It’s that time of year when we start to think about getting on to those new year resolutions and making healthier lifestyle changes. We often make the mistake of going full force only to find ourselves falling off the health wagon because it is all too hard. Making healthier choices need not be daunting. The secret is to make gentle daily changes that are sustainable.
• Eat more fruit and vegetables.
Most of us are not eating anywhere near the recommended amount so congratulate yourself every time you introduce a new vegetable into your mealtime. Vegetables are high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and they are rich in fibre. Fibre is important for our cardiovascular system, it helps to remove toxins from the body, regulates hormone health and is important for a healthy gut. Aim to include 2 vegetables with every meal and a couple of pieces of fruit. Simple swaps like swapping margarine for avocado or adding sliced tomato to your avo on toast, eating a raw carrot as a snack, having greens and fruit in a smoothie or add chopped veggies such as carrots and zucchini to your spaghetti Bolognese can make a significant difference to how you feel.
• Mix it up.
If you eat the same foods every day it could put you at risk of nutritional deficiencies. We need a variety of different foods to supply the important nutrients we need to keep healthy and strong. Try making small changes such as mixing up the veggies in your salads or trying a different breakfast every day. You will be surprised at how much more exciting meal times will become.
• Drink less alcohol.
Alcohol can affect nutrient absorption, play havoc with hormone balance, digestion and sleep. If you drink everyday start by reducing the amount you drink e.g. if you have two drinks a night cut back to one, then alternate days and then cut back to weekends only.
• Replace negative habits with good ones.
If you know that 4pm in the afternoon is when you have a cup of tea and half a packet of biscuits trying to simply stop the biscuits will only end up with a feeling of deprivation which usually only lasts for a few days. It is important to replace negative habits with ones that make you feel good. Try going for a walk instead or a yoga class and see how good you feel.
• Portion control.
Most of us eat too much. Try making your portion sizes smaller especially with foods such as breads, potatoes, pasta and rice. Make vegetables the main part of your meal with a side of protein and carbs. You can download portion size guidelines under factsheets.
Congratulate yourself for every small positive change that you make. Remember it is the things that you do every day that have the long term effects on our health.