5 Small diet changes that make a big difference

It’s the month of love… and Healthy Lifestyle Awareness month too, so treat yourself to a few small diet changes that make a big difference. Making a positive change in your health doesn’t have to come with expensive gym memberships and unrealistic expectations.

The key to embarking on a healthy lifestyle is to start small. Practised consistently, small healthy changes can make a big difference.

“Long-lasting improvement is possible with consistency and discipline,” says Gert Coetzee, pharmacist and founder of The Diet Everyone Talks About.

Five small diet changes

Here are Coetzee’s suggestions for small diet and lifestyle changes that you could easily make today:

1. Cut out or cut down on sugar

Reduce or cut out the sugar you regularly add to cereal, tea and coffee.

When baking, replace sugar in recipes with stevia or cinnamon and almond extract.  Stay away from sugar-sweetened beverages and rather opt for water.

When shopping, compare food labels and go for the products with the lowest amount of added sugars.

2.  Lower your salt intake

Eating too much salt increases blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and strokes.  Avoid eating processed food and fast food, crisps and savoury snacks. Not only are they usually high in unhealthy fats and sugar, but they are also high in sodium chloride (salt). Eat less or avoid cheese which is also very high in salt. You should also opt for fresh poultry, fish and lean meat, rather than processed, canned or smoked meats.

Hide the salt shaker to help yourself break the habit of adding salt to foods. Instead, use herbs, spices and lemon juice to flavour your food.

3.  Avoid or limit alcohol intake

While the occasional glass of wine isn’t a cause for concern for some people, the cumulative effects of drinking alcohol will take a toll on your body.

Drinking alcohol (especially too much) damages your internal organs, specifically the liver which a central role in all metabolic processes in the body.

Heavy drinking can also lead to the development of chronic diseases, like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and digestive problems, and increases your risk of developing cancer.

4.  Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables

Add bananas or blueberries to your breakfast, pack a salad or crudités for lunch and swap that muffin for an apple during your tea break.

Fruits and veggies are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre which have all been found to help protect against a number of chronic diseases and even cancer.

The fibre in fruit and vegetables also helps you feel fuller for longer, which may help you eat less and lose weight.

5. Exercise regularly

The numerous health benefits of regular physical activity can’t be ignored.

From reducing your risk of developing a number of chronic diseases to adding years to your life, it’s worth taking the time to work up a sweat a few times a week.

From a weight management perspective, a new study has found that exercise can help prevent weight gain.  Exercise also helps you feel good by releasing mood-boosting endorphins.