It’s that time of year again, when we are thinking of the same old New Year’s resolutions – to eat healthily, lose weight, reduce alcohol etc etc. Some of us may have decided to do ‘veganuary’ or ‘Dry January’ – or even both!
I have spent many years attacking January with a great abstemious gusto ( if that’s actually possible!) My experience over the years has been that any resolutions that are too harsh and extreme, will never last past February. Instead, I now take a much more forgiving approach to a healthier lifestyle, and I’ve found that this gives long term health benefits and frees me from guilt when I have the odd chocolate or glass of wine.
Here are my ideas for a healthier 2020
- Start the day with a mug of warm water with a squeeze of lemon. This will boost your metabolism .
- Eat protein – eat some protein with every meal- e.g. yoghurt, eggs, chicken, lean meat, fish, pulses, beans, nuts and seeds. Try to eat organic as much as possible to avoid hormones and antibiotics found in non – organic meat. Plant based proteins like pulses and legumes, as well as proteins in vegetables, are very healthy so try to eat at least half of your proteins from this source.
- Eat lots of vegetables – as much as you like and aiming for 7-8 portions a day. Vegetables are so nutritious, full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that give a fantastic anti-oxidant benefit to your body. Not only that, they are full of fibre including plenty of the non-soluble type, which giving your beneficial gut bacteria something to feed on. In return your gut bacteria will produce wonderful Short Chain Fatty Acids that are needed for a healthy gut lining, as well as making some B and K vitamins for you
- Eat wholegrains like brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat and fibrous vegetables. Restrict bread to a small slice or two a day if you must and ensure it’s whole grain and/or sourdough.
- Eat some nutrient dense fruit – around 2-3 portions a day
- Eat good fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Butter and coconut oil are also healthy if not eaten to excess. Fat fills you up and is also needed to help your body absorb the vitamins from your vegetables
- Eat fish. Its full of protein, not only that, but oily fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring and trout are full of healthy Omega 3 fats which reduce inflammation which is helpful if you’re trying to lose weight
- Drink plenty of water and herbal teas. Aim for 2 litres a day
- Ensure you have a gap of at least 12 hours between your dinner and breakfast the next day. This intermittent fasting helps keep down your insulin levels and gives every cell in your body enough time to clean up without having to cope with more glucose and insulin. Its good to increase that gap to 16 hours twice a week too if you can manage it.
- Monitor portion sizes. No limit on non-starchy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, courgettes, salad leaves etc. A portion of wholegrain carbs, such as brown rice, buckwheat or starchy vegetables like sweet potato or squash, should be the size of half a tennis ball; a piece of fish the size of a chequebook; meat or poultry the size of your palm and fats the size of your thumb.
- Exercise daily. Not excessively, as this can raise cortisol levels, which can ultimately make your body hold on to fat, but 30 minutes 4-5 times a week at least. Weight training essential to help you build muscle
What not to do
- Don’t eat refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, cakes and biscuits.
- Don t eat any processed foods if you can avoid them. They are often full of hidden sugars which make you crave even more sweetness after you have eaten them.
- Don’t eat any sugar either in cakes, sweets of drinks. It causes blood sugar hikes and troughs and will make you hungrier as well as adversely affecting insulin levels. Avoid diet drinks too – not only are they full of chemicals but they trick your body into thinking you’re eating sugar making you crave more sugar.
- Avoid trans fats like margarine, as well as vegetable oils like sunflower
- Don’t drink alcohol when you’re trying to lose weight, it’s just full of empty calories and will weaken your will power.
- Don’t constantly weigh yourself. It’s not the best way to assess a healthy weight – remember that muscle weighs more than fat. Look at inches if you must.
- Don’t graze and pick at food all day. Just eat three well balanced meals a day.
Focus on eating a healthy nutrient dense diet
Don’t focus on calories and cutting them down. Yes, it might help you lose weight in the short term but you ll not be able to sustain it indefinitely.
Going on ‘A Diet’ is a short-term strategy and usually leads to short term success only
Changing your eating habits to healthy ones is the only way to gain long term satisfaction with your weight.