The New Year has clicked over and what a great time to reflect on what has been and what you would like the future to hold. With this comes a word of warning- stay clear of the diet hype and pressure to be transforming your body into a ‘new you’ and setting unrealistic new year’s resolutions! Small dietary changes to improve your health are welcome, however complete overhauls are often a fast road to failure and disappointment. They are also often without scientific backing and unnecessary.
Skip anything with ‘detoxes’ and ‘shed kilos fast’ products. You have lungs, a liver and kidneys to do ‘detoxing’ and no product is going to magically fix up the harm of excess alcohol and poor food. Concentrate on what you put in rather than trying to fix it after. Let’s look at tweaking your diet, focusing on what you already do well and putting some strategies in place to make a few improvements. No need to ‘go on a diet’ as you will just go off it and be back to square one or worse in no time.
It’s a new year, but just another day, how and why will you do things differently from yesterday? It is important to think about what you do now and why, then how you will change this. What strategies need to be in place to make it happen? Make a couple of changes and when these become habits you can move to more.
There are some things to consider.
1. Firstly it is best not to say ‘never’. I will never eat…..x, y,z., is very unlikely and not necessary. Set realistic goals.
2. Choose one or two things you would like to change. Here are some examples you might choose from
a. Reduce soft drink, choose water most of the time
b. Drink less alcohol- (e.g. only on the weekend)- check out my blog on alcohol and health
c. Eat 2 fruit a day
d. Take lunch to work 4 out of 5 days
e. Buy take away only one night a week
f. Choose wholegrain bread weekdays
g. Eat one vegetarian meal a week
h. Eat fish twice a week
i. Eat slowly- not in front of the TV (apart from once a week)
3. How will these magically happen? They wont; you need the ‘how’, these are the strategies to make them happen. Write down what you would like to change and then how it will be achieved next to it.
For example you want to cut down on soft drink
· Take a water bottle full in the car
· Have cold water in the fridge
· Only buy one can of soft drink a week or have one glass when out (choose your time when you will have it)
· Don’t buy large bottles of soft drink- even if on special
· Flavour your water with mint, lemon, strawberries, herbal teas
4. Move your mindset away from focusing solely on your weight if this is a goal. It can become all consuming and will not necessarily make you eat healthier if you are only focusing on food for weight loss. It is important to eat a range of foods including high kilojoule foods which can include wholesome foods such as nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, avocado and cheese. These foods can also help you feel more full assisting with moderating the volume of other foods you eat. Concentrate on what to eat, more than what not to, such a seating more vegetables for example, 5 serves a day. No one wants to feel like they are being deprived.
5. Think about the why you would like to make diet changes. Keeping them health focused is a good way to avoid getting caught in a diet cycle. Some examples could be:
a. I will eat more seafood for omega 3 fats for my heart, joint and brain health by having at least one fish evening meal and lunch a week.
b. I will choose wholegrain carbohydrates to fuel me for the exercise I do, the mountain I want to climb, the marathon I want to run, to keep my gut healthy, reduce the risk of bowel cancer and/or keep my bowels regular E.g. brown rice, wholegrain bread, legumes.
Keep this list achievable. One or two things at a time.
If you are planning to increase your exercise as well, remember to feed yourself sufficiently with quality food. Under feeding can cause lack of energy, irregular menstrual cycles in women and even hinder weight loss. Fuel yourself well with enough food from all food groups, including protein at each meal for muscle growth and recovery, carbohydrate to fuel the body and don’t be scared of including some healthy fats. If you would like to read more about sports nutrition, or simply get the best performance out of your body check out my book, ‘Eat Like An Athlete’.
Everyone is talking about ‘going plant based’. You don’t have to cut out eating animal products at all to be healthy. You can if you wish to, however eating within the Australian Dietary Guidelines and The Australian Guide To Healthy Eating looking at recommended serving sizes, you can be healthy either way. What you will notice is that the majority of Australians do not eat like this. We eat a lot more meat than is recommended and way less vegetables.
If there is only one change you make, for most of us it is to increase the amount of vegetables we eat. 93% of Australians don’t eat the recommended five servings of vegetables a day. A few ways to make this happen might include:
o Shop regularly. Mark a time in your diary.
o Start with the vegetables first when shopping
o Grow some herbs and vegetables at home
o Prepare vegetables in advance e.g. cut up the whole cauliflower and have it ready to go in a container, grate up some carrot in advance for sandwich, wash cherry tomatoes and have in a bowl to snack on.
o Cook extra one night for the next
o Add extra vegetables to dishes e.g. barbeques, soups, curries, frittata, with your eggs, in stir-fries, meatless Monday.
o If you get in your five servings a day it automatically restricts overeating in other areas!
Most things in life take some effort and there is no difference with our health and diet. Makes some plans, allocate a little time and look for support to spread the load. Making your household a nourishing one can happen with a few strategies put in place. Wishing everyone great happiness and health for the new year.