Looking to make a healthy change in 2015? Starting in January, our simple, 15-stage plan will help you to make lasting resolutions that will make this your healthiest and happiest year yet...
Starting on January 1st, spread your resolutions through the year and break your goals into realistic and achievable targets. This will keep you focused and allow you time to establish each change into a routine or habit, making them far more likely to stick. January is, of course, the classic time of year when we focus on making positive, life-affirming changes, but don’t forget other key times when energy levels naturally rise and we feel more vibrant, or when the days get shorter and we have a greater need for rest and solitude. By reacting to these seasonal fluctuations you’ll be optimising your ability to make changes when you need them most and you’ll be more likely to stick with them.
So here’s what a healthy, happy 2015 looks like:
1) Feel whole
After the indulgences of the last month, start 2015 by replacing all white, refined carbs such as biscuits, cake, bread, pasta and rice with wholegrain versions. Your body uses twice as many calories breaking down whole foods, so as well as keeping you fuller for longer, stabilising energy levels and packing a mighty nutritional punch, these foods will help you burn more calories, too!
2) Slow down
Vow to take an extra 10 minutes over your meals - taking a little more time helps you register the “fullness factor”, reduces bloating and leads to better digestive health. So, the next time you find yourself grabbing a sandwich on the go – stop and wait until you can sit down and savour it in a relaxed and mindful way.
3) Say goodbye to sugar
You’ve made a great start to the new year, so now it’s time to build on that progress by slashing your sugar intake. Too much sugar and processed carbohydrates (the white, refined foods) in your diet lead to the production of compounds called Advanced Glycation Products. These harmful by-products wreak havoc in the body, and among other things, damage the collagen and fibres in your skin making you age fast.
4) An apple a day...
Low in calories but a rich source of pectin - a soluble form of fibre – enjoying your sweet hit in the form of an apple helps manage insulin levels, because they release their sugars more slowly. Apples are also rich in the bone-building mineral, boron and as an extra bonus you’ll be topping up your 5-a-day.
5) Get moving
With moods lifting, energy levels rising and a healthy dose of seasonal positivity, now is the perfect time to get more physical. Whether, it’s walking, running, cycling, swimming, yoga or pilates, choose an activity that’s fun, enjoyable and you’re going to stick to. Aim for two or more sessions a week and if possible, get a friend involved – that way you’ll motivate each other.
6) Plant power
A plant-based diet with lots of fruit and especially veggies is beneficial in so many ways. From cutting the risk of heart disease and stroke to packing in youth-enhancing antioxidants. This month, load up your veggies opting, where possible, for locally produced, seasonal varieties like early peas, asparagus and leafy spring greens. Aim to fill half your plate with plant-based foods – veg, salad, beans and pulses.
7) Go nuts
Studies show people who regularly eat a small quantity of nuts often live longer and are less likely to be overweight. Make your snack of choice a small handful (about the size of a golf ball) of unsalted nuts –almonds, walnuts, brazils and pecans are all packed with heart-friendly fats as well as valuable minerals like iron, zinc and selenium.
8) Analyse your eating
Scientists have long tried to discover how eating less overall can actually help us age slower and live longer. For the month of June keep a food diary and record all you eat and drink. After the first week, assess how much you consume in a typical week. Could you cut back on any unhealthy extras? For the rest of the month, focus your diet around nutrient dense, whole foods, which nourish and restore rather than highly processed foods, drinks and ready meals, which stress and deplete the body. You’ll be surprised how just making this small change helps you manage your overall food intake.
9) Let it shine
A warm, sunny day doesn’t just nourish the soul and make us feel good, sunshine helps prevent all kinds of illnesses and gives our immune system a boost. The action of sunlight on our skin is vital for the production of the 'sunshine vitamin' - vitamin D. We’re learning more and more about this vitamin, which appears to have a role in cancer prevention, bone health and fighting off depression. So, now’s the time to enjoy short periods without sunscreen, about 10-15 minutes each day, to optimise your vitamin D levels. Take care to avid the hottest times of day and, If you’re outside for any longer, don’t forget to lather on the sun protection.
10) Drink up
Our British Summers can be unpredictable at best, but when the temperatures start to rise it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough to drink. So, whether you’re going about your normal routine, enjoying some exercise or just taking in some rays, make sure you stay well-hydrated. An easy way to do this is to start your day with a full glass of water, warm if you prefer, and then pace your intake throughout the rest of the day. Don’t forget, high-water content fruits and veggies including melon, courgettes and cucumber also help contribute to your fluid intake.
11) Liquid nutrition
Low in caffeine and packed with protective plant compounds called polyphenols, green tea is said to offer health benefits ranging from reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes, to boosting metabolism and aiding weight loss. If you’ve never tried green tea, start by replacing one or two of your regular cuppas with a flavoured variety such as citrus or jasmine.
12) Beauty sleep
British Summertime ends next month and we’ll be gaining an hour between the sheets, but get ahead of the game and take a look at your sleep patterns. Ideally you need seven hours of restorative, good quality sleep nightly. If your slumber hours are lacking, your energy levels are likely to be low and your cravings for sugary, fast-energy-releasing foods will be high. Do a “sleep audit” - check the temperature in your bedroom is comfortable but not too warm, the room is sufficiently dark with low levels of noise and, finally, make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable and supportive. Swap alcoholic night caps for a glass of warm milk and an oatcake. Alcohol may help you nod off but it severely impacts the quality of your sleep, leaving you less than fresh the next day.
13) Clever comfort food
As the days draw in its only natural to start craving comfort foods. Fill up on fibre, which will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Fibre is also important for digestive health and helping to prevent conditions like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. This month, start the day with a portion of oats and a tablespoon of ground flaxseed or some wholegrain rye bread. Try adding barley or brown basmati rice to main meals as well as plenty of root veg including sweeter varieties like sweet potato or parsnip as well as seasonal pumpkin.
14) Healthy fats
As it gets colder and sunlight hours decrease, make sure you’re getting your quota of oily fish. Varieties such as salmon, trout, sardines and mackerel are one of the best food sources of vitamin D, and they’re packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These ‘good’ fats keep our hormones balanced, our bodies in shape and our skin supple. Omega-3 fats are especially useful now because they give our circulation a boost and keep blood flowing. Aim for 1 – 2 servings of oily fish each week.
15) A little of what you fancy
It’s the season of good cheer, so make sure yours is a glass of red this festive season. Red wine is rich in protective compounds, which help keep blood vessels healthy, as well as resveratrol, which is thought to have anti-aging properties. Just be sure you stick to the government guidelines and have at least two consecutive days per week, alcohol-free.
What resolutions will you be making this year? Let us know in the comments below...