The new year is upon us, which often comes with a slew of promises to ourselves (announced publicly or privately) that this will be the year we eat better/get fit/lose weight/achieve *insert health milestone here*. Instead of cutting foods/food groups out (oh please don’t do that, unless absolutely necessary) and making yourself feel deprived or guilty over dietary and lifestyle choices, here are 5 small things you can add to 2016 to improve your health.
(1) Drink more water.
Whether you’re already a regular water drinker and just looking to up your intake volume to approximately 2 litres (depending on your activity level, it may be more or less), or you drink a lot of tea/coffee/soft drink and your goal is to start replacing some of these throughout the day with water. Since every cell in our body has a large component of water and we have about 100 000 billion cells, that means you have to replenish often. Water is lost through sweat and our body’s metabolic processes (so yes, if you sit on your butt all day you still lose water, so drink up office workers). A lot of people find it difficult to just try and drink 2 litres a day straight off the bat, so try increasing by a glass a day, this will also help with your bladder coping with the extra load. Buy a nice re-usable water bottle and keep it with you, even if you’re at home, having the visual reminder of a bottle of water will help you to keep your intake regular. If you’re looking to lose weight in 2016, try having a glass of water when you feel hungry, if you still feel hungry go ahead and have a snack or meal.
(2) Include more vegetables in your diet.
Aiming to increase your vegetable intake has endless health benefits, they’re packed with vitamins and minerals (particularly those dark leafy greens) as well as fibre (helps keep you regular and promotes intestinal and digestive health). If you’re not a fan of kale, that’s cool, try throwing a small handful of baby spinach into your breakfast smoothie (it’ll look green but you will hardly taste a thing, promise), or into an omelette. Getting some vegetables in your breakfast, often a meal devoid of our veggie friends will help you reach your daily target. If you’re a habitual veggie eater, try increasing the diversity of vegetables you’re eating, if you’re having the same salad most days of the week, change it up with a beetroot, green bean, spinach and feta salad or whatever you fancy! Increasing the range of veggies in your diet will ensure you are getting all sorts of different nutrients in your diet, and the variety will keep you interested.
(3) Add nuts and seeds into your diet.
If you’re fairly active, it’s recommended that you get your extra calories from a handful of nuts and seeds, a great crunchy snack for those of you who are on-the-go. If you’re feeling hungrier than usual on a particular day, try a handful of mixed roasted nuts and seeds (I personally avoid the mixes with dried fruit in them, as they over-charge for it and I’m generally not a fan of sultanas). The unsalted roasted nuts are crunchier and a bit tastier without the excess salt. If you’re a cereal person, sprinkle some pumpkin seeds and chia seeds on your cereal, it’ll up the protein and fibre content of your breakfast and keep you fuller for longer.
(4) Move your body more frequently.
The best kind of exercise is the incidental kind, you don’t even realise how far you’ve walked or how many stairs you’ve climbed in a day and you’ll notice differences in the long term. So switch the escalator for the stairs, park your car further from the shopping centre entrance, get off the bus a stop earlier, you’ll be surprised how quickly this adds up. If you already have an exercise routine, try something new, like rock climbing or a dance class, you’ll have fun and probably use a group of muscles you never knew you had and improve your coordination and balance.
(5) Stop punishing yourself.
I’m going to put it simply, food is food – the labels of “good” and “bad” are really not necessary. Sure, some food isn’t as nutritionally dense as others but, food is more than the sum of its nutrients. Food is about enjoyment, the people you eat with and when you think about it, it’s quite personal. You don’t really invite people to share a meal with you if you don’t particularly enjoy their company. My point is that, if you go out with some friends at a café and order something that you perceive as “bad” or “unhealthy” don’t punish yourself for it. It’s likely that viewing that meal/day as “falling off the bandwagon” is going to be more detrimental to reaching your goals in the long run. I find, every time I feel guilty about eating a particular food or snack, it creates this mentality “oh well, I’ve ruined it now may as well just go all out,” and I’ll binge on my favourite foods. Let yourself have a bit of chocolate, or those chips, without the guilt, it probably isn’t going to make a difference if it’s fairly infrequent. Going cold turkey on anything doesn’t work for most people, making small swaps progressively each day will make the transition toward healthier choices far easier. Adopt a more accepting and less discriminatory perspective toward food, you’ll feel less “deprived” and are more likely to be successful with sticking to it.
Hopefully, these 5 healthy additions will help with your health goals in 2016.
Happy New Year!