The New Year is often the time of diets and cutting back on the chocolate and snacks consumed in abundance over the festive period. Rather than changing your entire diet though, adding some good quality foods to the meals you eat can be just as effective a way to boost your energy levels and help you lose those few pounds that have led to post Christmas tight waistbands.
With the average Brit eating around 100 bananas a year, they’re a firm favourite in the UK, but if you don’t indulge in bananas very often, they could be an ideal addition to your new year diet. Bananas offer slow release energy; one of the reasons they’re favoured by athletes. In addition, they are said to have many health benefits, from helping reduce constipation to promoting kidney health and preventing stomach ulcers.
Containing high levels of potassium, an essential mineral which regulates blood pressure and functioning of the heart, bananas can also be attributed to reducing your chance of suffering from heart disease.
When buying bananas, always look for fairly traded produce, and where possible, organically grown fruit. By changing your morning snack to a banana, whether after completing the school run or in between reports and meetings in the office, you can give yourself a lasting boost until lunch time and get one of your five a day ticked off at the same time.
Not all fats are bad, and both nuts and seeds give an excellent way to get some of the essential fatty acids that help support a balanced and healthy diet. By replacing an afternoon packet of crisps or couple of biscuits with a handful of almonds or mixed seeds, you can benefit from fibre, protein and minerals such as zinc and magnesium.
You can either buy packs of premixed seeds which often include pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds and linseeds, or create your own mixtures. Almonds, cashews and walnuts are also tasty and contain a range of vitamins, minerals and natural oils, but make sure you choose uncoated and unsalted nuts so you get all the goodness without the added salt, sugar and trans-fats they’re often coated with.
If you don’t fancy eating plain seeds and nuts, there are many ways to incorporate them into your meals. Getting the whole grain is good for fibre and promoting a health dietary tract, so whether you have seeded bread or wholegrain yoghurt, stir them into soups and stews or sprinkle seeds onto a salad or your morning cereal, you can enjoy the benefits without making sacrifices or big changes to your routine. For a healthy addition to a cheeky snack, add pumpkin and sunflower seeds to muffins or scones, or mix nuts and seeds into biscuit and cookie recipes for a homemade treat.
Following on from the Omega-3 oils contained in some nuts and seeds, oily fish can be a great addition to your diet giving you the benefits of these essential fats. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and are attributed to a wide range of health benefits. More research has been done into Omega oils from fish, which are different from the Omega oils in nuts and seeds. Our bodies cannot make their own omega oils which is why it’s so important to get them from our food, but we have to convert seed and nut omega oils into long strand proteins to benefit from them. Fish oils are in the ideal state for our bodies to absorb as they are.
Increased brain power, reduced chances of heart attacks and heart disease, better eye sight, more hydrated skin and less chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis are just some of the reasons why we should get more of this miracle oil. The best fish to choose are mackerel, which has the highest level of Omega-3, followed by fresh water trout and a range of tinned fish like sardines, sild, pilchards and herring.
Getting more tinned oily fish into your diet is easy, whether you add them to a salad or mix them in with pasta. Many come in a tomato sauce so are easy to incorporate into a homemade tomato base or jar sauce. Salmon and tuna have a lower amount of Omega-3 but shouldn’t be ignored. Whether you go for tinned or fresh fish, always look out for sustainable sourcing of fish, and where possible, choose pole and line fished produce.
A good breakfast is the ideal way to start the day and with such a wide choice of cereals on the market, it’s also a perfect way to increase your dietary fibre. Whether you like muesli or porridge, or prefer shredded wheat or weetabix, there are options to suit the whole family.
Many cereals also have added vitamins and minerals, so that small bowl of cereal in the morning can pack a good punch for your new year diet. If you’re trying to lose a few pounds as well as adding a more healthy dimension to your eating habits, eating breakfast also kickstarts your metabolism for the day so you’re more likely to meet your weight loss targets.
If a traditional bowl of cereal doesn’t appeal, especially having the same type of breakfast every day, it’s easy to spice up your morning routine. Instead of milk, you could add a couple of spoonfuls of natural yoghurt, preferably organic, a drizzle of honey, or perhaps a handful of either dried or fresh fruit. Pineapple, banana chips, dried cherries and berries and apricots can add a burst of flavour and contribute to your 5 a day, again without much effort or disruption to your normal routine. Nuts and seeds are also a great addition to cereal.
Perhaps a seemingly bland and boring 5th New Year food, eggs have a lot to offer within that little shell. Always choose free range eggs even if you don’t go for organic, andif you can support local producers, that’s great too. Many people keep chickens and sell eggs ‘over the gate’ so it doesn’t have to cost you any extra to have eggs from happy hens.
Eggs are a very versatile food and contain all the types of protein your body needs to be healthy. You can also cook them in a number of ways giving you variety throughout the week. It used to be recommended not to exceed 5 eggs a week, but this has been retracted more recently so you don’t need to worry about feeling clogged up if you eat a lot of eggs.
Whether you enjoy boiled eggs with wholegrain toast soldiers, scrambled egg with smoked salmon on a muffin or bagel, or a poached or soft boiled egg topping a risotto, these delicious treats add something extra to any meal of the day, and they’re also really quick to prepare making them great for a snack when you’re feeling peckish.