Good health is a question of balance. According to the World Health Organisation, health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
We have the power to change our health simply by making some changes to the food we choose, how we move our bodies and what we do to rest and relax.
There is no quick fix to good health, so rather than thinking about a diet to get your body ‘beach-fit’, or frantically going to the gym every day in the two weeks before you go on holiday, health is about the small everyday things we do that become habits (good and bad). It’s these everyday habits that have the power to change your body shape, mood and energy levels, not to mention your long-term risk of disease and infirmity.
Here are my top healthy habits:
:: Drink enough water: Most people need a couple of litres of water a day. Not too little, not too much. Get into the habit of taking a reusable water bottle with you and sip throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated and energised.
:: Move your body every day: If you are not in a regular exercise routine, start with small steps – go for a walk at lunchtime, dance around the kitchen when you are doing the dishes, or get into the habit of cycling to work.
:: Pile your plate with vegetables: Packed with vitamins, minerals and important antioxidants, eating more vegetables is essential for good health. Aim to eat more vegetables than fruit. Vegetables come in so many different varieties, adding colour, texture and flavour to any meal. Get creative in how you use veg in food. Try spiralising and stirring in with noodles, steaming and serving with a pinch of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil, or slicing and dicing to make colourful and creative salads with herbs, lemon juice and olive oil.
:: Eat some healthy fats: Fats are essential for our health. In particular, omega 3 oils found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines and anchovies have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Eat oily fish a couple of times a week, and think about taking a fish-oil supplement too (check with your GP if you are on any meds, though). If you are a vegetarian or vegan, then keep an eye out for supplements made from an algae extract containing the active ingredients DHA and EPA as a good alternative.
:: Eat low-GI carbs and less of them: Slow release carbs are an important source of fibre in our diet, so ditch the white carbs and opt for wholegrains like oats, sweet potatoes and pulses such as beans, peas and lentils.
:: Enjoy your grub: Its not just what you eat – how you eat is important too. Take time at mealtimes to relax and enjoy your food. That way you are likely to be satisfied with a little less and may even absorb more of the nutrition from your food too.
:: Batch cook: Get into the habit of making enough for a couple of mealtimes, rather than just right here, right now. Bulk dishes like curry and chilli out with some of those low-GI pulses, make a great big super salad to do a couple of lunches, or freeze leftovers for another day so that you are not having to cook from scratch every day.
:: Never go on a diet: Avoid fad diets and quick fixes. Instead, think of nourishing, healthy food as something to be enjoyed, relished and shared. If you eat something that is ‘bad’, then remember it is just one food, or one meal – not the end of your ‘diet’.
This blog first appeared as an article in The Irish News on Saturday 14 July 2018.