It's 2023, have you set any big goals? Work towards setting goals that are specific and stepwise and you'll be more likely to succeed. Let's look at five simple and specific habits you can add to your existing routine that will have a big impact on your health.
Aiming for small and manageable changes is something I regularly encourage my clients when embarking on a health journey. This is because in order for a good habit to become sustainable, getting started must not be too extreme or sudden. It should be made increasingly automatic.
Research shows that small changes add up, lead to meaningful outcomes, become habitual more quickly and help to build a person's momentum and confidence.
For this New Year, rather than adopting an all or nothing approach, let's look at what we can add to our routine and how we can enrich our lives with habits that are sustainable. Adopting health-promoting habits and learning how to implement them go hand in hand with a healthy lifestyle.
#1 - Veggies First
Begin your meals with a plate of vegetables, raw or cooked. Vegetables need to have a bigger place at the table and this is a good way to ensure you actually eat your vegetables. Vegetables are a power house of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, digestive enzymes, fibre and more. Eating vegetables first will also make you feel great metabolically and can impact how you feel at the end of your meal.
When we digest food our glucose levels increase and the type of food we consume dictates how high the spike is and how low we will crash afterwards. A simple and easy way to avoid this roller coaster is to have vegetables first due to their high fibre content. Eating fibre first slows down the speed at which you digest starches, so glucose trickles into the bloodstream more slowly than if you had eaten the same foods in the reverse order. Leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot, carrots and cabbage are all great sources of fibre.
#2 - Fermented Foods
Adding fermented foods to your meals is a simple and inexpensive way to improve your gut health. It is recommended to include fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, kefir and miso daily due to their array of health benefits. “Fermented” means that the food goes through a natural process where its microorganisms like bacteria and yeast convert the sugar into acid. This process promotes the growth of probiotics —or good bacteria—in your gut. These fermented foods, full of probiotics, will help to continually replenish the beneficial bacteria in your gut, supporting a healthy bacterial balance and proper digestion.
I regularly recommend my clients add fermented foods to their diet, as their benefits include lowering inflammation, boost nutrient absorption and stop the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Bitter fermented foods also slow down blood sugar absorption and support blood sugar balance. They also shut down receptors in the brain that crave sweets. A few simple ways to add these to your diet is to swap yogurt for kefir, add miso paste to soups and dressings or add sauerkraut to salads or noodles.
Making your own sauerkraut at home is easy and delicious, follow this recipe.
#3 - Protein for Breakfast
Your breakfast of choice can determine how you feel for the rest of the day and night. It can affect your energy and concentration levels, food choices later in the day and food cravings and even inflammation markers.
A high protein breakfast will boost your metabolism, give you energy, and help you stay fuller for longer. Research shows that a breakfast with 35 grams of protein stabilises blood sugar, increases satiety and helps reduce night time snacking. If you find yourself regularly searching for a midmorning muffin or feeling sluggish and tired at 10am, start your morning with a protein breakfast like eggs, chia pudding, smoked salmon or a smoothie with a quality protein powder.
A protein breakfast also has the longterm effect of reducing many health conditions such as diabetes, cognitive decline and heart disease.
To round it off, a healthy breakfast should include protein as well as healthy fat and fibre. This combination of nutrients will satiate you, keep your blood sugar steady and help to eliminate cravings later in the day making you feel energised and clear headed.
#4 - Switch to Whole Grains
Swapping refined, processed grains (like white bread, white flour or white rice) for whole, high-fibre grains is a simple but impactful way to improve your health. Whole grains means that the kernel still contains the bran, germ and endosperm, unlike refined grains, which are stripped of valuable nutrients in the refining process, through removing the bran and germ. Whole grains include quinoa, millet, buckwheat, whole wheat pasta, barley, brown and wild rice.
The bran is the fibre-rich outer layer that supplies B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants and phytochemicals. The germ is the core of the seed where growth happens; it is rich in healthy fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, phytochemicals and antioxidants. The endosperm is the interior layer that holds carbohydrates, protein, and small amounts of some B vitamins and minerals.
The vitamins and minerals in whole grains are important for your overall health and the high fibre content of positively contributes to your digestive and gut health. A high fibre diet can also lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, create a feeling of fullness and lower the risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
#5 - Eat the Rainbow
Another great and simple way that will not only improve your health but is also delicious! If you're stuck in a rut of what to cook for dinner, try adding new vegetables to your grocery list, try new recipes and aim to eat the colours of the rainbow every day. Having a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes ensure that we're consuming a variety of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Eating a varied diet has also been found to lower your risk of mortality and it was concluded that nutritious variety was as important — if not more so — than limiting unhealthy foods.
Lastly, eating a wide variety of foods provides a better biodiversity in the gut which is associated with improved immune system, digestive health and lower inflammation.
Every January we're bombarded with the idea of 'new year, new you' which makes us more overwhelmed and stressed than actually supporting change. This year, I invite you to write down what you want to FEEL like and how you can fulfil that. Look at what you can add to your routine while keeping it simple and realistic so that you can be consistent. Remember, it's the small habits that add to meaningful outcomes.
If you need support and would like to know more about how to include healthier habits, please get in touch and book a free discovery call here.