Many of us want to be healthier, but it is often difficult to know where to begin. With so much conflicting information out there it can be hard to know who to listen to. So, this short guide has been created to give you some basic information in small manageable chunks to help you improve your health.
Do you find that you make lots of unhealthy impulses purchases while you are doing your food shop? If so, you could find it helpful to make a list before you go and stick to it. Planning your meals in advance can help ensure a balanced diet, save you money and reduce food waste.
Another top tip for food shopping is to have a small healthy snack before you go. Shopping when hungry can make it much harder to resist temptation!
Loading up on meat and carbs at dinner time? Make sure you serve up your vegetables first, aiming to fill half of your plate. This should make it easier to eat your 5 a day, and mean you are filling up on healthy food to help you to control your appetite.
The remaining space on your plate should be filled by ¼ protein such as Quorn, chicken, tofu or beans and ¼ starchy carbohydrates such as brown rice, wholemeal pasta or potato.
If you think your portion sizes might be too large, you may benefit from using smaller plates and bowls for your meals. There have been several studies carried out into the effect of using smaller crockery. The majority supporting the idea that eating from a smaller plate can help you lose weight. It might not work for everyone, but it is a simple change that could be worth a try.
Government guidelines recommend that you aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise. Moderate means that your breathing is increased but that you can still hold a conversation. This might sound daunting, but remember that some exercise is better than no exercise. You can break this up into sessions as short as only ten minutes at a time.
Easy ways to get up to your 150 minutes of exercise per week:
- Go for a walk on your lunchbreak or, if you work from home, do a quick online exercise class (there are lots of options available for free on YouTube)
- Cycling or walk to work (if you can)
- Do body weight exercises while you wait for the kettle to boil
- Dance as you do the housework
Smoking is the one of the best changes that you can make for your health and the health of those around you.
The benefits of quitting start almost immediately as your pulse will return to normal after only 20 minutes! After only 3 days quit you will find that your breathing is easier. And after one year quit, your risk of heart attack will have halved compared with a smoker’s.
Other benefits of quitting smoking:
- Reduce likelihood of certain cancers such as lung, mouth, nose and sinuses, larynx, oesophagus, liver, pancreas, stomach, kidney, bowel, ovary, bladder and cervix
- Boosts your immune system, making you less susceptible to colds and flu
- Delay skin aging- smoking has been found to speed up the skin wrinkling process and cause skin sagging
- Whiter teeth and fresher breath
- Improve your heart health: reduce your chances of heart attack, stroke, heart disease
- Reduce risk of pregnancy complications including premature birth, low birth weight, miscarriage and stillbirth
- Improve fertility as smoking can cause fertility issues in men and women
Quitting can help you add valuable years to your life. Smokers who quit before the age of 40 reduce their chance of dying too early from smoking-related diseases by about 90 percent. Whereas those who quit by 45–54 reduce their chance by about two-thirds.
We are advised to drink no more than 14 units per week. Try to make sure that the units you drink are also spread over 3-4 days. Because drinking more than 6 units (for women) and 8 units (for men) in one session is considered binge drinking and can be dangerous.
This amount may sound like a lot. However, considering 6 units is only 3 cans of beer or 2 large glasses of wine, it’s easy to see how you might be going over the recommended intake.
If you are feeling tired, getting headaches or mood swings it could be a sign of dehydration. The NHS recommends that we drink 6-8 glasses of water a day so make sure you are aiming to drink at least 1.5 litres a day. Not only will drinking more water help to keep you feeling healthy and your bodily processes working efficiently, but it will also leave your skin looking healthier.
A good tip to ensure that you’re hitting your recommended water intake is to purchase a 750ml bottle. Aim to drink at least one in the morning, and one in the afternoon.
Remember, lower fat milk and sugar-free drinks, including cordial and tea, all count towards your fluid intake.
During this time of year, and particularly with the onset of Covid-19, you may need to take a vitamin D supplement.
In fact, the NHS has recommended the following: “It’s important to take vitamin D as you may have been indoors more than usual this year. You should take 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D a day between October and early March to keep your bones and muscles healthy. There have been some reports about vitamin D reducing the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19). But there is currently not enough evidence to support taking vitamin D to prevent or treat coronavirus.”
Most people need around 8 hours of sleep a night to feel good and function properly. However, this does vary from person to person, so aim to get between 7-9 hours each night and discover how much you need to feel your best.
Those who do not get an adequate amount of sleep have been found to be at greater risk of medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
If you struggle to sleep, there are a couple of things that could help you including setting and sticking to a routine and ditching the tech before bed.
By getting your internal body clock used to going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, you should start to fall asleep quicker and wake up more easily.
Exercising during the day or using yoga, meditation, music or reading to ‘wind down’ before bed are great additions to your routine.
If you are tired but still struggle to fall asleep, the NHS has free sleep apps which could help: https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/filter/?categories=Sleep
No tech before bed
Your TV or mobile phone could be the reason you are struggling to sleep. The blue light that your devices emit can prevent the release of melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that is produced in response to darkness. This lets your body know that it’s time to sleep by making you feel drowsy.
However, the blue light tricks your brain into thinking it is daytime and that you should be staying awake. To prevent this effect, try to avoid using your devices for at least 1 hour before bed to allow your brain to begin to release melatonin.