Nutrition and lifestyle advice can be so confusing and contradictory sometimes that we all switch off. Most of the time, we already know what we need to do to feel better – we just lose track of this wisdom in the midst of the crazy, busy, distracting lives we all now live.
I’m a big fan of American food writer, Michael Pollan (more of his wisdom here), who summed all dietary guidance into one simple motto to steer us right every time:
Eat (real) food, not too much, mostly plants
It is hard to argue with the simplicity of this advice and if you read nothing else about nutrition and healthy living, but adopted this motto, you would probably know all you need to know!
For those of you who like to get a bit more detail with your guidelines, I’ve come up with three little changes you can make to your daily diet and lifestyle right now, which I can promise will help you feel better very quickly. To your energy levels, happiness, appearance and general wellbeing.
The changes might seem obvious. We probably learned all this at school. Or we know them intuitively. But if we’re really honest, how much are we following these simple ways to look and feel better today?
I reckon a reminder about the basics of good health in our busy lives is never wasted….and may be just what you need to hear right now!
1. Eat (Lots) More Fibre
Oooh, yes. Fibre. You may not think it’s the sexiest part of your diet, but you could be very surprised at how much better fibre can make you feel!
It is estimated that our caveman ancestors ate about 70g of fibre each day but the average Irish diet likely contains less than 15g. It is no wonder, then, that so many of us struggle with digestive problems, hormone problems, high cholesterol and low energy and mood. You can’t feel full of life and energy when your system is all clogged up with waste!
Upping your fibre intake to the recommended minimum of 25g per day will mean:
- Eating about 7 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables daily – the very best sources of fibre out there!
- Skipping the nasty processed, sugary cereals and go instead for porridge for breakfast (extra points if you add nuts, seeds and fruit!)
- Adding some beans or peas to your lunches and dinners
- Going for wholegrains instead of processed white bread. Think about substituting your lunch sandwich for a salad with quinoa, or roasted vegetables with bulgur wheat. (This is not as scary or as boring as it may sound – promise!)
- Choosing wholegrain brown rice and pasta over white
2. Drink More Water
With all this new fibre on your plate, you will need to up your water intake. Fibre without water will have the opposite effect to the one we are hoping for! Start the day off with a large glass of room temperature or warm water, to rehydrate the body. Then throughout the day, continue to sip on water. Don’t wait till your body is screaming at you that it’s thirsty!
One easy way to do this is to fill up a large jug of water (at least one litre) to take to your desk in the morning. Make it your ambition to get through this jug by the time you finish up in the evening. The jug will be a visual reminder to drink throughout the day and will also save you from having to continually visit the water filter to fill up those ridiculously small cups!
Herbal and fruit teas count as part of your water intake too. But, of course, coffee doesn’t. Coffee is very dehydrating. If you are a coffee drinker, make sure you are drinking enough water to counteract the coffee’s effects.
In fact, this should probably have been my number 1 point! Sleep is the secret to health and happiness. You can drink as many green smoothies and run as many miles as you like – it all means very little if you are not getting the sleep you need.
- struggle to get out of bed in the morning
- rely on coffee and/or sugary snacks to wake up or survive the afternoon slump
- find yourself snapping at those you love in the evenings because you’re just too depleted
- prioritise watching tv or going on Facebook late at night rather than just going to bed
then you are probably not getting the number of hours of uninterrupted sleep you need to be the best version of yourself.
We are so used to getting less sleep than we need that we don’t even realise we’re sleep deprived and blame our moodiness, exhaustion and poor food choices on other things. Before you chastise yourself for not having your life together, please first try getting enough sleep.
If you get up at 7am, then you will need to be asleep at 11pm. So going to bed at 10:30pm every night should be a priority and the greatest act of self-care you can give yourself.
You could amaze yourself with how much you feel and look like a different person after sleeping well for a week.
Some of the very many benefits of sleep:
- happiness and optimism (life always looks better when you’ve slept well)
- no need for a facial – your skin will look plumper and more youthful and the bags under your eyes will disappear
- you won’t crave false energy and so will make better food choices
- your metabolism will get a boost
- your energy levels will be higher and you will feel like doing all those things you used to be too tired for: exercise, playing with your kids, going out with your partner or friends
So this week, how about trying a little experiment? Pick one of the points above that you feel you most need to implement now. And play around with how making a change for just 7 days makes you feel.
You might want to:
- Get to bed an hour (or two!) earlier. Aim to get about 8 or 9 hours sleep per night.
- Make sure you have two fruits or vegetables included in every meal you eat. This could be fruit on your morning porridge, a soup or salad for lunch and a veggie curry, stir-fry or veggie burger for your evening meal.
- Drink 2 litres of water every day. Drink a glass (or two) first thing in the morning and then continue to drink plenty throughout the day.
Notice how you feel.
Let me know in the comments below if you’ll be trying any of these new habits and, if so, what you noticed about you how you felt. Do you feel better now? I’ll be so interested to hear!
Good luck 🙂