Over indulged during the festive holidays? Forget extreme diets or a complete health makeover – the chances are you will have abandoned it within a couple of weeks anyway. Instead aim to make real changes this year that will have a lasting effect on your health.
Leading nutritionist Christine Bailey and founder of the Lean and Nourish Club suggests making small sustainable changes that fit into your lifestyle and schedule.
“The truth is there is no one diet that is right for everyone. It’s about finding what works best for you and then focusing on this rather than jumping from one fad diet to another. Through years of working with people on their nutrition, I have found that there are a number of factors to consider when it comes to finding the right diet that is sustainable for you in the long term,” says Christine. “Whatever diet you choose it has to fit in with your goals – for example are you looking to lose weight, gain muscle, boost energy levels or tackle an ongoing health concern? Does it include foods you actually like to eat? Does it work with your lifestyle and schedule?”
Here, Christine gives us some tips to help you make lasting changes that will benefit your overall health for the long term.
1. Small, consistent changes
Don’t attempt to change everything in one go, whether it’s a new fitness programme or a completely new eating plan. Scale back and make small specific changes. For example try changing your breakfast initially – maybe swap that cereal for a protein smoothie.
Batch cook a few recipes so that you have options for when you are tired or busy. Use your lunchtime break for a walk or to plan your evening meal. When you focus on just a couple of small changes at a time, whether that’s ditching the takeaways or swapping your chocolate bar for a piece of fruit, you begin to ingrain healthy habits that are more sustainable.
2. Low carb, higher protein
One of the easiest ways to shift a few pounds is to reduce your carbohydrates and increase your protein. Studies consistently show that low carb eating combined with higher protein intake is an effective strategy for getting results. Studies have shown they make people feel less hungry while boosting metabolism, making it easier to lose weight.
3. Reduce portions
The Japanese are well known for keeping lean and one of the reasons appears to be their tradition to eat only until they’re 80% full. The Japanese tend to eat less, exercise more and have smaller portion sizes. They don’t snack or eat late at night either. Most people don’t gain weight overnight, it happens slowly, over years and is linked to consistently eating more than their bodies need. Reducing your portions at every meal is an easy strategy to make a real impact long term.
Swap your dinner plate to a side plate or a bowl and plate up your food before sitting down to eat and resist the temptation to go back for seconds. Avoid snacking too, and drink a glass of water or make a hot drink instead.
4. Include more soups and smoothies
This time of the year, there is nothing better than a warming soup, and research suggests that more liquid based meals like soups and smoothies may actually help people feel more satiated , resulting in significantly fewer calories being consumed.
Soups and smoothies are also an ideal way to cram in more vegetables and nutrients too. Don’t like greens? Try adding a spoonful of green superfood powder like chlorella, spinach or kale into your smoothies or at the end of cooking a soup. These foods provide fibre and plenty of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
A green protein smoothie is also a simple healthy breakfast option. Starting the day with a healthy, nourishing breakfast is more likely to encourage you to stick to a healthier eating pattern through the rest of the day too.
5. Make a healthy fakeaway
If you’re tempted to order a takeaway at the weekend why not make your own healthier version instead? Not only are you saving money but you will slash the calories without sacrificing on your favourite meals. A single portion of takeaway curry can contain over 1,000 calories and a huge amount of saturated fat, salt and sugar. You’d need to cycle for about three hours to burn it off. You can reduce the calories by replacing some of the meat for tofu or beans and pulses. Bulk up a curry with vegetables and opt for low fat coconut milk or yogurt instead of cream.