How to be healthier in 2015

Simple changes can make a big difference to your wellbeing. We asked food, health and fitness experts to share 25 tips to inspire you to eat well this year.

How to be healthier in 2015

1. Try coconut oil

"We use virgin coconut oil for cooking and baking, in smoothies, or even just on toast instead of butter. It’s high in saturated fat, but the type of fat – lauric acid – helps to boost good cholesterol, and is digested in a way that keeps you satisfied for longer. We’ve met athletes who eat it straight from the tub, as it’s so good for energy. It has a mild flavour – your food isn’t going to taste of coconut.

2. Be mindful when it comes to food...

"... from where you buy it to how you chew it. This is the opposite of sitting on the sofa and piling in food without noticing. Your food – and your gut – deserves more respect."

Tips from Melissa & Jasmine Hemsley, cooks and authors of The Art of Eating Well

3. Fill your fruit bowl carefully

Pears"Swap high-sugar fruits such as melon, grapes and bananas for apples, pears or berries to reduce your sugar intake.''

4. Make it easier to stick to good portion sizes

"Personalise your portions - this is a good guide to how much should go on your plate:

such as cereal, rice, pasta, potato = A portion the size of your clenched fist. 
such as meat and fish = The palm of your hand.
Savoury snacks 
such as popcorn or crisps =
 Two of your cupped hands. 
such as brownies or flapjacks = Two of your fingers. 

Butter or spread = The tip of your thumb. 

5. Build activity into your day

"Use stairs rather than lifts, walk up escalators and to the end of your train platform. Try getting off your bus a stop earlier and stand up when you take a phone call at work. The more easily you can fit activity into your day, the more likely you are to stick to it."

Tips from Professor David Haslam, Chairman of the National Obesity Forum. Find out about National Obesity Awareness Week, 12-18 January 2015.   

6. Watch your carbohydrate intake if you have diabetes

Quinoa"If you have diabetes, the type and amount of carbohydrates you consume can make a difference to your blood glucose levels. Your dietitian can help you manage the condition with the right balance of carbs, which should come mainly from vegetables, wholegrains, pulses and dairy products. Quinoa and teff - the new 'supergrain' - make great alternatives to potatoes and pasta."

Tip from Julia Cloke, Diabetes UK

7. Limit yourself to one caffeinated drink per day

"I limit myself to one caffeinated drink a day, usually a cup of tea in the morning. If I fancy a hot drink during the day, I often have a low-calorie hot chocolate with hot water, or hot water with a slice of lemon. If I feel I need a bit of a boost, I use fresh ginger to spice up my hot water and kick-start my afternoon." 

Tip from Chelsie Collins, cookery assistant, BBC Good Food

8. Rethink juice

"I love juices, but the juicing process destroys the fibre in the food and this changes the structure of the molecules, meaning that you absorb the sugar faster - which can lead to blood sugar spikes. However, if you blend your ingredients using a stick blender, you'll retain the fibre, which helps to slow down the digestion of the sugar. Ideally, juice low-sugar foods such as green veg, and stick to blending sweeter fruits such as mangoes or pineapples.''

9. Eat sugary and low-GI foods together

"Eat sugary and low-GI foods together to ease the impact of sugar on your system. The body digests low-GI foods gradually, slowing the absorption of the sugar. So eat fruit alongside a handful of nuts, or add porridge oats to your smoothie to keep your blood sugar balanced." 

Tips from Roxanne Fisher, health editor, 

10. Stay hydrated

Flavoured water"I fill a large jug with water, chopped-up fresh fruits, herbs and sometimes a herbal tea bag. I keep it in the fridge and top it up with water throughout the day. It’s a great alternative to fizzy drinks and juices, and I can vary the flavours every day so I don’t get bored.''

11. Makeover sauce

"If I’m making a cheese sauce for pasta or cauliflower cheese, I use half the quantity of milk in the recipe and make up the rest with chicken stock. I then use nutmeg to help enhance the flavour of the cheese so that I use less."

Tips from Miriam Nice, home economist, BBC Good Food

12. Swap your sweetener

"I've been using maple syrup as a sweetener recently. It's delicious and a valuable source of minerals - a claim other sweeteners can't make. It contains immune-supporting zinc, which is a great skin saviour, particularly good in winter.''

13. If you're still buying low-fat options, think again

"Fat improves brain function, helps with healthy skin and can boost our mood because it helps absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat keeps us full so we're less likely to graze. I eat whole-milk, natural yogurt, have a scraping of butter on toast, eat oily fish such as salmon and trout, plus unsalted nuts and seeds, and get healthy fats from avocado, coconut and olives.''

14. Try flaxseeds

"Make one simple change to your diet this year by adding flaxseed to cereal, porridge or a smoothie. One tablespoon of ground flaxseeds per day helps to lower 'bad' LDL cholesterol. They are also a rich source of lignans - a form of plant oestrogen - which will help women in the 40s and 50s to balance their hormones. These little seeds are also high in soluble fibre, which is gentle on the digestive system and a source of omega-3.''

15. Spice up your diet

Chillies"If, like me, you suffer from cold hands and feet, then spice up your diet. Don't restrict chilli to a stir-fry when you can also add it to soups, sauces and dressings. The active ingredient, capsaicin, raises our metabolism, increasing body temperature and burning extra calories.''

Tips from Kerry Torrens, nutritional therapist and food writer

16. Pack meals with hidden vegetables

"Our family chilli nights are a great way to hide loads of vegetables and beans in a chilli con carne. We'll serve it with avocado, tomato salad, rice and tacos, as the kids love building their own dinner.''

17. After exercising, make sure you have healthy snacks to hand

"I love running, and this tip is vital as it stops me from buying anything and everything from the corner shop on the way home. One of my favourite training recipes is my marathon burritos and I often make an instant frozen berry yogurt as a snack." 

Tips from Barney Desmazery, senior food editor, BBC Good Food

18. Replace some of your pasta with vegetables

"Peel ribbons of courgettes, carrots and asparagus using a vegetable peeler and add them to tagliatelle or spaghetti for the final minute of cooking.''

19. Start the day with a proper breakfast

Dippy eggs"Some days I'm in the Test Kitchen for eight hours, often baking. So I try to start the day with a decent breakfast. It's based around protein such as yogurt or eggs, oats or fresh fruit, so at least I have something substantial before I start tasting."

Tips from Cassie Best, food editor, BBC Good Food

20. Commit to 12 food changes over the year

"That’s just one thing a month, whether it’s ditching the extra sugar in your tea, or adding another meat–free day to your weekly meals - it all helps."

Tip from Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian, British Heart Foundation

21. Add a can of lean beans

"Beans boost the healthy credentials of any meal, adding fibre, protein and antioxidants. Add rinsed canned beans to a soup during cooking, or heat them in stock for 10 mins, then add olive oil and herbs, and mash – serve as a side dish in place of potatoes or rice. I like butter beans with saffron, and cannellini beans with paprika or oregano.

22. Don't drink juice on an empty stomach

"Green juices pack a nutritional punch, but I wouldn't drink juice on an empty stomach. You’ll absorb the nutrients better if you have some fat and protein inside you – so drink your greens alongside a meal or snack, not in place of either." 

Tips from Ian Marber, nutritional therapist and writer

23. Skip pudding and munch a healthy mix

"For pudding, I give my daughter, Eva, a homemade mix - such as dried cranberries, pine nuts, macadamias and chocolate raisins." 

Tip from Helen Barker-Benfield, editor of BBC Good Food's Home Cooking series

24. Make a batch of energy bites

"To make energy bites, blend nuts, oats, coconut, dried fruit and honey or peanut butter in a food processor."

Tip from Katie Hiscock, fitness writer and sports therapist

25. Be more adventurous with oily fish such as salmon or mackerel

Mackerel"Recent studies have shown how valuable their omega-3 fatty acids are for improving mood in adults and children, as well as warding off addictive tendencies - which might help us crave less sugar. If you can eat two or three portions a week, you'll really do yourself a favour."

Tip from Dr Sally Norton, weight-loss consultant, Vavista

For more health advice, nutritious recipes and tips for wellbeing, visit our health section

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14th Feb, 2016
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