If you’ve set yourself the goal of getting healthier and fitter in 2015, chances are you’ll need to make changes to your diet.
The turn of the year is traditionally seen as an ideal time to have a fresh start, but as we demonstrated in our recent New Year’s resolutions infographic, many people fail to even make it through January before they give up on their targets. While we may see the arrival of 2015 as a poignant threshold for completely overhauling our diet plans, you don’t need to be a leading scientist or top dietician to know that you should be aiming to maintain a healthy, balanced diet all year round.
In fact, making a drastic alteration to your eating plan can actually do you more harm than good, so don’t fall into the trap of starving yourself until you reach your desired weight.
The psychology of dieting
According to psychologist Jane Warble, forcing yourself not to eat certain foods can be a source of continual stress. Additionally, the National Centre for Eating Disorders states that all dieters score higher than non-dieters when it comes to levels of “emotional agitation”, while the former also show signs of poorer mental performance.
In short, attempting to stick to a crash diet can weaken your state of mind. Crash diets can also make you feel fatigued, which is the last thing you need if you are trying to boost your fitness in the gym. Although it’s never a bad thing to limit the number of takeaways you consume, punishing yourself by setting unrealistic diet goals really isn’t the way to go.
What should you do?
In a recent article for The Telegraph, personal trainer Scott Laidler explained that a lot of people set a New Year’s resolution to cut out one certain type of food. Usually, this turns out to be their favourite meal or snack, and so they automatically resent their new fitness plan.
Mr Laidler wrote that “we just aren’t programmed to respond well to negative resolutions”. This could explain why so many people fail to stick to their fitness regime beyond the first month. It becomes a chore and we sometimes feel that we’re being deprived of the things we enjoy the most.
With this in mind, here are ten pieces of dietary advice that you should heed as you attempt to get fit and healthy in 2015.
1) Add things instead of taking them away
In his Telegraph piece, Mr Laidler said it’s far more constructive to have a New Year’s resolution where you say you are going to add more healthy items to your meals, rather than suddenly cutting things out.
2) Don’t skip meals
You may think you’re doing yourself a favour by missing breakfast, but this is counterproductive. You need the fuel that a nutritious breakfast gives you in order to power through the day, so don’t be tempted to swerve it.
3) Swap takeaways for ‘fakeaways’
There’s a strong chance you heard a lot about so-called ‘fakeaways’ in 2014, and this could turn out to be a big trend this year too. Rather than eating a bag of greasy chips from the fish and chip shop, make yourself a healthy alternative - perhaps some sweet potato fries that are cooked in olive oil and sprinkled with paprika and chilli.
4) Stir fries - Killing three birds with one stone
Stir fries are a great way to stay healthy, minimise your food wastage and ultimately save money. It’s always good to have plenty of fresh fruit and veg in the fridge, but we all know that this has a limited shelf life. Rather than throwing your vegetables away, lob them all into a wok and create a tasty stir fry.
As long as you get the sauce right, you can throw in all manner of vegetables, including some ‘super-foods’ such as kale, broccoli and even some nuts. You’re eating healthily, saving money and cutting down on food wastage. Win, win and win!
5) Don’t crash! Think long term
Whether it’s the Atkins Diet, the ‘5 and 2’ plan or a juice diet, there are many crash diets that people try their hand at. A lot of this is led by celebrity culture, with various famous faces swearing by certain fad diet programmes.
The reality is that while some may help you lose weight in the short term, they can damage your health in the long run. Find a happy, healthy balance to your diet and stick to it for the foreseeable.
6) Avoid counting calories
Okay, we admit that it’s never a bad thing to know how many calories are in the food you eat, but once you set yourself a limit and start counting calories religiously, you can easily become obsessed.
Also remember that all foods are different. If you think you’ll cheat the system by consuming your daily quota of calories in one sitting of burger and chips and then eating nothing else for the rest of the day, you’re putting your body at risk, as it won’t have access to vital nutrients.
7) Think about your work schedule
If you’re busy at work, it’s convenient to nip out to get something to eat at lunchtime. The night before, make sure you cook an extra-large portion of a healthy meal and take some of it to work with you. In doing so, you won’t be tempted to frequent the sandwich shop next to your office.
8) Make some subtle little swaps
As discussed, people who make a sudden, sweeping change to their diet often end up resenting the fact they can’t eat their favourite things.
However, if you make really subtle little swaps, such as exchanging normal milk for almond milk, you can significantly improve your diet without making radical changes.
9) We can be veggies , just for one day
Again, we don’t want to advocate wholesale dietary changes, but there’s no harm in experimenting on one day of the week.
Cut down on your red meat intake by swapping your traditional spaghetti Bolognese or lasagne for a vegetarian version. Are you a big fan of burgers? Switch your beef quarter pounder for a bean burger. Those of you who are currently wincing in horror, remember, you don’t need to go veggie every day!
10) Stick to water
You’ve followed step 8 by swapping full fat Coca Cola for Diet Coke. While your intentions are admirable, this isn't what we had in mind.
Although diet and zero versions of fizzy drinks take out the sugar, they’re still not conducive to a healthy diet. Try to stick to water wherever possible.