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Tips for a healthy 2013!

So many of us use the New Year as a motivation factor for starting new things, like healthy eating or lifestyle plan. In reality a healthy eating plan should be something you follow all year, year in and year out so that it becomes a lifestyle change that you build over time, rather than just a resolution. However, all changes have to start with a resolution or intention to change, and if the New Year inspires you to do this, then now is a good time to start the process.

Use these 5 steps to help implement and sustain the changes you need for a healthier 2013:

Step 1: Assess You Health

Before you can decide what changes need to be implemented, it is useful to see where in your life you need to change. A good pace to start is to have a medical health assessment and check your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose values. The company you work for or your medical aid often offers these tests free of charge. Routine diagnostic tests, like pap smears, bone density scans and mammograms as well as gastroscopies and colonoscopies, where necessary, can also give you a better picture of your overall health status.

Next you should look at your negative lifestyle habits, like smoking status, alcohol consumption, junk food, caffeine and sugar consumption for example. Also look at whether you are consuming enough water, fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, lean proteins and essential fats in your diet. Assess your exercise habits and the frequency of your visits to the gym or other fitness clubs.

The manner in which you handle and process stress, your emotional state and your work-life balance are also important factors in determining your overall health status.

Step 2: Out with the Bad

This is where you start to remove the potentially harmful foods and practices from your lifestyle. Negative lifestyle practices that you may want to consider cutting down on or taking out of your lifestyle completely include sedentary behaviours, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, eating junk food, eating sugary foods, eating chocolate, drinking too much coffee, tea or cold drink, eating processed flour based foods (like biscuits, pastries and white bread) and eating too many fatty foods (like fried foods, fatty red meats, full cream dairy and cheese, chicken with skin).

Step 3: In with the Good

This is when you can start to introduce good lifestyle practices as well as wholesome foods into your diet. The groups that you want to focus on, include:

Fruits and Vegetables. The recommended minimum daily intake of fruits and vegetables is 5 servings per day. A serving is 1 medium fruit, 200ml fruit or veggie juice, 1-cup raw vegetables or salad or ½ cup cooked vegetables. A good start is to include 2 fruits and 3 vegetables per day.

Wholegrains. Wholegrains are carbohydrate foods that have been prepared with minimal processing and are eaten in their more natural state. Wholegrains contain more fiber and more vitamins and minerals than their refined counterparts. Wholegrains, in general, also have a lower glycemic index, which means more sustained energy for your day. Examples of wholegrains include wholewheat cereals and breads, wholegrain rye, wholewheat pasta, barley, buckwheat, bulgar wheat and legumes.

Essential fats. These are fatty acids that are essential to health and that you must include in your diet. The 2 most important ones are:

Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats help us produce special chemicals, which help the body resist illness by reducing inflammation. Getting your daily dose of omega-3’s helps support the healthy functioning of your immune, reproductive, nervous systems and heart and goes a long way to preventing diseases of lifestyle and even boosting your memory, concentration and intelligence. They also act as medicinal foods, helping to fight heart disease, arthritis and brain disorders. Best sources are fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, pilchards and sardines. Vegetable sources of omega 3’s include walnuts, flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds and hemp oil. Dark green vegetables like seaweed, broccoli, spinach and kale are a reasonable source of omega-3 essential fatty acids if eaten in large amounts

Omega-9 fatty acids. Also known as monounsaturated fats, these fatty acids are the reason behind the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. They are particularly beneficial in keeping the heart healthy by reducing the amount of harmful fats in the blood. They may also help offset certain cancers and are rich in the antioxidant vitamin, Vitamin E. Best sources of omega 9’s are olive oil, olives, avocado, canola oil as well as most nuts and seeds.

Lean Protein. Protein provides the building blocks (called amino acids), which help maintain the structural integrity of your body and also provide the basis for hormones, immune cells and enzymes.

Good sources of protein to include at meals and snacks include leans red meats, skinless chicken, fish, eggs, legumes and low fat dairy products.

Water. Next to oxygen, water is the most important thing keeping us alive. Almost every metabolic process sin the body requires water and without it, our bodies cannot function. Water helps us burn food for energy, aids digestion and detoxification and is the medium for millions of biochemical processes that happen every second. An overweight person needs more water than a slim person. This is because an overweight person has a larger metabolic load to deal with and thus needs more water to hep fuel the metabolism. As a general rule, drink 200ml water for every 10 kilograms of your body weight. So an 80kg person will need 2 litres per day. That’s before exercise. If you are sweating during exercise (which we hope you are!), you will need to drink an additional 500ml-1L per session.

Step 4: Move

Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate, works your muscles, and raises your breathing rate. For most people, it’s best to aim for a total of about 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. If you haven’t been very active recently, you can start out with 5 or 10 minutes a day and work up to more time each week. Or split up your activity for the day — try a brisk 10-minute walk after each meal. If you’re trying to lose weight, you may want to exercise more than 30 minutes a day.

Strength training, done several times a week, helps build strong bones and muscles and makes everyday chores like carrying groceries easier for you. With more muscle, you burn more calories, even at rest.

Flexibility exercises, also called stretching, help keep your joints flexible and reduce your chances of injury during other activities. Gentle stretching for 5 to 10 minutes helps your body warm up and get ready for aerobic activities such as walking or swimming. You could also try yoga or pilates.

One does not need to rely on a gym in getting active. Being active helps burns calories. The more you move around, the more energy you’ll have. These strategies can help you increase your activity level:

Walk instead of drive whenever possibleTake the stairs instead of the elevatorWork in the garden, rake leaves, or do some housecleaning every dayPark at the far end of the shopping center lot and walk to the store

Step 5: Relax

Relaxation and stress management as important to your health as anything else. Find time every day to do something that relaxes you- and never feel guilty about it. Make whatever it is that relaxes you more and more a part of your daily life.

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