Next week, 10-14 June 2019, we will be supporting The British Nutrition Foundation Healthy Eating Week. Each day next week on our social media channels, we’ll be posting about one of the 5 healthy living challenges.
What is the British Nutrition Foundation?
The BNF is a charity whose core purpose is to make nutrition science accessible to all. That aligns very strongly with our philosophy. Our aim has always been to provide knowledge and understanding for our clients so that, when they finish our programmes, they have a new lifestyle, new eating habits and, armed with the know-how they have gained, can continue living a healthy life…. for life!
I’ve believed for a long time that educating the nation about nutrition would go a long way to reducing the occurrence of so many modern diseases. I’d go as far as to say that nutrition and healthy living should be part of the school curriculum: not simply a choice but a mandatory subject, in the same way that taking a language is mandatory up to GCSE.
The BNF is doing a great job of educating the nation. It keeps on top of all the research and science of nutrition and healthy living and serves it up in an accessible way to the public, the media, schools and organisations.
What is BNF Healthy Eating Week?
The BNF Healthy Eating Week is more than the name suggests. It’s about encouraging and celebrating healthy living. Organisations across the country will be reminding their employees and customers of the benefits of eating and hydrating well, being active and sleeping well.
As you’ll see on the BNF website, the benefits for individuals include enhanced health and wellbeing, enhanced self-esteem, reduced stress, improved mental health, morale and job satisfaction. For employers, the benefits include increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, decreased sickness cost, reduced turnover, reduced levels of accidents and injury and opportunities for team building. It also demonstrates that the health and wellbeing of staff is important to the organisation.
For Healthy Eating Week this year there are 5 health challenges – one for every day next week – under the following headings:
- Have breakfast
- Have 5 a day
- Drink plenty
- Get active
- Sleep well
Each day of Healthy Eating Week we’ll be posting about one of these 5 challenges but, if you want to get a head start, just read the rest of this blog. Below we present our own thoughts on each of the 5 challenges.
The first challenge we’ll be addressing on Healthy Eating Week is having breakfast. You may have heard it said that having breakfast ‘kick starts’ the metabolism. That’s a bit of a myth. Your metabolism isn’t going to take a dive just because you skip breakfast. Personally, I’m always exuding heat in the morning, it feels like my metabolism is at its most active at that time of day and doesn’t need a kick start.
That’s not the reason I have breakfast. There are lots of other good reasons to have breakfast:
- It gives you an opportunity to nourish your body with some goodness
- Your body is ready to absorb nutrients and it’s a great way to top up your energy stores
- To satisfy hunger!
- It will help you to avoid feeling ravenously hungry and raiding the vending machine later in the morning
What should you have? Well, if you read our top 10 tips for healthy weight loss you’ll have seen that lean protein, fibre, liquid and low GI carb sources make great choices for any meal because they will keep you full for longer and give you a more sustained energy supply.
Sorry, one sec…. ‘low GI’? Yes, foods that have a low Glycaemic Index (GI) will raise your blood sugar more slowly, keep your insulin to moderate levels, reduce the chance of cravings and provide slow release energy. If you make high GI choices you are more likely to be hungry an hour or two later. As far as the body is concerned, high GI is the same as sugar. The body can’t tell the difference between a sharp rise in blood sugar caused by a high GI food and a sharp rise in blood sugar caused by … sugar. It’s all sugar as far as the body is concerned.
The reason I am making the most of the point about GI is because a lot of popular breakfast food choices are high GI. Almost all breakfast cereals – including Weetabix, Shredded Wheat… even Bran Flakes… are high GI. As far as the body is concerned, they are sugar. And so is almost all bread: whether it’s white or wholemeal, the rise in blood sugar tells the body it is sugar. That means a typical breakfast of cereal and toast is not the best choice as it almost certainly won’t sustain you until your next meal or snack.
So, back to the question, what should you have for breakfast? Let’s go through the list of things that will keep you full:
- Protein. Good choices include eggs, egg whites, low fat Greek yoghurt, baked beans https://lifeforce-fitness.co.uk/recipe-baked-beans-from-scratch/, or even kippers. Love kippers!
- Fibre. Breakfast is a great opportunity to have fruit – apple, banana, melon, pineapple, berries – whatever takes your fancy. Or vegetables – mushroom, tomatoes or perhaps some asparagus with your poached eggs. Or the aforementioned baked beans of course. Oats also have a lot of fibre, as do most wholemeal breads if you choose to have bread.
- Liquid. Fruit juice, especially if it is made from concentrate, is not the best choice if you want to hydrate, mainly because of its high GI. Drink water! Or at the very least a great big mug of tea.
- Low GI carbohydrate. Porridge is a good choice if you want some wholegrains. And most fruit is low GI too. Some breads such as sprouted wholegrain and some sourdoughs are also low GI, so choose them to go with your poached eggs.
Note that some traditional breakfast foods are not great choices. Processed meats have been associated with cancer, so bacon and sausages should not be daily breakfast staples. In addition, they are generally low in nutrients and high in calories and saturated fat, so it’s easy to overconsume calories whilst providing very little in the way of goodness and adding to your risk of heart disease.
Butter is another breakfast ingredient that adds a lot of calories and saturated fat without adding a lot of goodness. Go easy on it or find other foods that you enjoy that don’t require butter.
Have 5 a day
How many of us have quipped about whether some ingested substance (red wine, fruit pastille, ketchup etc) counts towards our 5-a-day? We’re all familiar with the 5-a-day guidance, but what constitutes one of your 5-a-day? Follow the link above for a reminder.
Why 5-a-day? Well it’s based on World Health Organisation recommendations for lowering the risk of health problems such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.
But is it enough? Well research suggests that, whilst 5-a-day is good, 10-a-day is even better. As far as I’m concerned, the more the better. I get the majority of my carbohydrate intake and almost all my fibre from fruit, vegetables and pulses. I’d estimate that Samantha and I get about 20 a day. We have a lot of variety and we have large portions, but we don’t eat a lot of starchy carbs. It’s harder to overeat when nearly all your food is calorie sparse, plus we get an enormous amount of goodness from our food. In addition, we feel we are in rude health. We feel energetic, we are able to work out hard, we have colour to our skin and no skin complaints, no health problems and we never seem to be ill. I’ve had one 24-hour gastric bug in the past 5 or 6 years. That’s it. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I think we are just healthy: we eat a lot of fruit and veg, we exercise, we supplement judiciously and we don’t consume anything that has a known health risk associated with it.
Now I’m not saying everyone should eat like that. You need to find a way of eating that works for you and provides you with all the nutrients you need. We choose to eat like that because we love fruit and veg. A lot of people don’t like vegetables. If you’re one of them, or you’re struggling to find ways to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, why not take a look at our ‘love vegetables’ article for some ideas.
As the link says, our bodies are at least 60% water and we lose water throughout the day through our skin, when we sweat, through breathing and from going to the toilet.
If you don’t drink enough you can end up dehydrated. Dehydration will lower your blood pressure and affect the flow of blood to your organs which then begin to function less well. It can also affect the balance of electrolytes and in turn affect many of the chemical processes that take place in the body. Mild dehydration can cause headaches and confusion and it can negatively affect your sports performance. For optimal health and performance, both mental and physical, it’s a good idea to be well hydrated.
From experience, I suspect that a lot of the population do not drink enough liquid. When I worked in a large corporate environment, I’d go into the gents several times a day and take a sneaky peak at the pee colour of the person standing next to me. More often than not it was very dark – a clear indication of dehydration. Pee should be straw coloured or lighter!
How much should you drink? As a rule of thumb try and consume a baseline of 1ml water for every calorie burned. That will be at least 2 litres for women and 2.5 litres for men. Other recommendations go even higher. The institute of Medicine recommends 3.7 litres per day for men and 2.7 litres per day for women. Water is by far the best choice for everyday hydration. A lot of other drinks contain calories which, more than likely, you don’t need. If you are active or sweat a lot then you should drink more. On top of your baseline amount, any liquid from tea, coffee or food will help you maintain good levels of hydration.
Need we say anything here?! In our tips for reducing the risk of disease, exercise was the number 1 risk reduction strategy. Here’s a summary of the benefits:
- Reduced risk of coronary heart disease and coronary artery disease
- Reduced risk of stroke
- Reduced risk or reversal of type 2 diabetes
- Improved mental health – combats depression, anxiety and stress
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Improved blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol
- Lowers the risk of many types of cancer
And, of course, it’s great as a tool for weight loss or weight maintenance. As well as burning calories, exercise improves your physiology to make weight loss activities more effective.
A mixture of aerobic and muscle strengthening exercise is best for overall health. If you’re not sure what to do then consult an exercise professional.
You can also get more active simply by being on your feet more. Or to put it another way, being on your bum less. Follow the link for some tips from the BNF about how to be more active in everyday life.
The final challenge we’ll be addressing on Healthy Eating Week is sleep. A couple of years ago this article here on the BBC website looked at the effect of sleep deprivation on brain power. If you watch the video, you’ll see some of the findings of a sleep deprivation study are quite alarming!
Clearly sleep deprivation is not going to do your career any good. But did you know it affects your health too? A couple of years ago the Huffington Post published the article “5 ways your sleep affects what you eat”. In short, sleep deprivation affects your hunger hormones to the extent that the regularly sleep deprived consume, on average, over 500 calories extra per day. Worse, it tends to make you crave sweet and fatty foods.
Not only does it affect your appetite, it will increase your stress hormones and decrease testosterone and growth hormone, two potent fat burning hormones for both men and women.
Try the following for a better night’s sleep
- – Be calm leading up to bed time. Practise relaxation.
- – Make sure your room is a comfortable cool temperature
- - Don’t eat too close to bed. Your body wants to focus on repair
- – Get the right pillow – soft, comfortable but supportive
- - Avoid caffeine too close to bed
- – Avoid alcohol. It makes you tired, but sleep is poor quality.
Follow the Sleep well link above for more information and tips on sleeping well.
Keep an eye on our social media pages on Healthy Eating Week to find out more information about the 5 challenges above each day.