Nutrition is one of the most critical areas in maintaining and improving your health and wellness. It is important that your diet is consistent and sustainable in providing you the nutrients you need whilst avoiding food and drink that is detrimental to your health. Crash and time-limited diets are not the best option in supporting long-term health improvement and will often lead to only short-term gains (and sometimes not even that!). Here are some key principles to support you in making sustainable changes in your eating and drinking habits;
Fluids Drink cold water. Drinking water helps to speed up your metabolism and reduce your intake of sugar-based drinks resulting in a lower calorie intake. Drinking cold water helps simultaneously fill you up (making you less likely to over-eat) and increase your resting metabolic rate.
Avoid alcohol where possible, however, if you do drink note that it is safest not to drink more than 14 units per week. If you regularly drink as much as 14 units per week, it's best to spread your drinking evenly over three or more days. If you have one or two heavy drinking episodes a week, you increase your risk of death from long-term illness and injuries.
Drink coffee in moderation. Coffee can greatly increase your metabolism and support weight and fat loss. Incorporating caffeine in your diet (100-200mg) can be beneficial in metabolic health and weight maintenance, but should be consumed in moderation.
Consume at least 30-40% of your calories as Protein. Protein creates the largest thermic effect of food, boosting your metabolic rate by around 15-35%, compared to carbohydrates and fat. Protein also supports fat loss through reducing muscle break down and may help you to reduce your intake of sugars and fat that contribute to fat gain. Try to get your protein from fish and lean meats, supplementing with protein supplements where necessary and grill, bake, poach or steam food instead of frying or roasting. Stick to carbohydrate food sources that are high in fibre, such as wholegrain bread and cereals, beans and lentils, vegetables and fruit.
Aim to reduce the total amount of fat in your diet, particularly, choose foods that are low in fat and saturated fat, for example;
- Replacing coconut oil with vegetable oil and low-fat spreads over butter or margarine - Choose skimmed or semi-skimmed milk over full fat - Choose fruit or unsalted nuts as a snack over biscuits and cakes
Supplement with vitamins and minerals where needed to ensure you maintain a balanced metabolism where your food sources are not meeting all your vitamin and mineral needs. Do have a "cheat meal" once a week where you can eat whatever you want, you're more likely to stick to your other dietary changes if you incorporate this.