Small changes can have the greatest impact on your health

Fad diets or diets that are restrictive or make you feel hungry a lot of the time, are unlikely to be sustainable in the longer-term. However, making small positive changes can make a huge difference over time. The book called ‘The Slight Edge’ by Jeff Olson explains this thinking clearly. 

However, as human’s, we are often attracted to a quick fix. When it comes to your diet, making small changes and some better choices each day can make a big difference over the course of several weeks and months, or even years. What’s more, these new changes, although may be a little challenging, to begin with, will soon become a habit and therefore much easier to follow in the longer-term! 

Making positive changes to your health; 9 steps

I’ve listed below some ideas for positive changes you might choose to make. Only focus on making a few small changes at a time. Once you get used to them, add a few more healthy changes until they also become a habit. It may take you a few weeks to form new habits, so stick with it. Remember that even a small increase in activity levels and a small reduction in calorie intake can help to prevent weight gain if done regularly over time.

1. Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day

Fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and veg all count towards your five a day. Aim to have two portions with each meal (add a handful of frozen berries to your breakfast cereal; add a vegetable soup or bowl of salad at lunch, and include some stir fry vegetables and a sliced banana and yoghurt for dinner and you’re up to six portions already!

2. Choose wholemeal pasta, brown rice, or wholegrain bread instead of white

Wholemeal options have a higher nutrient content and a higher fibre content which will help you feel fuller for longer as well as keeping your gut happy. 

3. Drink a glass of water on waking up in the morning

This is a great start to the day as it’ll help to hydrate you. Many of us don’t drink enough water during the day, so this is a great way to get off to a good start. Six to eight glasses of water a day is recommended. 

4. Eat slowly and chew your food well

Enjoy the food you eat and try to take notice of the flavours and textures. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it’s full.

5. Enjoy your coffee until 2 pm

If you drink coffee, you don’t need to stop, but the caffeine can impact your sleep up to eight hours after you drink it, so if you enjoy a cup or two, aim to drink these by about 2 pm.

6. Eat a variety

A healthy gut is one with lots of different types of healthy bacteria (probiotics). In order to have a diverse gut microbiome, a diet that provides a variety of healthy foods is needed. Try out a new fruit or vegetable or a new healthy recipe each week. Ask your friends or colleagues for ideas or have a look online for some inspiration.

7. Include an oily fish once a week

Fish is a great source of protein and many vitamins and minerals.  Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, sardines and pilchards are a fantastic source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

8. Use herbs and spices to flavour dishes rather than salt

Cut down on your salt intake by experimenting with different herbs and spices to flavour food. Dried or fresh herbs are great to try out. Add some chopped chives or dried rosemary to your potatoes or carrots, add dried tarragon to fried mushrooms or some mint to boiled peas.

9. Aim to add a source of protein to every meal

Protein helps control your appetite making you feel fuller for longer. It also helps you to retain muscle mass and prevent loss of muscle that can occur when you lose weight and as you age. Sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, dairy products and lentils and beans.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH8
Written by Dr Laura Wyness, (PhD, MSc, BSc, RNutr)
Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH8

I'm a registered nutritionist with extensive experience in nutrition research and communications. Through working with industry, charities and policy makers, I have gained research experience and expertise in many areas of nutrition including diet around pregnancy, healthy ageing and food innovation.

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