How to make sure you stick to your New Year’s ‘health kick’!

It’s the New Year and most of us feel like we have eaten our body weight in mince pies and chocolate over the last few weeks. If you are considering starting a diet or new healthy eating regime then you are not alone. A recent survey found 42% of us implement dietary changes at the start of the year, with the most popular reason cited as ‘to improve my overall health’ (41%), followed by ‘to change my appearance and lose weight’ (35%). There are many restrictive diets promoted at this time of the year, seeking to take advantage of us at a time when we may be feeling our most unhealthy. On the other hand, there are also many articles telling us not to waste our time as we are doomed to fail miserably and will end up feeling worse about ourselves. In-fact the same survey found that 41% of their respondents had already quit their new regime by the 1st of Feb.

The top 5 reasons given for quitting the new healthy eating regime included:- 1. going through a stressful time 2. time constraints 3. the restrictive nature of diet 4. the cost of the diet and 5. feeling hungry.  

January is a long, cold and slightly depressing month for many. Uncertainty still remains over what the global pandemic has in store for us and planning summer holidays seems risky. For many people depriving yourself of your favourite comfort foods at this time of year is setting yourself up to fail. When we look back at the people in the survey who successfully stuck with their new diet, the main reasons given were compatibility with their lifestyle and enjoyment in the food they were eating.

The top 3 reasons given for sticking with the new diet included:- 1. It fitted into my lifestyle well 2. I enjoyed the food I was eating, 3. I felt very motivated to improve my health. 

Healthy eating does not need to feel restrictive and it can certainly be enjoyable. The focus of dietary changes for health should be ensuring we eat what our bodies need and we can then focus less on what we need to cut out. Here are my 2 New Year health goals that should fit easily into your lifestyle and do not require you to ban your favourite foods! A more sustainable alternative to the extreme new year diet! Happy New Year!

1. Increase your fibre intake – we should be aiming to consume 30g/day of fibre, but most of us are not close to achieving this. There are so many ways we can enjoy extra fibre beyond the usual suggestions to swap white rice for brown and white bread for brown bread. Fruit and vegetables contain many different types of fibre from cellulose (the roughage which adds bulk to our stools) to soluble fibres which are digested by our gut bacteria supporting our gut health. We should be aiming for at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day (most people only consume 2-3) . Look out for my next blog which contains lot of interesting ideas as to how you can enjoy eating fruit and veg. Coconut flour is also very high in fibre and can be swapped with standard flour into many cakes and desserts. Wholegrains such as rolled oats are high in soluble fibre and can be incorporated into both sweet and savoury dishes as well as baked goods. Beans and lentils can be added to any recipe that you would usually make at home and tinned versions cut down on preparation time. NOTE:- Increasing your fibre levels (particularly if you do not currently eat much fibre) should be done slowly to avoid gastric discomfort, start with one extra portion per day and see how you feel.

2. Cook from scratch – try and increase the number of meals that you cook from scratch, which in turn helps you reduce the number of ultra processed foods you consume. Ultra processed foods (products that contain industrial ingredients on the label e.g. emulsifiers, flavourings, additives, sugar syrups etc.) tend to be high in added sugar and salt and low in nutrients and fibres. It is now becoming more apparent that ultra-processed foods may be more difficult to restrict and may encourage us to consume more calories. The national institute of health published a randomised controlled trial where they found eating processed foods caused weight gain. In this study they compared two groups of people provided with meals containing the same number of calories, fibre, fat, carbohydrates and protein. One group ate processed foods, whilst the other group ate whole foods. It was found that the group eating the processed foods gained 2lb of weight a week, whilst the group eating whole foods lost weight. The group eating the processed foods consumed on average around 500kcal more per day than the group eating whole foods. The reason for this require further investigation, but this study gives an interesting insight into the effects of ultra processed foods on our energy intake.

Please note : All the content on my blog is for information purposes only. For personalised nutrition advice please book an appointment with a nutritionist or dietician. You can book an appointment with myself through my contacts page.