As we all head into a quiet and cold January, many of us will be struggling to get going in the mornings and continue to be positive, motivated and productive throughout the day. Under normal circumstances we may all have much more variety in our days such as leaving the home to head to work, or heading out to business and social events, but this year such luxuries do not exist.
So what can we do to keep our personal wellbeing as happy and healthy as possible?
Food development and Innovation Director at Sodexo David Mulchay has some helpful tips.
1. Try eating smaller-portioned meals throughout the day
It's not just what you eat that impacts your energy levels, but also when you eat. For instance, have you ever noticed how you feel sluggish after a big lunch or dinner? That’s because your body is using its energy to digest that big meal instead of powering the rest of your body. Start with a healthy, hearty breakfast to start your day right, and then try eating smaller-portioned meals throughout the rest of the day. Fuel boosting foods such as oats and muesli are a great start to the day, providing you with complex carbohydrates that will keep your energy levels high throughout the morning. Whilst at home, make the most of it and try cooking your oats on the gas, slowly toasting them to start in a dry pan, and then adding milk on a slow gas to create an excellent breakfast. Add some chopped banana and honey and you will give yourself a great start to the day ahead. After this, try and consume 4-5 more smaller meals through the day. Typically, its better to have 6 small meals a day rather than 3, as this will help keep your body fuelled regularly and may even help you lose weight.
2. Spice up your mealtimes
Try creating a special theme day each week. Whether you join a Hello Fresh-style recipe order scheme or simply decide to make a new special dish every week, the effort will be worth it. From weekday lunch or dinner to weekend lazy brunch, it doesn’t have to be difficult, and with the children at home it can include all the family for a much welcome distraction from home schooling and fitting everyone's schedules in around each other!
3. Avoid processed foods - think fresh first!
While a Cornish pasty or cheeseburger and fries might be comforting while you’re eating it, its nutritional value can be extremely low. Processed foods, such as some packaged or canned foods, sweets, ready meals, and pre-cooked meats are typically full of preservatives, additives, sodium, trans-fats, and artificial ingredients that may slow you down. Instead, try to have lots of fresh produce available in the home. If like many you are working from home, try and remind to snack on raw items as much as possible. This will keep things quick and easy and allow you to still be healthy as you progress through your day.
4. Fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables - remember your 'five a day'
The fresher your food is, the more nutrients it will contain. Enjoy eating the rainbow with delicious fresh fruit and vegetables locally in season and from around the globe. Fruit and vegetables are good sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre – essential nutrients that your body needs to work properly. Sliced peppers, carrots and cucumber sticks are a very easy and nutritious way to snack during the day, for you and your children too. A helpful tip to remember, if your plate isn’t colourful – its likely not very healthy!
5. Go with the grain
Choosing whole-grain foods and complex carbohydrates ensures that your body gets the full benefits of the hull of the grain that adds fibre to your diet. For delicious grain-based recipes, check out our Future 50 Initiative focusing on the most sustainable ingredients, many of which are whole and ancient grains, readily available from supermarkets. Remember where possible to eat brown not white too (white rice and white bread are “refined” carbohydrates).
6. Lean and mean is best
Beware the unsaturated fats hidden in red meats. Leaner meats, like chicken, turkey, and fish, still provide quality protein, but contain less saturated fat. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and tuna, can add beneficial, heart healthy fats. And if you really want to try something different and full of goodness, go for sardines or pilchards, which are delicious on toast and very quick and simple to prepare.
7. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are some of the best foods to beat fatigue and fight hunger. Getting a variety of nuts and seeds in your diet can provide healthy nutrients and energy. Try almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. Perfect for a mid-afternoon snack. Why not try chia seeds? An excellent source of prolonged energy thanks to carbohydrate content, healthy fats, and filling fibre. Two tablespoons of chia provide about 12 grams of carbs and a whopping 5 grams of omega-3s, which are heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory. You could even create some tasty flapjacks combing some of these nuts and seeds to give you a tasty treat. Great for a mid morning snack.
8. Avoid caffeinated drinks - water for the win!
While caffeine is OK in moderation, providing a short-term boost, it doesn’t actually provide the body with any energy. If you must have your fix, opt for black coffee or unsweetened tea. Alternative milk replacements are all the rage too but check the pack for added sugars and fats. Drinking water is essential for optimal functioning of the body. Keep hydrated and sip 2-3 litres of water throughout the day. This simple change can make a big difference, and you’ll feel better before you know it.
9. Vitamins and supplements
If you’re not getting everything you need from your food, you may want to consider taking a daily vitamin. Make sure you talk to your doctor about any and all nutritional supplements you’re considering, and also consider having a nutritional test to determine what deficiencies you may have that need topping up.
10. Try the ‘No Takeaway’ challenge
Remember that instant gratification versus the crash-and-burn feeling? You may find your takeaway is the culprit here. Instead, why not try a homemade takeaway – fresh ingredients, no nasties and lots of fun too. You may need to delete certain apps from your mobile phone to do this, but it will be worth it!
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