So many people I have spoken to recently have been saying how life in lockdown has had such a big impact on their lifestyle and eating habits. Perhaps working from home has meant less time for exercise and the close proximity of the biscuit tin has been far too tempting. Social distancing from people has been one thing we have all had to do however social distancing from our fridges may not have been so easy!
Emotional eating is something so many people experience and something I can totally empathise with and it is all so easy for those unwanted pounds to pile on. This is the time where food can indeed be our own worst enemy or our very best friend. This is also the time where we really need to build the healthiest relationship with food and use it to fuel our wellbeing so we can be strong and healthy and fit for the future.
No matter who you are or where you live, the very fact that you are alive depends on you eating and keeping hydrated. A delicious meal and a drink can be one of the most satisfying sensory experiences and can also be responsible for some of our greatest health problems.
A well-balanced diet along with physical activity are the foundations of good health. Healthy eating is about consuming high-quality proteins, healthy carbohydrates, heart-healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and water. It is important to minimise processed foods, saturated fats and alcohol. This approach will help you to maintain your body’s everyday functions, maintain optimal body weight and also help build a strong immune system.
Here is some advice that will help you to look after your overall well-being and feel more energised:
1. Establish healthy habits around food
It is really important to get into some good habits around food so that you can create a healthy lifestyle. Here are some ways to make healthy changes to your eating habits:
- Wherever possible eat your meals at the table rather than in bed, at your desk or sitting n the sofa watching TV.
- Eat mindfully and savour the experience.
- Cook from scratch and have takeaways as an occasional treat only.
- Chew some gum when you cook so you are not tempted to snack on the ingredients.
- Keep a tub of ready chopped fruit and vegetables to snack on when you feel the urge to reach for a quick fix.
- For those of you who are back to the workplace pack a healthy lunch as this will give you more control over what you eat.
- Put your snacks on a plate instead of eating from the packet and this will help you to be more mindful of how many you actually consume.
- Avoid skipping or delaying meals because, if you ignore your feelings of hunger, you may end up eating too much later on.
- Eat your meals with others when you can and enjoy the social occasion.
2. Be aware of portion distortion
Food portion sizes today are far bigger than they have ever been, which means we are consuming a lot more calories than we sometimes realise. Many people no longer know what makes a normal portion. This is a problem with growing obesity statistics that is known as portion distortion.
You can better manage your portion size by following these 5 simple tips:
- Eat with smaller plates and bowls.
- Aim for two portions of vegetables on your plate to fill it with the healthiest option.
- Eat slowly because it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you are full.
- Weigh your ingredients before you cook so you stick to the suggested serving sizes.
- Drink a glass of water before you eat a meal as we can often mistake thirst for hunger.
3. Limit your refined sugar intake
Sugary foods can compromise your immune system. Research has shown that white blood cells are less efficient at fighting illness when exposed to refined sugar. A diet high in refined sugar will also raise your insulin levels quickly, which can lead to many other health problems. You will also lack energy as a result of these sugar spikes and the drop in blood sugar that follows.
The general advice is that you should have no more than 30 grams of free sugars a day, which is roughly equivalent to 7 sugar cubes. This is sugar that you add to your food. Choosing fresh fruits instead of sweet snacks such as biscuits, cakes and milk chocolate will help reduce consumption of sugars. You can also limit your intake of drinks high in sugars (fruit juices, cordials and syrups, flavoured milks and yogurt drinks) by switching to water.
4. Fuel yourself with good mood food
Keeping yourself healthy with a balanced diet can be so good for your mental health and boost your mood too. If you are getting the right nutrients, your body will be better able to ward off anxiety during stressful times.
Here are a few useful foods that will boost your mood:
- Foods high in antioxidants such as blueberries and acai berries. These help to raise mood levels and lower the hormones responsible for stress.
- Foods that are high in vitamins D, B, and E, such as eggs, almonds and salmon.
- Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts or flax seeds and oily fish.
- Foods high in minerals like magnesium, such as whole grains, green leafy vegetables, figs, avocados, bananas and raspberries, nuts and seeds, peas, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, artichokes, asparagus, seafood, salmon, mackerel and tuna.
NB – A lack of magnesium can result in a variety of symptoms, including anxiety.
5. Learn about calorie control
A calorie is a unit that is used to measure energy and our bodies store and burn calories as fuel. Different types of food provide different levels of energy. When you eat and drink more calories than you use up, your body will store the excess as body fat.
As a guide, the average man needs 2500 calories a day and the average woman around 2000 calories. These values, however, will vary depending on age, size and levels of physical activity. To lose one pound of body fat you would need to burn 3500 calories. If you need to lose weight, the best approach is the following:
- Improve your knowledge of the calorific content of food.
- Reduce your intake by 500 calories a day.
- Reduce the number of empty calories, which is food that has no nutritional content.
- Keep a log of what you are consuming.
- Increase your physical activity.
- Drink a glass of water when you get a hunger pang.
Now more than ever it is so important to build a strong immune system and the food we eat and the lifestyle we adopt can have such a big impact. During the month of August, I am championing a “Get fit for the future” campaign with lots online events, competitions, top tips and fabulous freebies so please do get in touch if you would like more details.
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