Confused about what exactly it takes to be healthy? You’re not alone.
There are so many conflicting messages, and it can feel like a healthy lifestyle is more out of our reach than ever – think homemade nut milk and daily green smoothies!
But the truth is that healthy living doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Cultivate the following habits and you’ll be well on the way to a healthier, happier version of yourself.
1. Two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables daily
High in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, fresh produce should be the hero of every meal.
Aim for two serves of fruit a day – as a guideline, one medium apple, banana or orange, two small apricots or kiwifruit, or one cup of diced or canned fruit (with no added sugar) counts as one serve.
A standard serve of vegetables is about 75g – think half a cup of cooked vegetables, beans, peas or lentils, one cup of salad vegetables, or half a medium potato or other starchy vegetable.
The more colours you include on your plate, the greater the spectrum of nutrients, so go for different varieties of fruit and vegetables.
Snack on a bowl of fresh cut raw veggies and berries to help get you to your daily recommended serves of fruit and vegetables
2. Have a go-to stress relief tactic
Short-term bursts of stress can be beneficial, helping us tick off our to-do lists and reach our goals. But when stress is ongoing it can impact our mood, sleep and immunity.
Meditation not your cup of tea? Fear not- it’s not the only stress-reduction technique that works.
The trick is to find one that suits you, whether it’s yoga, time spent in nature, listening to relaxing tunes or watching funny cat videos online.
Don’t wait until stress strikes either. Develop a self-care ritual you can do daily, even if it’s just five minutes of deep breathing.
3. Keep your sugar habit in check
Added sugar is in everything from the obvious – chocolate, cakes, biscuits, soft drinks and fruit juice – to the sneaky – fruit yoghurt, pasta sauce, cereal, canned soup and condiments.
The World Health Organisation recommends we limit added sugars to less than 10 per cent of our daily energy intake. For most adults, this works out to be around 50g or 12 teaspoons of sugar per day.
The simplest way to ensure you don’t go over this limit is to eat mainly whole, unprocessed foods.
When you do buy packaged foods, scan the ingredients lists for sugar in its many guises – agave nectar, barley malt, fructose, corn syrup, maltose to name a few. The higher up on the list these sugars appear, the more sugar the product contains.
4. Exercise for 30 minutes 5 times a week
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health.
Not only does it keep you in shape and combat numerous chronic health conditions, it also makes life better overall, thanks to its positive impact on mood, mental alertness, self-esteem and sleep quality.
The national guidelines say we need 150 to 300 minutes (that’s 2.5 to 5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity, each week.
You can break it up into shorter bursts of exercise, with the aim of being active most days.
5. Get 7 to 9 hours sleep a night
Sleep requirements vary between people, but most adults need between seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night.
Finding your sleep sweet spot is easy – you know you’ve had sufficient slumber if you feel refreshed, productive and can function at your best the following day.
To make your shut-eye even more restorative, have a wind-down ritual in the hour before bedtime to ‘prime’ your body for sleep: turn off electronics, avoid watching anything overly stimulating on television and give yourself a chance to relax before bed.
6. Quality time with friends and loved ones
Yes, scrolling through Facebook is a fun way to keep up to speed with what your friends and family are doing – but it’s no substitute for the real rel=”noopener noreferrer” thing.
Research suggests social connections are protective for our health, with one US study finding they improve our odds of survival by 50 per cent.
On the flipside, the study also suggests that a lack of social connectedness had an effect on mortality risk comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes as a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.
Whether it’s a coffee date, a gym session or weekend brunch, schedule in regular catch-ups with your friends – for your health’s sake!