Way back in December 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a punchy little article titled “20 Health Tips for 2020.”
Little did they know how badly we’d need it for this year, but, we digress.
The first four items of the list all had to do with—you guess it. Food. The first tip was about diet, the second was about salt and sugar, the third was about harmful fats, and the fourth was about consuming alcohol.
We’re going to condense the tips from that article into a simple 5-step guide to staying healthy during 2021 and beyond. And, just a head’s up, most of these steps are still about the food you put in your body. Because like it or lump it, diet plays a huge, huge role in health.
Consume a Minimum of 500g of Fruits & Veg Every Day
Vegetarianism and veganism may not be for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can just cut this essential food group out. Fruits and vegetables are nature’s secret superfoods. They’re all packed with essential vitamins, nutrients, acids, and other good stuff.
They’re also fairly easy to prepare, so you don’t really have an excuse. We mean, come on; how hard is it to peel a banana? Slice an apple? Wash some lettuce?
WHO recommends a minimum of five portions/servings of fruit and veg, or roughly 400g a day. We’re bumping it up to 500g here because a little extra literally won’t hurt you.
Tip: Incorporating fruits and vegetables in all your meals and snacks will easily bring your quota to 500g a day. For instance; bananas or mandarins with your breakfast, a cup of cooked spinach or kale as a side dish to your lunch, and Brussels sprouts, romaine lettuce, or tomatoes to garnish your dinner.
When All Else Fails, Practice a Balanced Diet
If it feels like you’ve tried hundreds of diets and “fad” diets—keto, pescatarian, vegetarian, intermittent fasting, OMAD, etc.—and none of them are really working for you, stop it. Step away from Instagram and take a couple of deep breaths to re-centre.
Food should not be a pain point for you.
When all else fails, just eat a balanced diet. This will require some accurate measuring first until you learn to eyeball it, but just match all your food groups 1:1. Have equal servings of meat, veggies, and complex carbs every day. Snack in-between meals if you must and allow yourself some dessert without feeling guilty (just make absolutely sure to watch the sugar content). Put everything in moderation, and your body will adjust in kind.
Tip: Find healthy dessert and snack options that you can munch on, guilt-free. There are tons. “Nice cream” or frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, protein bars and dark chocolate (at least 75%!) instead of candy bars, popcorn (lightly seasoned) instead of potato chips, and hummus and flatbread instead of chips n’ dip.
Hydration is Key
There are literally zero downsides to drinking water. You can never drink “too much” water.
The average adult needs about 11.5 cups (about 2.7 litres) of fluid for women and 15.5 cups (about 3.7 litres) of fluid for men a day. But according to Water Logic Australia, the average Australian manages a mere 1.29L a day. That’s not even half of the recommended target! Small wonder 80% of adults suffer from chronic dehydration.
Staying hydrated is crucial for optimal health. Without enough water, we can’t regulate our body temperature. Our organs won’t function properly. Our internal systems can’t properly deliver nutrients to cells. We compromise our immune systems.
And a whole bunch of other unfortunate drawbacks.
Tip: Fill up one giant water bottle that has measurements clearly marked (1L, 1.5L, 2L, etc.) and keep it in your vision at all times. This will give you a clear visual goal, drastically improving your chances of continuously drinking just to finish the whole thing.
Follow Safe Food Prep
Unsafe food incorrectly prepared can cause more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhea to harmful gut bacteria, salmonella to cancer. Raw meat, exposed fruits, heavily preserved vegetables, rotten eggs, and the like can contain harmful bacteria, parasites, chemical substances, and even viruses.
Definitely not something you want to have to subject your immune system to, especially now.
WHO recommends always checking food labels and use-by dates to check for potentially harmful compounds and ensure optimal freshness. Be wary of food items that have been exposed for too long (i.e., fresh meat in open-air markets) and items that are heavy with preservatives and extenders (canned meat and fast food meat, to name a few).
Tip: When preparing food, make sure you follow this five-step checklist (as per WHOs advice):
- Keep clean
- Separate raw from cooked
- Cook thoroughly
- Keep at safe temperature
- Use safe water only
Finally, exercise. Stay active. Keep moving!
WHO defines physical activity as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure.” Note the last part: requires energy expenditure. If you’re not exerting effort, it doesn’t count.
Adults aged 18 to 64 should average at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity throughout the week if they want to stay healthy. Upping the number to 300 gives additional health benefits, such as improved circulation and heart health, lower blood pressure, improved sleep quality, reduced risk of many chronic diseases, and safe weight management.
Thankfully, physical activity and “staying active” isn’t limited to formal exercise per se. Activities done while working, playing, doing chores, travelling, or engaging in recreational pursuits can still count as physical activity, so long as there’s an exertion on your part. That means that an afternoon dip, an hour of hiking, or a morning spent catching waves totally counts.
Tip: Get your steps in! If you have no time for a class, you hate the gym with a passion, or you can’t find an exercise that keeps you hooked, just keep walking. 10,000 steps a day (or more) should be enough to get your heart pumping. As you get used to it, increase your goal!
As you can see, food definitely plays a huge part in dictating our health status. Aside from regular check-ups and good sleep hygiene, a balanced diet is perhaps the best way you can keep your health in check.
If you’d like to find out how Hearty Health can help keep you eat well and feel, or find out more about how you can get Hearty Health ready meals direct to you or at your facility, simply call 1300 728 764 or email email@example.com