We speak to nutrition-focused social entrepreneurs to get their tips for a healthy diet when time is at a premium.
We all want to eat healthy, it’s just getting (and staying) there that’s the difficult part. But despite much of it being common sense (green stuff = good, processed stuff = less so), there’s also a lot of misinformation out there on how to eat well. With this in mind, we spoke to Cat Gazzoli, founder of the food education social enterprise Piccolo focused on childhood wellness, and Shenkeri Chandramohan, founder of Food To Heal, an enterprise seeking to improve mental well-being through advancements in food research, to chew the fat on nutrition.
Fuel yourself better with good food
“With most of us living busier, more hectic lives, diet can be low down the priority list,” says Gazzoli, when talking on the impact food choices have on mental health and mood. “But once you focus on making it more important and see changes, it can have such a direct impact on how you feel and how you work.”
There are no surprises that what you put into your body has a direct impact on its overall performance, and Chandramohan has a great analogy for this: “Your gut and brain work like the gears in a car,” she explains. “Food acts as the oil – sustenance for every functionality of your body, especially your brain. Without the right sustenance you may not have a well-oiled machine to be at your best.”
In enterprises, healthy eating comes from the top down
Most people are amazed at how a commitment to healthy eating impacts other areas of their lives; from fitness and sleep, to work life and overall productivity. And it is the latter point that should see more start-ups prioritizing wholesome foods in their company DNA.
“Stocking good foods in the office helps to set the tone and start discussions about healthy eating throughout the workforce,” says Gazzoli. “We prioritize eating together at Piccolo, and regularly bring in food for the whole team to enjoy over meetings. We also stock our kitchen cupboard with fun herbal teas and order big deliveries of fruit or other healthy goodies to the office.”
Use your free time wisely in the kitchen
It’s all well and good taking advantage of the free office fruit, but it’s up to us individually to keep our side of the deal by continuing the healthy momentum when preparing our own food. The difficulty for most here is finding the motivation to do so, especially when cooking for one. So how can this be overcome?
“Don’t set expectations of cooking every night,” says Gazzoli. “You can set aside one night a week to cook lots of food that can be used for the rest of the week – like cooking a whole chicken, or roasting a tray of vegetables. Then you can supplement this with quicker meals throughout the rest of the week, such as stir fries, omelettes and salads, that take minutes to throw together.”
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
Time is certainly the biggest challenge when preparing healthy food – especially when work is busy and fast food looks faster than usual. However, in those hectic weeks, it’s all about forward-planning and using time wisely to get the most out of your meals.
“I’m a big believer of following a meal prep methodology,” says Chandramohan. “Prepare your meals based on how you know you will be feeling throughout the week. Following this will ensure your brain aligns with your biological clock and daily appetite.”
And for Gazzoli? “Quick wins for me make all the difference,” she says. “On a Sunday I make a big batch of soaked oats with loads of nuts, seeds, frozen berries and different fruits. Throughout the week I’ll then decant some each night into a pot to grab and go for breakfast the next day.”
Just as a well-balanced approach to food means taking the good stuff in, it’s equally about ensuring the not-so-good stuff stays out. However, for both Gazzoli and Chandramohan, there aren’t any specific foods we should be keeping at arm’s length – everyone is entitled to a treat every now and then. Rather, it’s fad dieting that’s the greatest concern.
“The big trending diets don’t take into consideration the individual, their history or their behavior patterns,” says Gazzoli. “Following a healthy, balanced approach to diet and exercise shouldn’t be focused on one element or a particular way of eating, but take into consideration the whole person and their environment. Find what works for you.”
Chandramohan is of a similar approach: “If every individual is unique why would we want to assume we all fit a specific diet?” she says. “By eating the food according to your body, you will train yourself to crave the right nutrients.”
It’s out with the diet, in with healthy eating, then.
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