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  • Writer's pictureMichael McEntee

Getting Back On Track To Feeling Healthy

Is it that time when we now see a small light at the end of the 'lockdown' tunnel? Are we facing the impending prospect of going back to work, or considering a return to some semblance of normality after weeks of self-isolation? Perhaps, we're now reviewing weeks of lockdown emotional eating (and drinking) whilst in loose fitting clothing or pyjamas. For those who are now dusting down their old work clothes and fretting if they'll be able to get back into them, or for those who are shocked at noticing that they've now slipped one or two belt notches, maybe it's time to consider some initial steps in getting back on track to a healthier lifestyle. With that in mind, here's some top tips to consider in how to start your new healthy routine:

Stock your kitchen with healthy foods. A first step in eating right is getting prepared. Go through your fridge and food cupboard and toss the super-unhealthy stuff you want to eat less of. Then, get ready to cook up healthy meals by stocking your food cupboard with healthy-cooking essentials. (For ideas, search for "stocking a healthy kitchen"  online in your search engine).

Make a meal plan. Get organised about your eating habits. Make a meal plan at the beginning of the week, shop for it and follow it. You can leave a couple nights open for takeout, if you like, but planning it ahead of time will help you make intentional, healthy choices. 

Eat vegetables at every meal. Simply upping your consumption of  vegetables -- foods packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants -- helps to lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Not to mention all the other benefits: For example, beta carotene in carrots and sweet potatoes helps keep your eyes, bones and immune system healthy, and lycopene in tomatoes may help protect against prostate and breast cancers. How much you should eat depends on your age and size, but many adults need roughly five portions (handfuls) of vegetables daily.

Pack your lunch. If you're returning to work after a period of being furloughed, remember, a packed lunch isn’t just for kids. Packing a healthy lunch to take to work will make it easier to eat more healthfully throughout the day. Remember to pack nourishing, satisfying snacks, too, so you don’t give in to the afternoon lure of the vending machine (or cafeteria cookie, sweet coffee drink or whatever your particular vice may be). Think about taking leftovers from last night’s dinner and adding some cut-up vegetables, fruit and nuts for snacks.

Hide tempting foods. One study found that keeping unhealthy food hidden can help you eat less of it: When office staff were given sweets in clear dishes to place on their desktops, they helped themselves to sweets 71% more often than a similar group that was given the same sweets in opaque dishes so that the sweets weren't visible. At home, stash tempting treats inside a cabinet where you can't see them -- or better yet, get rid of them altogether and keep the apples and other healthy eats out on the counter.

Schedule your exercise. If you wait for the mood to strike or for a lull in your day, you might not get in an optimal amount of exercise. Make sure you get enough by checking your schedule at the beginning of the week and penning in appointments to exercise. Need some incentive? Just remember that in addition to boosting your energy, exercise can help keep your heart healthy, lengthen your life and lower your risk of chronic disease.

How much exercise do you need? Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity (like brisk walking) or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity (jogging/running), as well as strength-training twice a week. You can break that total time up into chunks that work for you -- 10 minute walks with the dog, or at lunch time five times a week would knock out 50 of those minutes, a longer hike on the weekend or a couple of bike rides or free online exercise classes  could fill out the rest (just make sure the segments are at least 10 minutes long).

Try a new activity. Embrace change and try something new to you: Take a yoga or meditation class (YouTube is a fantastic starting point and much is normally free)... Find out how much fun you can have being healthy by discovering a new activity. Extracts taken from Kerri-Ann Jennings, a registered dietitian, is the associate nutrition editor of EatingWell Magazine

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