Each month, registered Dietitian, Ana-Kristina Scrapac, will be sharing perspectives on nutrition and wellbeing. She has a broad experiential base working as a Specialist Dietitian across both the NHS and private practice for the past 15 years seeing clients for a range of health concerns. She founded London Nutrition Consultancy in 2008 as an avenue to provide evidence based nutrition advice and expertise to groups and organisations regarding nutrition matters. This month, Ana-Kristina provides some simple advice on how to kick starting your New Year.
At this time of year, most of us want to feel re-energized and set a bunch of new year’s resolutions: a list of do’s and don’ts, will’s and will not’s. You may feel like your body needs a re-set and feel tempted by ‘detox diets’ and boot-camp type regimens. But why not, this time, shove the detox myths to one side and get real. Think about what matters most to you with a broader view for the longer term. We know diets don’t work and there is no quick fix, so I challenge you to think about what is really at the core and work towards meeting those long-term health goals.
Keep it positive
Set yourself a reasonable target with a positive spin. If your goal is to get closer to a healthy weight, then don’t focus on quick weight loss strategies that will see you rebound the weight back. Get started with improving your fitness slowly at a pace manageable to you (ie not to the point of exhaustion); building your muscle strength steadily and re-energizing your body. Choose exercise activities that you can and want to keep doing in the long term because they are FUN. Your weight will naturally shift, albeit more slowly, with a shift in your body composition as you build muscle tone. Work out with friends and get involved with a like-minded sporting community to keep you motivated through these winter months.
Re-balance your eating
You don’t need to detox by drinking juices or tea tonics – your liver is constantly detoxing your body and eliminating by-products that we don’t need. Rather think about balancing your eating. Keep four core things in mind:
- Hydration: our bodies are 80% water and we need to keep hydrated, even in the winter months. Recommendations are 6 – 8 glasses of water daily, easily achievable if you aim to have 1 glass with and between each meal, and most importantly 1 glass on waking. We commonly mistake hunger for thirst, and snack when we actually may be thirsty. Keep a water bottle with you when working out, taking small regular sips – you lose 5% of your performance when dehydrated during exercise. If you don’t like drinking water, try flavour muddling with lemon, orange, berries or cucumber or herbs such as mint. Simply cut a few slices of your desired fruit and drop it into a water jug or bottle for a lightly flavoured fragrant drink.
- Eat more vegetables: start with the vegetables you like most, and eat more of them. Then expand your palate to include a more diverse range of vegetables with varying colours and flavours. Each different coloured vegetable contains a different combination of vitamins and minerals, and it is most healthy to try and eat as diverse as you can. Include vegetables with each lunch and evening meal aiming to have 2 – 3 portions per meal. Not only will your eating become more nutritious but the fibrous content will help keep you satiated and reduce your calorie intake.
- Regulate your energy intake: it’s easy to feel fatigued when we are not eating regularly – aim to include a portion of carbohydrate and protein at each meal so your energy levels are even throughout the day. Carbohydrates are essential for keeping our energy levels topped up, whereas proteins are important to build muscle and regulate our appetite. By eating regularly and avoiding long gaps between meals, you will ensure that you are being mindful of your natural hunger and satiety cues, lessening the likelihood of overeating or bingeing at the next meal.
- Hungry for snacks? Grab a piece of fruit. A tennis ball sized piece of fruit is a portion and we should all aim to have at least two portions a day. If you are feeling like something a little more filling, then try a handful of mixed nuts with dried fruits, a pot of yoghurt with chopped fruit or a fruit smoothie made with yoghurt or milk for a protein boost. Snack time is also a great time to up your vegetable intake – try raw vegetable crudité with humous. Be prepared and make healthy snacks which you can have to hand – this will lessen the temptation to grab that afternoon muffin fix.
Ensure there is enough in your sleep-tank.
Optimally we should aim for 7 – 8 hours each night, enough to feel rested and recharged. If we lack in sleep, we are much more likely to seek out high energy snacks throughout the day to pick up our energy levels. By simply getting into a good sleep routine, you will find your munchies easier to manage and you will feel more able to get to that exercise class.
Each month we will look at a different way to optimise your eating in a healthy way. In the meantime, if you have specific interests contact me with your queries or comments on Twitter @AnaKristinaLNC