It's a few weeks into the new year and for me, this is the best time to start thinking health and fitness. Let's face it, a week after Christmas is too soon for diets and exercise....the house is full of boxes of sweets and tins of biscuits for one thing! So I always pace myself - enjoy the last of the Baileys and avoid the overcrowded gym classes...until it gets to the end of January.
I'm not a fitness or nutrition expert so read my words with that in mind. I do however have a huge interest in nutrition and exercise and the impact both have on our health and wellbeing so with that in mind, here are my top tips for staying fit and healthy in 2016
1. Walk more places
I am not a fan of walking or running in a circle. I think about where I need to go and look on google maps to see how far away it is. Just the other day, I realised my choir rehearsal venue is only 3 mile from my home. That's about a 35 minute walk at a brisk pace. So I now leave home 15 minutes earlier and walk over (when it's dry). I'm under time pressure to get there for 7.30 so I really stride out. A friend brings me home afterwards so we get to have a great chat in the car. I call that a win/win.
2. Incorporate strength into your exercise routine.
Walking or running alone will not get you in the best shape. Alternate it with some sort of weight bearing exercise to keep you strong. Body Pump is an amazing class that you can take at your own pace and even just doing it once a week, I've got guns to be proud of....and building muscle helps you burn fat. Another win/win!
3. Stop eating after 7pm.
Studies have shown that your body metabolises food in a different way and at a slower rate in the evening so you are more likely to be healthier and slimmer if you eat earlier in the day and have a long (ideally 12 hours) break between your last meal of the day and breakfast the next day.
4. Cook from scratch when you can.
When I think about what makes a healthy diet, I'd say it starts with this. Nothing complicated mind you. Favourites in this house are fish baked in foil with sweet potato chips or chicken curry (made with paste). Delia's ragu is well worth making in bulk at the weekends. I'll not end up on master chef but it definitely improves your diet if you're in control of what goes into your meals on at least 5 days in the week.
5. Eat breakfast!
Your mum told you this all your life and it's so true. If you eat well to start the day, you're less likely to eat rubbish later in the day. A chocolate bar at 11am is often justified by having missed breakfast. Your body needs fuel in the morning to get going and porridge is the ultimate breakfast fodder but if you can't stand it, how about a couple of poached eggs with toast? Be very careful and read the labels of breakfast cereals. They're better than eating nothing but many are high in sugar and salt and won't sustain you for as long as porridge or eggs will.
6. My last one is all about the kids.
We sometimes forget that we are responsible for our kids' diets and inherent in that, we're dictating the attitude they will have to food when they are adults. Say no more often! They should only eat about 6 teaspoons of sugar every day so explain to them what that looks like and how much is in some of the foods they eat...they'll be fascinated by this, especially if you get the sugar bowl out and get them to measure it. I never talk about weight or shape to my kids but I do always tell them to look to see how much salt is in their Bran Flakes or how much sugar is in Cheerios. My kids would love the latter every day for breakfast but now they know how unhealthy they are, they're ok with just having them on Saturday mornings. I'm not trying to be the smug mum here - it's no different to teaching them to be safe on the road or to work hard at school. It might not work with them all but you've got a duty to try. Oh, and in case it helps, my kids voted this the best sugar video to watch on Youtube:
I'll leave you with a few sites that I love looking at when I'm struggling for food inspiration.
- My latest crush is on Joe Wicks, The Body Coach. His 15 second Facebook videos are hilarious....the kids love them as much as I do. Think Russell Brand and Nigella Lawson's love child and you'll get the gist
- Davina has just released her Smart Carbs book but before you buy, you can get lots of inspiration and daily meal plans from her website
- As I'm trying to have a meat-free day each week, I enjoy browsing the videos on Honesty Healthy Food. They have some great kids recipes too - something lots of blogs and chefs forget about.
Here's to a healthy 2016 and to starting New Year resolutions in February.....with the bonus that it's the shortest month :)