11 ways to make your diet healthier, from ZOE nutritionists
Are you keen to make changes to your diet but don’t know where to start?
We hear you — the world of nutrition is complicated, and advice can vary wildly depending on who you ask.
Thankfully, ZOE’s nutritionists have already scoured textbooks and papers and have access to ZOE’s unique data and research.
So, we asked each of them to give us one simple tip to help you improve your diet. And this is what they shared.
1. Choose new plants
Every time you go to the supermarket, pick up a fruit or vegetable you haven't tried before or haven't had for a while.
Eating lots of plants is great, but the magic happens when you eat lots of different plants.
This is because different plants contain different types of fiber that feed different gut microbes. Diversity is key.
— Rachel, MSc, ANutr
2. Eat the skins
Eat the skins of fruit and veg to boost your fiber intake. Fiber is incredibly important for your gut health, and the skins of fruit and veg provide an extra boost.
And when you add fiber to a meal that contains digestible carbs, it can help reduce your blood sugar response.
So, when you’re adding a sweet potato to your plate, why not keep the skin on for added texture and fiber?
— Shannah, ANutr
3. Add beans to grains
Add beans or pulses to grains to easily boost your protein and fiber intake.
The high fiber will help slow glucose release from the carbohydrates, reducing your blood sugar response. And the increased protein may help to keep you fuller for longer.
Fiber is important for gut health, and protein is part of every cell in your body. Go forth and boost that plant protein.
— Steph, MSc, ANutr
4. Vary your textures
Include a variety of textures in every meal. People tend to eat slower when their food has more texture. And research suggests that a faster eating rate may be linked to poorer health outcomes.
Foods with more texture are also likely to increase your fiber intake and a range of healthy plant compounds called polyphenols.
Both of these help beneficial bacteria in your gut to survive and thrive.
A meal with diverse textures also encourages mindful eating, which can help reduce overeating by allowing your body time to register that you’re full.
Here are some ways to increase the variety of textures in your diet:
Add a handful of mixed seeds: An excellent source of fiber.
Add toasted chopped nuts: A nutrient powerhouse.
Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil: A rich source of polyphenols.
Add crispy roasted chickpeas: A great way to weave in some more plant-based protein.
Add some popcorn to your afternoon snack: An extra plant point for the week.
— Cecilia, MSc, ANutr
5. Focus on adding foods
Focus on what you can add to your plate, not what you can take away.
For example, can you add some nuts to your usual afternoon snack, a piece of fruit to your breakfast, or a new plant to your dinner?
Adding and not restricting plays in favor of your psychology — humans are attracted to abundance, giving you a sense of freedom with your diet.
Also, it can increase your plant diversity and boost your fiber and polyphenol intake. Wins all around.
— Inês, MSc, ANutr
6. Try a veggie subscription box
If you have access to or can afford it, vegetable subscription boxes offer a fantastic opportunity to bring diversity into your diet with ease.
These boxes typically provide a selection of fruits and vegetables that you might not have chosen at the supermarket, adding variety and new flavors to your meals.
They also create an opportunity to be more experimental in the kitchen, trying new recipes and flavors.
— Abbi, MSc, ANutr
7. Add chia seeds
Sprinkling some chia seeds on your breakfast or salad is an easy way to boost fiber intake. Chia seeds have almost 3 grams of fiber per heaped tablespoon serving.
Fiber helps feed your gut microbes, and chia seeds are a good source of high-quality fats, too.
— Aimee, , MSc, ANutr
8. Think about cooking methods
Where possible, try to choose options like grilling, steaming, poaching, or boiling instead of frying or using batter. You can make a significant difference to your overall health over time.
For example, grilling your favorite chicken or fish allows the excess fat to drip away while still keeping the flavor intact.
Steaming your veggies helps retain their nutrients without adding any extra oils.
Poaching or boiling can also be a fantastic way to cook delicate foods like eggs or fish, preserving their natural taste and texture.
If you do need to fry something, it's a good idea to choose healthier oils like extra virgin olive oil.
It’s rich in monounsaturated fats and contains antioxidants like polyphenols and vitamin E, which help protect cells from damage and can reduce inflammation.
You might have heard that frying with olive oil is a bad idea. However, unless you’re reusing the oil multiple times or cooking on a very high heat for a long time, it’s perfectly fine.
— Lettie, ANutr
9. Buy frozen
Frozen fruit and vegetables can be just as, if not more, nutritious than fresh!
Fruits and vegetables have the highest nutritional value when they're freshly picked, but their nutrients slowly decrease as time passes.
Freezing them soon after harvesting helps slow down this nutrient loss, preserving their nutritional content for longer.
This is a great way to get more variety into your diet and boost your fiber intake while reducing food waste. Also, they tend to be cheap and readily available.
— Aoife, MSc, ANutr
10. Use herbs and spices
Don't worry about being limited to boring foods when aiming for a healthy, balanced diet.
Embrace the use of herbs and spices to add flavor to your meals, ensuring your taste buds remain delighted with each dish.
By incorporating a variety of plants into your diet, you'll achieve a well-rounded, nutritious, and delicious eating experience.
After all, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is all about finding the perfect balance.
— Zainab, MSc, ANutr
11. How to boost your plant count
Boosting your daily intake of fruits and vegetables can be as easy as integrating them into your regular meals.
If you find it challenging to meet your recommended five a day, consider disguising them within your everyday dishes.
— Amal, ANutr
Here are some ways to achieve this from Amal and Danae, MSc, ANutr:
Sneak some veggies into your morning scrambled eggs or omelet.
Toss a generous helping of salad into your lunchtime sandwiches.
Chop up a variety of vegetables to sauté and mix with rice, creating a more nutrient-dense carbohydrate option for dinner.
Add chickpeas to your Greek salad, butter beans to a green salad, or black beans to a tomato avocado salad.
White beans are especially versatile, so keep some tins handy in the cupboard. Drain and rinse them well before adding. You’ll boost the flavor and texture, but also the nutritional value.
On the topic of boosting your plant count, Alice, ANutr, suggests you keep your kitchen stocked up with products that last and are easy to add to meals. This also helps reduce food waste.
Tinned lentils and beans.
Frozen edamame beans and peas.
Jars of sauerkraut, kimchi, gherkins, pickled beetroot, and olives.
We hope these tips will be useful to you. Let us know which ones you try!