Nutritionist Christine Busuttil tells us how we can Form Healthy Habits Over the Next 28-Days
Let’s be honest, 2020 has been one of those years we are all ready to forget. It has brought us a lot of uncertainty and the life we knew just one short year ago seems to have disappeared. So, should we call it day and let all aspects of our lives fall by the wayside (or waistline in this case), or do we make the best of a bad situation? I say grab the bull by the horns and use the last few months of the year to improve your diet, mindset and overall well-being. Take this precious time to make changes to improve yourself even though you may be asking yourself “with just two-months to the end of the year what’s the point?” Well, 2 months is a long time, and in fact they say it takes 28-days to form a habit, so you have plenty of time to make the changes you need! So with that being said, here are some of my tips on how to make little changes to your diet over the next 28-days which will help you end the year with a happy and healthier you.
The key to a smaller waistline is not cutting out food groups, but actually reducing the amount of food you eat and filling your plate with the right proportion of foods. Ask yourself is half of my plate veg when I sit down to lunch and dinner? Do I try to include a variety of vegetables at meals and snacks? If the answer is no then this is where you should start. Vegetables should form a major part of each meal and my general recommendation is about 7 portions per day. Vegetables can also be added to snacks, like having carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus, or at breakfast by adding spinach to an omelette. Additionally, reduce the size of protein at each meal, poultry and meats should be no larger than the size and thickness of the palm of your hand. Keep the portions of rice, pasta and potatoes to the size of the front of your fist and cheeses to no larger than the length of your thumb. Portion control doesn’t need to be laborious; your hand can be the perfect guide.
Another nice trick to controlling your portion is changing the size of your plate. Many dinner plates are quite large and many of us feel we need to fill our plate to maximum capacity. So, trick yourself by using a smaller plate, you will naturally reduce the amount you eat. Another method of portion control is to slow down and chew your food properly. When eating too fast you don’t give your brain enough time to register it is full and this tends to lead to overeating. So, eating slowly will help you control the amount of food you eat and help your brain register those full signals giving you the cue to stop.
Along with slowing down when you eat you should also avoid distractions while eating, like sitting in front of the television or working. Studies have shown that if you are engaged in another activity while eating you may also miss those ‘I AM FULL’ cues which will prevent you from overfeeding yourself. Enjoy your meal, relax focus on what you are eating and listen to those cues.
My last tip with regards portion is to stop eating when you are full. I know many of us have been taught to eat everything on our plates but over stuffing ourselves is definitely not helping our waistline. When you are full put the leftovers aside for another meal, don’t just eat it to see an empty plate.
Making the right choices at each meal will ensure you get full quicker. When choosing rice, pasta or bread ensure they are always wholegrain, this will increase fiber in your diet which will keep you fuller. Some other very satisfying choices like spelt, quinoa, buckwheat and bulgur are also very filling additions to any meal. As an additional benefit fiber feeds the flora in your gut, which ensures better digestion. I would also recommend including healthy fats like olive oil, olives, avocado, nuts and seeds. Along with being filling there are numerous benefits to healthy fats, namely their anti-inflammatory affects. Each meal should have a good distribution of macronutrients which includes carbs, proteins and fats. Focus on wholefoods and keeping your diet as clean as possible to ensure optimal vitamin and mineral intake.
Next on your “to do” list: keep a food diary. Keeping a food diary has time and time again been proven in many studies to help those wanting to lose weight and make changes to their diet. A food diary will keep things real by making you conscious of what you eat on a daily basis. Putting pen to paper keeps you accountable and you will be less likely to reach for that extra piece of cake or for a second helping at lunch or dinner.
Finally, and probably one of the most important tips I can offer (and one that you have probably heard a million times): reduce the sugar in your diet. Many people think because they have coffee or tea with no sugar that they don’t consume sugar. Well sugar comes in all shapes and forms and let me tell you it is very addictive, the more you have the more you want. Check food labels and make yourself aware of the numerous foods that contain sugar. When looking at nutrition labels aim for no more than 6g per 100g portions. Furthermore, keep sweets, cakes and chocolates to a minimum. Sugar creates a vicious cycle which is so hard to break, so less is more in this case.
Stick to these tips over the next 28-days and you will notice your clothes feel better, you have improved energy, better digestion and an overall sense of well-being. End this year on a positive note and approach this holiday season in a different mindset.
CPCM (Malta) Warrant No. 2, CNHC (UK) Registered
Member of British Society of Nutrition Therapists