Your two-week programme to become a healthier, happier you!
This month’s Kick-start Challenge is dedicated to helping you make changes that last, and is designed for busy people.
It’s not about dieting, detoxing or quick fixes, but rather supporting you to make small changes to the way you eat and exercise so you look and feel better! We also want to make sure that you’ll keep your healthy habits going long after the challenge is over.
Healthy Food Guide has put together practical advice about goal setting and staying motivated. There are plenty of healthy eating ideas, meal plans and simple exercise tips that will help you feel fitter, look healthier and be happier — and give you more energy than you’ve ever had before!
If you want to lose weight, this guide will help you do that too. Here’s to the vital, new you!
How do you feel right now?
Before diving straight into the challenge, it’s a good idea to reflect on your health and wellbeing right now. Thinking about these will show you the areas you really need to focus on, and provide you with a baseline so you can look back and see how far you’ve come. Let’s start with 10 questions. Answer them as honestly as you can, and they’ll shed light on your eating, exercise and lifestyle habits.
The wellness check
Eat less than three handfuls of vegies every day?
Feel like you crave sugar a lot of the time?
Rely on coffee/tea/energy drinks to help boost energy?
Drink alcohol most nights of the week?
Not really plan your meals, and often rely on takeaway when short on time?
Sit down and eat with the TV on, or eat when there are lots of distractions?
Eat when you’re stressed, tired or bored, or because you’ve had a bad day?
Do less than 30 minutes of physical activity most days?
Struggle to sleep or have broken, restless sleep?
Rarely take time for yourself?
If you answered ‘yes’ to some of the above, read on to find out how to improve your health by making healthy habits part of your life.
It’s now time to get started!
Decide what you want to achieve — and how to do it!
1. Make a plan
Some of us launch into a new health plan full of good intentions, only to peter out halfway. When time is at a premium, planning is the key to success. A clear idea of your goals will keep you accountable to yourself, helping you to track successes and stay motivated.
2. Create your vision
When you want to make changes to your life, it’s very powerful to create a picture in your mind of what life will be like when you’ve made them.
Think about how you would like to look and feel. Collect images of people who really inspire you. Motivational quotes work a treat: write them down on large cards.
What’s your vision?
I would like to LOOK... (eg. toned, refreshed, healthy, energetic or glowing)
Things that INSPIRE and MOTIVATE me... (eg. my family, yoga classes or friends)
I would like to FEEL... (eg. energised, motivated, strong or confident)
3. Set goals
Write down three habits and behaviours you are working towards. It’s not about focusing on a certain weight or size, but looking beyond that to healthy habits. Here are some examples:
I will take healthy, homemade lunches to work each day
I will eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full
I will fill half my plate with vegetables at dinner each night
I will go for a refreshing 45-minute walk before work on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, and a power walk around the park on Saturday.
What’s in a portion?
Do you feel like you’re eating the right foods but still can’t seem to shift the weight? It could be that you’re simply eating too much.
Portion control is central to managing your weight. But that doesn’t mean obsessively weighing all you eat. In fact, your hands could be the best tool to measure portion sizes, according to new research for the University of Sydney.
Use this portion plate as a guide:
Use this handy guide to work out how much to put on your plate:
Meat = the size of your palm
A serving of meat is roughly 100g when raw, or 65g cooked. It’s much smaller than you think! Choose lean cuts and trim away any visible white fat. A serving of fish can be the size of your whole hand.
Vegetables = a large handful
One serve counts as half a cup (one handful) of cooked vegies such as broccoli and carrot, or one cup (two handfuls) of salad leaves. Aim for five serves a day, and eat a variety of different coloured vegetables.
Nuts = a small handful
A serving of nuts is 30g, or about two tablespoons. Nuts are high in kilojoules, but they are packed with hunger-busting fibre, to keep you full, as well as heart-healthy fats. Choose unsalted nuts where possible.
Potato = a small fist
Starchy vegies like potato, sweet potato and pumpkin should take up one-quarter of your plate. This also applies to rice and pasta. Choose brown rice and wholegrain varieties wherever possible.
Cheese = 2 thumbs
Eat three serves of dairy foods each day for strong bones. This includes milk (250ml glass), yoghurt (200g tub) and cheese (40g). Cheese is easy to overeat, so use your hands to measure two thumb-sized cubes.
Chocolate = 1 finger
Treats are part of a healthy, balanced diet. Keep your chocolate portion in check by sticking to four small squares (25g), which is about the size of your finger. Then put the rest of the block away!
Speedy sweet snacks
Smart snacks pump up your energy levels and control hunger pangs. Skip the sugary stuff and keep these snacks on hand. Each one has less than 800kJ (190cal), the right size for a between-meal bite.
1/2 cup berries + 1/2 cup reduced-fat plain yoghurt 420kJ/100cal
2 Tasti Smooshed Wholefood Balls 373kJ/89cal
2 tablespoons (30g) trail mix 550kJ/132cal
1 medium apple + 2 teaspoons peanut butter 640kJ/153cal
1 x 140g Chobani Greek Yogurt Flip Apple Crisp Twist 724kJ/173cal
1 Carman’s Original Fruit Free Muesli Bar 799kJ/191cal
Tame tummy rumbles with these nourishing bites that are low in kilojoules and packed with nutrition. Serve snacks on a plate or in pre-portioned packs to prevent mindless munching. Now that’s smart snacking!
Never miss a Monday: Research shows you’re most likely to fall off the healthy bandwagon later in the week. Take advantage of that ‘fresh start’ mentality and kick-start the week with a Monday morning sweat session.
To dust is a must: You bend to vacuum and stretch to hang out the washing, so start thinking of housework as a fee-free gym class. The more muscle you put into your chores, the more your body will benefit.
Start with 10 minutes: You know what they say.….it all adds up. And it’s true! When you don’t have time to fit in a 30–minute workout, break it into three shorter 10–minute bouts of activity across the day. Every bit counts!
Take the stairs: It’s an oldie but a goodie. The problem is, these days taking the lift or escalator is the norm, so break that habit and start a positive one by climbing the stairs wherever possible.
Stand and deliver: Standing for three hours at work could burn an extra 600kJ (144cal) per day. Stand while talking on the phone or in meetings, and take frequent trips to the printer and water cooler.
Track your steps: A pedometer or fitness-tracking app on your phone is a great way to stay motivated and accountable. Aim for 8000–10,000 steps a day, and then challenge yourself to beat your previous day.
Put it in the diary: Just as you would pencil in an appointment or lunch date with a friend, make exercise a non-negotiable activity that’s simply part of your daily routine. Don’t think — just do!
Squat breaks: Burn extra kilojoules during those incessant ad breaks on TV by doing squats, lunges, push-ups or sit-ups. If you do one exercise per ad break, it can painlessly add up to six different exercises over just one hour!
Garden with gusto: Digging, weeding, planting and mowing help fire up your arms, shoulders, calves, thighs and glutes. It’s a full-body workout! You could burn 800kJ (191cal) in just 30 minutes.
Listen and learn: Download a podcast or audiobook, but only listen when you’re out walking or running. You’ll want to keep on listening to find out what happens next, so you’ll be more motivated to keep moving.
Your ultimate guide to meal planning!
We can be faced with more than 200 food decisions every day, and the pressure surrounding what and how we eat can lead eventually to ‘decision fatigue’.
By planning what you eat in advance, you can keep decisions to a minimum. You’ll be amazed how clearing your mind can help keep your pantry stocked with better choices. Meal plans can also be lifesavers in busy times.
First up, you need to find a meal planning style that works for you. Doing a meal plan for a full week at a time seems to work well for a lot of people. Others can manage two weeks at a time. And if you prefer to go shopping a few times a week, then every three to four days in advance might be progress for you.
Writing the plan
It’s an excellent idea to put together a ‘recipe bible’, which is basically recipes you have tried, tested and that you know go down well in your house. You can then use these recipes to help you create your plan.
Start by writing down what you will have for dinner for the next few days, week or fortnight. Then work out if you can make any of the meals in bulk to freeze for the next week, or if you can cook extra to have for lunch the next day. For example, if your plan includes roasting a chicken, cook two at once. That way, you’ll have one for dinner and one for lunches, and can freeze any you won’t use within three days. Or, if you are making a big salad for dinner, prepare an extra salad in a lunch box, ready to eat the next day with some chickpeas, tuna or leftover chicken.
Once you have your plan, you’re ready to write your shopping list — it’s as easy as that.
Keep it interesting
Don’t confuse meal planning with the overly regimented meal prep trend taking social media by storm. You don’t have to eat the same thing every single day (unless you want to), but it can help if you have a theme for each night. For example: Monday, meat free; Tuesday, fish; Wednesday, mince; Thursday, eggs; Friday, a homemade, healthy version of a takeaway. Or maybe go with country themes, such as Italian, Mexican and Thai — mix things up! Keep it interesting and it won’t be a chore.
What about when plans change?
If you’re someone who has a lot on, or know that things can easily change at the last minute because of kids’ activities or people popping round, here are a couple of things to try:
Include a few five-minute meals: in the plan and move them around as you need. Some quick and easy ideas include an omelette, tuna and brown rice abundance bowls, or a vegie and lentil soup served with wholegrain toast and smashed avocado.
Batch-cook and freeze meals: If a crowd appears with little warning, a supply of precooked frozen meals lets you pull out a curry, casserole or soup to feed the multitudes.
Stock your pantry: It’s amazing what you can throw together at the last minute using what’s in your pantry. Stock up on microwavable rice, baked beans, canned tuna, dried pasta and pasta sauces for a healthy and hearty last-minute meal.
Ready, steady, go!
After a couple of weeks, meal planning will become a habit for you. It should make life just a bit easier and put you more in control of your decision making. Ready to get started? We’ve put together two seven-day menus to kick-start your journey to better health. Once you’re up and running, write your own. Sounds like a plan!