Making sustainable lifestyle changes is the key to a longer, healthier life.
Too often eating well and exercising is something we do for a few days or a couple of weeks before reverting back to old, and generally, poor health habits. Taking a different look at your own nutrition, weight and physical activity habits is the ultimate secret to getting healthy and keeping your weight under control for good. To kick-start this positive-health mind shift, try viewing healthy eating and moving your body as non-negotiable daily habits.
Think of it as looking after your car: you regularly give it good-quality petrol, water and oil to make sure it runs well, and the same needs to be happening with your body. Rather than waiting until you need to lose weight, or until you are so tired and stressed that you are forced to re-evaluate your lifestyle, here are the top daily health and nutrition habits that will help you to be your best every day, not just tomorrow.
1. Prioritise your food and activity
We are the victims of our food environments: eating what is available, when we are hungry. Healthy people, on the other hand, plan their food intake religiously and make sure they have the foods they need on hand that will fill them up, but not contribute to long-term weight gain. The same can be said for exercise. You simply have to make the time and prioritise it. There will always be an excuse, another job you should be doing or a reason why you need to stop at the service station to pick up a snack, but if you are seriously committed to getting healthy, you have to prioritise your food and exercise needs.
2. Eat more vegetables
You may manage to eat half a plate of vegetables a few nights a week, but the truth is that you need this amount every day. Establish some regular vegetable-related habits, such as drinking a vegetable juice every day, or adding carrots, celery and chopped capsicum to your lunch, so that even if you miss out some nights, you have managed to include some during the day.
3. Eat nuts each day
Nuts are powerful little numbers, and walnuts in particular contain a high content of long-chain plant fats that are extremely good for the heart. Buy large packs and repackage them into individual portions for a tasty snack or to take the edge off your hunger on the way home from work. Remember, though: 10 nuts is one serve.
4. Only eat food you love
"Life is too short to eat bad food." It's a simple quote, but one that makes sense. If you know that processed foods such as cakes, biscuits, pastries and fried foods are packed full of bad fat, preservatives, additives and artificial garbage, why do you put them into your body? Once in a while is okay, but eating crap every day
for no other reason than you can't be bothered to eat better-quality food is a poor excuse. Look after your body and in turn it will work and look better every day.
5. Monitor your weight
Long-term weight-loss data which tracks those who have lost large amounts of weight and kept it off has repeatedly shown that regularly monitoring your weight to ensure it does not creep up is crucial for long-term weight control. Try to hop on the scales at least once a month so you can make changes before your weight starts to increase.
6. Promote health and fitness to the family
If you want to have healthy kids, you have to be healthy yourself. Children, particularly primary school-aged ones, are constantly modelling themselves on the behaviour of their parents. If you want them to be active and eat well, you are going to have to set a good example. If you know you need to make health-related changes at home, have a family meeting and plan ways you can eat better and move more on a daily basis.
7. Eat meals at the table
Research has shown that family meals not only help teenagers perform better socially and emotionally, but that sitting down to eat dinner as a family, without distractions such as the TV, promotes weight control. Even if you can only manage dinner together once a week, prioritising this meal is a good starting point.
8. Drink green tea
Green tea is packed full of powerful antioxidants that help protect the body's cells against damage. It is a great substitute for the large number of cups of regular tea, instant coffee and diet soft drinks office workers drink each day. There is some evidence to show that green tea can also help with fat burning. Aim for three cups a day, after meals.
9. Get some sunlight
While not directly related to nutrition, getting enough vitamin D is crucial for strong bones and optimal mood. Get out of the office at least once each day to take a walk, buy some healthy food and get some vitamin D; 10 minutes a day is all you need.
10. Take fish oil
While fresh, oily fish is packed full of powerful omega-3 fats, to get an optimal amount each day, you would need to eat 200 grams of salmon every day. Instead, try taking a couple of fish oil capsules each day for the numerous health benefits, including reduced blood pressure, reduced inflammation and improved skin-cell health.
Restaurant meals can contain twice as many kilojoules as a regular meal, due to larger portion sizes, extra bread, entrees and meals cooked in more oil than you would use at home. To compensate, always exercise the day you will be eating out, eat a light lunch and have a nutritious snack an hour or two before you go out to take the edge off your hunger and prevent overeating.