Following on from my appearance on The Mustard Show last night I have put together my top five tips for staying healthy in 2016. These are some good basics that are hopefully easy to achieve and a good base from which to build a healthy lifestyle.
Eat a blood sugar balancing diet
This means making sure that you eat enough food and regularly. Three good meals a day with a snack in the morning and the afternoon is a perfectly healthy way to eat, provided you are including the right foods. The most important thing is to remember the protein. This will ensure that your blood sugar is balanced and your energy levels do not dip too much during the day. Good sources of protein include lean meats such as chicken or turkey, oily fish such as salmon, sardines or mackerel and nuts and seeds. For vegetarians, opt for beans and pulses to add some power to your meals.
2. Limit sugar as much as possible
Yes, it really is as bad as all the negative press you are hearing at the moment! We will all have over indulged on sugar a bit this Christmas but it is best to avoid it, particularly in its refined form. With the white stuff being linked to many health risks from diabetes and obesity to heart disease, it’s time to cut it as much as possible. Aside from the obvious culprits, hidden sugars are a big trap for lots of people, particularly in processed foods and package sauces. The best advice is to always read the label of anything you are buying and try to go for unprocessed, natural options. If you do fancy a sweet treat, look at options such as maple syrup which is also a source of minerals (calcium and potassium) or xylitol which has a lower glycaemic load, meaning that it does not spike your blood sugar in the same way.
3. Drink plenty of water
This is an obvious one but still neglected by a lot of us. The average adult body is roughly 60% water and it is really important for flushing our system through so it makes sense to get in as much as possible. The ideal is to drink 2 litres a day which is equivalent to 4 pints. Your fruit and vegetable intake will count towards this as will warm drinks such as herbal tea. My favourite strategies for increasing water intake are:
Start the day with juice of half a lemon in warm water. This gives your digestive system a kick start and is a great way to include more water in your daily routine.
Keep a large bottle with you. Have it on your desk at work so that you keep tabs on how much are drinking and top up your glass during the day.
Flavour it with fresh fruit. If you think drinking plain water is boring, reach for the fresh fruit rather than overly sweet squash. My favourites are lemon, lime, orange, berries or mint.
Swap some of your tea and coffee. Switch to herbal teas. This is basically water with some therapeutic flavourings. There are some delicious ones out there and it’s a soothing way of increasing your water intake.
As a nation we have become more sedentary as time progresses. We go from the car to the office to the sofa and often move very little in between. Studies show that physical activity extends our life expectancy (http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001335) and that a sedentary lifestyle really can be detrimental to our health (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Genevieve_Healy/publication/51517649_Prolonged_sitting_is_it_a_distinct_coronary_heart_disease_risk_factor/links/54add0ea0cf2213c5fe41a54.pdf) . Even small changes can make a difference with this. Try to always take the stairs instead of the lift, start walking to work and make sure you take regular breaks away from your desk, particularly at lunchtime. Invest in a Fitbit or a similar device that measures your steps so you can keep track and even compete with friends and colleagues as motivation. Many offices are now investing in standing desks for their employees. These are a great option as they minimise the amount of time you are sitting and keep you moving a bit more.
Sleep is so important for our health. It is a great restorative tool and the time that the body uses for essential rest and repair. Having too little sleep can affect everything from weight and mood to our hormone balance and appetite. The ideal amount is 7 to 8 hours a night and this should be in a completely darkened room with no lights or screens. Looking at a screen such as the TV, your smartphone or even an e-reader late at night can have significant effects on your sleep and health (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/135/2/e367.short).
If you would like help with making healthy changes in 2016 then please get in contact with me to book your personalised nutrition consultation.