If you think the beginning of the year is all about dark days, diets and deprivation, think again. It’s time for a change.
Kick-start your new year with our 12 top tips to get you feeling and looking great. Now is the time to expand your food horizons, get active, be healthy, and start enjoying what you should eat, rather than worrying about what you shouldn’t.
Find out how making simple changes to what, when and how you eat can help you cut calories, improve your sleep and make you feel alive and alert.
A healthy and happy 2014 starts here…
Get some nuts
In a nut shell, these little nutritional powerhouses are low in cholesterol and rich in heart-healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, including folic acid and calcium. To satisfy snack cravings, limit yourself to a small handful a day. Avoid salted and chocolate-coated varieties, and stock up on mixed nuts. You'd be nuts not to.
Join the breakfast club
Eat a good breakfast and you’re likely to consume at least 100 fewer calories during the day than those who skip a morning munch, research has shown.
What's a "good" breakfast? One word: eggs. Packed with B vitamins, eggs are a source of high-quality protein, which helps you feel full for longer. They’re also one of the few food sources of vitamin D.
Be a smoothie operator
We know the course of sticking to your 5-a-day doesn’t always run smooth. Well it should now. A 250ml smoothie can count for up to 2 of your 5 portions, and for veggie- haters they're a great way of getting vital nutrients. Go for lower-sugar fruits like raspberries, cranberries, blackberries, apricots and plums, and green veg like kale, cucumber and spinach.
Fish for a healthy heart
Numerous studies have confirmed that the omega 3 fats found in oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring and in certain white fish, such as sea bass, sea bream and pollock, are heart protective. Try to eat fish at least twice a week, but don’t eat more than 4 portions of oily fish (2 for women who are or may become pregnant or who are breastfeeding). Also don’t eat swordfish more than once a week and limit your intake of white fish. White and oily fish can contain low levels of pollutants, which can be harmful in very large quantities.
Eat in colour
Not just a pretty plate with delicious flavours, our colourful red pepper and coconut stir-fried rice recipe has the added bonus of helping you stay focused, and helps improve your memory and concentration.
The recipe is low in calories and packed with B vitamins, magnesium, iron and zinc, which help brain function. The addition of red peppers means you also get an extra helping of vitamin C – a large pepper contains 3 times as much vitamin c as an orange.
Work it out
Keep active and you're less likely to be depressed, anxious or tense and more likely to feel good about yourself, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The key to sticking to an exercise regime is to pick an activity you actually like doing, whether it’s riding a bike, playing a sport or walking your dog.
Loathe the gym? Don't sweat it. Exercise in the comfort of your living room with our home workouts devised by celebrity trainer Matt Roberts.
Don’t blow it out of proportion
We eat with our eyes as well as our mouths, which explains why we pile up our plates and pile on the pounds. When dishing up, start by filling half your plate with salad or veg, as they are nutritious and low in calories. 'The most calorific food should go on the plate last,' says Joanne Lunn, Waitrose nutritionist.
Trick yourself into eating less calories by using smaller bowls and plates, and using tall, thin glasses rather than short and fat. Try cutting your food into smaller pieces too. Research shows that these optical illusions cheat your brain into thinking you are eating more than you are.
Feel it in your bones
Healthy bones need sufficient calcium. Yes, milk and dairy foods are great sources, but they're not the only ones. An 85g tin of drained sardines contains as much as two 230ml glasses of milk - as long as you eat it bones and all!
Dairy products contain potassium and phosphorus, both important for healthy bones. Green leafy vegetables, such as cabbage, kale and broccoli, are a great source of calcium as well as the magnesium your bones need. For your body to absorb calcium effectively it needs vitamin D. While the best source is sunlight, eggs and oily fish also contain vitamin D.
Take a coffee break
Drinking coffee can positively benefit your health and mood. No, really.
Research from the Nurses' Health study in the US found the risk of depression was 20% lower among women who drank four or more cups a day than those who drank little or none.
Coffee may also protect against dementia, lower the risk of skin and mouth cancer and reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Caffeine can cause irritability and headaches so always be aware of how much feels right for you. Keep your coffee low-fat by opting for semi-skimmed or low-fat milk.
Let the sun shine
Take a step (or two) into the great outdoors and let natural sunlight lift your spirits. Research has shown that a daily midday walk can be just as effective as light treatment for beating the winter blues or SAD (seasonal affective disorder).
Being outside might be a mood booster, but it won’t boost your levels of vitamin D during the winter. From November to March our skin can’t make vitamin D - which is essential for healthy bones - from sunlight. So if you're in an at-risk group of deficiency, the Department of Health recommends taking a vitamin D supplement.