This article is part of our Fad Diet series.
Here we are, at the end of the year, ready to make some resolutions as we head into 2020, a new year and new decade. Hopefully, throughout this fad diet series, some of you have noticed a trend:
- Fad diets are not good for you in the long run and can end up causing more harm than good.
- The not-so-secret way to maintain weight and be healthy—which many experts have recommended—is eating nutritious foods and implementing lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise and limiting the intake of alcohol and cigarettes.
So, let’s have a look at some ways we can make healthy changes to our diet and lifestyle for the long run.
The miracle diet
No doubt you’ve heard of LiveLighter’s ‘2 Fruits and 5 Veg’ campaign. Research has shown that eating fruits and vegetables can help prevent heart disease, obesity and some cancers. This style of eating is naturally low in saturated and trans fats, salt, and added sugar. Instead, it has beneficial wholegrain, fibres and antioxidants. The Heart Foundation also recommends protein from various sources including:
- fish and seafood
- legumes (beans and lentils)
- nuts and seeds
- small amounts of egg
- lean poultry
- lean red meat (limited to 1-3 times a week)
- unflavoured milk, yoghurts and cheeses
Of course, working hand in hand with nutritious food is portion control and size. If you have trouble with this, some things that help include using a smaller plate, avoiding going in for seconds and drinking water as you eat to feel fuller. See the ‘Healthy Eating Plate’ below as a guide on portion sizes for various foods.
If you want to find out how much sugar and junk food you’re eating per week, there’s a helpful calculator on the LiveLighter webpage. When I tried this calculator out, I was shocked at the results. Often, we don’t think too much about having an energy drink here and there, and maybe a sausage roll, burger or other quick meals during the week—but they really do add up! It’s definitely healthier to cook your own food at home (although not always convenient). You can even find free meal plans on the site!
Staying hydrated, especially as we head into the summertime, is also vital. Your body uses water for crucial chemical processes in cells to keep you alive, maintain temperature, lubricate joints and protect sensitive tissues. Healthy adults are recommended 2L of water a day (or eight cups) to prevent dehydration, though men are recommended slightly more. Of course, keep in mind that certain people, such as those with kidney disease, may be on fluid restrictions. If you exercise and sweat a lot, you need to drink more water to replace the lost fluids.
Sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger, next time you feel hungry, try drinking some water first! Stick to plain old water as well, soft drinks and fruit juices tend to have added sugars that your body does not need.
Alcohol: how much is too much?
According to the health department, alcohol is never completely safe. The more you drink, the greater the risk to your health. To reduce the risks, adults are recommended no more than two standard drinks a day and no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion. A standard drink is 10g of alcohol (always check the label!). In a 2016 study published in The Lancet, researchers found that alcohol was the leading risk factor for premature death and disability in 15–49-year-olds, accounting for 20 per cent of deaths. Moderate drinking has been said to provide some health benefits—a glass of red wine a day has been long said to be good for heart health. And although the researchers found low levels of drinking did in fact offer protection against heart disease (and possibly diabetes and stroke), in this case the benefit DID NOT outweigh alcohol’s harmful effects.
Make your move. Sit less, be active!
There are no shortcuts to losing or maintaining weight, there is no quick fix and definitely no amount of skinny tea that will help. It’s got to be good old ass-busting. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. But if you are currently struggling with that, just remember that some is better than none, and more is better than some (note to self). Start off by going on a 15-minute walk and build from there. And, if you’re constantly sitting at a desk all day, try to get up and move around during the day.
Uni students are famous for not knowing when the last time they had a good night’s sleep was. The general question seems to be: why do we sleep? Honestly, sleep is still quite a mystery to researchers, but, what we do know is that it acts as restoration. Think of it as charging yourself back up and updating your system. Considering this, a lack of sleep can be harmful to your health—this ranges from slow brain functions, to being forgetful, to reduced ability of your immune system, and to high blood pressure, diabetes, cancers and heart attacks amongst many things.
The rule of thumb is to try to get at least 7–8 hours of sleep every night. Consistency is also key! Try to sleep and wake at the same time every day. This may be hard at first, but your body will adjust over time. There are also many sleep trackers (Fitbit, Beautyrest, Emfit QS) and applications (Sleep Cycle, Sleep Better, Calm) that you can use to monitor and improve your sleep!
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is something we should aspire to follow in the long run, although, as uni students, it can be hard to prioritise work rather than sleep. It’s easy to get sucked into quick, convenient foods that may not necessarily be healthy for us, and that’s okay, really! Just don’t let it be every single day! Hopefully you have picked up a thing or two from the fad diet series and are armed with knowledge to make healthier choices in the new year. Here’s to 2020!