Posted on January 23, 2019 by Josh Puttock
Getting diet and nutrition back on track after Christmas and New Year can seem like a daunting task. We’re all thinking about ways to change our eating habits and to futureproof our health for the coming year.
The good news is, it’s not so complicated as you might think. Before we get started let me just stress that no matter how good your diet is, if you’re not combining it with a decent amount of exercise, your efforts will be in vain! So, make sure that when you make changes in your eating plan, you also keep your physical output up, even if it’s just a 5 minute jog around the park in last light.
This fast track diet overhaul can be summed up with one simple concept: replacement. Below, I’ll list a few changes that can simply be made by replacing certain foods, with other healthier and simple alternatives.
Drink more water
The first major swap we can focus on is also the simplest. Drink more water, drink less sugar. I have my trusty Nalgene bottle with me wherever I go, in fact I now feel lost if I forget it it! Carrying a dedicated water bottle with you at work, travelling and when exercising is the quickest and easiest way to start drinking more water and less sweet stuff.
If you look back through your week, how much of your fluid intake is something other than water? Fruit juice, fizzy drinks, alcohol and even flavoured water, are not just full of sugars but they all come up surprisingly short when it comes to their hydration benefits. In an article by the Telegraph in 2015, after testing sugar content in various soft water drinks ‘This Juicy Water (Oranges and Lemons)’ had 9 teaspoons per 420ml.
By drinking more water, not only are you skipping unnecessary sugar in-take, but you’re also helping the planet by using fewer plastic bottles. No brainer.
The second replacement is a huge one, for your health and for the environment alike: swapping out your meaty meals with veggie ones. This can be harder for some people than others, especially if you’ve been a carnivore for many years, but today, there really isn’t any excuse for eating meat every day of the week.
With so many delicious, and nutritious veggie recipes out there, you can tailor at least four out of your seven days to vegetarianism. Meat is a sizable factor for weight gain and cholesterol levels, especially beef and pork. By cutting your consumption of these two animals down every week, and replacing them with lentils, pulses and other nutritional alternatives, you take a giant leap forward in improving your health.
Pulses contain all the fibre, protein and iron your body needs, and at a fraction of the price of meat. I noticed a considerable difference in my physical and mental wellbeing after switching to veggie meals. The meat industry is also one of the largest contributors to global warming and you can nearly halve your impact by simply going veggie most of the week. Couple this with the nutritional benefit? Again, it’s another no brainer.
The third and final point revolves around indulgence. I’m a firm believer in the saying ‘Everything in moderation’, and so while you’re making changes to your diet, you should still give yourself some indulgence time. This is extremely important for your body and mind.
To keep it simple, here are some of the changes I’ve made in my diet when considering sweet treats, such as chocolate. Since the start of the new year, instead of putting milk and white chocolate in my lunches, I’ve swapped to Fair Trade dark chocolate. A lot of major confectionary brands have dark alternatives now, such as Kit Kat. Dark chocolate contains very high levels of antioxidants, which lower the risk of infections and even cancer. Swapping your milk for dark is an easy and highly effective diet change.
Nuts are the one I want to emphasise the most though. I’ve started eating a handful of nuts every lunch time. Incorporating them will boost cholesterol levels and give your body the right kinds of fats (unsaturated). They are also incredibly filling, which makes them perfect for a workout or travel snack, because you only need a small amount a day to contribute to a healthy diet. They have been a huge success for my personal health, and I eat them almost every day.
So, there it is. Three areas in which you can drastically improve your post-festive overindulgence. Not only will these adjustments make you feel happier in yourself, but you will start to notice the positive effects almost immediately. Start off slowly and see how far you can go, you may even end up going vegetarian for most of the year! And don’t forget, implementing these changes is best done alongside regular exercise. Food is still fuel and needs to be burned one way or another. Keep at it and good luck.
By Tom Alderton