Nutrition: 'I'm feeling very Zen'

Getting the right amount of nutrition is crucial for healthy living. As part of David's wellbeing assessment Dr Laura Marshall-Andrews from Brighton's Health and Wellbeing Centre recommended that he ate healthily, scheduled proper mealtimes and increased his water intake. As David explains below, improved eating habits can have a positive effect on mood and productivity.

David's reflections

Today's gone very well, even though it's been such a busy day. I've drunk water, I've eaten at regular times – although dinner's going to be late. I didn't take the children to school but today was the Queen's speech. I've also downloaded the mindfulness app – and listened to it.

I had a spare 10 minutes before the speech, so I went into my office and listened to it then, and really began to get into it. I just began trying to focus, and stop myself from thinking about the next thing and just try to be in the moment. And I have to say I went into the Queens' speech feeling very Zen. Not quite so Zen that I found David Cameron's speech persuasive, but, you know, maybe a bit more than usual! It can all get pretty partisan, but I've rarely approached it feeling so balanced and calm.

In fact, I've been in a very good mood all day. I woke up, drank some water (warmish) and then had porridge with my family. Luckily the children really like porridge. I went for the healthy option in the Commons canteen too: poached fish with grilled vegetables. I actually passed on jerk chicken for that! My mother would be rolling in her grave. But my wife will be delighted.

I have to admit that I did feel a bit peckish in the afternoon, and I started thinking about a bumper pack of ready salted crisps. But instead I had a small salad. Just some cucumber, tomato and a bit of cheese. I'm being very self-disciplined this week, eating very healthily and not allowing myself to graze – that's always a weak area.

Virginia Bottomley gave me some good health advice once; she told me: "Darling, if you never eat or drink while you're standing up you'll be fine!" She was talking really about the sort of political do with canapés and drinks – to be honest I'm usually pretty good about those.

Five top tips to improve your nutrition

1. Download an app to your phone to help you keep track of what you're eating. Fooducate gives letter grades and details about the ingredients and health value of the products you find in food shops, so you can start making healthier dietary choices. You could also try MyFitnessPal's calorie counter, which estimates the nutritional value of food you eat when out and about.

2. Eat fresh fruit whole rather than as juices or smoothies. Drinking fruit juice increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 8%. If you do want a smoothie or juice, try making one from vegetables and roots such as kale, spinach, carrot and ginger.

3. Start your day with a low-sugar, high-protein breakfast. Eggs, or porridge made with water and added bananas is better than toast, cereal, fruit or fat-free yoghurt, which can all contain high amounts of sugar.

4. Eating at least seven portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day is linked to a 42% lower risk of death from all causes. It is also associated with a 25% lower risk of cancer and 31% lower risk of heart disease or stroke. Cut up carrot, celery sticks or apple portions (for example) to make these easy to snack on and so you are not tempted to reach for chocolate bar or crisps.

5. Watch Jamie Oliver's award-winning TED talk on how we need to change our relationship with the food we eat, starting with education children about nutrition.

Interested in finding out more about how you can live better? Take a look at this month's Live Better Challenge here.

The Live Better Challenge is funded by Unilever; its focus is sustainable living. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled advertisement feature. Find out more here.

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