Food is about so much more than fuel. It’s where we get most of our vitamins, minerals and nutrients, and what we eat can therefore have a profound affect on how we look and feel. As we emerge from the colder, darker months, here are 14 small dietary and lifestyle changes that can have a huge impact on your weight, your mood and your immune system this Spring.
#1. Reduce your sugar intake.
This might be obvious, but not for the reasons you might think. Yes, sugar and junk food can lead to weight gain – but it can also cause inflammation in the brain and there’s a strong link between a high sugar diet and decreased mental health. If you notice you often feel anxious or low, start with your diet before you look at other factors.
#2. A probiotic is essential.
The gut is linked to so many aspects of our health, including mental health. In fact, 70% of your immune system is based in the gut – so it’s essential to keep it healthy. Probiotics contain live bacteria which benefit gut health by supporting the microbiome, so taking a good quality probiotic every day can make a big difference to not only your gut health, but to the rest of your body.
#3. Realise we have to eat differently as we age.
As we age, our hormones change and we start slowing down. Because of that, we can’t eat in the same way we did in our 20s. Getting older means we’re more prone to insulin resistance, which leads to weight gain, so it’s more important to think more carefully about our diets.
#4. Eat a rainbow.
If you’re eating a ‘beige’ diet, you won’t get the nutrition your body needs to function at its best. That’s why it’s important to eat lots of vegetables in as many colours as possible. Carrots and yellow peppers have Vitamin K, A and beta carotene; all essential for your immune system. Anything that’s naturally red or orange contains beta carotene, including eggs which contain it in an animal version. Mix that with dark, leafy greens like cavolo nero, chard and rocket, and your body will thank you.
#5. Always have go-to snacks at the ready.
Fill up on things like full fat plain yoghurt with berries, protein nuts, boiled eggs, healthy flapjacks or dark chocolate, which is a rich source of magnesium. I make a low sugar berry cake with ground almonds instead of flour; it’s not necessarily about eating fewer carbs, but rather making sure what you do eat has nutritional value to your body.
#6. Plan ahead.
The more you can plan ahead, the less likely you’ll be to grab something unhealthy. It’s always great to cook meals in batches at the weekend, but even just chopping up and freezing vegetables or cooking a few boiled eggs to keep in the fridge for the next few days will help.
#7. Exercise for wellbeing, not weight loss.
Exercise isn’t essential for weight loss, but it does have tremendous benefits from a psychological perspective. Getting out in the fresh air will always be beneficial for your mood, and as you get older it becomes even more important to keep your body moving. Swimming is a great all-round exercise as it uses so many muscles and your body’s better supported in the water.
#8. Eat to reduce pain and inflammation.
Inflammation is responsible for more problems than we realise. Weight gain around the middle, bloating and pain anywhere in the body are all signs of inflammation, so eating foods which help to reduce it – namely foods that contain Omega 3 – can be enormously helpful. Chia seeds, linseeds and flaxseed can be easily sprinkled onto breakfast cereals and salads, while oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines – along with some red meats – are all anti-inflammatory.
#9. Some ‘healthy’ foods aren’t healthy.
You might think a fruit yoghurt is fairly virtuous, but it’s likely to be loaded with sugar. Some even contain up to 20 teaspoons of it, crammed into a little pot. The same goes for many breakfast cereals out there. Eating full fat, natural yoghurt sweetened with fresh berries and honey, and sticking to wholegrain cereals, is much better for you.
#10. Salads should be a full meal, not just leaves.
When we think about salad, we often just think of a few crumpled lettuce leaves and the odd cherry tomato; no wonder it doesn’t sound appealing. A good salad base should have a grain, such as couscous, quinoa, barley or whole grain rice, as well as leaves and a protein source such as chicken, feta cheese or boiled eggs, and a zingy dressing with fresh lemon juice. The right salad at lunchtime should leave you full and satisfied for the rest of the afternoon.
#11. Take the right supplements, not all supplements.
People often take a multivitamin because they think it’ll cover all their bases. But multivitamins have generally low vitamin levels because there’s so much packed in, and if you’re deficient in Vitamin D, you won’t get the amount you need from a multivitamin. Everyone’s different, so find out which vitamins and minerals you might be deficient in, and address them specifically.
#12. Don’t deny yourself treats.
Unless you have a medical condition, there’s no food you absolutely shouldn’t eat. If we start classing food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it can create an unhealthy relationship that will keep you stuck in a perpetual cycle of dieting and weight gain. There isn’t much nutritional value in jelly, for instance, but if it’s what you fancy, go for it. It’s all about moderation.
#13. Watch out for cheaper alternatives.
Superfoods like green tea and matcha are both rich in antioxidants, which can help to protect your cells against harmful free radicals. But not all these products are made the same; the active ingredient is catechins, and cheaper brands don’t contain the levels you need to get the benefits. Therefore, stick to brands like Pukka Tea and the brands you’d find in health shops.
#14. Don’t skip meals.
When you’re busy, it’s easy to skip meals – but doing that means you’re more likely to eat erratically and if you’re trying to lose weight, you might see that stop. When you miss a meal, your body’s cortisol levels spike and plummet, which can also affect your mood. Having healthy snacks like a boiled egg or even a slice of buttered wholemeal bread at the ready will help to avoid that.
If you’d like to take control of your health and wellbeing this Spring, or you’re struggling to lose weight, book a free 30-minute consultation with me today.
14 ways to feel instantly better this Spring
Get in touch with me today!
You can feel totally at ease with me, as we take a journey through all of the ways I can help you, to help yourself achieve a healthier balance in life.
I’m sure you will have questions so please feel free to get in touch with me and I will answer them fully.
Clinic Address (By Appointment only)
Office 3, The East Wing, Church Side, 1st Floor, Hawkesyard Hall, Armitage Park, Nr Lichfield, Staffs WS15 2FB