Top health tips for 2018

16 January 2018

Interview with

Dan Gordon, Anglia Ruskin University, Sian Borter, British Dietetic Association, Nick Oscroft, Royal Papworth Hospital and Tom Mole, University of Cambridge

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Chris Smith asked the panel of experts for their top health tips from their field to start 2018 in the best possible way. First off was Sian Porter, nutrition and food expert from the British Dietetic Association.

Sian - I think it is to eat more vegetables. Really, every meal that you have think about where are the vegetables. Breakfast you could be having something like mushrooms, tomatoes. Your lunchtime when you go and get your sandwich, instead of having a packet of crisps have a side salad. And then your evening meal, get some vegetables in there.

Another good rule is to put your vegetables on your plate first. So fill half your plate with vegetables and then there’s less space for your carbs and your protein. Have them there, but if you put it on first, because classically you plate up your meat, carbs and then there’s this tiny little…

Chris - Everyone is nodding.

Sian - Yeah. And the other thing is to have some variety. We do tend to get into a bit of a vegetable and fruit rut, and there is huge variety. Things like frozen vegetables can really be your friend.

Chris - Are they okay then frozen veg because they’ve got a bad rep? People say oh, it’s not fresh - are they okay?

Sian - Sometimes they can be more fresh than than ‘fresh.’ They might have been frozen where they’ve been picked on site. Whereas other vegetables might have had to be transported and heat and light’s going to affect some of the vitamin content.

Chris - But why are vegetables good? Why are you banging the drum for vegetables? Because many people say I hate vegetables, I never eat them, they’re the devils thing. Why are the good?

Sian - They’re a great source of fibre. Fibre obviously helps keep your gut healthy, reduce your risk of certain cancers. Physically it will help fill you up, so when you're having that meal it will fill you up. They tend to be low in calories because they have a high water content, so you can eat a lot of them. They’re rich in vitamins and minerals and also they’re rich in phytochemicals, plant chemicals which seem to have health giving properties.

Chris - Dan; your top tip for 2018?

Dan - Any activity is better than no activity. I think we get caught up, a bit like when we were talking with the diets we get caught up in fads and new trends. Actually, what people should think about is the amount of time now that we spend sitting, and even if it just means at work, holding a meeting standing up or having a walking meeting. Or just at lunchtime, rather than getting the lift downstairs, walk down the stairs and walk back up stairs. I think - excuse the pun - it’s about taking small steps.

Chris - Or big steps?

Dan - Well, potentially big steps. It’s certainly not about trying to run before you can walk - another pun there. But it’s really about the fact we have to start slowly, and the key to exercise and the key to getting fitter is it’s like building a pyramid - you have to put the foundations in first. I think we get all excited about this really fancy stuff where we get all these intervals and this really short duration work actually, put the foundations in first, which is just about being physically active, then you can move onto that additional stuff.

Chris - And a mindfulness tip from you Tom?

Tom - I would say that in today’s modern life that’s so frantic and busy and littered with so much multitasking, why not give yourself ten minutes of “you” time every day. Try and think of a way to put it in the morning or your evening routine and use that as an opportunity just to do one thing and to give yourself that gift of unitasking or a break from multitasking. Perhaps turn the aeroplane mode on on your mobile, turn off the notifications calls, emails and try and rebalance that sense of giving yourself that relaxation time. Perhaps learning a new skill like mindfulness can give you that evidence based bit of a recharge for you and to rebalance how you’re doing in your day.

Chris - We’ll learn more about it a bit later on in the programme.

A tip from you Nick?

Nick - I would probably say, as I would, prioritise sleep. Sleep tends to get stuck in the corner. It’s often the thing that people say well, I’m really busy, what am I going to miss out on?  I’ll miss out on an hour or two’s sleep because that’s a bit of a waste of time. I’m lying there unconscious, not doing anything, not getting anything done. But, actually, if you get into a good routine, make sure you get sufficient sleep for you, which is variable depending on the individual, you’ll be much more productive during the day, and much more efficient, and you’ll get a lot more done. So if you spend that extra one or two hours sleeping you’ll probably be better for it at the end of the day, and you’ll get everything you want done in a day more swiftly.

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