- Eat Nutritionally Balanced Meals – A ‘balanced diet’ starts with getting the right balance of nutrients onto your plate at meal times. At lunch/dinner, aim to fill ¼ of your plate with protein rich food such as chicken, fish, eggs, beans, nuts & seeds. Protein helps you stay fuller for longer and helps keep blood sugar levels stable. Adding complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, sweet potato, quinoa etc. will provided a slow steady release of energy along with vitamins and fibre. Aim to fill ¼ of your plate with complex carbohydrates at meal times.
- Eat A Rainbow Every Day! – For optimal health & disease prevention, aim to eat 5-7 fruit & veg every day – 5 veg and 2 fruit is a good balance. Eat a wide variety of different colours as each colour offers unique health benefits. Aim to eat something red, green, purple, yellow/orange and white every day and fill half of your plate with vegetables at lunch/dinner time.
- Embrace ‘Essential Fats’ – Omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids nourish our brain, our heart & reproductive system and are essential for healthy hair, skin & nails. To ensure you get enough in your diet, I recommend you have oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines etc.) twice a week and have 1-2 tbsp. of omega 3 rich seeds per day (flax, chia, hemp) – add them to porridge, salads, bread etc.
- Limit your sugar intake- For overall health & weight management, try to view high sugar foods such as chocolate, biscuits, sweets/cakes etc. as occasional ‘treats’ not a daily diet staple. If you have sweet foods regularly, then try reducing your portion size and/or opt for healthier versions e.g. have a couple of squares of dark chocolate instead of a full bar of milk chocolate.
- Prioritize Sleep & Stress Management – Getting 7-9 hrs sleep a night and managing your stress levels is essential for good physical & mental health. Exercise is a wonderful way to reduce stress and boost mood, find an exercise you enjoy and do it consistently, even a 30 minute walk a day offers significant health benefits. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness are also effective for reducing stress & improving sleep. Sleep experts recommend a ‘wind down’ routine where you switch off all electronics 1-2 hrs before bed to improve sleep quantity & quality.
- Watch your caffeine intake – Excess Caffeine can affect our nervous system by revving up stress hormones in the body like adrenaline & cortisol, this can affect our anxiety levels, mood & sleep. I recommend limiting yourself to no more than 2 caffeinated beverages a day, ideally before 2pm.
- Alcohol in moderation – The current guidelines from the HSE for ‘low risk’ alcohol intake is 11 units per week for women (approx. 5 medium glasses of wine) and 17 for men. Note – this is a limit not a target! If you have a weight loss goal, limiting your intake further is advisable.
Elsa Jones is a qualified Nutritional Therapist and author of bestselling book ‘Goodbye Sugar’. She works as a nutrition consultant in a Dublin practice and also internationally via her online nutrition programs. She specialise’s in motivational weight management combining effective nutrition & mind-set strategies. www.elsajonesnutrition.ie