Food hacks

Back to work (or school) health hacks

Hi everyone, how are we doing now we are ‘properly’ back into January? I’m feeling fairly fresh and energised (which I’m attributing to some newly implemented habits) but if you’re not then this post might come at the right time for you.

Today I am sharing some quick and easy things you can do help keep your healthy habits on track and your wellbeing a priority as the day to day routines settle back in and the year rolls on.

If your good intentions are starting to slump and your motivation is waning then read on for some easy ways to inject some goodness into your January – without investing in a new gym membership or embarking on a crazy diet.

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Cut down on your sugar intake

First up is cut down on your sugar. I know, I know a pretty obvious one but for those of us who indulged over Christmas the easiest way you can start to feel better is by reducing the amount of sweet stuff you’re eating. I know it’s tempting to polish off the last of the chocolates, or to keep indulging because it’s grey outside and being back to work sucks but I’m this will only have the opposite effect to what you want.

After the short term high you’ll get the crashing low and after a few days of increased sugar your body will start to feel really lethargic and grouchy (it also starts to mess with your biochemistry pretty quickly meaning the longer you keep feeding it sugar the harder it is to break out of the cycle).

Why not commit to having one less sweet thing a day for a week; then take it down to one sweet thing a day; then one sweet thing every other day and finally one sweet treat a week. Taking a ‘step-down’ approach will mean you’re not going cold turkey (and getting the crashing withdrawal headaches and aches you’d usually get) and you’ll be reducing your intake over time which means you’ve got a greater chance of sticking with it.

If you’d like some more tips on how to reduce your sugar intake I’ve written a post covering that here.

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Up your veggies

Hand in hand with cutting down on your sugar is upping your vegetable intake. When you take out the junk you need to replace it with the good stuff – not least because you’ll be hungry! As with stepping down on the sugar why not try a ‘stepping up’ approach with the veggies.

Don’t try and overwhelm yourself on day one with 3 servings at breakfast, 3 at lunch and a completely plant based meal at dinner. If you’re not used to eating in this way you’re body is going to let you know about it and you’ll only put yourself off the idea because you’ll either end up hungry or bored – I know what it’s like cooking up a plate of veggies to eat because you ‘should’ only to sit down and completely lose my apetite.

Why not try to introduce a portion of fruit or veggies at breakfast for a week, for example a handful of spinach in your smoothie or a half grated courgette in your porridge is ideal because you won’t taste it but you’re sneaking in a serving of vegetables.  After a few days try adding in an extra portion of vegetables at lunch; and after a week or so go for an extra portion with your dinner.

I know this might seem a bit daunting as I too sometimes lack inspiration on how to eat more vegetables. If that sounds like you head over here as I’ve shared how I managed to up my vegetable intake without the hard work.

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Stay hydrated

In the winter we underestimate the importance of drinking water and staying hydrated; even in these colder months (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) we can become dehydrated. When the temperature drops we often forget that exercising and breathing in cold air can cause us to lose fluid.  And because it’s cold when exercising we might sweat less often and we forget to replenish our water levels.

If drinking plain water fills you with dread in winter  (I include myself in this one) there are a number of alternative ways you can get your water intake up which are tasty and it won’t feel like a chore.

  1. Drink hot drinks – limit your caffeinated beverages and swap some of them out for herbal teas (I’m a fan of cinnamon and peppermint at this time of year)
  2. Eat seasonal fruit with high water content – citrus fruit are a great example of this. The Clementine is currently in season so why not have a couple of these with some nuts or yoghurt for a snack
  3. Eat soup – broth based soups are particularly great for rehydrating you and a chicken soup will help to stave off a winter cold. ‘Regular’ soups is also good because of the water content from the stock so at the weekend why not cook a quick batch and freeze it for use in the week? I’ve got an easy pumpkin soup recipe here which is very simple but doesn’t taste like it.
  4. Buy yourself a reusable cup or flask – in addition to the environmental benefits of ditching takeaway cups (and the new discounts that various coffee chains are now offering for using your own receptacle) buying yourself a lovely new mug or flask will ensure you never have an excuse for not drinking enough. I picked an inexpensive one from TK Maxx that holds hot and cold drinks and is completely leak proof (great for the commute). When I’m not travelling I put it on my desk and keep it topped up with water so there is literally no excuse not to stay hydrated.

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Prioritise sleep

In these first few weeks back to school or work don’t underestimate the importance of sleep. I think we are so tied up in trying to keep our resolutions, get back into the regular routines, get the kids to school on time, trying to keep all the appointments and commitments that start popping back into the calendars that often our bedtime starts creeping back later and later.

I am definitely guilty of this and despite my best intentions of keeping up my 8 hours of kip each night that I managed over Christmas, now I’m back to work and the to do list keeps growing I’m finding that I’m heading off to bed that little bit later than the night before.

Well, I’m here to invite you to take back your sleep (and wellbeing!). Sleep is crucially important to our health as it’s when the body does it’s vital processing and regenerating. Lack of sleep has been linked to not just short term poor health like feeling tired and not being able to concentrate but the long term cumulative effects are only starting to be understood – with the indication that lack of quality sleep can contribute to the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

If this is sounding all too familiar then how about making a commitment to getting some quality sleep in? I know some of you are parents or carers which make it harder to have a full restful night of sleep but if there are non-essential things that can be postponed in favour of an extra hour in bed then I strongly encourage you to do it – I’m talking about that late night Instagram scroll before bed which is supposed to be 5 minutes but turns into an hour and a half. If it can wait until the next day, let it wait. Getting a good night’s shut eye will make you feel like a new person.

And that’s a wrap on my quick health hacks to help you stay on track during January. What about you guys? Are there any things you’ve managed to fit into your new year routine which has helped you stay motivated and full of energy? If so, let me know in the comments below.

Katie x

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