When it comes to starting a new diet or adopting new lifestyle changes we are often told to take things slowly - make one change at a time and build sustainable lifestyle habits.
Well research recently published by the University of California in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience has asked us to question that belief.
The study required volunteers to spend five hours each day committing to a range of positive lifestyle interventions ranging from exercise to pilates to lectures on sleep, good nutrition and wellbeing.
They were also advised to limit the consumption of alcohol, sleep at least eight hours a night and eat a diet of whole foods. During the study participants were tested on a range of outcomes including working memory, blood cholesterol levels and fitness levels and had MRI scans of their brain to measure cognitive changes.
The study reported that participants not only experienced clear improvements in their health and fitness measures but in their overall wellbeing and cognitive functioning. Researchers concluded that adopting a number of positive lifestyle changes simultaneously created an upwards spiral in which one positive lifestyle change appeared to support others.
If we extrapolate these findings to overhauling your diet, it appears that adopting a number of positive changes simultaneously will help to keep you focused and more likely to achieve the outcomes you are working towards whether this be weight loss, drinking less alcohol or simply feeling better. So with less than six weeks until the festive season, here are some powerful diet habits to work on now.
GET 7-10 SERVES OF FRESH FOOD EACH DAY
While public health recommendations focus on a two and five message when it comes to fruit and vegetable consumption, if we look at the fresh food intakes of cultures who live the longest, it is more like 7-10 serves of fresh foods we need every day for optimal health. For many of us this means that we need to load up on a whole lot more fresh fruit, vegetables and salad every single day. This means a serve of veggies at breakfast via a veggie juice or vegetable sides, a large salad at lunch and at least 2-3 cups of vegetables or salad at dinner as well as a couple of pieces of fruit, every day!
DRINK ENOUGH WATER EACH DAY
Many of us know that we need to drink more water but yet it is estimated that up to 70 per cent of us are dehydrated at any one time. Drinking enough water is a habit and an important habit when it comes to appetite management, fluid regulation, digestive and dental health.
The easiest way to drink more water is to get into the habit of always carrying a water bottle with you. Use filtered water taps at work and even consider having one installed at home.
Keep cold water on hand and remember all water is good - filtered, soda, sparkling. The average adult will need 1.5 to 2L of fluid at a minimum each day and another half a litre to 1L for every hour of intense physical activity that you participate in.
PLAN AND PACK YOUR FOOD
Planning is the key to dietary success to help ensure you always have the healthy food options on hand that you need to ensure you eat well. This means planning a few meals in advance; allocating time to do or order your groceries and taking your lunch and snacks with you each day so you do not get lured by the food court, cafe, vending machine or fundraising chocolate box.
Setting aside time once a week for food planning and preparation as well as packing your lunch and snacks the night before are the habits to cement to nail this one.
GET YOUR CARBS SORTED
Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for the muscle and the brain and with increasingly inactive lifestyles many of us consume far too much carbohydrate for the amount of activity we do each. High carb foods such as white rice, snack foods, Turkish and Lebanese breads, juices and high sugar treats such as cake, chocolates and lollies can slip into our diets and double or triple the amounts of carbohydrate we are consuming.
Weight loss does not mean that we need to eat low carb, rather controlling the portions and types of carbohydrates we consume each day is the secret to success. The average female with require just 120-150g of carbs each day if the goal is weight loss and you can calculate how much carbohydrate you are consuming using an online program such as 'myfitnesspal'.
GO LIGHT AT NIGHT
Late night dinners, of particularly energy dense foods including take away, rice and pasta dishes along with wine and dessert mean that far too many of us are consuming too many calories too late at night.
A couple of simple strategies to support weight loss include enjoying a light 300-400 calorie meal, before 7pm each night. A simple salad, soup or white fish and veggies will do that trick and help to give you 10-12 hours without food overnight which in turn will help to promote weight control.