It’s that time of year when people take a look at their life, their diet, and often their waistline and decide that this is the year to get it all sorted. Roll on the second week of January and most of us are exhausted, sore or simply fed up that all the goals we set for ourselves have collapsed already. How many of our New Year’s Resolutions actually make it through to February? And is there any way that we can make real changes to our health and nutrition that we can still be managing this time next year?
One of the biggest mistakes people make when they decide to change their diet s to change too much at once. Most people don’t realize that most of us have anything up to 40 habits around our food – everything from what time we eat to which foods we choose, how we shop and how mood impacts our choices. Imagine trying to change 40 habits all at once? Now you can see why so many crash diets fail and why extreme eating plans can be hard to stick to.
Some people are blessed with the kind of temperament that allows them to quit smoking overnight or change their whole diet in one go but for the rest of us lesser mortals, making a few small, meaningful changes can be more realistic as well as more sustainable. And you can make a bigger difference to your health by taking on two or three permanent healthy habits that doing a complete overhaul that only lasts a week or two.
Where to start?
Where about balance in nutrition all the time but what does that mean? It means that we need a range of foods and nutrients in a specific balance for the best of health. One of the easiest ways to start this one is to learn to balance your plate. ½ of your plate at lunch and dinner should be vegetables or salad; ¼ should be protein and ¼ should be wholegrain or unrefined carbs. That’s a simple change that will make a huge difference to your health
Add key foods
Maximizing the nutrition in your diet is a trend that is getting great attention and rightly so. Some foods have more nutrition than others and including these key foods is another easy way to stay healthy. Oil rich fish is a key food. Rich in omega-3 fats, B vitamins as well as key minerals like iodine and selenium. John West Infusions have a great selection of infused flavors and are a great lunch, snack or mealtime option. Try salmon or mackerel as a convenient way to add fish to lunch or add fish to stir fry’s, chowders and risotto for dinner.
80% of us do not eat enough fibre, leading to sluggish digestion and lower energy. Balancing your plate to include more vegetables will help but, on its own, won’t be enough. As we mentioned, nuts and seeds are great for fibre but you can do really well by adding beans and lentils to more meals. Bean salads make a great lunch mixed with tinned tuna or chicken and you can add lentils to homemade soups, stews and casseroles. Experiment with lentil recipes like daal which are an incredibly tasty way to add more fibre as well as a great source of protein.
Changing what you eat can take time but making and getting used to small changes is one of the best ways to make your new habits something permanent. You can always add new ones as you go. Look at the goals you have set for this year and then think about how much time - and mental energy – you have to give to them. Most of us try to do too much and end up doing nothing at all. One small change that you are still making in six months is worth any amount of diet perfection that only lasts a week.
Consultant Nutritionist - MSc., BSc., MINDI
Sarah has a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from Trinity College and a Masters in European Food Regulation.
She runs a food and nutrition consultancy giving one-to-one advice on nutrition and diet as well as working with some of Ireland's leading food companies.