After all the good food and merriment that you have enjoyed during Christmas and New Year’s, it can be hard to follow your resolutions.
We all love to indulge ourselves over Christmas. But as the new year dawns, many of us resolve to eat and drink less, and exercise more – only to find our motivation disappearing within weeks.
Hannah Coleman, a specialist dietitian here at Shalbourne Private Health Care in Swindon, says it is easier to adopt a healthier lifestyle long term if we obey some simple rules.
- We need to be clear in our own minds about why we want to do it
- We need to be able to fit it around our normal lives
- We need to enjoy it
Hannah says that many people are not able to maintain their new regimes because they require such a radical departure from their normal routines. “Eating well and getting regular exercise is important because it greatly reduces your chances of developing chronic illnesses and increases the likelihood that you will enjoy a long and active life,” says Hannah. But it’s far better to make changes that you – and your family – can live with longterm, and that don’t feel punishing. Infact, most of us can make relatively minor tweaks to our daily lives that will help us avoid ill health and feel full of energy.
“So understand what’s in the food that you eat, learn to enjoy cooking food from scratch, and gradually introduce more exercise in to your life. You don’t need to join a gym or sign up to a football team if that’s not your idea of fun – but find something that works for you. Try getting off the bus a stop earlier on your way to work, or walking briskly to the shops rather than taking the car or ordering online. Make it a habit to use stairs rather than escalators or lifts, and if your job is sedentary take a walk at lunchtime or even go for a pre-work walk or swim.
“At home, walk around while you’re on the phone, use a push lawn mower to cut the grass, and make gardening a regular activity. Or join a walking group, and make some new friends at the same time. Did you like playing netball at school? Why not search for your nearest walking netball club? If you’re enjoying yourself, you’ll enjoy the exercise that comes with it.”
Why does lifestyle matter?
Adopting a healthier lifestyle can literally save your life. Around 40 per cent of cancers in women and 45 per cent in men could be prevented by reducing or quitting smoking, drinking less, losing weight and taking more exercise, Cancer Research UK has found. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing many other long-term conditions, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and stroke. Physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, and reduce the risk of developing stress, depression and dementia.
Enjoy eating your way to better health
The current trend for television programmes like Bake Off and MasterChef has rekindled a passion among the UK population for delicious homemade food. And the occasional cake or high-calorie meal is a treat we all enjoy. But too many calories or unbalanced diets rich in processed foods can be a threat to health. Fortunately, many of the foods that are good for us are also delicious. It’s worth learning which types of ingredients are essential for good health, and which should only be eaten occasionally, so that you can opt for tasty but sensible foods whether eating out or at home.
Did you know that:
Starchy foods provide a wide range of essential nutrients, give us energy, and should make up just over a third of our diet. Choose higher fibre whole grain varieties, such as wholewheat or high-fibre pasta and brown rice, and leave skins on potatoes.
Fruit and veg should also make up just over a third of our daily diet. We should all eat at least five 80g portions of a variety of fruit and veg, and more if we can. Aim for as many different coloured fruit and veg as possible, as different colours mean different types of nutrients. But don’t over do the juicing – limit yourself to a combined total of 150ml of fruit juice and smoothies a day.
Dairy such as milk, cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais contain protein and vitamins, as well as calcium which can help protect us from the potentially dangerous bone-thinning disease, osteoporosis. Opt for lower fat versions, such as semi-skimmed milk, and choose yoghurt with 5g of sugar or less, for a healthy choice.
Protein, our bodies’ building blocks, can be found in fish, eggs and meat (and in pulses such as lentils, peas and beans if you are aiming to eat a more plant-based diet). Pulses are also low in fat and high in fibre (which is great for your gut and can lower cholesterol levels). If you increase your fibre intake, increase your water in take too.
If you’re a meat eater, go for lean cuts, eat moderate amounts of red meat and make bacon, ham, sausages and other processed meats an occasional treat, not the norm.
Some fats are good for you in moderation. They help you absorb vitamins and are used by your brain and nervous system. Look for unsaturated fats on labels – vegetable oils such as rape seed, olive and sunflower oils are all “goodfats”. Oily fish such as salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, sardines and pilchards are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids which are good for heart health. Remember all fats are high in energy – ie calories – though, so eat moderately.
Sugary foods – cake, chocolate, sugary soft drinks, icecreams – should all be on your occasional treatlist. And don’t cheat by serving double portions – learn to savour every mouthful slowly instead!
Go easy on the salt. Salt can raise blood pressure, increasing risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Experiment with herbs and spices for added flavourorzing.
- Government-recommended maximum limits on alcohol are two units a day, but try to have several alcohol free days a week. Alcohol is full of empty calories that do you no good and pile on the pounds!
Log on to your healthier lifestyle:
- For tips, myth busters and facts about eating and drinking healthily NHS One You
- Unleash your inner runner - NHS Couch to 5k
- For information on walking groups and routes - wiltsswindonramblers.org.uk
- Find your ideal sport – search for the BBC’s Which sport are you made for? tool
- These recipes will change your life - Change for Life recipes
- If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can find useful advice at NHS Eatwell Vegetarian and Vegan diets Q & A