Forget detox and dieting – relearn good eating habits for January and beyond

With the new year well and truly underway, thousands of people are hitting diets, detox plans or “dry January” challenges in an attempt to get back into shape after the excesses of the festive season. Yet deep down, we all know that a month of excess followed by a month of grandiose gestures is no way to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Last month, we discussed tips for enjoying the festive season without damaging your health, so it seems only right to look at the flip side of the coin and how good eating habits do not have to mean starvation or missing out on the things you enjoy – and also how they can be maintained all year round.

Focus on adding, not subtracting

People often see healthy eating as having to do without or give up their guilty pleasures. This is a mindset that presents the whole topic as a challenge. Instead, think about healthy things you can add to your diet, whether it is trying out a vegan recipe one day a week or experimenting with healthy and delicious whole grain snacks.

Make sure the fridge is well stocked with low-fat dairy products and try and add something new and different to the fruit bowl every week. Gradually, these healthier foods will oust the unhealthy ones, yet you will feel you have gained in terms of the quality and variety of your diet, not lost out.

Eat together

Christmas acts as a reminder for many families of just what a precious thing a family meal time can be. How strange, then, that when the festivities are over, there are plenty who revert to eating separately, with food propped on laps in front of the TV. Make a commitment to eat at least one meal every day as a family, sitting around the table without distractions.

This will provide an added incentive to prepare meals that are healthy and nutritious for everyone, but it also makes meal times a pleasure, and a thing to look forward to, rather than a chore.

Snack sensibly

Good eating habits do not preclude a healthy snack or two to get you through the day. The trick, however, is to make snack time a scheduled part of your day and not to graze from dawn till dusk. Whatever type of snacks you choose, removing them from the packaging and placing them on a plate is a great way to manage portion control and to help everyone snack sensibly.

Give cooking a chance

Those who are enthusiastic about cooking find it to be a lifelong hobby that is enormously rewarding. Those who are not are almost always people who have never really given it a try, or are certain that they “don’t have time.” If you fall into the latter category, the biggest favour you can do for yourself is to give cooking a chance.

Buy a healthy recipe book and give it a go. You will almost certainly surprise yourself and your family. And as well as promoting healthier eating, you will find yourself with a hobby that is perfect for helping you wind down after a tough day.