As I write this I’m sitting here feeling slightly nauseous from overindulgence at Christmas. This year we visited the in-laws for Christmas dinner and my sister and her family on Boxing Day. We were totally spoiled! There were boxes of chocolates, salted nuts, mulled wine and prosecco with glitter and that was before dinner! Our festive feast consisted of lashings of delicious food and amazing dishes from creamed pomme puree, baked hams, pigs in blankets and roasted veggies, to mince pies, several desserts, selection boxes full of chocolate and candy canes galore. However today I’m fed up of the food hangover and have set off to the shops to restock my cupboards with healthy, wholesome ingredients in the hope that I’ll start feeling good again.
At the start of January people everywhere are feeling the same and with unbounded optimism craft New Year’s resolutions that fail within the first week…despite good intentions! I’m all for ‘out with the old and in with the new’ at the turn of the year but the changes we make really must be sustainable.
Here’s my advice on making next year the healthiest year yet for you and your family. There’s not a diet in sight and that’s for a reason. I know that we are much more likely to make healthy eating part of our lives if we don’t feel burdened and restricted. Food changes must fit in with family meals if they’re going to be sustainable. Nourishing your family needs to be enjoyable, easy and a fun experience that makes you want to continue all year long.
Here’s my top 10 to get you started:
1. Plan ahead – set aside 10 minutes with your kids and come up with a meal plan and shopping list for the week ahead.
2. Don’t encourage your family to eat foods they don’t like just because they’re healthy. List the foods you do like and create meals with these.
3. Strategically leave healthy snacks around – in the car, in your desk drawer at work, in the food cupboards - so when you crave a snack your not tempted to pull up at the nearest corner shop to buy a chocolate bar!
4. Set family-agreed SMART goals and check in on your progress frequently to stay motivated. SMART goals are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time specific. For example ‘we are going to have fruit as our after school snack on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the first half term.’
5. Become a food stylist! We eat with our eyes and so do our kids, therefore its so important to make healthy, nourishing meals look appetising.
6. Schedule in a regular ‘treat day’ where you can indulge in your favourite yet not-so-healthy food. This might be pizza for the kids or a glass of wine or two for mum. Routine indulgences as part of a healthy eating plan do lead to successful healthier lifestyles.
7. Include exercise every day – even if it’s just a walk. Cheap step counters can be really motivating. Did you know we are supposed to do at least 10,000 steps per day?
8. When planning your evening meals, each week should have two meat free dinners – lentil or bean based dishes are great - and two fish dishes, one of which should be an oily fish. This helps reduce the amount of saturated fat in our diet while increasing the beneficial omega 3 fats and still providing an abundance of other nutrients.
9. Watch your portion sizes – adults should fill around a third to half of their plate with veggies and the remaining amount split between wholegrain carbs and lean protein foods. Kids need smaller portions and less veggies unless your feeding an adolescent! – Take a look at the following portion size guide for 1-4 year olds and a refresher.
10. Make it fun and encourage participation! Get the kids involved in food preparation, little ones can stir, mix and mash and even primary school kids can chop veggies with a plastic knife! You never know your teen might even make dinner for you!
Happy New Year all, I hope you find these tips helpful and have a Happy Healthy New Year!