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Kick-start healthy eating habits

Happy New Year

How many of us will make a New Year’s resolution to lose some weight, try to eat more fruit and veg, or do more exercise? While we set out with good intentions, nearly 80 per cent of us fail to maintain our resolution – some of us quitting after as little as nine days.

The trouble is we often set ourselves unrealistic goals – “I’m going to lose a stone by February,” or “I’m going to go to the gym five times a week” – or we simply believe we can do it by willpower alone. But it’s more realistic to make small lifestyle changes that are easier to stick to. Try these simple, easy-to-maintain changes and reap the rewards.

'I resolve to eat more fruit and veg'

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But recent figures show about 60–70% of us aren’t eating our five a day. Fruits and vegetables are packed with important vitamins, minerals and fibre, so failing to eat your recommended daily intake could lead to serious gaps in your diet.

Top tips

  • Keep a food diary to check how much fruit and veg you are currently eating and try to increase your intake gradually until you hit your target – minimum of five a day.

  • Set yourself a specific goal and put steps in place to make it happen – for example, aim to have a piece of fruit at work/home mid-morning or two servings of vegetables with your evening meal.
  • Don’t forget, frozen and tinned veggies all count, so add a small tin of sweet corn to a salad, or add some frozen berries to your porridge at breakfast. Dried fruit also counts, but can be quite high in natural sugar, so only sprinkle a small portion over your breakfast cereal.
  • Maybe bring in some mini tins of fruit in natural juice with a convenient ring pull to have as an easy go-to snack mid-morning so you are less tempted to reach for the biscuits. Keeping a couple of cans at work so that if you forget to bring any fresh fruit in, you can still reach your goal.
  • Try these fruit kebabs.

Weight-loss planner

"I keep a daily diary and log my weight and activity. It keeps me accountable and focused."

Edward Morrison, who lost over four stone – read his story.

You can download My weight-loss planner (PDF, 534KB) to set goals and track your progress. By putting a plan in place and noting down your progress, you'll be able to see the positive changes you're making.

Three ways to add veg to your main meals:

  1. Add carrots to a chilli
  2. Add lentils to a curry
  3. Pop a can of beans in your casserole.

Remember fruit and veg have a different mix of nutrients so you get more goodness by eating a range of them – try a new fruit or veg whenever you get the opportunity.

‘I resolve to reduce my oil’

Even if you already use healthier unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, rapeseed and sunflower oil, be aware that all fats contain similar amounts of calories, so keep an eye on how much oil you’re using if you’re trying to manage your weight. Try these quick tricks:

  • Make measuring spoons your new best friend. Too often we pour from the bottle and don’t realise how much we’re using. Read the recipe and make sure you measure how much you use.
  • Try dry-frying foods with a little water and no oil. You’ll cut calories without noticing.
  • If you prefer, some of the shop-bought, low-calorie sprays can be a convenient way of cutting the amount of oil you use.
  • Don’t drizzle olive oil straight from the bottle onto a salad. You can make a dressing with lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, then use a teaspoon to dress the leaves. It’s a lot tastier, too.

‘I resolve to make smart food swaps’

Healthy eating doesn’t mean you have to stop eating all your favourite foods, but you need to think carefully about how often and how much you eat and how these foods affect your diabetes management.

Four tips if you love cheese…

  1. If you love strong cheese grate it to make it go further.
  2. Add grated carrot to cheese sandwiches bulk it out.
  3. Choose a mature cheese which has more flavour so you get away with using less.
  4. If you haven’t tried reduced-fat cheeses recently give them a try – you may be surprised. Many people find they can’t tell the difference between reduced-fat cheese and the ordinary version.

For an occasional treat, you can even have cream on your desserts if you make another smart food swap. Using thick single cream rather than double will cut the calorie and fat content – just don’t do it every day.

Using 0% fat, low-fat crème-fraiche, natural yogurt or fat-free fromage frais rather than cream in cooking will cut your calorie intake even further.

‘I resolve to eat real food’

It can be tempting to look for a quick fix, such as special diet foods or foods labelled ‘diabetic’. It’s important to focus on the food you eat, and base your food choices on the overall goal of a healthy, balanced diet, rather than just one particular nutrient.

We all know that cooking from scratch is best because it means you have greater control over the ingredients you use, which is why our recipe finder is really handy – it’s packed full of nutritious and healthier, easy-to-cook recipes.

Get label savvy. For a product to be labelled reduced fat, light or lite it has to contain at least 30 per cent less fat than a similar product.

But if the food is already high in fat, the reduced-fat version may still be high in fat (17.5g or more of fat per 100g). For example, a lower-fat mayonnaise although labelled 30 per cent lower in fat than the standard version, is still high-fat.

Products labelled low-fat aren't necessarily low in calories. Sometimes the manufacturers replace the fat with sugar. For example, so-called ‘light’ biscuits are very often higher in sugar compared to the standard version.

There’s no special diet for people with diabetes, so enjoy eating the same healthy, balanced diet as your friends and family. Just watch your portions and don’t overdo it, and your healthy eating resolutions should last long after the Christmas decorations have come down.

'I resolve to up my activity levels'

Most of us have probably let our activity routine slip after Christmas and now feel the need to get moving again. If you're someone who hasn’t been active for a while, you can make small changes to fit around your life and budget.

Try these tips:

  • Why not give a new activity a go? From Aikido to Zumba, there’s an something for every letter of the alphabet. Was there a sport you did years ago you’d like to take up again? Is there a class in your local church hall? Take the plunge and try it out.

  • If time’s precious, instead of meeting friends or family for a coffee why not suggest doing something active? You could go for a walk-and-talk, a swim, or take the kids to the park with a ball.
  • Although your body – and mind – benefit as soon as you become more active, you may not see visible changes immediately and this can be disheartening. It can also take time for your body to adapt to the activity, so keep going and set goals that are right for you.
  • By setting yourself goals, you’re more likely to stick to an active lifestyle but be realistic with both short- and long-term goals. Set your goals to be more challenging and review them on a regular basis.
  • Keep an exercise diary and tick off your achievements – you’ll be amazed at the improvement and progress you’ll see and feel. When you reach a goal, plan a reward for all your hard work – buy a new top or book a beauty treatment.
  • If you’re starting a new activity, check with your healthcare team to see how this could affect your diabetes.
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