- Marina Saif
Nutrition & Exercise Tips for the New Year
It's the first week of the new year 2023! Many of us have made new year’s resolutions around getting rid of any bad habits and implementing new healthy habits into our everyday lives. If you’re still unsure which good habits you can commence, ensure you include ones around a healthy diet and moving more. A healthy body makes for a healthy mind. There is much scientific evidence which shows that consuming a healthy diet and increasing physical activity can lead to a happier, healthier life. This is because it has many positive effects on our physical and mental health and well being!
What’s on your plate? Try to have half your plate full of vegetables and salad; quarter of the plate full of lean protein and a quarter carbohydrate for every meal; that includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Below is an example of a day of tasty, healthy meal options:
Breakfast: 1 small wholemeal roll/ slice bread (carbs) with 2 boiled eggs/ smoked salmon (proteins) and half of smashed avocado (healthy fats) can also sprinkle a few pumpkin seeds (more healthy fats/ proteins) and with a side of mushrooms and asparagus/ spinach (veg). Lunch: Boiled/ grilled/ roasted chicken breast (protein) with roasted sweet potatoes (carbs) and half a plate of mixed salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, olives).
Dinner: Grilled Tuna Steak (proteins) with 5 small new potatoes boiled/ roasted (carbs) and mixed winter veg (sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, green peas). More examples: Half a plate of these (fruit/ veg): ● Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, red/ white/ green cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy) ● Leafy greens (kale, spinach, lettuce, rocket) ● Avocado ● Green peas ● Corn ● Carrots ● Cucumber ● Tomatoes ● Capsicum/ bell peppers ● Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries) ● Citrus fruits (oranges, satsuma, pink grapefruit, lemon/ lime) ● Rosacea fruits (peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums) ● Mangos and papaya. Quarter of the plate of these (healthy proteins): ● Chicken breast ● Turkey breast slices ● Lean cuts of steak ● Salmon Filet ● Tuna Steak ● Steamed/ oven cooked white fish (haddock, hake, cod, tilapia) ● Loin chop of lamb ● Vegan meat alternatives (e.g. Quorn or Beyond Meat) ● Plant based proteins such as lentils, chickpeas, beans, pulses, tofu, tempeh, nuts & seeds (e.g. almonds, cashew nuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds) Quarter of the plate of these (wholemeal, slow release, unrefined carbohydrates): ● Sweet potatoes (mash or roasted, avoid fries) ● Potatoes (mash, roasted, avoid fries, half a jacket potato) ● Wholemeal bread/ bread crackers/ oatcakes ● Rice (wholemeal) ● Pasta (wholemeal) ● Bulgar wheat ● Couscous ● Quinoa Healthy snack ideas (try to keep snacks total 300 kcals/ day that’s 3 snacks a day of 100 kcals per snack): ● Cucumber/ celery/ carrot sticks with 1 tbs of hummus ● Rice cake with thinly spread peanut butter/ hummus ● 1 fruit: apple/ pear/ orange/ banana ● 2 tbsp cottage cheese and chopped cucumber ● Corn on the cob with squeezed lime ● Chia seeds soaked in natural low fat high protein yogurt ● Oatcakes with hummus or peanut butter. Below are the roles of the two nutrients (macronutrients) from above and the roles of fruits & vegetables ("micronutrients", which are generally low on calories but full of nutrients - vitamins and minerals): ● Carbohydrates provide our bodies with energy
● Proteins are for the growth and repair of our muscle’s cells and tissues
● Fruits & Vegetables provide our bodies with essential vitamins and minerals, some of which are powerful antioxidants protecting against diseases and strengthening immunity necessary for the functional and hormonal responses in our bodies.
● Our bodies also need important vitamins and minerals which we can get from healthy fats and dairy / dairy alternatives, for example, vitamin D and calcium are important for healthy bones and teeth.
All the food which we consume is assimilated and utilised in our bodies, therefore, it is important to consume healthy balanced meals for every meal and not to cut any food groups out. This is particularly important with children, as cutting important food groups out can disturb their growth and can lead to deficiencies in all ages. Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals can occur when our bodies are not receiving the correct nutrition or if our bodies are unable to absorb the vitamins and minerals, this is often a result of diet restrictions, improper nutrition or illness. In most cases we can control this by ensuring we consume a healthy, nutritious, varied and colourful diet.
Indeed, we truly are what we eat!
Treats are good to enjoy, however the quantity and frequency of when we consume these are important. If we are overindulging in high-sugar, high saturated fat treats then we are not giving our bodies what they require for a healthy function and doing this for a long period of time will negatively impact our health and imbalance the quality of nutrients the body needs. A balance is important, everything is ok in moderation, nothing in abundance.
Food labels can help and have a traffic light system which can alert you to what is healthy (green), moderately healthy (amber), not so healthy (red).
Exercise & Physical activity
Physical activity is any bodily movement requiring energy, this is not just restrictive to the gym or intentional workouts, it is any activity that gets you moving and that include walking to the shops or cleaning your room.
Exercise is activity that requires physical effort to maintain or improve' one’s health or fitness, these include:
● Aerobic: working the cardiac (heart) muscles, example: running, cycling, swimming or brisk walking
● Anaerobic: working specific muscle groups, these are usually shorter duration; higher intensity workouts such as jumping, sprinting or heavy weightlifting.
It is recommended that we part take in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week (this amounts to around 30 mins a day on at least 5 days of the week) and strength exercises on two or more days a week which works all major muscles (legs, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms), this is to maintain muscle, bone health and strength. However, moving more is always going to be more beneficial for one’s health.
A good rule of thumb is to try and achieve 10,000 steps per day, if you already do so, challenge yourself to 12,000 then 15,000 etc.
The idea is to always be challenging and increasing in either intensity, duration, reps or sets with time and in a safe manner.
Remember to research the correct technique and positioning with certain weight bearing exercises to avoid injury!
No gym? No problem
Other ways to keep moving:
● Walking instead of driving to short distances
● Walk up/ down escalators instead of standing on them and just letting them move you
● Get off a bus/ train stop early and walk rest of the journey
● Walking - for leisure, it has many benefits to one’s physical and mental health
● Housework: cooking, cleaning, gardening
● Walk around/ get moving during the commercial/ and whilst watching TV
● YouTube HIIT workouts
● Dancing to your favourite dance music or learn a new dance to a song (e.g. candy/ salsa)
● Google some resistance exercises you can do at home
● Improvise with equipment: e.g. use a big water bottle in place of dumbbells
● NHS website provides some examples of exercises you can do https://www.nhs.uk/better-health/get-active/home-workout-videos/
Overall, a combination of both physical activity and good nutrition will positively impact our physical and mental health and the overall health & well-being! They are like a married couple, and cannot be separated, both are essential to our health, and one cannot compensate for the other. We cannot out-train a bad diet in the gym, and we cannot feed ourselves all the benefits that activity has on our entire health. Even more of a reason to ensure we make some serious health goals for the new year!
Happy Christmas and a Very Happy, Healthy New Year 2023!