Exercise and Food – Are you doing it right?

By Madelin Barratta (Accredited Practising Dietitian) 

It’s that time of year again where we start to pull off our winter woollies and start contemplating our exercise and food goals for the warmer months. But before you start on the next craze found on the internet, Facebook, Instagram or any other social media outlet, take a few minutes to think about what it is actually asking of you.

Does it suggest that you must spend excess amounts of time in a day you don’t have to exercise? Does it focus on the inclusion of only a select few foods? Or does this plan promise extreme results in a short time- frame? If your answer is yes to any of the following, I would think again about your choice of venture. Furthermore, if the program you plan on following is not based on credible scientific evidence and you cannot see yourself incorporating that plan as a part of your lifestyle for the next five years, I would also be reconsidering your next move.

Your health and fitness goals should be achievable, enjoyable, and should be based on a plan that you can continue to follow beyond the next three months. Food is our body’s fuel source, not only for everyday functions but to assist our body when enduring higher intensity activity such as exercise. A healthy diet is about achieving the right balance of foods from our five core food groups; fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat/meat alternatives (e.g. legumes, tofu) and wholegrain breads/cereals and keeping your products as close to natural as possible. Too much (weight gain) or too little (nutrient deficiencies) is not a good thing.

My tips to achieving your health and fitness goals:

1. Spend the majority of your weekly grocery bill on fruit, vegetables and lean meats /meat alternative products and wholegrains e.g. barley, brown rice, quinoa;

2. Experiment with a new food each week. The wider your food repertoire, the more interesting your food will become and the more you will enjoy eating;

3. Have a positive relationship with food – it’s there to be enjoyed and fuel your body;

4. Take 30 minutes of your weekend to draw up a meal plan for the week ahead;

5. Grow fresh herbs – these can turn any meal into something very tasty;

6. Don’t keep foods high in refined sugars and fats (i.e. junk foods) in the house – they are a temptation;

7. Find 30 minutes in your day to include exercise. If you want to continue to enjoy your exercise long term, find something that you enjoy doing for example; kayaking, dancing, yoga, walking with a friend from work, or bike riding; and

8. Create opportunities to move more often at work. For example; instead of sending an email to a colleague, walk to their desk instead, take the stairs instead of the elevator and park on the other side of the building to your entrance to get those extra steps in – they all count!

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