At the risk of joining the usual New Year healthy bandwagon, which frankly gets a bit boring, Jane Pikett offers some of the best – and easiest – tips to eat more healthily this year
The big breakfast
Eating a good breakfast is essential to restore blood sugar levels after waking up. If you skip breakfast, you’ll suffer a mid-morning blood sugar crash which will kill your mood, your energy levels and your concentration. It also murders your metabolism, which means your body is less efficient at burning calories – so why do it? Breakfast should be built on slow-digesting carbs with protein for sustained energy, so go for porridge, muesli, and eggs or baked beans on wholemeal toast.
At the risk of introducing the toilet to our lovely food magazine, if you want to know if you’re drinking enough, check your pee! It should be the colour of pale straw; if it’s not, you’re not drinking enough. I drink a good three litres of water a day, all of it ice cold, which boosts the metabolism into the bargain. I also, however, down about six cups of coffee a day, and that’s a diuretic which turns all that lovely water into about 1.5 litres. Coffee can also make you irritable (what do you mean, irritable? Grrrrr…)
Keep a diary
Keep a food diary, logging all you eat and drink. You could do it by just taking photos on your smart phone (how easy?) and then review at the end of the day. It’ll make you think.
Paul McKenna hits the nail on the head when he points out that people who are naturally slim notice what they eat. The rest of us wolf it down while we’re doing other things, so the body doesn’t tell us when we’re full. Sit down and think about what you’re eating as you’re eating it. Concentrate on its look, smell, taste and texture, and put your fork down between mouthfuls. You’ll get full more quickly, and you’ll enjoy your food more. We aren’t designed to eat on the run!
Your plate should contain one third carbs, one third veg, and one third meat or fish or dairy. And eat from a normal plate rather than a serving platter (this is not Man vs Food!). A meal should be enough to sit in your two cupped hands. Before you pile it on your plate, keep this in mind – a meat serving should be the size of a pack of cards, a pasta portion should be as big as your fist and a serving of cheese the size of a matchbox (a SMALL one!)
Most of us, says herbalist Liam Watson from 21st Century Herbs in Hexham, are deficient in essential magnesium, leading to many of our modern problems with digestion. Boost your diet with magnesium-rich foods like pumpkin seeds, seasame seeds, Brazil nuts and spinach.
Carbs are forms of sugar and sugar cues the pancreas to make more insulin, which triggers appetite, which means those late-night toast binges are even more tempting. During the day, carbs produce glucose in your cells and you need them to function, but choose good carbs like brown rice, wholewheat pasta and wholegrain bread.
Spice of life
Spicy food increases your heart rate and can boost metabolic rate by 50% for three hours afterwards. Make chilli, get slim!
Just one night of skipped or disrupted sleep slows calorie burn by 5-20% the next day. Make 10pm your bed-time and get up earlier.
Ditch daft diets
Crash diets play havoc with your metabolism, sending your body into starvation mode and making it hang on to every calorie. Eat regular, small amounts six times a day.
Downsize as the day goes on
Decrease the amount you eat at each meal and snack as the day goes on, so your largest meal of the day is breakfast, and your smallest is supper (no less than two hours before bed).
Your body performs better when you fuel it right, so try these top energy boosters:
Spinach – rich in iron and Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and Vitamin K to fuel muscles. Also helps to break down glucose into energy and support bone health.
Lamb – Lean red meat is an excellent source of protein and iron, helping to improve muscle mass and strength and stabilise blood sugar levels.
Banana – The ultimate fast food, easy to digest, with natural sugars and fibre for sustained energy.
Beetroot – Beetroot juice may improve stamina and endurance and lower blood pressure. It’s rich in B vitamins and folic acid, helping to build up red blood cells and prevent fatigue and anaemia.
Eggs – One provides 6g of complete protein with zinc, iodine and selenium to support the thyroid and metabolic rate. Also help the body to break down fat.