January is home to kickstarting new diets, trying out new hobbies, and staying on track with the New Year’s resolutions you’ve set yourself. The “New Year, New You” motto may seem easy to achieve but, let’s face it, with dark nights starting at 4pm, feeling overly sluggish after devouring all the food over the Christmas period, waiting for payday to finally roll around, and Blue Monday, also known as the most depressing day of the year, it’s difficult to throw yourself into the new year with 100% motivation.
If you’ve started your elimination diet to remove your troublesome food reactions, or you generally want to be more food conscious but not too sure where to start, we’ve rounded up 5 small ways you can eat a little healthier this month without breaking the bank.
January blues can step aside!
1. Eat Out Less
This is at number one, because not everyone will rejoice at the prospect of eating out less, but we promise you it has its perks in the long run! Dining at restaurants or popping into the pub for a quick meal may be an enjoyable mid-week or weekend treat but you’ll be surprised how this can quickly add on the pounds– both in weight and money.
Though dining at restaurants is significantly healthier than grabbing a fast food takeaway, a study published by The Independent showed that “while you may be taking in more nutrients – like vitamins, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids depending on what you order – you’re also likely to consume more sodium and cholesterol”. You also take on board 200 more calories on average than if you eat at home.
Eating at home gives you more control over ingredients and preparation methods, so if you’re a few weeks into your elimination diet, you have full confidence what ingredients you’re putting into your food. You’ll also save money – ideal for those whose bank accounts are still suffering from Christmas. It’s a win-win situation.
2. Keep those sugar cravings at bay
Indulging over the Christmas period is usually the case and you’ve just joined practically everybody else in the country who have done exactly the same. The feeling of guilt and regret for devouring all your Christmas chocolates, sweets and wine in a short period of time is enough for anybody to kickstart a diet or detox regime. However, setting ambitious New Year’s dietary resolutions is setting yourself up for failure. After all, they are called crash diets for a reason.
Choosing small, but effective, healthier alternatives can make a big difference. An extreme diet or fasting can leave your body in limbo, especially when your body is already suffering from sugar withdrawals caused by your intake over the Christmas period.
An extreme diet strips your body from nutrients and only leads to temporary weight loss and the feeling of zero energy, exacerbating your sugar cravings. Instead, swap out sweets, chocolate or cans of pop for your favourite fruit to combat your sweet tooth. Not only is fruit packed with lots of lovely nutrients and vitamins, but your sugar cravings will be satisfied too.
3. Say no to added salt
The recommended sodium intake is 6g a day (2.4g sodium), according to the NHS. Salt can often be a hidden ingredient in many foods which may make it difficult to fully determine your salt intake. A diet high in salt can contribute to high blood pressure, which puts you at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Herbs and spices can be a great replacement if you often reach for the salt to add flavour to your lunch or dinner. Add basil and oregano to your pasta or Chinese five spice to your stir-fry. You don’t need to rely on salt to get your flavour fix.
4. Sneak vegetables into your favourite dishes
It sounds simple, but we’ve all been guilty of tucking into our favourite dishes and becoming too full towards the end of the meal to start on the side dish of vegetables you steamed earlier. Incorporating vegetables into your favourite dishes is a reliable way to avoid alienating the green stuff. Cooking up a stir fry? Add bell peppers, spring onions and spinach rather than overloading on noodles and chicken. Ready for a Sunday roast? Steam some carrots, broccoli and cabbage and add them onto your plate whilst cutting down on your portions of turkey, Yorkshire puddings and, yes you guessed it, gravy.
Another small but effective tip is to eat the vegetables on your plate before anything else; consider it food prioritisation. This means if you physically can’t eat any more, you’ve already devoured the healthiest foods on your plate.
5. Keep your options open
If you’re starting an elimination diet or simply just trying to eat a little healthier, it’s easy to slip into a routine of the same foods day-in, day-out. You are more likely to binge eat or break your healthy eating habits when you are restricting the variety of foods you consume. After all, the eggs you’re cooking up for breakfast 7 days a week is easily going to tempt you into a full English breakfast after a few weeks if you’re not careful.
Your body likes routine, but with cravings flying around during the first few weeks of your diet, it’s important to keep it varied whilst also nutritional.
On a Friday or Sunday, there’s no harm in treating yourself after a successful week. Eliminating dairy? Try a dairy-free chocolate bar or hot chocolate drink that is substituted with soya instead of milk. Cutting out wheat and gluten? Baking your favourite cakes with gluten-free flour is also another way to congratulate yourself on eating healthily throughout the week.
Food is fuel so try not to be harsh on your body. Seeing through your New Year’s resolutions doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’ve introduced some new foods recently that your stomach is less excited about, or you have no direction on how to start your elimination diet, there’s an easy way to confirm what your body is trying to tell you.
YorkTest’s Premium Food&DrinkScan Premium programme analyses IgG reactions to 208 food and drink ingredients to pinpoint the foods you need to avoid.
We’re also here if you’re going to struggle putting your New Year’s resolutions into action. Read our guide on 12 small changes to make in 2019 to improve your health. Setting New Year’s resolutions isn’t too late, either! Good luck from all of us at YorkTest. Here’s to this year– a healthier, happier you.