Niki Bezzant: Try five of the best for health

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Eating a rainbow will mean you'll add more - and more variety of - vegetables and fruit. Photo / Supplied
Eating a rainbow will mean you'll add more - and more variety of - vegetables and fruit. Photo / Supplied

So now we're in 2016. Many of us will be thinking about the year ahead, making health-related resolutions - lose 5kg, get fit, quit sugar. The list goes on.

I'm not a fan of resolutions. Although there's nothing wrong with making commitments to ourselves to be healthier, resolutions tend to be rather "all or nothing" and we tend to beat ourselves up when we fail to keep them going.

True health only comes about when we consistently prioritise being healthy; when we put time and importance into looking after our health, in much the same way as we do with our wealth.

We don't often end up in good shape financially without some effort, and the same is true of our physical health. But the good news is that healthy habits, once formed, will become a new normal.

So instead of resolutions, what about investing in some simple changes to the way we think and act; small things we can start today, that by the end of the year will have made us truly more healthy.

1. Get in the kitchen

When we cook, we're the ones in control of what we put into our bodies, and therefore how healthy our meals are. When we hand that responsibility to others, whether they're restaurant chefs or fast-food companies, we're making it that bit more difficult for ourselves. Science supports this.

Researchers from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health analysed the lunch and dinner habits of 99,000 people for 36 years, concluding that those who ate at home twice a day were 13 per cent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who had fewer than six such meals a week.

Cooking doesn't have to be fancy or expensive or time-consuming. Over time, spending more time in the kitchen could do you just as much good as time in the gym.

2. Eat a rainbow

Eating a rainbow will mean you'll add more - and more variety of - vegetables and fruit. Photo / Supplied
Eating a rainbow will mean you'll add more - and more variety of - vegetables and fruit. Photo / Supplied

Eating a rainbow will mean you'll add more - and more variety of - vegetables and fruit. And everyone, from nutrition professors to your grandmother, agrees that that's a great idea.

A third of us don't even hit the minimum of three serves of veges a day, and a large body of evidence tells us more is better. Think of at least three good handfuls of colourful veges a day and a couple of pieces of fruit.

3. Think big picture

We are a product of how we eat most of the time, not of how we eat when we're on a two-week detox diet, and not how we ate at the New Year's Eve bash. Neither of these is a normal situation.

Spending the time and effort making our everyday eating and drinking and making as nutritious as possible will yield long-term results, whether you're looking for weight loss or simply to feel full of beans every day.

Think of it as an 80:20 ratio. What we eat 80 per cent of the time is the most important. Don't kid yourself, though. Eating well Monday to Wednesday, then eating treats and drinking wine from Thursday to Sunday is more like 40:60 and is unlikely to serve our health.

4. Don't diet

It would be truly wonderful to see the end of all types of restrictive diets, including those that insist they are "a lifestyle". If it suits you and you enjoy it, that's great. But ask yourself: can I do this for the rest of my life? If the answer is no, it's unlikely to be the healthiest long term.

There are lots of ways to lose weight just as there are lots of ways to eat for optimal health. No one diet wins. We don't have to follow rules to be healthy. If you find yourself asking "is this allowed?" before eating something, it might be time for a rethink.

5. Get offline

For the sake of your mental and physical health, stepping back from the keyboard could be one of the best things you'll do this year. Photo / Supplied
For the sake of your mental and physical health, stepping back from the keyboard could be one of the best things you'll do this year. Photo / Supplied

Or at least get off social media, especially when seeking healthy eating advice. We're in a world where anyone can be an expert. With a theory, a bit of social media savvy and (ideally) good looks, you too can gain thousands of followers and a book deal and share your nutrition advice with the world.

But with hundreds of wellness warriors dispensing unproven and often wildly contradictory advice, it can be confusing for the average person, vulnerable to assertions and the promise of a quick fix. For the sake of your mental and physical health, stepping back from the keyboard could be one of the best things you'll do this year.

- Herald on Sunday

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