This week is the British Nutrition Foundation’s Healthy Eating Week. The purpose of this week is to encourage all UK workplaces, universities, schools and nurseries to come together to focus on healthy eating and drinking, and physical activity, and celebrate healthy living.
Their campaign is based around 5 key “health challenges” of:
- Have breakfast
- Have 5 a day
- Drink more
- Be active
- Make a change
There are lots of ideas on their website for how to engage colleagues and employers in suggested activities for this week, but we thought we’d focus on what you as an individual can do to use this week as a spring board to improve your health.
The mantra is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We would agree that the first meal of the day is the most important meal of the day as this will set your metabolism, energy, mood, adrenal function for the day. What you eat, however, is very important.
Rather than a high carb breakfast of cereal or toast, make sure that your first meal includes protein, healthy fats and a small amount of complex carbs e.g. scrambled eggs cooked in olive or coconut oil with spinach or rocket, and a small slice of rye toast. This combination will rev up your metabolism, keep you feeling fuller for longer, boost your energy and mood, and equip you to deal with the stresses of the day.
Have 5 day
Vegetables and fruits are so important for every aspect of our health. They are packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients polyphenols, and fibre. Vegetables are your key weapon against ageing and main protection against degenerative diseases such as cancer. And yet only 26% of adults in the UK is thought to achieve the government recommendation that we should eat at least 5 vegetables and fruits per day. The figures for children from 5 – 15 are even worse at only16%.
A recent study at UCL suggests that 7 per day confers even more benefits with a 42% lower risk of death at any point than those who eat less than one per day. 
The UK guidelines have never differentiated between fruit and vegetables, however we would endorse the Australian Government recommendations which are more specific – “go for 2+5” i.e. 2 fruits and 5 vegetables.
Make sure you include vegetables at each meal – yes, including breakfast! Think about scrambled eggs with tomatoes, mushrooms, rocket or spinach. Or a vegetable omelette or frittata. What about mashed avocado and tomatoes on rye toast? Or a vegetable smoothie, using spinach, courgette, avocado, and a few berries and nuts or seeds.
Drink Plenty of Water
Dehydration is the biggest cause of fatigue, constipation, headaches and slow metabolism. Also, we sometimes mistake thirst for hunger and will reach for a snack, when what we actually need is a glass of water. How much we should drink depends upon our age, size, level of activity and the weather temperature, but the average is 6 – 8 glasses per day, or 1.5 – 2 ltrs of water per day.
What we drink is subject for debate. We would say that tea and coffee do not count as part of your 6 – 8 glasses, however the BNF would say that they do. And don’t think that more is necessarily better – too much water can kill you by flusing out sodium and other electrolytes.
The colour of your pee is a good indicator of whether or not you are well hydrated. It should be a pale straw colour. If it is darker, you are not drinking enough and if it’s completely colourless you are probably drinking too much.
Every study on every aspect of health always cites exercise as being a key factor in contributing to good health and yet our lives are becoming more and more sedentary. Exercise helps us to maintain a healthy weight, reduces risk of a range of diseases, e.g. coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, helps with brain function, reduces symptoms of depression, improves mood and self- esteem.
The government recommends that over a week, activity should add up to at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more – for example 30 minutes on at least 5 days a week. Alternatively, comparable benefits can be achieved with 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity spread across the week or combinations of moderate and vigorous intensity activity. It is also suggested that adults should undertake physical activity to improve muscle strength on at least two days a week. 
If you hate exercise think of ways of making it fun by joining a class, enlisting support of a friend, exploring hobbies that involve some physical activity,
Think of ways of incorporating exercise in your normal daily activities. We’ve all heard the one about getting off the bus or tube a stop early and walking the rest of the way. Taking the stairs instead of the lift. But even at home, when you go up the stairs, why not go down and then up again, just for the fun of it!
Or invest in some wrist and ankle weights and pop them on whenever you go for a walk. You’ll have to work harder and will get much more of a work-out. Also use the weights when doing housework, or gardening, and keep a couple of dumb-bells handy to use while waiting for the kettle to boil or the phone to be answered.
Make a change
Sometimes the smallest changes, such as drinking more water and eating less sugar, can make a huge difference. You don’t have to try and change everything all at once.
Set yourself an achievable goal for each week. It can help to keep a chart and stick it on your fridge. List 2 goals for each week – e.g. drink 6-8 glasses of water each day or swap high sugar snack for nuts or seeds, and tick off each day that you achieved that.
Think about enlisting support from work colleagues by having a biscuit ban at meetings, or agreeing to swap the office biscuits and cakes for fruit, or nuts and seeds.
Make a sparkling water “Pimms” with mint, cucumber, slices of oranges etc and drink that when you get home from work, rather than reaching for the glass of wine.
What small changes can you identify that would make the most impact in your life?
And of, course, if you need help to get you on track with all of these suggestions, don’t forget to book yourself a week’s stay at Homefield!