The New Year provides the perfect backdrop to make changes to your life and, most importantly, your diet. The good news is that even making small changes nutritionally can have a really big impact on your overall health.
Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, gives us her top tips on how to revamp your diet this year!
DRINK MORE WATER
Sometimes, the simplest changes can have the most impact. If you’re dehydrated (and a lot of us are), you’ll feel sluggish, your brain will be fuzzy, energy levels will be lowered and your skin may look tired and less luminous.
The body is around 75% water, therefore it makes sense to be well hydrated. Optimal water intake is around 1 ½ – 2 litres daily which you can sip throughout the day; always keep a water bottle close at hand.
If you’re exercising, then you’ll need more. The body is not ‘pure’ water which is why isotonic drinks, which are recommended during and after exercise, provide additional electrolytes and solutes which help re-hydrate the body more effectively.
We can often confuse hunger for thirst, so making sure you’re getting enough water is a daily essential and may prevent you from reaching for snacks you might not really need.
KEEP BLOOD SUGAR BALANCED
One of the most unpleasant aspects of adjusting your diet and eating less is the feeling of hunger and food cravings. This is because our blood sugar levels are imbalanced so it is important to sustain energy levels by eating the right foods even when you’re trying to eat less.
The trick here is to always eat protein at every meal. For example, eggs for breakfast, some chicken or turkey with your lunch and some fish, for example, in the evenings. There is a misconception that it is carbohydrates that fill you up; the reverse is actually true. Protein provides feelings of fullness and helps to keep your blood sugar levels balanced, your energy levels sustained and those hunger pangs in check. Protein all the way!
FOOD IS NOT THE ENEMY
When we’re trying to make changes to our diet, whether it be for health reasons, to lose weight or just to ‘change things up a bit’, many of us seem it as too big a challenge. But by changing your mind set and looking at food as one of life’s pleasures, you can have a much more harmonious relationship with your nutritional plan.
So, if you want to improve your diet, always make sure that you resolve to replace the foods you know you shouldn’t be eating but really enjoy (high fat, low nutritional value foods such as biscuits, cakes, sweets) with foods you enjoy.
Many people choose a new diet plan but really don’t like the foods they are being asked to eat and this is just not sustainable long term. I often advise people to try removing dairy from their diet for health reasons, but I will always suggest alternatives to dairy that people will enjoy to fill the gap. For example, replacing cow’s milk: many people find soya milk unpalatable but they like coconut or almond milk. Therefore by choosing an alternative they like, they don’t feel deprived about not having traditional cow’s milk in their diet.
So, you may need to avoid the cakes in the office, but you might have a bar of delicious raw chocolate in your drawer at work and can eat a piece as a sweet treat. It is not about having a life of denial, but finding healthy alternatives, and most importantly, enjoying the food you’re eating.
KEEP HEALTHY SNACKS ON HAND
We know that eating protein at every meal is going to help you to feel fuller for longer. However, there are going to be times when you’re away from a kitchen and direct access to healthy food may be limited. This is where problems can start and you may grab something unhealthy because you’re hungry! However, it’s all about planning and this is where healthy snacks come in.
If you plan your week in advance – may be even write a menu – you’ll be much more likely to stay on track. More importantly, you can ensure you have healthy, portable snacks on hand. For example, protein bars containing natural ingredients, where possible. Oat cakes, pots of seeds, almonds or Brazils, fruit such as blueberries … all these are easy to keep in your bag or in your desk drawer. It’s best not to go without food for longer than three or four hours, therefore healthy snacking is an essential part of any balanced diet.
So get the New Year off to a flying start nutritionally and the rest will follow! Good luck!
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