Healthy Habits for a Happy New Year
After eating chocolate for breakfast for the best part of a month over the festive season, we all know how hard it is to get back into that healthy-eating rhythm. Registered Nutritionist Peter Antonio, in the last Fit Focus Forum (a free mini-conference for members), discussed some healthy and sustainable nutrition habits to get us back in the groove, and some helpful hints on how to manage the post-Christmas hunger!
Starting healthy eating at the same time as New Year’s fitness resolutions can be daunting, but with the right balance and plan in place, developing and maintaining healthy nutrition habits is achievable. Peter Antonio helps us see how!
TOP FOOD TIPS
- Consume a variety of foods – this keeps it interesting, to help avoid the ‘boredom binge’
- Keep an eye on portions, eating until you are 80% full during a meal, and consuming calorically dilute foods
- Swap your sweets for fruit – processed foods high in fat and/or added sugar can provide a lot of calories, but tend to have low nutritional value overall. They are not an essential part of a balanced diet, and do not feature in national recommendations.
- Get more pulses and whole grains – good sources of plant-based protein include beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds. The current national guidelines encourage us to eat less red and processed meat (red meat includes beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat), and to eat more plant-based sources of protein.
- Limit refined grains – e.g. refined sugar, white bread, and oils.
- Cut down on saturated fat – found predominantly in foods of animal origin, such as meat and milk products. Trans fats are a harmful form of polyunsaturated fat found in hydrogenated vegetable oil, meat and milk products.
- Don’t shun starchy carbohydrates – e.g. rice, pasta, potatoes, bread. According to current national guidelines, starchy carbohydrates should make up approximately one third of our daily calorie intake, and these should ideally come from foods which are high in fibre, or whole grain sources. These include oats, brown, black and red rice, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread, sweet potato, and quinoa.
- Eat less salt
- Don’t allow yourself to get thirsty
- Don’t skip or delay meals
WHAT’S THE FUSS ABOUT FRUIT AND VEG?
Fruit and vegetables are a dense source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (special substances found only in plant foods), and generally low in calories. This food group is a valuable source of antioxidants, which help to reduce damage to the cells in our bodies. Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients. This means that our bodies have to obtain an adequate dietary supply of all of them, which can be achieved by eating a well-planned diet containing foods with different vitamin and mineral profiles. Wherever possible, aim to get your vitamins and minerals from food rather than supplements. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are your body’s preferred energy source. All carbohydrates are ultimately converted into glucose. This energy is used to fuel cells, keep our muscles working, and feed our brain.
KEEP IT SOCIAL
Engagement in social life (keeping a close circle of friends that encourage healthy behaviours) is a key factor in encouraging and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness can be contagious. Creating a plan is a good way to have a point of reference to stick to – sometimes a ‘check list’ is a satisfying way to motivate yourself and see how far you’ve come, and telling people around you of your goals is also a strong motivator. By letting other people know what you’re trying to achieve, there is a sense of team spirit that can help encourage you to stick to your goals, and the support you will get from this network is a powerful positive tool. Employing these healthy behaviours at a young age and educating people about them instils them, and makes it easier to form habits.