Eating healthy often conjures thoughts of strict diets, number crunching and never ending preparation. It doesn’t have to just mean “restriction” when it comes to being healthy, as there are plenty of other ways you can increase and benefit your health, without feeling like you’re stuck in a jail cell.

Good nutrition doesn’t have to be hard at all, and you can start making improvements instantly with her top eight hacks for a better lifestyle!

1. To increase your control in making a healthy choice at a restaurant review the menu online before going. Plenty of restaurants and cafes are now placing their menu’s online to assist those with food allergies (or the budget conscious). Look up the restaurant or eatery online and take a look at what they have on offer during the time you’ll be visiting them. You’ll be able to have a set idea in your mind of what you will be eating, without being tempted into something not-so-healthy when you get there. This also gives you a chance to work out approximate nutritional values if you are watching your calorie or salt intake. Aim to do it after your last meal or snack when your blood sugar level is not too low and you are more likely to choose foods that are better for you.

2. Keep tempting unhealthy food off your desk and out of sight. The closer and the more visual food is, the more likely we are to eat it, and more of it! Keeping healthy snacks at your desk in case you really need a snack and a bottle of water will ensure you stay hydrated during the work day. At home, if you really need to have some tempting snacks or treats at home, keep them at the back of the cupboard or fridge where they are not in plain sight. This means you are more likely to only eat them if you really want to and won’t be snacking on them regularly.

3. Aim for 2-3 legume based meals per week, such as lentil or bean soups, salads or curries, chickpea burgers or home-made hummus with falafels, or kidney bean enchiladas. Legumes are high fibre, have a low glycaemic index, are a great source of vegetable protein, are a good source of B vitamins, are low in sodium and low in fat and are gluten free (suitable for people with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity).

4. Eat a whole foods plant-based diet – plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. The research has linked diets rich in whole plant foods with longer and healthier lives. Shivaun’s Bruschetta on spelt toast recipe is packed full of whole grains and veggies, get it on Instagram here. Whole food plant-based diets are also low in calories, fats and can help you to feel satisfied and fully for longer. These kinds of meals needn’t be boring as there are so many types of meals and recipes that you can try out with these simple ingredients. Take a look online at some more recipes that include these foods.

5. Swap sugary drinks with sparkling natural mineral water or soda water with slices of fresh lime, lemon or orange. Plain water can get boring at times and it’s easy to switch it for sugary soft drinks instead. Sugar filled soft drinks have plenty of empty calories in them, as well as high sugar content which can lead to bad dental hygiene. There are plenty of flavoured sparkling mineral water products on the market if you don’t feel like adding your own fresh fruits, which will help you to get the fizzy fix you’re looking for without the calories.

6. Check for teaspoons of added sugar (4g = 1 teaspoon) in packaged products like yoghurt, cereal, drinks and sauces. Plenty of food items may have ingredients which may seem hard to pronounce or seem very “scientific”. Sugar has also been disguised on food labels by renaming the sugar altogether. Look for ingredients/sugar names that end in “-ose” such as sucrose, maltose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, galactose, lactose, high fructose corn syrup and glucose syrups. There are other ingredients such as cane juice, dextrin, maltodextrin, barley malt, sorghum syrup and fruit juice which are all types of sugar.

7. Keep back up meal options on hand for busy nights, such as frozen salmon, white fish, chicken or red meat, frozen vegetables, tins of tuna and salmon, pasta, quinoa, rice, or rice noodles, tins of crushed tomatoes, corn or legumes with plenty of herbs and spices to give flavour. Having these kinds of foods on hands means you are less likely to order in some take-away for delivery to your home. It is so easy to pick up the phone or go online and order some take-away, which means you’ll be likely to eat unhealthily. Having quick, healthy meals ready at home will help you to stay on track. Another great way to have quick, healthy meals on hand is to prepare meals ahead of time. It is simple to create a healthy meal early in the week and freeze portions for eating later on in the week.

8. Aim for vegetables to make up > 50% of at least 2 meals per day.  As most vegetables are low in fat and calories, they are a great choice to bulk up your meals and provide the much needed nutrients that they can provide.  No vegetables have cholesterol in them, making them the perfect choice for those with cholesterol problems, or those wanting to avoid high cholesterol.  Eating a diet rich in vegetables has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.  Eating a diet high in vegetable content can also reduce the risk of forming some cancers.  If you’re looking to reduce your overall calorie intake, increasing your vegetables in meals will be able to help you achieve this.  Shivaun’s prawn salad recipe featuring tomatoes, spinach, avocado and herbs is a winning if you’re trying to up your veggie intake!