The secret to better health? Make a habit of it

It’s the little things that matter. When it comes to diet and nutrition, our little daily habits are the things that make a real impact on our health – for better or for worse.

Some of these habits will be so ingrained that you do them without even thinking about them. Like the daily ritual of cleaning your teeth, or putting the kettle on as soon as you go downstairs first thing in the morning.

What if changing your health was as simple as changing one small thing?

One of the things I ask all my clients to do it to keep a food diary. Not so that I can check up on them, but so that they can really see what their daily habits are. At the end of each week I get them to take a look and notice the little things in their diet that are having a positive impact on their heath.

We all have daily habits and rituals that are part of our routine. If you can change one thing at a time, and keep this change going, this will have a much bigger impact on your health than any diet or quick fix out there.

It doesn’t have to be a big game changer, it just has to be a little adjustment to what you already do. Once this becomes a habit, then shake it up again and adopt a new habit. If you made one small change each week, by the end of the year you could make a massive difference to how you feel.

Here are some ideas for you:

  1. Get outside: We are not made to hibernate. Fresh air, daylight and daily exercise are essential for our wellbeing. Make time for a walk, run, skip or bike ride every day, and especially if it is cold, wet and grey, as it is on those days that we need our nature fix more than others. Even just a 15-minute walk around the block will help you feel more energised, refreshed and bouncy than sitting at your desk, or looking out at grey skies.
  2. Make one new recipe every week: Dust off your cookbooks, or get browsing the internet (I have lots of healthy recipes for you at vitalnutrition.co.uk). Making one new recipe every week will add variety and interest to your diet. It doesn’t have to be time consuming, or anything fancy. In fact it is more likely to become part of your weekly menu plan if it is quick, handy and tasty.
  3. Drink some water: As the weather gets colder it can be easy to pop the kettle on for yet another cup of tea or coffee. Too much caffeine can leave us feeling tense, nervous, jittery and anxious, so why not skip one cup of caffeine and replace it with a big glass of water? One of the first signs of dehydration if fatigue, so upping your water intake can help you get your bounce back.
  4. Pack more colour on your plate: We all known that we should be eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and this is never more important than in the middle of a pandemic as we all do our best to protect our health. Stock up with some frozen fruit and vegetables for days when your dinner needs a little extra pop of colour, add one extra portion of veg to your favourite recipe, or stick some extra veg into the steamer.
  5. Eat three square meals a day: See how you get on without the snacks in between meals. Eat enough at breakfast to keep going to lunchtime, a substantial enough lunch that will keep you sustained for five hours or so, and then once you have had dinner stop eating for the day. This might mean you eat more at main meals than usual, but that’s OK.

This blog post first appeared as my column in The Irish News on Saturday 28 November 2020.