‘New Year, New You’ is everywhere, and for many of us this means taking a long look at how to eat more healthily. Whether you’ve been overdoing it during December and want to make amends, or you’re simply keen to lose a few pounds, it all starts with eating right.
That said, there’s no point doing anything too drastic. Did you know that over 80% of New Year’s resolutions typically fail by February? Rather than overreaching yourself with dramatic weight loss diets or fancy health food fads, lots of little positive action steps will stand a much better chance of success in the longer term.
Here are 5 small and simple steps to help you achieve your diet goals.
1 – Drink more water
The body is made up of 80% water, so even before you think about changing your diet, drink more water! It’s calorie free, cheap to buy (or free straight from the kitchen tap) and essential for a healthy body. 8 glasses per day are ideal for proper hydration but if you find the idea unappealing, start small:
• 1 glass as you wake up in the morning, even before you brush your teeth
• 1 glass with every meal or snack
• 1 glass between each ‘unhealthy’ drink such as beer, wine or fizzy soda drinks
• Increase your water intake by 1 glass each week
2 – One thing at a time
Do you want to cut out ready meals and takeaways? Eat more greens? Give up meat? Whatever it is, do it gradually. Why not start upping your fruit intake by adding 1 extra piece of fruit to your lunchbox? Or focus on a new vegetable every week?
Perhaps reduce takeaway days to once a month as a special treat and microwave meals to once a week? How about rediscovering your kitchen at home and cooking from scratch? You could introduce special diet days such as Fish Friday or Meatless Monday. The important thing is to change your eating patterns slowly so that new habits have a chance to become embedded.
3 – Eat the rainbow
The colour of your food can tell you a lot about its nutritional value. Colourful produce is packed with disease fighting plant compounds, so be sure to get as many essential vitamins and minerals into your diet as possible.
Why not designate a different colour to each day – Mondays are yellow (grapefruit, corn, bananas), Tuesdays are purple (aubergine, grapes, red cabbage), Wednesdays are green (salad, broccoli, apple)… you get the idea. Or make colour themed dishes such as red pasta sauce (tomatoes, peppers, chilli) or Tricolore Salad (red tomato, green avocado, white mozzarella). Use your creativity and imagination and don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen.
4 – Eat mindfully
Keep the mindless munchies at bay by making yourself aware of what (and how much!) you eat. Don’t have snacks or sweet in the house – the temptation to reach for a biscuit without even realising may be too great. Exercise portion control by using smaller plates and serving up in the kitchen, to avoid the temptation to have seconds.
Keep to regular mealtimes and focus on enjoying your food, rather than multitasking with 25 other things at the same time. Did you know that by chewing for longer and slowing down your mealtimes, your body will be satisfied with less food?
5 – Help yourself succeed
By recognising and doing away with flashpoints, you can give yourself the best chance of dietary success. Rather than going out for a meal or inviting people over for dinner, why not think of ways to socialise without food? A walk in the park, a bike ride or a trip to the cinema may be just as enjoyable and much better for you.
Buddy up with a friend who has the same diet goals as you. That way, you can swap tips and success stories, go to the gym together or cook up healthy meals together and support each other when you need it.