Happy New Year Everyone!
The chances are that you have now managed to eat/give away/throw away or hide the remainder of the Christmas treats and booze, and it’s safe for me to come out and write a bit about getting back on track in the New Year.
I have to admit that even as a Nutritional Therapist, I have traditionally resisted the ‘New Year New You’ bandwagon, feeling that January is really the last month we’re interested in doing anything other than hibernating.
However, I’ve started to change my mind! After any break where we’ve been out of our regular routine with diet, food and exercise, we might naturally feel motivated, inspired or even desperate to get back to it, whether your goal is to drop a dress size to fit back into your clothes, run a 10K, or simply to be able to get through the day without the need for a mince pie and an afternoon nap!
So here are my Top 10 Tips
Use this month to focus on what you can get into your diet, rather than what you need to take out. This is the season where stress and overindulgence can have a negative impact on our health, and we need to support our immune systems to help fend off infections and keep us energised.
- Focus on getting 5 portions of vegetables each day, of which 1 is a cruciferous vegetable (broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, pak choy).
What this might look like:
Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs with 1 cup of wilted spinach or half an avocado and mushrooms.
Lunch: A homemade veggie soup (batch cook on a Sunday and freeze individual portions to use throughout the week). Or a salad using a base of watercress, rocket and spinach (not insipid lettuces!), then grate in a small raw carrot, a small raw beetroot, and add some olives or artichoke hearts.
Dinner: Steam some broccoli and cabbage. Fill at least half of your plate with veg.
- Plenty of liquids (not booze or caffeinated drinks) – Try some warming, nourishing teas. Pukka and Clipper ranges have some gorgeous organic herbal teas using therapeutic herbs. My personal favourites are Pukka Three Ginger in the morning and Turmeric Active or Revitalise in the afternoon. At night Clippers Sleep Easy tea is warming. Try to drink filtered water too – about 6-8 glasses a day.
- Use more therapeutic spices. There is so much compelling research around the benefits of turmeric, which includes it’s role in liver support, anti-cancer properties, anti-inflammatory/antioxidant properties, brain health support etc. It makes sense to include both powdered and fresh turmeric root and teas into our diets. Start with turmeric this month, but all herbs and spices have therapeutic properties.
For example if you have a morning smoothie, add ½ -1 tsp of ground turmeric. If you’re having a stir fry, add 1-2cm of fresh turmeric root. Make a cauliflower rice (blitzed cauliflower) with sweated onions and turmeric – it’s a beautiful golden colour and tastes fab with a few frozen peas, and some salmon flaked through!
- Track Your Progress – Keep a diary or track your healthy food intake. There is a saying that goes ‘What gets measured, gets done’ – I have recently started using Dr Michael Greger’s ‘Daily Dozen’ App which suggests a number of portions of different food groups shown to support long term health for the average person. It’s very interesting to see whether your diet is as healthy as you think it is, and motivating for you to try and increase your intake of the good stuff.
- Phone a Friend – We do better when we work together. If you have a good friend(s) that’s in the same boat, why not choose a great new cookbook and take it in turns to find the healthiest recipes and cook them for each other – a kind of more supportive ‘Come Dine With Me’.
If you have work colleagues in the same boat, why not take it in turns to bring in a healthy lunch – a homemade soup in a flask, or a healthy salad, or even healthy leftovers. The accountability will keep you going – you can’t possibly leave your friend without lunch for the day (can you?!)
- Find Inspiration – Find those great new cookbooks that are simple and inspiring
a) If you can’t cook but want to learn healthy plant-based recipes – Deliciously Ella Every Day (this is her 2nd book and has tasty, simple recipes)
b) If you’re a bit more traditional in your eating style – Dr Michael Moseley’s – The 8-week Blood Sugar Diet Recipe Book. Full of foods you will recognise that are healthy and easy to make and support your energy and waistline.
c) If you’re already a healthy eater but want inspiration – The Midlife Kitchen by Mimi Spencer (co-creator of the Fast Diet) and Sam Rice, is perfect if you really want to boost those foods that nourish your health, as you ‘mature’.
- Experiment – with alternatives for alcohol, especially if you’re doing dry January. Rather than thinking of what you’re missing, use the time to try new alternatives. For example:
a) Kombucha – a fermented, naturally sparkling drink made from green tea and often fruit, herbs and spices. This is a natural (and arguably more beneficial) source of probiotics, the healthy bacteria that keep our guts and immune systems in tip top condition. You can find this in health stores if you’re new to it, or make your own (https://happykombucha.co.uk sells kits)
b) Sparkling water with freshly squeezed lime or lemon. This is thirst quenching and you get a shot of vitamin C to support your immune system.
c) Infused water – Simply use your grater to create ribbons of cucumber to flavour either still or sparkling water. Keep a large jug in the fridge. This is so refreshing.
d) There are plenty of alcohol free alternatives available from stores, some do have sugars, so you may want to use sparingly, but if your primary goal is to reduce your alcohol intake, I think they make a great alternative.
Here’s my top choices:
Seedlip (distilled herbs, sugar-free that are quite expensive, but go along way, great with fizzy water)
Botonique – a herbal ready to drink alternative (on amazon and Ocado)
Eisberg alcohol free sparkling wine – available in supermarkets. A good alternative to prosecco!
8. Be Kind To Yourself – There’s no competition or pressure, and stressing about the odd indulgence is a total waste of energy. The chances are that the odd off-piste moment/week won’t have any long-term effect on your long term health. It’s what we do 80% of the time that is more important. So stay positive and open-minded. If you find yourself on a slippery slope, or repeating the same unhealthy behaviour, ask yourself honestly what is going on. Some of the following questions might be helpful:
- What do I actually need right now?
- What does my body need right now?
- Am I feeling stressed, bored, angry, sad, lonely?
If you are emotionally eating or drinking, the only solution is to address the root cause. The chances are that you know what you want to be doing, but find that your emotions are leading you down an unhelpful path. So again, be kind to yourself, forget about diets and eating plans, and focus on getting some good stuff in and find the right person to help you work through your emotions. Helen at Equilibrium can help point you in the direction of a therapist that can help with this.
- Find the Root Cause – And talking about tackling the root cause, if you are suffering with a chronic health condition such as Type 2 diabetes, IBS, thyroid issues, hormone imbalances, menopausal symptoms, autoimmune conditions, and so on, then nutritional therapy using a functional medicine approach can help. We are all biochemically unique, so generic diets and general healthy eating might not address what’s really going on with your health, but a tailored plan which may include diet and lifestyle changes and laboratory testing and nutritional supplements where appropriate could help. If you’d like a no obligation chat to see if Nutritional Therapy might be for you, then feel free to call me on 07909 732017.
- And finally…. as I have embraced the New Year as a time for positive change, I have launched a lovely 3-week programme called Fresh Start in collaboration with my colleague Amanda Ryder Nutrition, which is a gentle detox, eliminating some of the most common allergenic foods, and building a repertoire of simple, delicious health recipes for busy people.
Our next round starts on 14th January and the price is £75, which includes food lists, menu plans and full support through our private Facebook group, where you will benefit from our advice, and the support of fellow participants, all from the comfort of your own home. To book, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 07909 732017 for more information.
If you miss this round, don’t worry, sign up to my newsletter from my website homepage and you’ll receive notification of further plans throughout the year.
I hope that some of the above suggestions are helpful to you and wish you health and happiness throughout 2019.
With very best wishes