What’s the right diet for you? Eating well for long-term health

We all know a healthy lifestyle is important. It can help us keep fit into old age and make us feel great in the present. But there are so many different ideas about what constitutes ‘healthy’ that sometimes it’s difficult to know what to do to get started. Here are a few tips to help.

Ignore the lure of the fad diet

Short term “quick fix” diets can be very appealing. They feel like a swift, time-limited change we can make to affect our long-term health. Yet it often doesn’t work out this way. As many know, doing a quick fad diet can make you feel virtuous and healthy in the short-term, but often the extreme lifestyle just becomes too much and you end up bingeing on junk foods. This isn’t even surprising considering the austere nature of these regimes. From cabbage soup diets to month long juice cleanses, the average fad diet is enough to send anyone running to the nearest doughnut shop.

Assess your lifestyle

So, to live healthily and happily long term, we need to avoid the quick fixes and focus on small, incremental changes that we can sustain. To do this, it’s important to start with a proper appraisal of your lifestyle overall. How much do you eat and what kind of nutrients are you actually getting? How much exercise do you get? How much sleep?

Get a health check

If you’re over 45, you can go to your registered health centre for a comprehensive medical check-up, which will include things like calculating your Body Mass Index (BMI), measuring your blood sugar, and doing a cholesterol test. BMI is a useful indicator of whether your weight is appropriate for your height, while blood sugar tells you how much glucose is being carried around your system. Finally, a cholesterol test checks on how much of this fat-like substance can be found in your blood.

Depending on the results, a healthcare professional can then advise appropriate lifestyle changes to help you take care of yourself over the long term.

Make some changes

Once you’ve considered the results of your check-up, it is time to think about sustainable, long-term changes. At this stage, enthusiasm sometimes gets the better of us and we want to do everything at once, but it’s generally worth trying to prioritise tasks and focus on one area at a time.

For example, you could start by looking at the amount of fruit and veg in your diet. The NHS recommends getting at least five portions a day, but many of us don’t manage that. Trying to add in a few more carrots or peas here and there is a pretty simple first step, and one you can continue long term. Once you’ve mastered one healthy eating trick, your confidence will grow and you can do more and more.

Watch this space

Remember to keep track of your progress! If you did a medical check-up, your doctor or nurse will advise when to come back for another cholesterol test and so on. Using a chart to track your progress or keeping a diary of how you feel can really help to motivate you.

That said, good health and wellbeing is about more than just the numbers. Being healthy makes you feel great, so focus on that, look online for more hints or tips and keep your motivation strong!