MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE TO YOUR HEALTH
New year is an amazing impetus for health and fitness, a line drawn in the sand and an opportunity to start afresh and make positive changes. As a personal trainer, I make a living through exercise but I’m a firm believer that, for all of us, nutrition should be a priority and works hand in hand. Particularly at this time of year, there’s so much conflicting information with celeb and fad diets being held up as the latest weight loss miracle. After the excesses of Christmas, it’s not surprising that many people are looking for quick fixes. But don’t assume that the fads will work for you. While they might give you some short term results, they could actually hinder your progress in the longer term. Here are just a few to look out for:
1. Low calorie diets – a number of diets recommend a calorie intake below your resting metabolic rate (this is the number of calories your body would burn if you stayed flat on your back and did nothing all day. So the number of calories needed to keep your organs working, digestion, heart beating and continuing to breathe!). This doesn’t sound healthy does it? It slows down your metabolism making it harder and harder to lose weight and without the right energy, you will struggle to have any sort of active lifestyle. Better surely to ensure you have a healthy balanced diet and create a calorie deficit by increasing your activity. This will increase your metabolism and help you burn fat faster.
2. Low carb diets – don’t get me wrong… I’ve seen plenty of great results from diets that encourage extremely high protein and low carb intakes. However they aren’t sustainable and they deprive your body of important vitamins and minerals, especially when you consider that many vegetables are high in carbohydrates so would be limited in your diet. We need carbohydrates to fuel our muscles and brain – so by cutting them out, your body won’t have the energy to function as it should do.
3. Fasting diets – These are so popular at the moment. Starve yourself for 2 days on less than 500 calories and eat normally for 5. Why would you do this to your body? The idea behind them is that your body goes into ‘repair mode’ and not ‘starvation mode’. This repair mode causes the body to restore damaged cells, which uses more energy, whereas starvation mode causes your body to store fat. However, what they don’t tell you is that your metabolism again suffers and can cause nutrient deficiencies. And it’s not something that many people can sustain – so before long, the pounds are creeping back on and you’re back where you started.
Obviously there are hundreds of other fad diets out there, and they’re usually fairly easy to spot. Don’t be tempted by the short term fix – think about the effects that poor nutrition can have on your body. You’ll notice it before long by flagging energy levels, insomnia, bad skin and hair, not just an expanding waistline. And that’s the damage that’s outwardly noticeable – you might be depriving your body of the nutrients it needs to carry out day to day functions, causing hormone imbalances, insulin resistance, digestive inflammation, increased risks of high blood pressure… all of which could lead to heart disease, strokes and diabetes.
Nourishing your body in the right way is so important – but again, it can be confusing. You’re probably asking what the answer is. How do you get to a new healthier, more energetic place? Here are some simple rules to live by:
• Eat little and often. Aim for 3 balanced meals and 2 healthy snacks a day to keep your blood sugar levels stable and avoid binging or over-eating. Regular meals also help to keep your metabolism high.
• Eat the rainbow. Try to include natural colour in every meal – fruit and vegetables can add valuable nutrients to your plate. Aim for at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, with at least 3 from vegetables. But don’t eat the same thing every day – make sure you’re getting the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals from a wide variety of foods.
• Keep hydrated. Our bodies are made up of over 70% water and it’s used for everything from keeping our eyes moist to digesting food. It helps make sure things keep ticking over and that your body can build and repair itself, so we need to make sure that we’re keeping water levels topped up. Aim for 1.5 – 2 litres of water a day.
• Beware of hidden dangers. The majority of manufactured food produce that you’ll find on supermarket shelves has been preserved in one way or another to extend the shelf life. That usually means that it’s been packed full of either salt or sugar – both of which you want to limit your intake of. Learn to read the labels on packaging to understand what’s really in the food you’re eating.
So what does a ‘balanced’ day’s diet look like? These meals and snacks aim to provide a good mix of lean protein, slow-release carbohydrates, some healthy fats and fruit and vegetables. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day too!
Breakfast Berry Pot
This is a particularly good breakfast on the go – and something that you make up the night before to avoid adding stress to the morning routine.
In a bowl/mug/Tupperware pot add 50g oats, 1 cup of frozen berries and 200g 0% Greek Yoghurt (use either Total Greek or Liberte – they have less sugar in them than most others). Sprinkle over 1 tbsp milled nuts and seeds for a boost of good fats.
Lunch: Chicken, quinoa and apricot bowl
This is something to make a batch of at the weekend and keep portions in the fridge or freezer to reheat for lunch. You can also make it with leftovers and tailor it to what’s in the fridge. Just make it work with what you have.
To make 2 portions: Cook 80g of quinoa in 210ml of low salt chicken stock. You could also use wholewheat couscous or wholegrain brown rice, or even use an express bag of quinoa, like the Seeds of Change Quinoa and Brown rice sachets that you find in the rice aisles of most supermarkets. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of Cajun seasoning over 2 chicken breasts and grill until cooked through. Alternatively you could use leftover chicken from a roast, or buy packs of pre-cooked chicken – just beware the added sugar, so check the labels! In a wok or frying pan add 1 chopped red onion, 5 sliced mushrooms, half a packet of green beans (around 110g) cut into 1-2cm lengths, 100g sliced baby courgettes and 75g of finely sliced dried apricots. Gently cook in 2 tsp of coconut oil until soft. Add more Cajun seasoning to taste and season with black pepper, then add the cooked chicken and quinoa to the pan and mix well before serving.
Dinner: Turkey burgers with sweet potato wedges
To make burgers for 2: Mix together 330g lean turkey mince, half a red or white onion, 1 egg and 1 grated apple with skin removed. Season with garlic powder and black pepper. Form into 2 big burgers (or 4 small ones). Fry either side in 1 tsp olive oil/coconut oil until brown and then put in the oven at 200 degrees for 20 mins. To make the wedges, chop a sweet potato (roughly 450g) in wedge shapes and boil until soft. Drain in a rough colander to rough up the edges, then add to a tray that you’re preheated with a tsp of oil. Add a sprinkle of garlic powder and mixed dry herbs and paprika and cook in the oven for 20 mins. Serve with a big green leafy salad or steamed leafy green veg.
To keep your blood sugar levels stable and avoid pigging out after dinner, it’s important to make sure that you have some easy snacks to hand to avoid the mid-morning and mid-afternoon slump. Try to make them based around fruit or vegetables and include a source of protein to slow down digestion and keep you fuller for longer. Some balanced suggestions are:
• Vegetable crudites (cucumber, celery, carrot sticks) with low fat plain cottage cheese (beware of the sugar in the flavoured cottage cheeses).
• Apple and almond butter – slice the apple into wedges and smear over some almond butter (go for the brands with no added oil, salt or sugar).
• Ants on a log – Cut celery sticks into 4cm lengths and fill with either cottage cheese or nut butter (sounds weird, tastes great!) and place raisins along the ‘log’ – great for kids!
• A small handful (15-20) of almonds with a cup full of berries.
• 2 rough oatcakes spread with low fat cheese spread with cucumber slices.
If you would like to make a real difference to your health in 2015, through a healthy combination of exercise and nutrition, why not get in touch? Wild Training offers progressive outdoor group exercise and personal training in a number of locations in the Chilterns including Great Missenden. We are also expanding our services to clients by bringing in some specialist knowledge with Bella Shaw as our resident nutritionist. So you can continue to make personalised changes to your eating habits as well as get involved in group exercise sessions or one-to-one training.
We have so many happy clients following our advice and achieving their goals in a healthy and fun way with easy to follow food plans and great training:
“I’ve been really pleased with the results to date. I lost over a stone and shed 40cm in less than 6 weeks on my plan. I’m looking forward to the next phase of the programme and reaching my target weight over the next few months in time for summer…” (Sarah, Great Missenden)
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