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Here is a roundup of various questions I’ve been asked, and answers I’ve written about everyday healthy eating and lifestyle challenges. In a nutshell, it all revolves around effective ways to eat healthy every day and how to make it personally sustainable.

Q1: How can I satisfy sweet cravings without consuming excessive amounts of refined white sugar?

The best way is to substitute with unrefined sugars or sugar alternatives.

Sugar replacements you can try:

  1. Coconut sugar (granules)
  2. Maple Syrup
  3. Cinnamon
  4. Stevia or Xylitol – these are white granules that resemble white refined sugar; you can process them (food processor) into a fine white powder that resembles powdered sugar (use for baking).
  5. Raw Honey – is much healthier than cheaper processed honey; has more medicinal qualities
  6. Banana – you can use it in baking, even granola, as it caramelizes any sweet recipe mixture
  7. Dates – this is a popular replacement for sugar in smoothiessmoothie bowls, and bliss/protein balls (great craving swop for traditional chocolate bars)
  8. Dark chocolate (70% or more) – replacement for Candy / Milk Chocolate; Flavored nuts & seeds; Fruit-flavored Gelatine

Craving Swap:

Here’s a delicious and very nutritious sweet snack that you can make regularly. Store it in a big batch to dip into when you have a sweet craving.

Kids will love these.

Healthy Gummies – easiest recipe ever. View it here.

Want more?

Here’s a great beginner’s list of healthy swaps:

This a helpful reference while you’re cooking or making your grocery list for the week or month. Find out what you can swap out for ‘bad’ sugars, red meat, and so much more.

Download it now:

FREE Guide to Healthy Swaps

Q2: What prebiotic and probiotic foods are safe for people with gut issues?

Prebiotic foods:

Prebiotics feed the microbiome, the good bacteria present in the gut. These foods are a type of fiber that feed bacteria in your gut. Not all fibrous foods are prebiotic though1.

Prebiotics promote the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut. So, it’s important for maintaining a healthy digestive system.

Here’s a list of prebiotic foods:
  • Apples
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Bananas
  • Oats
  • Apples
  • Chicory Root
  • Dandelion Green
  • Leeks
  • Asparagus
  • Barley
  • Cocoa
  • Flaxseed

Probiotic foods:

Probiotics are live microorganisms that improve gut health.

Often referred to as ‘good’ bacteria because they maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms in your gut.

The most common types of bacteria used as probiotics include strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These bacteria are naturally found in the human gut and play a crucial role in maintaining digestive health and supporting the immune system.

Here’s a list of probiotic foods:
  • Kefir
  • Yogurt
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi
  • Yoghurt – the best option here especially Greek Yoghurt

Tip If you have skin sensitivities or dairy intolerance, Kefir is an excellent alternative. It’s alkaline and anti-inflammatory. Very good for eczema-affected skin.

Gut-healthy foods that build a good gut microbiome include:

  • Broccoli, Almonds, Dark chocolate, Red Wine – Contains polyphenols that can’t be digested, but are digested by bacteria in the colon.
  • Lentils and Bananas – Generally a plant-based diet is a good choice to improve gut microbiome because of its high fiber content.
  • Whole grains and Oats – Contain Beta-Glucan that’s transported to the large intestine to promote good bacteria growth.
  • Flaxseeds and Chia seeds – Both are high in fiber and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.
  • Cabbage – Fermented foods like Sauerkraut and Kefir. These foods also contain Probiotics that can restore the microbiome to its original state (especially after a course of antibiotics), but it doesn’t populate it with bacteria. So just repairs it!
  • Prebiotic foods – Promote the actual growth of gut-friendly bacteria.

Check out this article for a list of foods and ingredients with gut health benefits.

Watch the video for ideas for how to eat healthy on a budget
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Edited in: Canva | Graphics & Photo credit: Crave NC

Q3: What healthy habits can improve my overall well-being?

Wake up routine

In the morning upon waking, drink any one of these:

  • cool filtered water
  • hot water with lemon
  • room temperature filtered water with apple cider vinegar

This helps get everything going, to maintain a good bowel movement every morning.

Make some Vitamin D

Aim to get at least 10–15 minutes of sunshine every day

It helps produce vitamin D naturally. Also if you have any skin ailments (like eczema), the UV rays act like phototherapy and reduce chronic inflammation in the skin.

Walk

Walk for 1–2 km daily to include movement into your daily routine – good for cardiovascular and mental health.

Decompress and calm your mind

Meditation daily – this is the best way to decompress and calm your mind and any ‘racing’ thoughts.

How to do a 5-minute meditation:
  • sit in an upright, comfortable position for 5 minutes every day
  • focus on breathing in and out normally, nothing forced
  • the idea is to return to the center, focus your breath, and clear your mind
  • get to a place of zero thinking (no racing mind)
  • if any images – unwanted or triggering ones – enter your mind, just watch it, don’t judge it
  • let any unwanted thoughts – it’s very normal, so don’t just yourself for it – go by, let them drift passed you
  • return to the center and your breath

This is great for reducing blood pressure and decompressing during the day, after dealing with any stressors.

The best way to get through meditation is not to judge your thoughts ie. the thoughts and images that pop into your mind as you’re breathing slowly in and out.

Eat alkaline foods

Alkaline foods curb inflammatory effects in the body. It is fantastic for gut health.

If you include these foods in your diet, you’ll be looking after gut health all the time without having to reach for a quick remedy when things come to a halt.

Healthy cravings

Find healthy alternatives to comfort foods and healthy cravings.

I like to indulge in a greasy burger or sugary donut once a week. But, the rest of the time I make sure that I’m swapping unhealthy foods for healthy ones.

For example, here’s a list of how to eat healthily:
  • eat dark chocolate as opposed to milk chocolate
  • swap fizzy drinks for fruit-infused water
  • white sandwich bread for gluten-free alternatives
  • dairy-milk for plant-based alternatives
  • sugary, dairy milkshakes for a healthy smoothie made with a plant-based milk
  • dairy butter or margarine for ghee or extra virgin olive oil
  • allergen-containing ingredients for allergen-free ingredients

Learn nutritional cooking

Learn clean eating, healthy cooking, or nutritional cooking, ie. learning to meal prep and cook with healthy foods and healing ingredients. And there is a technique to it because it’s not as simple as throwing fruits and veggies into all recipes and expecting to transform your health.

Read up on what nutritional constituents can be found in various foods and ingredients – find it all on this blog (shameless self-promotion here!)

You’ll be surprised by how many obscure foods can be cooked with and for very cheap too.

Learn what spices can be used as salt alternatives, can reduce stress (adaptogens), and what superfoods (max nutrients in a small portion) to eat.

Limit your Salt intake

Keep your salt intake to 1 teaspoon a day.

Swap iodized table salt with rock salt or lemon.

Salt is important for survival, so don’t exclude it completely. Just keep it at the minimum required level to avoid heart health issues later, especially if you already have high blood pressure.

Hydration

Hydration is crucial. No explanation is required here. The effects of dehydration can lead to dizziness or feeling lightheaded as well as dryness in the mouth and lips2. You could experience symptoms like a dark coloration of urine and fatigue and headaches.

Drink the amount of water required in proportion to your BMI. It’s not the same for everyone.

Eat an all-rounded healthy diet

Avoid detoxes and extreme diets.

Use your intuition to guide your eating. Listen to what your body tells you. If you’re not hungry, don’t eat just because everyone else is eating. And keep portions in moderation.

Treat yourself to ‘junk food’ once a week, bearing in mind that these days, there are so many healthy burgers on the menu as well as healthy ‘fries’… think roasted (baked not fried) sweet potato wedges sprinkled with pink rock salt, rosemary and topped with Italian garlic Aioli – yum!

Q4: How can I increase my fruit and vegetable intake?

The best way is to integrate it into meals you consume a lot of.

Eating habits usually fall into two categories:
  • Meals you consume based on habit, budget constraints, cooking skill
  • Meals you consume based on emotional eating such as cravings, binges, addictive behaviors

I find it easier to start here because it’s familiar, whether healthy or unhealthy. It’s more achievable to form a habit using something relatable.

I had to do this myself, especially when I studied to be a CNE. I had to unlearn a lot of poor eating habits. And these were not even that bad, I just, like yourself, wasn’t eating enough of the good stuff. And I didn’t have enough culinary skills to cook the right foods.

Incorporating fruits and veggies can be really easy. Here’s a list to start with:

  • Add more soup recipes to your meal plans. It’s a great way to add veggies that are not only healthy but have powerful healing qualities that target certain functions over and above the basic nutrient content.
  • For example, you may be deficient in iron, and fiber or need an omega-3 boost that targets heart health as well as builds your gut microbiome. You can tackle both these at the same time.
  • Source as many vegetable soup recipes as you can. Prep these in advance so you always have a supply in the fridge or freezer to warm up. Have at least 1 cup every day, 7 days a week, any time of the day.
  • This way, you don’t have to worry about ordering veggies on the side when you eat out.
  • The liquid form is also the easiest way to just get it into your system if the idea of fruit and veg doesn’t get you excited. There is a cold soup version as well, great for summer.
When you make meal prep effortless, it makes eating it easier. Best way to form a habit.
  • Meal prep skills are crucial as it makes consuming these a no-brainer. When you master meal prep for the week/month, you’re able to prepare more and more meals containing fruits and veggies without the fuss of prepping from scratch every day.
  • Cravings – This is the easy one. When you learn how to make healthier alternatives for sweets, desserts, and junk foods, it’s life-changing. It’s the easiest way to weave in fruits and veggies into meals as you’re tricking your mind into thinking it’s your favorite cravings or binge food.
  • For example, if french fries are your go-to snack, swap these out for healthy, over-baked crispy sweet potato wedges or fries. You can season wedges with Nando’s spice. You can dip the fries into a creamy hummus seasoned with paprika or a garlic aioli made with vegan (plant-based) mayo.
  • Everything in this simple dish is just vegetables and nothing else.
  • Or how about fruit juice gummies? Kids and adults love them alike. It contains two ingredients ie. pure blueberry juice and gelatin. The health benefits of both these plant-based foods are astounding.

Now imagine applying that concept to every other dish you like eating. You’ll naturally be eating more fruits and veggies in no time, without having to go on a restrictive diet.

Q5: If I learn how to cook, will it benefit my health and well-being, and how?

For a start, you’ll get to control what goes into your food. It’s all about food content and taste.

When you learn how to cook, especially healthy cooking, you will learn and want to know more about foods and ingredients.

For instance, what they are; what options there are to cook with; where it’s grown; how far it had to travel to get to your table; where to find nutritional, cheap, and interesting ingredients; what the best and most cost-effective cooking techniques are that won’t harm your health (eg. heart-healthy oils to cook with), etc.

There are a multitude of aspects that contribute to what you cook and how you cook it.

When you are doing it yourself, trust me, you’ll want to know more. It’s just how it goes.

Learning to cook is so much fun and the enjoyment can mostly be attributed to feeling so empowered by it. It will give you a huge confidence boost.

The best part is that you don’t need to become a brilliant home cook to cook amazing food.

Culinary Nutrition

The trick to learning how to cook is understanding the culinary potential of foods, their nutritional profile, the right cooking techniques, and meal prep hacks. It’s that simple.

The way to up-level your cooking experience these days is to learn healthy cooking. I’m a healthy cook and culinary nutrition expert, but I don’t need to sell that to you. Cooking healthy is in everyone’s consciousness now.

It’s a level of cooking that many deem more expensive, but it has a way of saving you effort and money in the long run. Plus, your health will improve in whatever way you want it to. So ultimately, this is the best end game for learning to cook ie. to do it healthfully.

It doesn’t require a major investment. It’s just a matter of tweaking your pantry a bit and updating it with some healthier, less processed ingredients. And then learning healthier and less costly techniques for cooking.

Healthy cooking is a version of cooking worth considering. If you’d like to know a bit more, you can read this article.

Conclusion

It always amazes me how many people want to learn how to cook nutritionally. People are keen to learn more simply because healthy cooking techniques can improve the taste of vegetables and other whole foods.

And if the taste is improved, so will your intake of it.

Healthy eating does not need to be expensive.

You can reduce food and cooking costs by:
  • growing your food
  • buying in bulk
  • meal prepping smartly
  • learning to cook from scratch

People understand that knowing how to eat healthy – and cooking with healthy foods -, can only have long-term, positive effects on physical as well as mental health.

Health-building and healing should be motivational factors in the way you choose your foods and how you prepare them.

If you’re feeling inspired to eat more nutritional foods and learning how to swap your unhealthy cravings for healthier ones, download my FREE guide:

FREE Guide to Healthy Swaps. This is a great reference for cooking dishes that mimic your favorite cravings.

FREE Ultimate Guide to Pantry Essentials. A perfect guide for how to stock or restock your pantry and fridge with healthy-building ingredients. And I highly recommend having this on hand, so download it now.

And if you haven’t yet, download my FREE How to Eat Healthy on a Budget ebook.

If you liked this blog post, you’ll love this article about healthy eating on a budget.

Feel free to leave a comment, I value your feedback.

*cravenutritionalcooking.com does not give medical advice. Where there is a reference to it, the phrasing is used to illustrate a point or give context to food and cooking for nutrition. It is not related to a specific condition or any specific individual. Always consult your healthcare professional for medical and dietetic advice before embarking on any type of eating plan or ingesting nutritional supplements.

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