boobs.

By no means am I obese (I am currently 86kg) but my body is something I want looking good. I have started lifting weights at the gym and riding my bike to campus, but it is my diet that is letting me down. What should I be eating and what are some healthy meals that are quick, cheap and easy? Thanks, Moobs

Dear Moobs,

Dude, you are totally asking the wrong person. My diet primarily consists of fast food, potato chips and energy drinks, all of which are consumed at random times of the day. It’s pretty much the worst diet ever. Luckily, there are plenty of other Lifehacker writers who I can shamelessly crib from.

Instead of starving yourself and exercising like a maniac, you should concentrate on the return of investment (ROI) of everything you do. All activities — taking the stairs instead of the elevator, limiting your sodium intake, skipping a second serve at dinner — have a specific ROI for one’s health.

For example, let’s say you cut sugar from your cereal, tea and coffee. If all other factors in your diet and exercise remain the same, you will begin to lose weight (albeit slowly). This article goes into further detail about using ROI to your advantage.

In terms of healthy eating choices, you obviously want to cut back on greasy takeaway and frozen fat-laden foods. A good place to start is the bottom of the food pyramid. According to a recent study, just 2 per cent of Australians eat the minimum daily fruit-and-veg intake recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). If you find it difficult to eat this stuff, you’re probably doing to wrong: the trick is to avoid bland, boring recipes.

Our sister site POPSUGAR Health & Fitness has published a huge number of recipes that use fruit or vegetables as the chief ingredients. Many are specifically designed with quick, fuss-free preparation in mind. You also need to know which supposedly healthy foods to avoid — this article lists some of the main offenders and suggests alternative options to use instead.

Add some fat and protein to the equation via lean meats and you should be golden. If any readers have their own healthy eating tips, let Moobs know in the comments below.


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  • Honestly see a dietician they give good advise. Any advise you get online or from ordinary people is just going to be a fad diet.

    • No, there are plenty of websites with good advice. Try for cutting edge health advice.

  • I went through almost the exact thing at the same age.

    I lost all the weight that I had gained by switching from eating pre-packaged foods to fresh meat and vegetables. It’s not rocket science!

    Some tips –

    You don’t have to break the bank – beef mince, chicken wings and drumsticks are just as affordable as those unhealthy snacks.

    Save time by cooking in bulk and freezing the leftovers – this works especially well for soups and stews that can feature cheap cuts of meat. If you do this then you have healthy home-cooked meals on hand and ready in minutes.

    A few basic recipes –

    Bag of salad with some slices of tomato and carrot, pan fry a chicken thigh and chop it up and put it on top. Make your own dressing with some olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper (or buy a pre-made diet one).

    roast a chicken and some veggies in the same pan, cheap, super easy and will do you a few meals.

    Veggie soup – go to the markets and buy a bunch of cheap veggies chop them up and boil them with some chicken stock. Add some bacon and chicken meat if you want it a bit richer.

    Stir fry – Chicken thigh, beans, carrot (and whatever else is cheap and tasty) add some garlic, ginger, chilli and soy for flavour.

    • Piggy backing off the cooking in bulk comment: I’m a big fan of my slow cooker. Throw in a kg or so chicken thighs, a can of salsa, and some taco seasoning, put it on low for 6 hours or so, and come back to delicious “Mexican” flavoured shredded chicken. You can put it on top of brown rice and quinoa, you can put it in a wrap, you can serve it over salad greens… etc. I make a slow cooked meat most weekends and get 4-5 meals out of it.

  • I am obese and have started to eat better (I hate the word diet, diet sounds temporary) in the last 2 weeks, I have cut out soft drink, and my main meal consists of either a small piece of steak or chicken, and steamed veggies. I have lost 3kgs so far.

    To get started I am substituting breakfast and lunch with Optifast meal replacements and eating a serve of fruit between the meals. After that, breakfast and dinner will consist of veggies and protein. I feel better not putting all that crap into my body, it is all too easy to grab a chocolate bar, or get fast food on the way home from work, but you feel horrible afterwards. I caved to a craving and had chocolate and chips, immediate regret and felt terrible.

    The mind set I have gotten into with fast food is, by the time I drive to the place, order, wait, drive home, I could have cooked a piece of steak on the George Foreman grill and put some steam veggies in the microwave, takes 10 minutes max and the meal probably works out to be under $10, if not under $5, compared to the $12-$20 getting fast food.

    I am going to be getting the gastric sleeve operation next year, they remove a large portion of your stomach, essential leaving a sleeve that can hold about 200ml (1/10th of what the stomach can currently hold). It restricts your eating, as well as removing the part that creates the “hunger hormone”. Obviously if you still try to over eat, you will stretch the stomach back over a period of time, a major adjustment to eating habits has to happen. This procedure wouldn’t be a recommendation for yourself, just eat better, but it does help a lot of people.

    Good luck with changing your eating habits, it is a major challenge, and anyone who says it isn’t has never tried to change.

    • You will regret getting the gastric sleeve, there are too many stories of complication that arise. Keep up with your new eating regime and start exercising more, and you won’t need surgery.

      • I have seen 5 people that I personally know have the sleeve and no issues, they have lost a heap of weight, and kept it off, I know there are risks as there is with any surgery and those are risks I am willing to take. I am terrified I could die while having the operation, or from complications after but I would rather run those risks over the risk dropping dead from a heart attack one day.

  • Roast various veges in bulk (with spices), add a small amount of stir fry meat (eg chicken skewers), and freeze into meal portions. Seriously, just go nuts on the veges. Buy stuff you never have before. That’s reheatable dinners for a whole week right there, and that’s an excellent start.

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