Tuesday, 16 June 2009

10 Stupidly Easy Ways to Improve Your Health Now

I promised you some healthy living posts, so here is what I hope to be the first of many more to come… Enjoy! And if you have any ideas or want to contribute an article on the healthy living theme, then get in touch: mycharade@hotmail.com

healthy eating hot chili peppers @ Student CharadeImage thanks to Kyle May

Everyone’s lifestyle is different, but there are little things we can all do to improve our day to day health. I’m no dietician, but these are all things I’ve been implementing lately with some success and, I can tell you, they’re blimmin’ easy:

1. A sprinkling of seeds. These little gems are choc-full of great nutrients like protein, iron and zinc, with all manner of amazing health benefits. They are so easy to add to your regular eating that you’ve got no excuse not to, and just one tablespoon a day is enough to have a positive impact. Buy seeded bread instead of your standard loaf; roast seeds in the oven with a sprinkling of soy sauce or spices and eat as a snack, or have on salads, soups and stir fry’s.

2. Super smoothies. A spectacularly easy way to meet your five a day, and so tasty. You can let your imagination go wild with combinations; how about raspberry, apple and cinnamon? Or a creamy concoction with the addition of some pro-biotic yogurt into a strawberry and banana affair? They’ll feel like a real treat at any time of day, but make a great wholesome alternative to a rich dessert. Beware of calorific shop bought smoothies though, make your own and remember: fruit counts as calories, so don’t overdo it!

3. A slight increase of activity. The smallest changes in your activity routine can make the world of difference. So, if you’ve got a couple of pounds to shed, you need not head straight to the gym. Try walking around whilst on the phone rather than sitting in one spot; always take the stairs rather than the lift; get up and do some star-jumps in the ad breaks of your favourite TV show; turn your stereo up and have a boogie whilst getting dressed in the morning and undressed at night; and walk with more purpose, taking wide steps and engaging your stomach and buttock muscles. Enough of these tiny additions to your day will have a significant impact on the amount of calories you’re burning.

4. Control portion size. Always over-stuff yourself at meal times? Try switching to a plate just two inches smaller than your regular dinner plate. Get to know your food groups and portion sizes because, even if you’re eating the right things, the amount you eat could be tipping you over your recommended calorie intake.

5. Keep a water bottle to hand all day. We all know we should drink plenty of water, but it’s tricky to remember it throughout the day. If you needed a swig of water now, have you got a glass or a bottle to hand? If not, you could benefit from keeping a large bottle of water with you at all times. The larger the bottle you fill up at the start of the day, the more it’ll help you to monitor how much water you’re actually drinking.

6. Be aware of your habits. What seems like an innocent treat, like a couple of biscuits or a bar of chocolate, repeated day after day in a lifestyle that’s not particularly active, can build up to contribute to significant weight gain. Keep a food diary so you know what you’re really eating, and keep that cheeky treat as exactly that, a treat, not a twice daily occurrence.

7. Eat regularly. The longer you go without eating, the more likely you are to attack that big box of doughnuts. So, another simple way to make a big impact on your health is to organise wholesome snacks for yourself regularly (around every 2-3 hours). Again, keep portions small and remember that fruit, veg and nuts, although packed with vitamins, can also be quite calorific, so choose wisely.

8. Rethink the social aspect of food. Rather than heading out for a meal, or cocktails and nachos with your friends, find cheap and fun alternatives that double as a great work-out. Ice skating, salsa dancing, horse riding, indoor climbing, hiking – they’re all superb ways to have a laugh and burn a shed load of calories rather than piling them on.

9. Get into the habit of always leaving a morsel of food on your plate at the end of a meal, always. We seem to have been conditioned to always finish what’s on our plate, when in reality this often means we stagger away from the table feeling over stuffed. It takes a good few minutes for your body to realise that it’s full, so don’t treat it like a waste bin. Stop when you know you’ve eaten a decent portion, not when there’s nothing left to scoff.

10. Listen to your body. This is the most important health tip of all. The body is a very clever machine and it wants to work with you, not against you. If you constantly crave high fat and high sugar treats, it’s probably because your regular diet isn’t providing you with the right sustenance. Listen to the messages your body gives you; the sluggishness, the aches and pains, the spots, the furry tongue – they’re all signs that something is not right. Feed your body well and monitor its reaction to certain foods. If you know you feel far livelier after a large salad at lunch rather than burger and fries, why do you keep ignoring this message? Treat your body right and it will do the same for you.

Do you have any additional health tips to add? What are the simple habits you implement to keep your physique in tip-top form? Perhaps we can put together a top twenty...


Martin Hughes said...

Great tips here. I've got three more food-based health tips you can add to the list:

Fruit is just as good as super-fruit - So-called super-fruits usually have an expensive price premium. Rather than focus on costly grub, grab some cheap fruit that'll be just as helpful at going toward your 5 (or more) a day.

Eat slowly - Wolfing down a meal to save time means you may end up eating more than you think you need. Spend that extra five minutes savouring the flavour and learn to appreciate the food. Better for your taste-buds, better for your body.

If you must eat a ready meal, at least add salad leaves - When in need of a quick fix, put a portion of salad leaves with your dirty grub and you get a portion of veg anyway. Better than nothing!

Eternal*Voyageur said...

I love smoothies ! They are really quick to make, and quick to consume !
Fruit does contain lots of calories, but since it's the fastest thing to digest, the calories are not stored. So calories from fruits are treated by the body quite differently from calories from fried stuff or candy.

I now do a fruit + greens smoothies, and they are great !

Claire said...

I love love food tips, I try to keep a healthy diet 90% of the time, so when I don't eat as well, it feels ok.

Tip - I have smoothies for breakfast sometimes. A good way of healthing them up is a) to use soya milk (honestly, you won't notice the difference) and b) add some sort of vegetable. Maybe a large leaf of chard, maybe a stick of celery, maybe a carrot. Gets another of the 5 a day in there!! A dribbling of honey may be all that's required, along with the fruit, for flavouring.

BTW, if you'd like an article on wheat-free living, I'd be happy to do one, I've been wheat intolerant for a year and live a healthy lifestyle now!!

Anna said...

You have to be careful with 3, because with an increase of activity, you body will ask for more calories and you'll subconsciously eat more. Butt even with eating a bit more, it's worth it!

Rosie Unknown said...

I try and make sure always to have a healthy, yummy snack on hand. That way, when I start to get hungry I don't just grab some sugary fatty treat.

Jennifer said...

This are great, and easy health tips. If only they could become common sense in society we'd be living in a perfectly healthy place.
Some tips of my own:
Seeds can be added to hot cereal easily, and if you don't particularily like the taste of them things like oatmeal hides it very well.
Peanut butter or other nut butters can be added to smoothies to easily add some protein. The flavour normally goes very well with fruit/berries and yogurt!

Sherin said...

Brilliant tips. I definitely needed this. All 10 points are really great. I've nearly finished an internship, so I know that from next week onwards, I'm going to be pretty much sitting in 1 spot!

Voila Megan said...

Fab tips everybody!

Martin - Indeed, just because you've succumbed to a ready meal doesn't mean you have to drop off the wagon completely. You can also promise to make a little more effort the following day (and drink extra water to help your body flush out all that salt!)

Eternal*Voyageur - I didn't know that! Thanks for sharing, certainly encourages me not to fear the fruit sugars.

Claire - I'm a total soya milk convert too. Love that 90% rule.

Anna - If you're eating the right things, a little extra activity is always a great idea, just make sure you implement point 7 (eating regularly) too!

Rosie Unknown - Being prepared is vital to avoid temptation! Thanks for sharing.

Jennifer - Some easy and original ideas, I never thought of adding seeds to oatmeal, but I will do now. Thanks!

Sherin - Glad this article came at a good time for you! Remember that the smallest bit of extra effort can have great results in the long-term.

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