You have a long day at work: you start your morning by grabbing coffee through a drive-thru window because there was no time to make breakfast, and you need the caffeine. Sure, you’ve read all those articles online and in magazines about eating healthy – recipes, new diets, calorie-counting apps– but most options seem too expensive or time-consuming. Besides, what is all the fuss about? Office breaks are meant to recharge with a can of Coke, right?
Simply put, if you don’t eat the right way, you are going to suffer from a number of lifestyle-related disorders even before you even turn 40. Maybe you are already suffering from a few common ones like diabetes, high/or low blood pressure, obesity and the likes.
What’s worse, unhealthy living directly hinders your ability to work productively, eventually making you put your hard earned money towards healthcare. Lengthy office hours, work overload, eating the wrong type of foods, and unhealthy sleeping patterns will broaden your waistline while burning a hole in your pocket.
Simple Steps to Revamp Your Eating Habits
Never sit with a plate filled with food and watch TV or do any other form of activity. Concentrate on what you are eating. Other tasks can wait. It is no secret that people who eat while doing other activities end up eating more than those who don’t, it’s eating while unconscious. The reason is simple: your mind is busy with something else and will not send the right signals to your body, in turn making you forget that you’ve eaten enough (thus, eating more before you feel ‘full).
Add Color to Your Shopping Cart!
Utilize Allah’s (glorified and exalted be He) bounties by filling your basket with all types of fruits and vegetables when you go shopping.
- Red | Lycopene and anthocyanins give a red color to fruits and vegetables. These pigments are known to reduce the chances of developing several types of cancer. Examples include tomatoes, strawberries, red grapes, cherries, watermelon, cranberries, red potatoes, radishes, etc.
- Orange & Yellow | Carotenoids are responsible for giving a yellowish or orange-ish tinge to fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids are converted into vitamin A inside the body and are therefore crucial for maintaining healthy skin and eyes along with boosting your immune system. So, don’t forget to buy carrots, oranges, papayas, pumpkins, pineapples, etc.
- Green | Chlorophyll imparts a green color to fruits and vegetables. Green leafy vegetables and broccoli are amazing sources of B vitamins like riboflavin and folic acid. They are good in vitamin C, calcium, iron and fiber.
- Blue & Purple | Anthocyanins are responsible for giving a blue or purple color. These powerful antioxidants prevent oxidative damage to your cells, in turn protecting you from different types of cancers, premature aging, heart diseases, stroke, etc. Examples include eggplants, blueberries, plums, prunes, purple grapes, etc.
Tips that will Promote Healthy Eating Habits
Eat the right type of foods at the right time and in the right amounts. Eating right will keep your brain active, helping you concentrate better. It will directly prevent lethargy and fatigue, helping your body tick for long hours without facing a breakdown. Remember the Sunnah of filling your stomach with 1/3 food, 1/3 water and leaving the remaining 1/3 portion of your stomach empty.
- Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruits juices. When you do have juice, fresh fruit juices are better than canned/bottled juices.
- Whole grains always score higher than refined products.
- Lean meat, chicken and fish are amazing in terms of nutrients.
- Substitute high fat milk with skim milk.
- Eating 4 to 6 small meals vs. 3 large meals will force your body to work constantly to break down the food particles, giving you a constant dose of energy.
- Do not gulp down food. Proper and slow chewing will not only break down the food particles, making it easier for your digestive system to utilize the nutrients properly, but will also prevent overeating, aiding in weight loss.
- Skipping breakfast should never be an option! It is called “break fast” because you are literally breaking your fast (by not eating for at least 6-8 hours that you spent sleeping). Therefore, your body needs fuel early in the morning. Skipping breakfast will force you to munch foods at abnormal times, forcing you to put on weight. Decreased work output becomes inevitable.
- Junk foods are just that: JUNK! So, stay away from them. (Easier said than done, but when you begin to switch out sugary foods for healthy alternatives, your body will adapt and it will soon begin to reject the unhealthy options that may have once been a temptation!)
How to Snack Healthily
This is by far the most favorite topic amongst teenagers, office goers, stay at home mothers, kids, or just about everyone. Snacking is considered to be more interesting than eating boring meals regularly. Did you know that by snacking smartly, you can burn more calories by forcing your body to work hard and increase its metabolic rate? This doesn’t mean you can reach for the junk food: Here’s how to snack wisely:
- Munching an apple or a pear is a great option for snacking. Packed with the right amount of calories and fiber, these fruits will keep you active and satiated.
- If you find these fruits boring, try hummus which is packed with proteins and unsaturated fat. Apart from being delicious, hummus will boost your body with amazing amounts of proteins, vitamins and minerals. Add nutritious veggies like celery, zucchini slices or carrot into hummus. You can also dip whole grain crackers. However, moderation is a key. Don’t convert your snack time into mealtime(A word of caution: The safety of hummus during pregnancy is highly debated, therefore, pregnant women are requested to consult their doctor before consuming hummus.)
- Adding blueberries, cherries or just about any type of fruit into low fat yogurt is an amazing snack option to consider. A handful of nuts sprinkled on top adds to the nutrient content.
- French fries can be replaced with vegetable soups or chicken soups. They add a lot of minerals and vitamins and are very low in terms of calories.
Cook & Prepare Meals the Healthy Way
While most people concentrate on eating the right type of foods, many forget to inculcate the right type of cooking practices. Improper cooking practices will destroy several nutrients that could have otherwise been saved.
- Remember to steam vegetables wherever possible instead of boiling them. This will save the veggies from being exposed to high amounts of heat, preventing nutrient loss.
- Do not soak vegetables for a long time in water and throw the water away. By doing so, you are flushing nearly 50 percent of the water-soluble vitamins down the drain.
- Broiling or baking instead of frying will help in nutrient retention.
- Do not wash fruits or vegetables after peeling the skin.
- Do not expose fruits or vegetables to atmosphere after chopping them into pieces or after peeling the skin. This will lead to excessive destruction of vitamin C. Consume them immediately.
- Do not wash whole grains excessively. Washing grains repeatedly will lead to an enormous amount of nutrient loss.
How Overeating or Under-Eating Can Decrease Productivity
Overeating will result in excessive production of serotonins, making you feel drowsy. Additional fat consumption will cause numerous diseases to wreck havoc in your life. Under-eating, on the other hand, is extremely dangerous. This will force your brain and body to work on a negative energy balance, resulting in a complete shutdown.
Staring at the computer screen for long hours will damage your eyes and your health, decreasing your concentration power. Remember, your body has a right over you and you should not force it to work like a machine.
Take a break every 30 minutes by looking away from the screen. Use your five-minute break to make a quick dua, recite a few verses of the Quran, or even to breathe deeply and finish it off with Alhamdulillah. Recite Subhan-Allahi wa bihamdihi, Subhan-Allahil-Azim as much as you can in one minute to earn extra reward.
Wasting time is not an option for Productive Muslims. You can also pray two quick nafil rakats. This will boost your work output and spiritual life.
The Secret to a Healthy Lifestyle: Small Consistent Steps
Eating healthily will not deprive your taste buds of savoring delicious foods. Additionally, you do not have to bring about overwhelming changes in the way you eat to live healthy. Small changes like those mentioned above will bring about significant results, insha’Allah: Remember, small consistent deeds are more beloved to Allah (glorified and exalted be He).
1) Abu Hurairah reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “There are two statements that are light for the tongue to remember, heavy in the Scales and are dear to the Merciful: `Subhan-Allahi wa bihamdihi, Subhan-Allahil-Azim [Glory be to Allah and His is the praise, (and) Allah, the Greatest is free from imperfection)’.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
2) A’isha said that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The deeds most loved by Allah (are those) done regularly, even if they are small.” (Bukhari, Muslim)