A new year means a fresh start and new goals, and many of you will have made some resolutions for 2013 that I hope you are already working towards. Better health is one resolution that I think should be on everyone’s to do list. Have a look at my list of top 10 resolutions and take a step closer to amazing health in 2013…
1. Drink more water
Our body is made up of 70% water. It is VITAL for survival and just about every major body function depends on it. To keep our body functioning properly, women and men should be having about 2.5 – 3.5L per day respectively, and that’s before any water losses from exercise! A lot of us however don’t consume enough. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a client say they KNOW they don’t drink enough water, I would be a millionaire! If you know that you should be drinking more, find a way to do it. Draw lines on your water bottle that you have to meet each hour, set an alarm, put post-it notes around the house, whatever it takes – just do it!
Exercise isn’t just about looking good. It is SO important for your health and quality of life. Studies show that regular exercise helps to build and maintain healthy bones, muscle and joints, protect against anxiety and depression, reduce the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure and that’s just to name a few! So get moving this year! Join a dance class, go for a walk with a friend, or play a game of touch rugby! Just make sure that you enjoy doing the activity so you stick with it.
3. Get more sleep
Sleep plays an essential role in our health. Not only does good sleep help to keep us mentally alert and focused, but getting the right amount of shut eye also takes some stress off our cardiovascular system and reduces our levels of stress and inflammation in the body. Living in the busy world we do today, many of us don’t get the 8 hours of sleep that we need. Whether it’s staying up late meeting deadlines, being woken by the little ones, or simply watching an hour more of tv than we should, there is always something that seems to interrupt with our slumber schedule. So what can we do?
- Eat a lighter dinner and try to space this out two hours before your bedtime so that your digestion isn’t interfering with your sleep.
- Give yourself sometime to wind down before you sleep. Try taking a hot bath or shower, read a book, or try meditation or deep breathing for 10 minutes.
- Turn off any computers, TVs and cellphones. Staring at these screens before bedtime limit the production of melatonin in the brain which makes us sleepy.
- Avoid caffeine. You might love a cup of tea or coffee after dinner, but these caffeinated beverages can really upset your sleep cycle. Try herbal teas instead or some hot water with lemon and honey.
4. Cut down on refined sugar
Sugar is a drug. It’s addictive, we crave it, and when it’s cut out of the diet many experience hideous withdrawal symptoms. Sugar is in nearly everything and is available EVERYWHERE. We in New Zealand consume on average just over 1kg (2.2lbs) of sugar per person each week. That’s 52 kilograms of sugar per year for each person!!! So how do we cut back on something that is so readily available and addictive?
- Avoid soft drinks at all costs! If you have to, have a diet soft drink, but I would avoid these also if you can.
- Don’t add sugar to drinks. Try adding Stevia (a plant based natural sweetener) or a small amount of coconut sugar instead.
- Cut down on the amount of sugar in recipes, or use fruit as a sweetener. Try using apple sauce or other fruit purees in baking as a replacement.
- Try to have just one treat day a week.
- Join forces! Get a friend to go sugar free with you!
- Watch out for packaged foods. Seemingly “healthy” snacks like muesli bars and some breakfast cereals are extremely high in sugar. Aim for less than 15g per 100g for breakfast cereals and less than 10g of sugar per muesli or snack bar.
5. Eat breakfast
Many people skip the most important meal of the day, breakfast. Overnight, our liver and muscle glycogen stores (stored glucose) are broken down so we literally need to “break the fast” to top up our energy stores and rev up our metabolic rate for the day. Furthermore, eating breakfast has shown to be beneficial for our waistline! Research has shown that people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, where as people that skip breakfast are likely to have poorer food choices and consume more food later in the day. So what are some good choices for a healthy breakfast?
- Wholegrain toast with avocado and tomato
- Poached eggs on wholegrain toast
- My Berry Healthy Breakfast Smoothie (time is not an excuse for this one!)
- Natural muesli with yoghurt and fresh fruit
- Porridge with fresh blueberries (or try Quinoa porridge for a gluten free option!)
- If you’re on the run, grab a piece of fruit or yoghurt or a glass of milk. Anything is better than nothing at all!
6. Eat more veges
You can never get enough vegetables! They are the most health promoting food on the planet and provide us with the essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and fibre our bodies need to function optimally.
Tips to get more veges in:
- Aim to have vegetables at every meal – your plate should have at least 3 colours of the rainbow!
- Try having 1 or 2 vegetarian dinners each week
- Buy fresh, canned or frozen
- Make large vegetable stirfrys or fritattas for dinner and have leftovers the next day for lunch
7. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking is easier said than done, but needless to say there are many reasons to quit, not only for your health but for personal reasons too. Consider the benefits of being a non smoker and take advantage of the huge amount of free resources available.
8. Reduce Stress
Stress not only affects our mental health but the health of our body also. Chronic stress can worsen or increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and insomnia and furthermore can give us symptoms like dry mouth, upset stomachs and headaches, not to mention loss of appetite and libido. Not fun! Although stress is an inevitable part of life, we can do our best to manage it.
- Don’t rely on alcohol or food to reduce stress
- Cut out or reduce your caffeine intake. This only puts further stress on your adrenals.
- Exercise regularly
- Try meditation, tai chi, or yoga
- Learn to say “NO”
- Keep a positive attitude and accept that there are things you cannot control
- Book in to see a psychologist or other mental health professional to learn more ways of dealing with stress.
9. Reduce your alcohol intake
Alcohol is okay every now and then, in fact some studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption may protect against Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease. Excessive intake however can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, cirrhosis of the liver and multiple cancers, and at 7 calories per gram, alcohol consumption doesn’t do much for our waistlines either! There may be reasons other than health as to why you might want to reduce your alcohol intake, but regardless, there are many steps you can take.
- Choose lower alcohol options like low alcohol beers
- Have a glass of water between each alcoholic drink. This will keep you hydrated and keep your calories under control!
- Reduce the amount of alcohol you put in your drinks or try using more mixer like soda water or fruit juice
- Try having a few alcohol free nights a week, or better yet, try going alcohol free for a few weeks or months! HELLO SUNDAY MORNING is an organization that encourages people to give up drinking for a period of time and blog about their experience. Take a look at their website here!
10. Watch your portion sizes
When in comes to food, size does matter! Over the last few decades, portion sizes have increased dramatically and so have our waistlines. Today, the average restaurant meal is four times larger than it was in the 1950s, and adults on average are 12kg heavier! Even at home where we have control over our plates our portion sizes seem to be growing. So what can you do to manage your portion sizes better at home and when dining out?
- Serve your meals on a smaller plate
- Share a main meal with a friend
- Eat half of your meal and ask to take the rest home
- Don’t go back for seconds
- Never eat out of a packet or bag. Always take out the recommended serving and put the packet away!
- Dont skip meals! This can lead to overeating. Make sure you are fueling your body with good quality food every 3-4 hours.
- Read nutrition labels. Look at the recommended serving size and compare this to what you would usually have.
- Slow down! Chew your food properly and allow yourself time to feel full so you’re not tempted to go back for seconds.
Happy New Year! Here’s to your health in 2013!