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Healthy countdown to Christmas

The lead up to Christmas is always busy. With all the extra parties to attend (and food to eat!) and a seemingly endless list of things to get done before the end of year, our health can really take a backseat.

To help make sure this silly season is your healthiest yet, we’ll be posting one health tip a day in the lead up to Christmas. So keep your eyes peeled and join us in our healthy countdown to Christmas!

  1. Breathe to de-stress: Deep breathing oxygenates your blood, which can relax you almost straight away. To breathe deeply, place your left hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly. Gently breathe in and out through your nose and concentrate on expanding your abdomen, not your chest.
  2. Laugh your way to good health: Laughter really is the best medicine! It makes you feel good by lifting your mood but also comes with other great health benefits – regular laughter strengthens your heart, lowers blood pressure, boosts circulation and stimulates your immune system, too!
  3. Learn to say ‘no’: Knowing when and how to say ‘no’ can be hard to master but it’s an important skill to learn. As well as helping to reduce your stress levels, you’ll free up time for you to do things that are more in line with your own priorities and needs.
  4. Get into portion-perfect habits: Ensure you’re getting the right mix of carbs, protein, veggies and healthy fats by following this simple rule: Fill ½ your plate with fresh veggies, ¼ of your plate with lean protein (fish, chicken, turkey, pulses or beans) and a ¼ of your plate with complex carbohydrates (wholegrains) from wholemeal pasta, potato with the skin on, brown rice or noodles.
  5. Get your kids’ eyes checked: Kids rely on their eyesight for reading, writing, computer work and for playing sport. Yet kids of all ages have trouble recognising when they have vision issues and, as a result, children can often be misdiagnosed with having ADHD, dyslexia or other learning difficulties[i].
  6. Up your water intake: Drinking more water comes with lots of health benefits. It keeps your body and skin hydrated, helps you avoid eating (or drinking) unnecessary kilojoules/calories, flushes out your kidneys (which may reduce your risk of kidney stones and other kidney problems) and supports healthy gut function.
  7. For healthier teeth, watch your diet: Oral bacteria live in your mouth, feeding on sugars from your food and drinks and producing waste that is acidic. So opt for a healthy diet without too many sugary or acidic foods to keep your teeth strong and healthy. Plus, drink plenty of water to produce saliva, your mouth’s natural way to cleanse itself.
  8. Be aware of sensitive teeth and gums: Sensitive teeth and gums could be a sign of gingivitis or gum disease, which can ultimately wear away your gums and damage your bones and jaw. It can also lead to tooth loss since teeth are lodged inside your gums. See your dentist to treat gum disease early.
  9. Watch out for ‘low-fat’ labels: Often, products labelled as ‘low-fat’ are packed full of sugar, which means they may contain ‘empty calories’ (a whole lot of kilojoules/calories with no nutritional value). High sugar intake also comes with a host of other harmful effects. Sugar may cause cravings, it’s bad for your teeth and it can contribute to a host of diseases including obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and liver disease.
  10. Keep the music down: A great tune is the perfect kick-start to the day or to a workout. But research shows that frequent exposure to noises above 100 decibels can permanently damage your hearing. Turn down your music to less than 60% of the maximum volume to protect your hearing.
  11. Exercise for your eyes: Exercise is great for your overall health and there’s evidence that aerobic exercise can reduce pressure on the eyes and prevent other risk factors for glaucoma, such as diabetes and hypertension, too.
  12. Pick the right time to weigh yourself: Step on the scale first thing in the morning before eating, exercising or drinking fluids. If you aren’t able to weigh yourself in the morning, be consistent by always weighing yourself at the same time on the same scale.
  13. Don’t skip breakfast: Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. It kick-starts your metabolism, gives you the energy to do more physical activities and can reduce your hunger throughout the day. Stick to a healthy breakfast made up of protein, wholegrains and some healthy fats like egg and avo on whole grain toast or fruit and whole grain cereal with yoghurt, milk or almond/soy milk.
  14. Find a fitness friend: A workout buddy can keep you motivated and make your workouts more fun! Plus, research has shown that having close friends who are active and who eat well reduces your risk for becoming obese since we tend to mimic those around us. In other words, healthy buddies are best!
  15. Brush your teeth at least two times a day: But if you’ve been eating or drinking acidic items (vinegary salad dressings, citrus, wine and/or juices or carbonated drinks) be sure to wait at least half an hour after eating/drinking. Otherwise you could literally brush away acid-softened enamel.
  16. Eat for your eyes: Eye health starts with what you eat – choose a diet rich in omega-3s (found in oily fish such as salmon), zinc (cashew nuts) and vitamins E (sunflower seeds) and C (citrus fruits).
  17. Get more sleep: Sleep deprivation has been linked with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and mental illness. If you’re a healthy adult, you should aim for around 7-9 hours each night. Kids should get a little more, between 9-10 hours, depending on their age.
  18. Take your lunch break: Despite what you may think, taking lunch has actually been shown to increase productivity and reduce stress. And, if you don’t let yourself get over hungry, you may be more in control of what you’re eating and make healthier choices. So what are you waiting for? Take your lunch break and enjoy it!
  19. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: These days, we’re often glued to our screens, which can cause eyestrain, dry eyes and headaches. So follow the 20-20-20 rule: give your eyes a rest every 20 minutes by staring at least 20 feet (around six metres) in front of you for 20 seconds or more.
  20. Get to know your protein portions: For red meat have a portion about the size of your palm, for poultry consume a portion about the size of half of your hand and for fish you can eat about as much as the size of your entire hand. Don’t forget tofu, peas, beans and lentils are protein packed too – and don’t come with added fat or raise your cholesterol.
  21. Watch for dry mouth: Saliva is important – it’s antibacterial, neutralises acids and helps strengthen your enamel. And, if you don’t make enough, you may suffer from smelly breath and other problems. Speak to your GP if you notice persistent dry mouth or lips.
  22. Get a health check: Regular health checks are important to tackle any health issues early, before they become a problem. Speak to your GP about the appropriate health checks for your age and stage.
  23. Beat bad breath: Bad breath – or halitosis – affects everyone at some stage. To combat bad breath, brush for at least two minutes twice a day, clean your tongue, floss and drink plenty of water. Avoid smelly foods, cigarettes, alcohol and low carb diets, which can make whiffs worse.
  24. Book in for that eye exam: Are you seeing the world as clearly as you should? Some of the signs that you may be struggling with your vision are easy to spot, but others aren’t so obvious. Plus, everyone has trouble recognising when they have vision issues. So see things clearly – get your eyes examined!
  25. Smile: Smile at your co-workers, at strangers and at your in-laws … even if you feel like throttling them. Smiling can actually help lower your heart rate if you’re feeling stressed. So relax, smile and enjoy Christmas day!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our healthy countdown to Christmas. Stay healthy everyone and happy holidays!

[i] Midwestern University. Uncorrected Vision Issues Misdiagnosed as Learning Disabilities in Children. https://www.midwestern. edu/news-and-events/university-news/uncorrected-vision-issues-misdiagnosed-as-learning-disabilities-in-children.html

 

Jenna Kazokas - Marketing Coordinator at rt health fund
Jenna Kazokas – Marketing Coordinator at rt health fund
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Don’t do battle at the buffet – fill up without filling out!

According to Nutrition Australia, the average Aussie packs on around 0.8-1.5kg over the Christmas period[i]. The trouble is that most of us don’t lose the extra kilos over the year. The result? We’re getting heavier and heavier. Today, a staggering two thirds of Australians are overweight or obese[ii].

Being too heavy is seriously bad for your health – it increases your risk of chronic (long-term) conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancers and even Alzheimer’s disease.

This Christmas season follow these easy tips to pick smarter and healthier options at your gatherings, to help you fill up on flavour – without filling out!

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Before the party

Don’t let yourself get too hungry before an event – it’s easier to succumb to fatty/sugary treats. So have a small sandwich or some veggie sticks and hummus or tomato salsa. Make sure you’re hydrated, too. It’s easy to mistake hunger for thirst.

Circle before you choose and chew

Studies show that when faced with a wide selection of foods, people tend to want to try everything. So make a conscious decision to stop, take a look at what you fancy going around the table a few times before making your choice. Then make sure you chew, chew, chew! According to food psychologist, Dr Brian Wansink, people who chew their foods more tend to be lighter than people who don’t[iii].

Pick up a small one

Psychologically speaking, eating from a smaller plate is more satisfying than loading up a large plate – the plate looks fuller so your mind is tricked into thinking you’ve had loads to eat. Plus, Brian Wansink found that people tend to finish everything on their plate[iv]! Our portion sizes have grown over the last 20 years along with our waistlines – did you know that the plates used by our grandparents were the size of our current salad plates? That’s one great reason to downsize your plate.

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Slow down

Put your knife and fork down between bites. Put your glass down before you have another sip. Why? It helps you to become more focused on what you’re consuming. It also takes around 10 minutes after you are full that the signals reach your brain to tell you that you’ve had enough. Slowing it down helps you get back in tune with your body and puts you back in control.

Veggies first

They are low in kilojoules and rich in nutrition, water and fibre. They also require a lot of chewing which helps to slow things down as you take the edge off your appetite. The fibre in veggies and legumes (peas, beans and pulses) absorbs water (another reason to ensure you’re well hydrated), which forms a jelly like mass that helps you to feel physically fuller.

Sushi’s special

If sushi is on the menu, it’s a great option. The combo of high protein fish and filling fibre in the sticky rice is a healthy choice. Add wasabi to tempt and tantalise your taste buds.

Don’t drown in fat

Creamy, cheesy, dressings, dips and sauces make the kilojoules soar and drown fresh tastes, too. Instead, drizzle a little olive oil and lemon or lime juice on your salads and veggies.

Try smaller treats

If you love certain treats, you don’t have to cut them out completely. If you can, try to opt for small amounts and eat slowly – enjoy every mouthful.

Move away from the buffet

Research shows that being near food – seeing it and easily being able to grab it – makes it more likely that you’ll eat more[v]. So try and sit as far away from the meal mountain as you can.

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Drink from a long one

Again, Dr Wansink’s pioneering work has shown that people tend to feel that they have drunk more if they drink from long glasses compared with short, stubby ones[vi]. Using tall thin glasses instead of large wide ones means that you’ll end up pouring less and drinking less, too.

Don’t drink your kilojoules

Your body was meant to be hydrated with kilojoule free water. This may be one reason why your body finds it so hard to detect the kilojoules in juices, waters and smoothies. Alcohol provides a double whammy – it has a lot of KJs and it also puts the brakes on fat breakdown. So try to dilute your drinks, alternate between alcoholic drinks and water and opt to be the designated driver if you can.

Balance things out

Don’t make the celebrations start early and stay late into January – it’s a sure fire way to start the New Year a little heavier. Balancing your extra intake with extra exercise is vital if you don’t want to start the New Year heavier than you were last year. Just half an hour a day can make a big difference to your health – your body health and your self-confidence and emotional wellness, too.

Click here to download our infographic on what to eat this holiday season.

Ravinder Lilly
Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund

 

[i] Nutrition Australia. Tips to beat the Christmas bulge. http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/tips-beat-christmas-bulge

[ii] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Overweight and obesity. http://www.aihw.gov.au/overweight-and-obesity/

[iii] Reader’s Digest. How to Chew Your Food More. http://www.rd.com/health/diet-weight-loss/chew-more-eat-less/

[iv] Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. Most of the World Belongs to the Clean Plate Club – Except Children. http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/op/Clean_Plate_Club

[v] Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. How Visibility and Convenience Influence Candy Consumption. http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/content/how-visibility-and-convenience-influence-candy-consumption

[vi] Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. Short, Wide Glasses Induce Us to Over-Pour Despite Serving Experience. http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/op/glassshape