We spoke to expert nutritionist Roberta Baldo to find out how we can make a healthy start to the new year, without putting too much pressure on ourselves and succumbing to our cravings.
It’s January. It’s a new year, and you’re probably looking to start it in the healthiest way possible. The only problem is that your cupboards and shelves are still filled to the brim with leftover Christmas goodies, after-dinner nibbles and half-drunken bottles. Making some healthy swaps this New Year can be easier said than done, particularly when it’s difficult to figure out what types of food will keep you satisfied without leaving you feeling bloated.
So, we spoke to Roberta Baldo, one of the registered nutritionists behind Baldo & Mason, to find out her tips to eating healthy this New Year, and the simple swaps that you can make to keep you feeling your best.
“Firstly, it’s important to be realistic,” says Roberta. “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to overhaul your whole diet. Try to make small swaps that are easy to maintain and will make a difference in the long run.”
That’s not to say that your entire snack drawer needs to be thrown out. But if, like most of us, you’ve been nibbling on a lot of processed treats rather than whole grains and have been reaching for products with a lot of artificial additives, then it can be beneficial to swap these out for some foods that contain more nutrients. Roberta suggests making a start by including some lean protein sources in your next food shop, such as fish, chicken, beans and lentils, and making these the primary component of your lunches and dinners.
Next, hydration is crucial for your overall wellbeing, but drinking two litres a day may have proven difficult over the hectic festive period. If you generally struggle to consume this much water, or haven’t got round to buying the Stanley cup that everyone seems to have, why not try some herbal teas instead? They’re flavoursome and are a great way to stay hydrated, as well as keeping you warm in this blustery weather.
Pukka Herbs has recently launched a brand-new tea for the new year – Morning Berry (£4.99) – blended with blackcurrant fruit, rooibos and hibiscus flower. This is a great option for those looking to increase their water intake as well as boosting their antioxidants.
A lot of us may not want to hear this (including myself, a soya milk devotee), but plant milk may not be as healthy as we think it is. Roberta claims that a lot of the options on the shelves have hidden sugars and oils. “Opt for brands like Plenish,” she suggests. “It contains a higher percentage of the nut and water.”
When it comes to snacking, it can be tempting to reach for your left-over chocolate, mince pies or even a slice of panettone. If you’re in need of something sweet to satisfy that tooth of yours, Roberta recommends indulging in some dark, organic chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) or coating some oak cakes in almond butter. Berries are also a great option, and you can add a scoop of Greek yoghurt for some added protein and calcium.
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“Apple slices with peanut butter is a classic for a reason,” she says. “Apples are a good source of fibre and potassium, while peanut butter is a good source of protein and healthy fats. It’ll be sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.”
There are a lot of snack options on the shelves that claim to be healthy, when in reality their processed nature often means that they’re high in sugar and have little nutritional benefit. They can also spike your blood sugar levels, leaving you feeling exhausted by mid-afternoon.
“Yoghurt-covered snacks, such as yoghurt-covered raisins and granola bars, may seem like a healthy option, but they’re often loaded with added sugar and artificial sweeteners. The yoghurt coating typically contains excessive sugar, while the granola may be laden with refined grains and unhealthy fats,” explains Roberta.
She similarly notes that, while dried fruit is a concentrated source of nutrients, it’s also high in sugar. Better to go for the real fruit instead.
Another sweet snack idea is protein balls, which you can make at home or buy in shops. If you’re opting for store bought, Roberta recommends checking the label and making sure that it’s made with natural, unprocessed ingredients. This option from The Protein Ball Co is made with plant-based ingredients and is free from artificial sweeteners.
Those of you who prefer savoury to sweet, worry not. We’ve got healthy options for you, too.
“Nuts and seeds are a good source of healthy fats, fibre and protein. They’re also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help improve heart health. Snack on almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, cashews or pumpkin seeds.”
But if, like me, nuts aren’t really your thing, try some carrots or celery sticks with hummus, which is a much better alternative to dipping chips or crackers. Hummus is also a good source of protein and healthy fats.
Roberta also points to seaweed thins as a great low-calorie option, and Korean brand Kelly Loves’ Seaweed Rice Crisps (£2.35) are a fab grab-and-go snack, as well as being vegan and gluten-free.
Of course, we all know that hard-boiled eggs are a solid choice, but Roberta recommends adding a handful of spinach to create a high-protein snack that will keep you satisfied for hours.
Across the board, it’s important to go easy on yourself in the new year, and to not succumb to the outdated and ludicrous idea that we need to completely revamp our lives every time we hit January. If you’re looking to change the way that you feel and eat, simple and slow swaps are the way to go. As the saying goes, the tortoise usually wins the race.