New Years Healthy Resolutions that you will want to KEEP
Ditch the toast and cereal and start the day with proteins, healthy fats, berries or veggies instead.
WHY? Because our body processes refined carbohydrates, such as cereals or toast FAST. This means we get a quick rush of blood sugars followed by an energy dip, where we can feel tired and hungry again before lunchtime. This can lead to us grabbing a quick snack (usually high carb again), as we need a quick pick-me-up and the whole cycle starts again.
Eating proteins and fats at breakfast SLOWS down our digestion and helps to slow down the release of energy, so that rather than having a quick energy rush, we experience a slow and steady release of glucose over a longer period. This keeps energy levels up and reduces our appetite so that we are more likely to get through to lunchtime without snacking!
Here are some healthy breakfast ideas to try that incorporate my healthy eating breakfast principles.
- 30-40g porridge oats with milk of choice, made into porridge.
- Add 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and sunflower seeds for extra fats and fibre.
- Add 1 grated apple or 100g frozen blueberries for antioxidants and fibre
- Add 2 large tablespoons of full-fat plain yogurt for extra protein
- Top with a swirl of peanut or almond butter and add a couple of Brazil nuts
- 2 scrambled eggs, with 50g of a heavier bread with 100g of vegetables such as red peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms or avocado.
- Sprinkle over some feta or Parmesan for extra protein
- 200g Greek full-fat yogurt
- Add 100g frozen blueberries (defrosted or warmed)
- Add 1 tablespoon ground linseeds for extra fibre
- Add a sprinkling of low sugar granola
- 50g heavy rye sourdough bread or pumpernickel with
- 50g cheese slices or
- 75g smoked mackerel or
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter (extra protein!)
- 75g Quark (quark is high in protein and is a cross between yogurt and curd cheese!) and sliced fruit
- 1 carrot, 2 celery sticks or half a chopped red pepper
- Plant based protein powder, blended with
- 100g berries
- 2 Brazil nuts
- 1 tablespoon nut butter
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 250ml milk of choice
Reduce Snacking – seriously this is just SO IMPORTANT and is probably one of the best health tips I can give you for 2023.
Our body is designed to have breaks between meals where it can regenerate, repair and recharge. Constant snacking does 3 things to our body;
- It encourages our body into a fat storage mode which means we are more likely to store more body fat longer term.
- Snacking makes us feel MORE hungry so that rather than satiating us, snacks tend to unsettle our blood sugar levels, which makes us feel more hungry in the long run. We also consume MORE calories than we need, leading to further fat gain.
- Constant snacking inhibits our ability to burn fat. SAY WHAT? It’s true, snacking leads to an INCREASE in blood glucose and insulin. This sends a memo to the brain to INHIBIT fat burn from the fat stores which can leave us feeling tired, anxious and hungry again.
So really it is a triple whammy. When we snack we:
- STORE more fat
- Get HUNGRY faster and
- Become LESS able to BURN body fat
If we get hungry between meals it is for one or more of the following reasons;
- We have not eaten sufficient protein. Protein sends a memo to the brain that says ‘we are full-up’ and that ‘we don’t need to eat again for a few hours’. This is partly because protein stays in the stomach for around 3 hours which SLOWS down our digestion and keeps us fuller for longer.
- We have not had 2-3 portions of vegetables with our meal. Vegetables create an obstacle course in our digestive tract which makes it harder for the glucose molecules to get into our blood stream. Vegetables also create VOLUME which makes us feel full-up.
- We have not eaten enough fats. While fats contain more calories than protein gram for gram they are also very satiating. Adding nuts, seeds, avocado or an olive oil dressing to our meal will also stop us reaching for the biscuits mid-afternoon.
- We ate too much carbohydrate. If we eat too many carbohydrates in proportion to fats, proteins and vegetables we will start the blood sugar rollercoaster off again that sets us up for further snacking disasters. If we prioritise the protein, veggies and fats, we will naturally eat less carbohydrates and probably feel a whole lot better for it!
Aim to eat 30 different plants a week!
Research from Kings College London, under the watchful eye of Professor Tim Spector has shown that in order to keep our gut microbiome happy we need to be eating a greater diversity of plant foods. 30 different plants a week was shown to create the healthiest and most diverse variety of microbes to support our health from the inside out.
We have trillions of gut bacteria living in out guts. These tiny microorganisms help us to digest our food properly, support the health of the gut wall and make certain vitamins for us, but they can also get very involved with our internal health. Our gut microbes can also help us:
- Keep the gut mucosa and mucus membranes healthy
- Support our immune system and antimicrobial protection
- Act as immunomodulatory which can reduce inflammation
- Metabolise oestrogen more effectively
- Stimulate the release of our happy hormone serotonin (the gut produces 90% of our total serotonin!)
- Stimulate the release of calming neurotransmitters such as dopamine and GABA
- Break down xenobiotics and certain medications
- Manage our blood sugars better
Good health starts in the gut as this is the gateway between everything we consume as well as the bi-products of digestion and our microbiome. A healthy gut is SELECTIVE as to what substances are allowed to cross the gut membrane and enter the gut.
The good news is that ALL plants count in our 30 plants a week including:
- VEGETABLES – choose a wide variety of vegetables with as many different colours as possible. Aim for 200-250g per meal.
- FRUITS – including from blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, apples, pears, oranges, banana.
- SEEDS AND NUTS – choose from pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax or chia seeds, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts or cashews.
- PULSES – include red, green, Puy or black lentils into your diet as well as beans such as kidney beans, chickpeas, edamame beans or any other beans.
- HERBS AND SPICES – such as parsley, coriander, basil, dill, turmeric, ginger, chilli, basil, cumin etc.
- ROOT VEGETABLES including potatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes
- WHOLEGRAINS such as wheat, rye, buckwheat, quinoa, rice, Bulgar wheat, amaranth, oats.
Try to cut down on ultra-processed foods as well as sugar.
Minimally processed foods are foods that have been altered in some way. Not all processed foods are bad for us as minimally processed foods also include yogurt, tinned tomatoes, cheese or pickled vegetables for example.
Ultra-processed foods are those that have undergone multiple processes to produce a food or in some cases food like product. UPF’s as they are known can include many commercial breads and breakfast cereals, ready meals, snack foods, confectionary, readymade sauces, canned soups, meal-deal style sandwiches, crisps, frozen convenience or microwavable ready meals, supermarket pizza, pasta sauce, biscuits, cakes, sweetened or fruit yogurts, Quorn, squashes, sweetened or fizzy drinks. Many of these foods we may even have considered as healthy, such as a sandwich with snack and drink at lunchtime from a supermarket.
The problem with ultra-processed foods and sugar is that they are mostly low in nutrients, protein, plants and fibre and high in calories, refined carbohydrates and sugars. These foods are mostly unbalanced in proteins, fats, fibre and plants which means that we are flooding our body with sugar and low nutrient energy which can lead us to feeling tired, hungry, irritable and anxious afterwards.
We eat food not only to give us energy, but also to provide us with the essential macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, trace elements and phytonutrients which help our body to do all the daily bodily processes that keep us alive and healthy, but also feeling great. These nutrients drive the chemical reactions that control our mood and brain chemistry, hormone balance, energy levels, liver detoxification, immunity, bone density as well as our cellular repair and regeneration.
We are recommended to eat around 30g of sugar daily. This is around 7 teaspoons distributed throughout the day. This may also be too high as just 3 teaspoons of sugar can elevate our blood glucose out of its usual healthy range. A 30g serving of additional sugar is the equivalent to just 30g jelly sweets, 5 teaspoons of jam, 300ml orange juice or 250g sweetened yogurt.
Here are a few tips for reducing processed foods:
- Try to start cooking with natural ingredients from scratch wherever possible
- Take a packed lunch with you to work – this can be leftovers from the evening meal for ease
- Read food labels – if the label contains more than 5 ingredients it is probably a UPF.
- Make sure you recognise all of the ingredients on the label. If you don’t usually cook with, for example, calcium propionate of mono and diglycerides of fatty acids, then it is probably an UPF
- If the food comes in a plastic bag in a cardboard wrapper, it is likely to be an UPF.
- If the food tastes sweet (confectionary, breakfast cereals, biscuit, sweets, ice cream) it is probably high in sugar.
- Avoid adding sugar to teas and coffees
- Swap breakfast cereals for porridge oats
Switch vegetable oils for olive oil
This is a relatively easy switch to make and most supermarkets now sell extra virgin olive oil at a competitive price.
Olive oil is better for us than sunflower or vegetable oil for a number of reasons. Firstly olive oil is pressed to release its oils which are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids alongside beneficial plant compounds, many of which are cardioprotective.
Vegetable oils are produced from seeds in the presence of solvents, pressure and heat. The result is a seed oil that has been highly processed and is rich in omega 6 fatty acids. While we need some omega 6 fats for our health, too many can encourage inflammation in the body.
There are a lot of reasons why many people should be consuming more olive oil and replacing cheaper vegetable oils and margarines. Here are some reasons why olive oil has a prized place in the Mediterranean diet.
- Extra virgin olive oil is made from the first cold pressing and has the most health properties. I will call it EVOO for short.
- EVOO is a rich source of anti-oxidants and polyphenols. These compounds have been shown to have beneficial effects on our cardiovascular system as well as our gut microbiome.
- Polyphenols are known to be powerful antioxidants, but research is also showing that they may be able to switch off certain genes (epigenetics) responsible for inflammation in the blood vessels.
- Polyphenols may also encourage the growth of lactobacillus bacteria, which are thought to mop up fat particles in the blood.
- Some of the fat particles and polyphenols may reach the colon where they are used to support the gut microbes and make essential short chain fatty acids which keep our digestive tracts healthy.
- The Mediterranean diet has been shown in research to show a reduction in heart disease, memory loss, breast cancer, strokes as well as improved cholesterol compared to the low-fat diet.
- It is thought that the polyphenols in EVOO interact with compounds in colourful vegetables and amplify their effects. The combination of garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and Mediterranean herbs seems to have the most benefits.
- The Mediterranean diet can often contain 40% fat, but much of this is monounsaturated and accounts for around 20% calories.
- There is no good data that heating EVOO is harmful. Try telling that to an Italian!
- Avocado oil is rich in MUFA’s but not polyphenols so is not the same. Sorry!
Eat more Oily FISH
Oily fish are the richest source of omega 3 fats in the diet. We cannot make omega 3 fats from other fats and need to consume them in the form of food. Omega 3 fats can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body and have been linked with many health benefits including lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing blood viscosity as well as forming an important part of all our cell membranes. Omega 6 fats are still used structurally in the body, but too many may convert into arachidonic acid, which is thought to be pro-inflammatory.
Omega 3 fatty acids are found in oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, anchovies, wild salmon and herring as well as fresh tuna. Omega 3’s are also found in some plant foods, including seeds (flax, chia and hemp) and some algae. By omega 3’s what we are really referring to are the fats EPA and DHA which are active forms of omega 3 in the body (eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acid). This form is well absorbed and utilised by the body.
The best news is that oily fish can be eaten tinned and are a sustainable and economical way of consuming omega 3 fats as well as protein. Tinned sardines, pilchards and mackerel in olive oil are best and are a great way of topping up protein at meals and snacks.
The fish that are highest in omega 3, lowest in environmental pollutants, and are the most sustainable are known as the SMASH fish.
S-almon, preferably tinned or wild
What if you don’t eat oily fish?
If avoiding oily fish, you may not be getting enough omega 3’s. Whilst we can get some alpha linolenic acid (ALA) from chia, flax and hemp; only small amounts are actually converted into the active forms EPA and DHA. Certain algae can contain a source of omega 3 that can be used by humans, however, but is only really available in capsule form. Fish oils supplements contain EPA and DHA.
About Dominique Ludwig, Nutritionist MSc and Nutritional Therapist mBANT
Dominique Ludwig is an accomplished Nutritionist with over 30 years’ experience as a qualified nutritionist and 16 years as a nutritional therapist. The secret weapon of many high-profile clients and A-list celebrities, Dominique has been voted one of the top 15 nutritionists in the UK.
She is the founder of the Nutrition and Lifestyle Programme Renew Reset Recharge®. This is a pioneering nutrition, weight management and lifestyle programme all rolled into one. Working out of her busy practice and The Meyer Clinic, Dominique has helped over a thousand clients, globally, live healthier lives. She is a regular contributor to The Times, The Sunday Times and Times 2.
Features published by Dominique Ludwig are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.