*** Nutrition experts analyse five very different diets – and offer simple tweaks we can all learn from
Mindless snacking, ever-larger portions and pints of coffee are just a few of the things that conspire to make us consume more than we realise. If you feel you could be eating better – and feeling better – a food diary is a good place to start.
Being aware of what you eat, and when, can help you understand the why: are you really hungry? Perhaps you ate that entire chocolate-orange stollen because you’re stressed, time-pressed or bored?
Five Telegraph writers (aged between 25 and 56, with very different diet and exercise habits) kept detailed food diaries over a week (edited down to four days here for reasons of space), noting down everything they ate and drank. Perhaps you’ll recognise some of your own foibles – Pret for lunch every day? Gin as a coping mechanism? – in their accounts.
These were given to nutrition experts Dr Rangan Chatterjee (GP, host of the Feel Better, Live More podcast and author of The Stress Solution), and Dr Hazel Wallace (author of The Food Medic: Recipes and Fitness for a Healthier, Happier You), who analysed them carefully – and came up with easy diet and lifestyle tweaks for each.
Jonny’s mornings are crazy: stress really impacts our food choices and in that chaos it’s hard for him to make good choices. Maybe if he could do a 10-minute morning routine, where he sat in silence with his coffee, or plugged in a meditation app and grounded himself, it would be a great way of getting his body and mind in a good place for the rest of the day.
It’s clear that he’s using caffeine to keep himself going. The half-life of coffee is about six hours, so if you have one at lunchtime a quarter of that will still be in your blood at midnight. It will almost certainly be affecting his sleep and he’s going to be waking up tired and more prone to stress.
It’s the same with alcohol. By Friday night, Jonny is free-pouring G&TS. There’s no way he’s going to sleep well. I don’t want to be a killjoy, but I think he is trying to soothe the stress in his life with alcohol and coffee. A midweek yoga class either on his way home or online after the kids are in bed would break that stress cycle that sends him hurtling towards the weekend.
Overall, Jonny has a pretty balanced diet: it’s great to see he has a good home-cooked dinner every night, which is often a vegetable dal or pasta dish. He could consider making twice as much for dinner and bringing some for lunch the next day. To get some additional vegetables into his diet, he could add a portion of cooked greens or salad, and chop up some vegetables to have with hummus as a mid-afternoon snack.
Breakfast seems to be a grab-and-go situation – to combat this, he could prepare his breakfast the night before. This might be overnight oats, or Greek yogurt with fruit and granola, or a protein shake with a banana.