I’m sure many of us have had a well-deserved indulgence over the Christmas and we’re now stuffed to the gills with delicious food, bevies and chocolates.
The New Year really is a great time to start off on a clean health slate and to put the past year behind us.
Here Laurann O’Reilly, owner of Nutrition by Laurann, guides you through her top wellness tips to kick you off into a healthy 2022.
1) Reduce The Sugar: Chocolate and sweets often come part and parcel with Christmas celebrations with boxes of chocolates flowing in work and around the house.
This constant exposure to sugar can play havoc on our blood sugar levels as well as increase our sugar cravings (sugar addiction is a real thing).
Remember you are in control of your environment, so to avoid temptation it may be worth doing what I call a ‘sugar audit’ and removing any remaining culprits from your cupboards (if it’s not there you can’t have it).
It’s also important to remember that the recommended sugar intake for adults according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) is only 10% of our total energy intake from sugar or even as low as 5% per day if possible.
With 5% being the equivalent of approximately 25 grams (around six teaspoons) of sugar per day which isn’t a lot.
The Benefits: Just think about how amazing you’ll feel.
You may be surprised by removing sugar from the diet how quickly you’ll begin to lose weight, your sugar cravings subside, your complexion and skin improve and energy levels begin to normalise.
Tip: For those of you with a really sweet tooth or who get sugar cravings chromium is an amazing supplement, just one a day keeps cravings at bay.
2) Get Active: Okay we’ve had crazy weather but on the bright side we're almost out the other side now with longer evenings and brighter mornings.
Exercise is not only good for weight maintenance but with many of us working from home it also provides a very important change of scenery and improves our mental health.
Be it a brisk walk, swimming, cycling, running or whatever you can manage, try to aim for a minimum of 20 minutes per day.
The Benefits: Exercise can help in the prevention and management of many health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Also remember as long as you are moving you are burning energy and every little counts, so it’s a great way to get or stay in shape. You would be surprised once you get into a routine, how you learn to love it.
For those with high amounts of stress, that would be most of us, exercise really is a great way to work it off too!
3) Up The Fruit & Veggies: There’s a huge focus on our macronutrients or ‘macros’ (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) but we must not underestimate the importance of our fruit and vegetables which provide us with valuable vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which protect our cells and boost our immune system.
Benefits: By including a spectrum of different fruits and vegetables or ‘eating the rainbow’ we get access to a wider range of those really important vitamins and minerals which are essential for maintaining our health.
Tip: Aim to include a minimum of 5 portions of fruit or vegetables per day by having them at each meal, including your snacks. Remember ‘every meal is an opportunity to nourish’.
4) Have A Technological Detox: We have seen a huge surge in social media use as means of communication and entertainment over the past year and understandably so, with many individuals being isolated from friends and family.
According to the Deloitte Digital consumer trend report for 2020, one third of people check their smartphone within 5 minutes of waking up and 87% within the first hour.
They also found that one third of respondents check their phone more than 50 times a day, with it being closer to 200 times a day for 18-24 year olds (nearly 8 times an hour or every 7.2 minutes).
Let’s face it we have a huge problem when it comes to social media with an increasing number of young adults feeling addicted.
The Benefits: Many of us use technology constantly each day, looking at computer screens along with our phones without knowing the consequences and that there are so many benefits from a ‘technological detox’, outside of work and school of course.
For example, we are exposed to huge amounts of stimulating blue light through computers and phones which according to studies at Harvard University suppress the production of our melatonin (sleep hormone).
This hormone is meant to increase throughout the day, gradually preparing us to sleep at night as it gets darker so there can be real benefits from reducing our phone use close to bedtime.
Tip: Try getting in touch with nature, go for a walk, run or read a real book. You can also spend this valuable time preparing nutritious meals and snacks.
5) Reduce The Alcohol: Many of us may have overindulged in a few tipples over the Christmas and the new year and let them be well deserved for the year we’ve had.
However, constant exposure to alcohol can also put a huge amount of pressure on our liver and it’s good to give it a little break.
Why not give ‘Dry January’ a go.
The Benefits: There are many benefits to giving up alcohol for instance there is a huge amount of energy and sugar in beer, cider, and mixers.
We can often forget how the ‘liquid calories’ add up to our waistline.
By taking a good break from it we allow our bodies to detoxify and our livers to breathe again. There’s also the feeling of clarity and how amazing it is to wake up the next day feeling totally fresh and able to take on the day.
Tip: Why not try the amazing alcohol-free alternatives such as the alcohol-free gin from Silk Tree Botanicals, alcohol free beers such as Heineken Zero, alcohol free sparkling wine as well as many other alcohol-free alternatives
6) Commit To Sustainability: There has been lots of discussion on environment and sustainability recently with the increase in global warming and obvious changes in our weather patterns.
We can play our part too through making a plan to be more environmentally conscious. One way we can do this is by reducing food waste.
One easy way to do this is to write a shopping list and plan your meals and snacks so you only purchase what and how much you need.
The Benefits: Whilst protecting the environment is a collective effort, we can play our own part and reducing food can also help us save money too!
7) Drink More Water: We all know that water is essential for our life and for our survival but we can often underestimate the importance of water for our bodies.
With almost 60% of the body being composed of water, it is essential for many important processes.
From our blood system carrying essential glucose, oxygen and nutrients to cells to other important functions.
It is also important to remember that if you’re feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated! Here are some signs that you may be dehydrated.
Tip: The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends a daily total water intake (water from food and beverages) of at least 2.5 L for men and 2.0 L for women.
There are numerous factors which affect our fluid requirement for instance body size, body composition, physical demands of your job and fitness levels.
The Benefits: The benefits of being properly hydrated are endless, with water playing an important role in the digestion of our foods, absorption nutrients, maintaining joint health, lubrication of our eyes, regulating our temperature, healthy skin, concentration and reaction speeds (which is particularly important for those who play sports).
8) Watch The Caffeine: Don’t worry, if you recall my article on caffeine, a little caffeine actually has some health benefits including mental alertness, improved athletic performance, as well as coffee containing vitamin B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin) and B5 (pantothenic acid) and the minerals magnesium, manganese and potassium.
The key is staying below the upper limit of 400mg/day which is the equivalent of four shots of coffee per day. Above which you may experience side effects such as an increased heart rate, difficulty sleeping and impaired nutrient absorption.
The Benefits: When taken within its limits and avoided in the late afternoon or evening, you may experience improved sleep and less of those side effects.
Note: Please be cautious of caffeine if you have an underlying medical condition, you are pregnant or taking certain medications, if in doubt please consult your GP or pharmacist.
About Laurann: Laurann O’Reilly is qualified and experienced nutritionist with a BSc. Degree in Human Nutrition from University of Nottingham and a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition from University College Dublin.
She has over 10 years of experience including working community and clinical care, research, personalised nutrition consultations (dealing in healthy eating, weight loss, digestive health and sports nutrition), teaching and developing nutrition courses at FETEC level, nutrition education talks and workshops (corporate wellness, schools, sports teams, public and private talks), previous food manager of the Coeliac Society of Ireland and is part of the roll out team for the Healthy Ireland Smart Start health promotion programme for pre-schools.
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