Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Health Files: Tips and tricks for eating well and maintaining a healthy lifestyle

      Making new year's resolutions is a great way to wipe the slate clean and begin to introduce some positive new habits into your life, but traditionally, come February 1st, the resolve you strode into January so full of has dwindled to almost nothing.

Often, our resolutions can prove harder to maintain than we might have imagined, and it only takes one bad day to have you taking a detour to the nearest shop as you head home from work,  in search of that emergency bar of chocolate. A huge part of the problem, in my eyes, is the approach that many of us take to achieving our goals - leaping in head-first with a complete lack of forethought. It might be tempting to think that you can change your entire life overnight, but realistically, it's unsustainable.

One thing I have learned the hard way is that you need to create your own support network if you really want to succeed. I'm not talking friends, but rather, looking at what needs to be done in order to give yourself the best possible chance of success, and putting measures in place before you begin to provide support as you go.

It's never an easy feat, but there's no such thing as can't. I've fallen off the wagon all too many time myself in the past, but I have slowly learned that the best way to achieve your goals is to be your own biggest cheerleader, and let go of the self-sabotage. We are all guilty of it, and it does us no favours at all.

Today, I wanted to share with you some of the handy tip and tricks I have picked up along the way - tips that I have found work for me, and ones that I hope will have us all waving out 2015 with a smile of satisfaction on our faces.

Here goes.

1. Plan and prep your meals for the week

Knowing what you're going to be eating for the days ahead helps you to stay focussed and prevents situations where you might find yourself reaching for a less than healthy option simiply because nothing else is available. Ensure that your fridge is always stocked with a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, and fill your cupboards with staple foods such as quinoa and brown rice. Spend a couple of hours cooking up some one-pot meals on a Sunday, these can be stored in the fridge and dipped into as needed throughout the week. I tend to do this for lunches, so that all I have to do each evening is pop a portion into a plastic container along with some fresh salad, and grab it on my way out the next morning.

2. Be prepared

To give yourself the best possible chance of maintaining your healthy lifestyle, ensure that you are prepared for every eventuality. Pop your gym gear in the washing machine after each session, and make sure that it is dried and packed into your gym bag before you go to sleep. If you exercise after a day at work, then make sure you keep the necessaries in the car so that you can head straight to the gym, as often, coming home and sitting down will mean that you are far less likely to get back up again!

In term of eating, number 1 will have already tarted you off on the right foot, but it's a good idea to make sure that you always have some healthy snacks close at hand so that you're never tempted to reach for that chocolate bar. Empty your desk drawer of anything that might pose a risk to your eating plan, and instead, fill it with nutritious and low sugar alternatives. I keep bags of mixed nuts, sachets of miso oup, gluten-free oatcakes and Nak'd bars in mine.

3. Include complex carbs in your lunch

A sure-fire way to fall off the wagon is to deprive yourself completely of energy-providing carbohydrates. Cut out the white, refined baddies such as white bread, rice and pasta, as these are of little nutritional value and will cause a sudden spike in your blood sugar. All very well if you're after a quick energy hit, but it is soon followed by a crash and will leave you feeling lethargic and sleepy for the afternoon. Instead, replace them with high-protein grains which provide complex carbs and a slower stream of energy. Quinoa and bulgar wheat are both good options, as well as daily staple of mine. Alternatively, try sweet potato - I roast a few in tin foil in the oven each Sunday, and keep them in the fridge until needed.

4. Have a green smoothie every morning

The majority of us lead busy lives, and it can be difficult to find the time to ensure that you're getting your five a day. One of the best solutions, I have found, is to drink a green smoothie for breakfast each day. Every evening, I throw a handful of kale or spinach in the blender, along with a selection of berries, a spoonful of wheatgrass powder, some ginger, and some flaxseed or chia, and whizz them up, ready for the following day. The Blend Active has to be one of my best purchases, as you simply attach the blade to the flask provided, replacing it with a lid once done. It's a quick and easy way to make and store a smoothie until you need it, and saves on the washing up, too.
If I fancy something a bit more filling, I'll add some avocado to my smoothie, or sometimes I'll pop in some banana and a spoonful of almond butter.

5. Swap coffee for green tea

There's no excuse not to like green tea these days, as with the multitude of flavours now available on the market, there is something to suit even the fussiest of tastes. Personally, I gave up coffee some while ago after realising it exacerbated the anxiety I was suffering from at the time, and it continues to serve as a trigger. I don't miss it at all, and I enjoy the gentle uplift I get from a nice, hot cup of green tea. I do love my English breakfast tea though, and I will always have a cup or two to get me going each morning. After that, it's green tea all the way, and with the added benefit of health-boosting antioxidants and - so they say - a slightly accelerated metabolism, there's very little not to like about it. I often go for Matcha green tea, but if that' not to your taste then try my favourite flavoured versions - I like Twinings orange and Lotus flower or mango and lychee.

6. Bake some healthy treats to have on hand for weak moments

Like it or not, there are going to be time when you feel your willpower beginning to falter, and the best way to deal with it is to have something on hand that will satisfy a sweet craving without the high sugar content. Recently, I have started making brownies with sweet potato and avocado, which might sound odd but taste delicious. You wouldn't have a clue there were veggies in them, and the best bit is that they tate wonderfully chocolatey without the calories or sugar. I use raw cacao for the flavour, and add fat free natural yoghurt and honey, swapping plain flour for spelt flour or almond meal. There are lots of recipes out there for sugar free, clean-eating desserts, and the recipe I use i very much an improvisation based on several. If you'd like the recipe, then let me know in the comments.

7. Plan your exercise schedule ahead of time

I wish I could be one of those people who bound out of bed every day for a pre-work gym session, but alas, cold, dark, winter mornings are not for me. To ensure that I still get my exercise in following a tiring day at work, I take steps to plan exactly what I'm going to be doing, so I carry a screenshot of my gym's class timetable on my phone for reference. It's all too easy to arrive without a plan and to end up wasting valuable time as you um and ahh about which machine you want to go on or which body part you are going to target. I tend to choose which classes I'm going to be doing the weekend before, and choose suitable workouts for the days in between - so, for example, if the classes I'm doing don't involve much work on my legs, then I'll do some squats and lunges and try to focus on that area on a day where I'm doing my own thing.

If you don't have a gym membership, then hop onto Youtube via your TV - there are some brilliant channel which offer a range of fitne videos and programmes that you can do in your living room. A personal favourite of mine is Fitness Blender, but Blogilates and Tone It Up are also popular.

8. If you do slip up, then get straight back on the wagon.

So you caved in and ate that bar of chocolate. One little mistake doesn't have to mean throwing in the towel completely, and if you're serious about your goals then you shouldn't let it deter you. That said, nor should you simply use it as an excuse to continue the run of bad eating for a few more days. Tomorrow is another day, so get straight back into your healthy routine in order to minimise the impact. Having a cheat meal once a week is fine, a long a it doesn't signal the beginning of the end -  and a wave goodbye to your resolve.

What are you doing differently this year to help you to keep your resolutions?



  1. This post is just what I needed, I have been looking into maintaining a healthier lifestyle however my diet is atrocious and I have no idea what's best for me :( I also have a habit of splurging on junk food (equally hard when you live at home with 3 other people who live on it) but I did purchase the blender on Boxing Day and it's come in quite handy when I'm in a rush for school x

    1. Glad you found this helpful lovely, and good luck on your journey ! Let me know if there's anything I can help with xx

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