It’s that time of year when many of us vow to hit the gym and cut down on the less-than-healthy food choices we overindulged on during the festive period. Our diets are imperative for our general health and switching to a healthier eating plan can make a huge difference to the way you look and feel. Whether you want to lose a few pounds in the New Year or you just want to make more of an effort to stay in shape, here are some tips to help you kick-start 2016 with a brand new healthy diet full of food that tastes good and does you good!
Do a weekly big shop
If you constantly get home from work late, feeling tired and finding nothing in the fridge, it’s understandable why you might want to reach for the phone and dial your local takeaway for a pizza or calorie-loaded curry. Carrying out a weekly shop and planning meals ahead can make the process of cooking simpler and quicker, as well as ensuring your meals are healthy and nutritious every day.
Hone those culinary skills!
Cooking your own meals often works out cheaper than buying ready meals or fast foods – and it’s definitely healthier. Why not make 2016 the year you learn new cooking skills and expand your culinary repertoire? There are all kinds of websites, recipe books and apps brimming with ideas ranging from easy, 15 minute meals to dinner party feasts.
Do your research
We’re always hearing talk of which foods are good and bad for us, but sometimes we’re not always sure what the actual benefits of healthy foods are. Doing some research into the foods the health experts rave about might make you more inclined to include them in your meals. For example, did you that kale can help you lose weight, strengthen your immune system and even help you maintain clear skin and healthy hair? It works the other way around as well – if you find out exactly why that extra doughnut is so bad for you, you might think twice about gobbling it up.
Switch white foods for brown foods
This is one of the simplest ways to improve your diet. Swapping white bread, rice and pasta for the wholegrain versions will increase your intake of fibre and in some cases reduce your sugar intake. As well as having a delicious taste to them, wholegrains are beneficial for good heart health and they also release energy over a longer period of time, which means you’ll feel fuller for longer and have fewer snack cravings!
Take a packed lunch to work
People often complain that they don’t have enough opportunities to eat as healthily as they could because they’re too busy at work, so they load up on sugary or starchy snacks at their desk. Taking just a few minutes each evening or morning to prepare a healthy lunch will save you time, boost your health and energy levels and probably save you a bit of money too! Yummy, simple ideas include pasta salads, whole wheat sandwiches or wraps and homemade soup.
Up your fruit and veg intake
Five portions of fruit and five portions of vegetables a day might seem like a lot, but it doesn’t necessarily mean five whole pieces of fruit or veg. You can include sauces, soups, salads, smoothies and juices in your five a day count. It’s worth checking out the nutritional information on packaging (many items will tell you how many portions of your five a day are included), but take care to avoid products that contain a lot of sugar, for example shop-bought smoothies and fruit juices. As well as contributing to health problems such as diabetes, a high sugar intake can also be detrimental to your teeth and dentists such as those at Sparkle Dental Boutique recommend making smoothies and juices at home so you can control exactly what goes into them.
Watch out for processed meat
If (like many of us!) you’re a big fan of your bacon and sausage sandwiches, it’s not all bad news. Although these foods are high in fat and have been linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer, it’s still acceptable to eat them in moderation. NICE recommends a maximum daily intake of around 70g, which is equal to two sausages or three rashers of bacon. If you love your red meat, try and stick to freshly prepared products and avoid heavily processed foods. It’s better to grill and oven roast meat as opposed to frying if you want to reduce your intake of fat.
Research suggests that a Mediterranean diet has loads of benefits for our health and can lower our risk of developing life-threatening illnesses like heart disease, type-2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. The diet focuses on fresh produce, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, olive oil, oily fish, nuts, whole grains and lean meat. Cooking techniques such as grilling, baking and roasting are also believed to be healthier than frying.
Experts recommend drinking a glass of water if you feel peckish between meals instead of reaching for a snack. This is because hunger is often confused for thirst, so if you still feel hungry after a drink then you know it’s time for something to eat. Healthy snack options include a piece of fruit, carrot or celery sticks and a handful of nuts and seeds.