With so many tempting treats at Christmas, it's not a big surprise that many of us will have over-indulged in the past couple of weeks. All over the country, people are probably thinking their work clothes are just a bit tighter than they used to be, and if this sounds horribly familiar, don't panic. A few small changes can have you back on the path to a healthy diet once again.
The food we eat is an important part of ensuring we remain in rude health, and good food goes a long way towards ensuring you feel at your best. A healthy diet doesn't have to be a complicated process either, and following the simple tips below is a great way towards getting you started.
When planning your meals, you should always consider the following:
The numbers: The balance of calories you consume compared to how many you burn off on a daily basis is the key to managing your weight, so only eat what you need. The average man needs around 2,500 calories a day to retain their current weight, with the average woman needing 2,000, although many of us eat more than we need.
The colours: Just as important as how much food we consume is the types of food we choose to eat. Eating a wide range of food ensures a balanced diet, fuelling our body with all the nutrients it needs. Fruit and vegetables are an important part of this, and you'll ensure you get a good selection if you choose foods of differing colours. A glass of unsweetened fruit juice and a banana chopped over some cereal in the morning provides two of your recommended five portions before you have even got to work.
Starch for breakfast, lunch and dinner: Starchy foods should make up around a third of the food you eat, with wholegrain options being best where possible as they contain more fibre. Ideally you should eat sources of both soluble and insoluble fibres. Soluble fibre delays the emptying of the stomach, which keeps you feeling full for longer, so it can reduce the temptation to snack. Good sources include oatmeal, oat cereal, blueberries, strawberries, nuts, flaxseeds, oranges, pears, oat bran, apples and beans. Insoluble fibre is good for the gut as it reduces constipation, and is mainly found in whole grains and vegetables. Reducing the temptation to snack could help any attempt to lower your daily calorie count, which also explains why you should try and eat breakfast every day, too. If you are diabetic it is very important to avoid refined carbohydrates and have high fibre, low glycaemic index sources of carbohydrate instead.
Don't forget the fish: Fish is an important part of any healthy diet as it is packed with vitamins and minerals. You should eat fish at least twice a week, with one of those being a portion of oily fish - which contain high amounts of omega-3 fats. Oily fish include salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, fresh tuna and sardines.
Limit your saturated fat and sugar: Fat is important in our diet as it can help us feel full and satisfied, but we need to watch the amount and the type of fat we consume. Too much saturated fat can lead to weight gain and raised cholesterol levels. Limiting hard cheeses, cakes, biscuits, fatty red meat and processed foods can help reduce saturated fat. You should instead focus your fat intake on good sources of unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These include olive oil, oily fish, nuts and seeds. You should also cut down on sugary foods and drinks, especially as many of us in the UK consume more than we should.
Watch your salt: Salt can be found in many foods, so even if you don't add it while cooking or at the dinner table, you may still be eating more than you should. Most of the salt we eat is in the food when we buy it, such as bread, cereals, soups and sauces. Eating too much salt can increase blood pressure, which will in turn raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. Adults shouldn't eat more than 6g of salt a day, and children should eat even less.
Stay hydrated: We should all drink at least a litre of healthy, non-alcoholic fluids each day to avoid dehydration, and even more when we're active or in hot weather. Try and limit sugary drinks where possible, which contain lots of calories. This also includes unsweetened fruit juice, so try not to drink more than a glass (150ml) a day. Water, fruit and herbal teas and 50% diluted fruit juices are good options.