Eat well to live well this New Year
Every new year marks a milestone in time and we often use this as a fresh start by making resolutions in an effort to improve ourselves or change something in our lives.
The five top resolutions in the UK last year were:
1. Eat healthier.
2. Exercise more.
3. Lose weight.
4. Spend more time with family and friends.
5. Live more economically.
As a nutritional therapist, I whole-heartedly commend the fact that 66 million people in the UK are committed to self-improvement through nutrition and lifestyle.
Studies have shown that we are more likely to succeed at goals which are supported and which do not involve avoidance. However, only around 50% of us sustain these goals long-term. In nutritional therapy, we use SMART (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based) goals to achieve long-term change. Applying SMART goals to New Year’s resolutions would give more chance of success by making changes small and achievable.
Another thought to bear in mind is that it’s winter! Many animals hibernate during this time and if we really listen to our bodies, this time is best used to reflect, rest and recover before implementing change. If you feel like you need more sleep or rest, then make that your New Year’s resolution! Markup:
If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.
- Andrew Carnegie.
Once you are ready to embark on a resolution, rather than starting unsustainable fad diets, slimming programmes with strict calorie counting, dry January or unrealistic exercise regimes, a better approach could be to use measures to improve overall health which are not necessarily about exercise and dieting. It is wise to be suspicious of any programme that offers quick and easy weight loss solutions which can often do more harm than good.
Common nutrition myths - debunked
So, first of all, let's debunk some common myths.
Myth #1 – Snacking is bad for you
You should never starve yourself to lose weight. If you avoid the signal to eat when you are hungry, your blood sugar will crash and you are more likely to binge and overeat later and you will burn fewer calories as your body enters starvation mode.
Try eating five smaller meals each day or have nutrient-dense healthy snacks to hand. Eating healthy, well-balanced meals should leave you feeling fuller for longer, diminishing cravings and the need to snack.
Myth #2 – All carbohydrates are bad
Do you suffer from a mid-morning or afternoon slump when you need to reach for a sugar fix? White, refined, processed and sugary carbohydrates should be avoided (chips, white pasta and rice, biscuits, cake etc) as they are low in nutrients and can cause our blood sugar levels to rise and fall too quickly leading to crashes in energy and cravings. Long-term this can lead to various health complications.
However, other carbohydrates provide an important source of fuel and are full of nutrients and fibre to keep our systems moving to remove waste and toxins from our body: think beans, lentils, whole grains, brown rice and pasta and a wide variety of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables.
Myth #3 – All calories are equal
All calories have the same amount of energy but they are not all equal. Different foods have different effects on our brain which regulates our hunger hormones and provides essential nutrients needed for whole-body health.
Opt for nutrient-dense carbohydrates, good quality protein and healthy fats to nourish your body rather than a sugary snack. For instance, one large egg has the same calories as one scoop of ice cream but the egg is a good source of healthy protein to keep you feeling full, whereas the ice cream is high in sugar which will spike your blood sugar levels and leave you craving more.
Nourish your body
If your New Year’s resolution is to improve your health, here are some top tips to nourish your body:
1. Eat the rainbow
Include at least 5 different coloured vegetables and fruit each day to provide a wide range of phytonutrients (Phyto = plant). Where possible, opt for those that are locally and organically grown in rich, living soil to enhance nutrients, decrease environmental toxins and support local business.
2. Avoid highly refined and processed sugary carbohydrates
Minimise sugar, cereals, white bread, pastries, white pasta/rice, chips, biscuits and cakes to avoid blood sugar spikes and cravings. Swap for complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, root vegetables, brown rice and pasta, lentils and beans.
3. Include good quality protein and healthy fats with each meal
Healthy fats don’t make you fat, they contain essential nutrients to help keep us healthy and feeling fuller for longer. Opt for oily fish, eggs, avocados, nuts and seeds, olives, olive oil, coconut oil and butter (avoid vegetable spread!).
4. Choose healthy snacks and treats
Dark chocolate, nuts, crudites, flaxseed crackers or oatcakes topped with hummus or smashed avocado, fruit slices with almond butter, yoghurt with berries all provide good sources of fibre, antioxidants and a wide range of nutrients.
5. Eat your calories rather than drinking them
Avoid fruit juices and fizzy drinks which contain sugar and artificial sweeteners. Drink alcohol in moderation, opt for small amounts of red wine which contains the antioxidant resveratrol.
Cut down on tea and coffee which can be dehydrating and stop the absorption of certain nutrients, instead opting for filtered or spring water and aim to drink 1.5 litres daily.
6. Sleep well
Poor quality sleep can impact your health – turning off devices in the evenings, reading and going to bed and waking up at the same time to balance your circadian rhythm are just some of the measures to help promote good sleep.
7. Rest your mind and body
Practising relaxation techniques, keeping a gratitude journal, spending time outside in nature and gentle exercise are ways to nourish your mind, reduce stress and calm inflammation in the body which can lead to ill health.
My ultimate top tipis to seek support to help you achieve your goals. Contact me to discuss your individual nutrition and lifestyle needs and book a nutritional therapy consultation to begin your journey to optimal health snd well-being.
(References available on request)