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To mark the BNF’s Healthy Eating Week, our in-house dietitian, Anna-Maria Holt shares her tips on how to make healthy habits easy

We all know that adopting healthy habits is good for our health – but making changes can feel a little daunting.

To get everyone involved in Healthy Eating Week (28th Sept – 4th Oct 2020), the BNF have set out 7 days of health challenges for people to take on over the week.

At Pelican, we believe health matters, and are committed to supporting our colleagues and clients make healthier choices. Why not dedicate this week to making some healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle?

To help you, we asked our in-house dietitian Anna-Maria Holt to share her top tips on how to tackle these 7-day health challenges:

Day 1. Eat more wholegrains

The challenge – Have a wholegrain option with at least one of your main meals every day.

Why should we eat more wholegrain?

95% of us don’t get enough wholegrain! Including wholegrains in your meals, or snacks, is an easy way to increase the fibre in your diet. Most of us need to eat more fibre to keep our gut healthy.

You will also get a whole lot more nutrients (up to 75% more) in wholegrains than in refined cereals. Eating more wholegrains is associated with protecting us from developing common diseases e.g. diabetes, stroke, heart disease and bowel cancer.

How to eat more wholegrain:

  1. Replace white bread and white pasta with wholemeal bread and brown rice.
  2. Look for the ‘whole’ on labels. All commonly available cereals like wheat, barley, rice, rye, and oats are available in their wholegrain form e.g. whole-wheat pasta, whole oats, wholegrain couscous.
  3. Give more unusual grains a go. Try buckwheat, quinoa, kamut, freekah and amaranth in soups, salads, casseroles and soups.

Look up this guide for more ideas on how to include more wholegrains in your diet.

Day 2. Vary your veg

Eat a wide range of colourful vegetables

The Challenge – Have a variety of vegetables this week

Why is variety important?

We all know eating 5 fruit and vegetables is good for us, right?  But do you know that it’s getting the variety that is important. Data suggests that around 50% of vegetable intake comes from just four kinds (fresh and canned tomatoes, carrots, onions and peas).

Vegetables have a multitude of health benefits due to the complex mix of fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and other properties they provide.

Increasing the amount and variety of plant foods across the week to about 30 different types can help with feeding your gut bacteria and increasing the diversity of these gut residents.

How to vary your veg:

  1. Eat a rainbow! The more variety of different colour vegetables you eat the wider the range of nutrients you will get.
  2. Include at least two different types of vegetables with you main meals and snack on carrots, edamame beans, roasted chickpeas, and peppers.
  3. Ordinary veg like broccoli, green beans, cabbage, spinach, and sweetcorn are as good as any other new imported varieties. 
  4. Go for fresh and seasonal, if you can get it. But don’t forget that frozen, dried, and tinned ALL count and are good for you.  
  5. Include a variety of other plant foods too such as beans, lentils and other pulses e.g. chickpeas, peas, black beans etc in meals such as soups, salads, casseroles. 

For seasonal veg look up what’s in season here.

Day 3. Drink plenty…of water!

Drink plenty of water

The challenge – Have at least 6-8 glassess of unsweetened drinks every day

Why is drinking water vital?

Water is essential for life. Staying hydrated is vital for maintaining good health. If you don’t drink enough day to day you can become dehydrated and you may struggle to concentrate, feel tired and possibly develop headaches. In the long-term you are at risk of developing kidney stones, urinary tract infections (UTIs) or even renal disease.

How to drink plenty:

  1. Drinking 6-8 glasses of plain tap water is a good way of getting enough to drink – this is good for your health and the environment.
  2. If you prefer hot drinks, tea and coffee do count towards your fluid requirements.
  3. Drink frequently throughout the day – use drink making trips as pit stops during your day to take breaks and move around.
  4. Foods contribute 20-30% fluid per day so eating fruit and vegetables as well as stews and soups can help keep hydration levels up.
  5. If the weather is hot, or you are exercising you will need more fluid to replace losses so increase the amount you drink.
  6. If your urine is darker than straw colour then you need to drink more.

For recommended fluid intakes across the life stages see here.

Day 4. Move more

Move more, stay active

The challenge – Get active every day – move more

Why should we be more active?

Being active helps us to feel better physically and mentally. Both children and adults should be as active as they can. The benefits include helping with maintaining a healthy body weight, improving heart health, strengthening muscles and bones and improving sleep, lifting our mood and relieving stress.

How to get active every day and move more:

  1. Aim for 30 mins a day on five days each week to get the recommended 150 minutes a week
  2. Avoid sitting down for long periods by breaking up the day with short bouts of exercise e.g. 3 x 10 mins brisk walking a day
  3. Build in muscle strengthening activities like sit ups, exercising with weights and yoga on two days or more each week. The good news is that gardening, carrying heavy shopping or these also count.
  4. Make exercise part of your everyday life – if you include physical activity as part of your daily routine it will become a habit

Day 5. Be mind kind

Be kind to your mind and eat well

The challenge – Do something kind for your mind today

Why being kind to ourselves matters?

During these challenging times, it is important to be kind to yourself and not to feel guilty about what you eat or don’t eat.   

How to be mind kind:

  1. When eating a snack or meal, give that your full attention and take your time.
  2. Try to avoid unnecessary restrictions such as “crash diets” or limited meal plans. Instead focus on practising mindful eating.
  3. Allow yourself treats and savour the taste and eating experience. If you can portion out what you are going to eat beforehand, that can help avoid overeating.
  4. Stay active and draw up a list of things to do that you enjoy that can replace boredom eating.

Staying hydrated, exercising, sleeping well and staying connected are just as important for your mental health as what you are eating during this time.

Day 6. Get active together

Get active and go for a walk

The challenge: Get active with others this week

Why take part in group activities?

There are many benefits to being active. However, we are more likely to stick to being active if we have the motivation of others. Taking part in activities brings people together and so is a great way to socialise whilst helping us stay healthy.

How to be active with others:

  1. Meet a friend to walk and talk – you may discover new places too. Why not give a new sport or activity a go?! Tennis, golf, badminton, netball, rock climbing…the options are endless!
  2. Find a 5K loop and set yourself, friends and family a challenge. Start by walking the route, then you may try jogging… you may eventually find yourself running 5K…although walking is good enough if running isn’t your thing.
  3. Organise a family swim or a session at an aqua park if you are feeling brave!
  4. If you have time, try voluntary work or help out on a local project to get you outside and meeting people.

Day 7. Eat together

Come together to eat, make it social

The challenge: Eat and enjoy food with others this week

Why eating in a group is good?

Eating with others is a great opportunity to spend time with other people. This is good for our mental health because we can connect with others, have fun and feel good about ourselves. It can also help us motivate each other to try new foods, learn new recipes and even eat better.

How to eat and enjoy food with others this week:

  1. Get together with friends/family (6 people max – Covid rules!) for a meal out, picnic or BBQ
  2. Take a meal to someone who lives alone or would appreciate some company
  3. Look for a new recipe and cook it for your family or friends
  4. Pick up a food that you haven’t tried before and use it in your next meal that you share with others
  5. Arrange a ‘bring and share’ gathering with friends or family (6 people max)

Useful links

If you would like to learn more on the subject of eating well, here are some useful links:

Talk to Anna-Maria

For further advice or help with regards to nutrition, diet or well-being – please contact Anna-Maria Holt RD at

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