The first week of the new year is always the time we think of making ‘improvements’ to our diet and our lives in general. Festive indulgence in British culture must be followed by penance in January and the media has been full of strict diets that claim to change lives. However, for the vast majority of people, this is simply unnecessary.
The latest trend in diets is for ‘clean’ eating, where the emphasis is on fresh, unprocessed foods. This in great in theory, but many of the proponents of this way of eating also recommend excluding all grains, beans and dairy foods. This is hard to manage in a practical sense, particularly if you usually eat with family or buy your lunch out, and in the longer term, you risk nutrient deficiencies. For example, to get your required daily calcium intake without eating any dairy foods, you would need to eat a large amount of green leafy vegetables and nuts every day, together with a cup of soy milk or tinned fish with bones, eg sardines.
The other temptation may be to try a detox diet to rid your body of ‘toxins’ built up over the festive period. Many of these are expensive and difficult to follow. They are also completely unnecessary. Your body is built to detoxify itself. It is one of the roles of the liver and just a few days of eating normally and not drinking as much alcohol is enough to make you feel much better.
Very strict diets such as detoxes may lead to weight loss in the short term, as they severely restrict calories, however much of it will be water and will be put straight back on when you return to eating normally. In the long term, these diets affect the metabolism and encourage the body to store calories, making it even harder to lose weight.
There is an easier way! Use your post-indulgence motivation to make a few simple changes to get you back on track.
Return to your usual diet, just a better version of it. Trying to make huge changes or cutting out lots of foods that you normally eat is much more likely to result in failure and a return to bad eating habits. It is much easier to make small changes that are more manageable and you’re more likely to stick to in the long term. Try sticking to the following guidelines for a healthy New Year diet:
- Eat two pieces of fruit each day and have some vegetables at lunch and dinner
- Drink lots of fluids – water, herbal teas, diluted fruit juice
- Cut out alcohol for at least a few days then have 2 alcohol free days per week
- Ditch the white bread and eat only grainy breads or sourdough
- Eat a good breakfast every day – porridge or oat-based muesli with fruit or eggs on grainy toast
- Eat less wheat – it makes many people feel sluggish so try swapping your normal breakfast cereal for oats, a sandwich for a salad or soup and pasta for rice
- Cut down on processed meats, eg. Ham, salami, sausages
- Stock up on healthy snacks, at home and at work, eg. Unsalted nuts, rice or oatcakes and fruit
- Get moving – walk, run, go to the gym or an exercise class. Do whatever you enjoy and do it regularly!