Updated: Jan 28
Choosing a healthier lifestyle doesn't have to be all or nothing. Even making a few simple changes can have a huge impact on you and your family's health and well-being.
1. Ditch the refined oils
Throw out that canola oil in your cupboard. Similarly vegetable oil, corn oil, soy bean oil, grape seed oil, rice bran oil, sunflower oil and margarine are all highly processed, washed in chemicals, heated and contain free radicals that are hazardous to your health.
They may be marketed as low in saturated fat, but the benefits of consuming a low fat diet are under major debate. In fact fats (even saturated) have a beneficial role in the body. See the Functional Medicine University Article "Low fat diet increases risk of death, study says".
Avoid any oil that is labelled as refined, hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated (trans fats).
You could start by avoiding these oils at home when baking and cooking. Unfortunately most packaged foods contain these highly refined oils, so the next step would be reduce your consumption of packaged foods. Or at least start looking at the ingredients of these packaged foods. What oil do they use? Is there a healthier alternative?
For example, all potato chips / crisps are cooked in refined oils, however I'd prefer those cooked in high oleic sunflower oil over canola oil. High oleic sunflower oil is more stable and does not contain any detrimental hydrogenated oils or trans fats.
Recommended unrefined oils include...
extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil (use at medium to low heats, in baking under 180 deg Celsius, a light flavoured option is great for baking - however check that it doesn't sneakily contain added refined oils)
butter from grass fed cows (organic - even better, avoid if dairy intolerant)
organic ghee (clarified butter - good to use at high temperatures)
macadamia oil or avocado oil (great for high heat cooking)
coconut oil (rich in medium-chain fatty acids that are easily converted to energy in the body, choose virgin coconut oil, preferably organic, temperatures under 180 degrees Celcius are recommended)
Butter or margarine? I'd definitely recommend butter over margarine, and that includes the olivani spread.
I support Professor Grant Schofield's stance on food. (Professor of public health at Auckland University of Technology).
"Go for food low in human interference. Eat food from whole plants and animals."
2. Make one simple change to reduce your sugar consumption
Ditching sugary drinks is one of the easiest options. One cup of orange juice contains up to
21 grams of sugar. For a child the World Health Organisation recommends only 12 grams of added sugar is consumed in one day! For a female adult the recommendation is 24 grams and a male adult is 36 grams. However one can of coke contains 33 grams!
However artificial sweeteners are not a recommended replacement. Some studies suggest that artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose still stimulate sugar receptors increasing sugar cravings. They may be highly addictive and increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and cause other health issues.
If avoiding sugary drinks altogether (artificial or otherwise) is not an option for you yet, then add water or soda water to it to reduce the sugar content. Slowly increase the amount of water to allow your taste buds to adjust.
I am hugely against my kids having soft drink. So for a treat if we are out at a restaurant, I order one glass of apple juice, one glass of sparkling water and one empty glass to divide it up however I like. Less sweet and a refreshing alternative.
Other less sugary alternatives include hot or cold herbal teas, a dash of real fruit syrups to soda water (I love Kapiti Kitchen lemon syrup), green smoothies (mostly veggies, not fruit or fruit juices), protein smoothies, cold pressed veggie juice, organic milk, unsweetened oat or almond milk. Or jazz up your water with sliced or squeezed lemon, (or a drop of doTERRA lemon essential oil) and a sprig of mint. How about cucumber and melon? Or sliced orange in water?
If sugary drinks aren't a problem for you, take a look at your breakfast. Eat cereal? Most are absolutely loaded with sugar. If your cereal contains over 10 grams of sugar per 100 grams, I suggest you look for an alternative, more nutritious breakfast.
3. Go to bed earlier and get more ZZZZs
It is estimated that a third of us don't get enough sleep. Sleep is required for healing and growth. It helps you cope better with stress, gives you more energy for the day, and even improves your attention and memory.
A recent study has shown that chronic sleep problems can lead to an increased risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease later in life.
Plus a 2010 study found that levels of c-reactive protein in the blood (an inflammatory marker and heart attack risk indicator) were higher in people who got six or fewer hours of sleep a night.
So getting more sleep should ideally be priority when improving our health and well-being. Are you low in magnesium? Have sleep apnoea? Have too much screen use before bed? Have poor liver or kidney function? Are overly stressed? There are a myriad of reasons for sleep disturbances, however it is important to address the underlying cause or causes earlier rather than later.
Visit the article Natural Solutions For A Better Night's Sleep for more information.
4. Find a way to get moving, stretch and strengthen
Even 5 minutes a day is better than nothing. Obviously the more exercise the better, but I'm not even suggesting starting with cardio exercise if it has been a while since you popped those trainers on. Just get moving. The energy boost I get just from spending a few minutes stretching is enough to encourage me to move more and do additional exercise.
I also find having a time set aside a few times a week dedicated to movement is beneficial. On holiday, despite having more time, I tend to exercise less, simply because I have lost the structure to my day.
Exercising with friends also helps. We can hold each other accountable and it makes it more fun.
So get planning. Could you start with simple stretches on waking or before bed? Could you go for a walk with a friend every Wednesday and Sunday night? Or is there a dance class you'd like to try once a week?
For 5 no excuse workout options to get you moving without leaving your home, click here.
5. Benefit from the attitude of gratitude
Got a few minutes before bed to run through your day and be thankful for all that you are, do and have? It is great for your emotional well-being and puts you in a positive frame of mind before you drift off to sleep.
Some have a gratitude journal beside their bed to record all those precious moments and even the crap times that offer a lesson or two.
If sleep is an issue for you, maybe purge some of the things on your to do list then too, to help release your mind of all those niggly stress inducing thoughts.
My latest attempt to bring more satisfaction, purpose and gratitude to my day is to spend a few minutes at the end of my day to F.O.C.U.S. What did I do today For me? For Others? Who did I mindfully Communicate with? What am I universally Grateful for? How did I Strengthen & Support my body? Finally what was my focus today? Did I achieve it? What will be my FOCUS tomorrow?
Hopefully it will be to make one simple change to help you nourish and flourish!