5 practical and accessible health tips from author of the Right Bite Jackie Lynch
If you’re really serious about trying a healthier approach in 2017, then forget about the quick fix or the infamous January detox. They’re not sustainable, they don’t work in the long run and they make for a miserable start to the year. A more effective approach would be to pick one area for improvement and stick to that throughout the year.
Your body is likely to benefit far more from one small permanent change than a rollercoaster of feast or famine, so pick your favourite of these health-boosting ideas and give it a try for 2017.
- Slash the sugar.
Associated with a range of chronic health conditions, excess sugar is clearly the bad guy of 2017. Cutting out chocolate, cakes and cookies is a great start, but it’s not easy to eliminate sugar from your diet completely. However, you can reduce it significantly by avoiding some of the main culprits. Steer clear of fruit juices and smoothies, as these contain the equivalent of 6-8 teaspoons of sugar. Snack on fresh fruit instead of dried fruit which has about 4 times as much sugar, because the dehydration process intensifies the fruit sugars. Be vigilant with food labels – 4g of sugar is about a teaspoon, which means just a small portion of many popular breakfast cereals contain 4-5 teaspoons of sugar. Anything labelled as low-fat often has added sugar (or salt) to boost the flavour, so do a quick comparison with the full-fat version to check it out. A few smart choices could make a huge difference to your sugar levels.
- Review your ratios
Change the ratio of your 5-a-day so the balance is in 4 vegetables to 1 fruit. If you’re already doing that, go for 6 vegetables and 2 fruits! Vegetables are packed full of protective antioxidants and energy and mood- boosting B vitamins, as well as being rich in fibre which promotes healthy digestion, hormone balance and sustained energy levels. Soups and casseroles are easy ways to increase your vegetable intake, without too much effort, as you can just throw them in and let them cook. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, then consider investing in a juicer, as this can be a great way to have a whole range of vegetables in one hit. Don’t forget snacks either – vegetable sticks or cherry tomatoes with some hummus or guacamole is another easy way to help reach your daily veg target.
- Consider your caffeine
If your cumulative daily intake exceeds 4 cups of tea, coffee or caffeinated drinks, such as Diet Coke or Red Bull, then you’re having too much. Caffeine has a very powerful influence on the body, increasing the heart rate and impacting blood pressure. Excess caffeine affects the nervous system, resulting in poor quality sleep and impacting mood and energy levels. Consider how you can reduce your intake and set yourself a realistic daily target – for example, if your morning coffee is non-negotiable, then think about avoiding it at other times instead. Find herbal or fruit tea that you like, and drink this in the afternoon. Try sparkling water with cordial as an alternative soft drink, and choose different mixers for alcohol, such as tonic or soda water. If you can manage to even halve your caffeine intake, you will start to see quite a difference to the way you feel.
- Audit your alcohol
You may not consider yourself a heavy drinker, but a civilised glass or two of win each night will take its toll in health terms. For 2017, plan 3 consecutive alcohol-free days per week. This will have a far more beneficial impact than going ‘dry’ in January and then partying for the rest of the year. It gives your liver time to regenerate and to focus on some of its other important jobs, such as processing hormones, metabolising fat and regulating blood sugar levels. You’ll also find that this will improve your sleep and energy levels, making you a lot more productive whether at home or at work. This will be especially beneficial if you’re overweight: according to the British Liver Trust, you’re three times more at risk of developing liver disease if you drink alcohol as well.
- Wave goodbye to wheat.
There’s no need to eliminate wheat altogether but high levels of refined wheat can be hard to digest, so reducing the amount of wheat in your diet could be a good move for 2017. It’s likely to be especially effective for those people who tend to suffer from stress-related bloating and wind. Wheat is an irritant to a sensitive gut, so you may find that you benefit from cutting it down in times of stress. If you’re regularly having cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner, then that’s quite a burden for your digestive system. Try eliminating wheat from one or two meals by having an oat-based cereal or porridge for breakfast, a rye bread sandwich or soup for lunch or swapping pasta for rice at dinner time. These small changes could reduce that niggling bloating you experience and make you feel far less lethargic.
Good luck and wishing you a happy and healthy 2017.
Jackie Lynch is a Registered Nutritional Therapist and runs the WellWellWell clinics in West London. Passionate about the importance of good nutrition for optimum health, she creates practical nutrition programmes suitable for a busy 21st century lifestyle. Jackie also provides advice and support for a range of blue chip companies, in the form of individual consultations for staff, nutrition workshops and menu analysis and has acted as a food consultant for brands such as Tetley. She is a regular contributor to the Mail on Sunday and the Net Doctor website and her advice features in a wide range of other national media. Visit her website.