During this pandemic, many of us have found eating healthy as a challenge. We spoke to Rohini Bajekal about how to make simple changes to our routine and eat well to stay well. Rohini is a Nutritionist with her own practice as well as a team member at Plant-Based Health Professionals UK. Rohini also volunteers as a cookery teacher at Made in Hackney, a plant-based community cookery school and charity. She is an International Board-Certified Lifestyle Medicine Professional.
Seven steps to keep healthy:1. Don’t live in denial and guilt There's often the idea that good health results from what you eat, how active you are or how you manage stress in your life. While these are all important, what matters most are the words you feed yourself on a daily basis. All-or-nothing thinking (also known as black-and-white thinking) can be destructive. For example, "I had a biscuit, I might as well finish the whole packet." Celebrate the steps forward you're making and don't compare your journey to others. Self-compassion is far more motivating than shame or guilt when it comes to making positive changes. Try to put aside judgemental thoughts and remember that kindness starts with yourself.2. Set realistic goalsSet goals, ensuring they are SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For example, aim to incorporate 30 different plant foods into your diet every week to promote a diverse gut microbiome as recommended by the American Gut Health project. Put up a chart in your kitchen and add up how many different plant foods you eat every day to stay accountable and help you meet your goal. Breaking down big goals into smaller ones will make them appear less daunting. For example, to achieve this goal, aim to eat two portions of fruit with your breakfast, enjoy a salad with lunch, nuts or seeds as a snack and an extra portion of greens and beans with your main meals. You'll be there in no time! 3. Plan aheadMy top tip for a healthy lifestyle is to plan ahead. For example, you can batch cook whole grains, lentil dals and chop vegetables as part of your Sunday routine so that you always have healthy meals for the week ahead. Most soups and dals keep really well in the freezer. Plan your workouts in advance as well as your relaxation time. Set a date to meet a friend during the week for a socially distanced walk and carve out time in the diary for a long evening bath. Planning ahead is the key to creating healthy habits that last.4. Benefit of healthier choicesOnly 1 in 10 UK adults are meeting the daily recommended intake of fibre which is 30g. Eating a fibre-rich diet is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, bowel cancer, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Did you know that fibre is only found in plant foods? Swap meat and dairy for fibre, protein, iron and zinc-rich foods such as lentils, tofu and beans. The Plant-Based Health Professionals website has lots of excellent, easy to follow advice about a whole food plant-based way of eating with free webinars, factsheets and articles. A colourful plant-based diet reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 25%, cancer by 15%, type 2 diabetes by at least 50% and helps you maintain a healthy weight throughout your life. For plant-based Indian recipes, check out Vegan Richa (veganricha.com) and my website (www.rohinibajekal.com). 5. Maintain a drink diaryThe risk to your health is increased by drinking any amount of alcohol regularly. For those who do drink alcohol, always stay within the recommended limits and avoid drinking more than 1-2 units per day. Have several drink-free days per week. Keeping a drink diary to record how many units of alcohol you consume every week can help make you more mindful and set limits. Try to opt for sparkling water with slices of lemon, orange and fresh mint as a healthier alternative. Remind yourself of the financial, social and health benefits to be gained from eliminating or reducing alcohol.6. Keep activeRegular movement plays a crucial role in keeping the immune system strong. Most adults should aim to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week - or a combination of both. Try to build movement into your day to make this a habit. Take frequent breaks from your desk to stretch and regular 5-10-minute walks. Find a form of exercise you enjoy and incorporate it daily. For example, this could be a morning run, a brisk walk with your dog, a yoga routine from YouTube or an online strength training class with a friend7. Track your progressIt might sound simple but tracking your progress when it comes to lifestyle changes is a great way to notice changes over time and keep yourself accountable. Keeping a food diary or using a pedometer for example, are tools that can be really motivating and make you more aware of your habits. It's important to create a plan in advance and set achievable and realistic goals so you don't feel overwhelmed. Remember, progress not perfection. Apricot and Coconut Healthy Laddoos (servings 20 balls)Maintaining a simple and easy approach to healthy cooking and regular exercise can improve our mood, wellness and fitness.INGREDIENTS1 cup unsulphured dried apricots1/2 cup of medjool dates nice and squidgy4 tbsp of tahini – 1 cup desiccated coconut1/2 cup raw cashews1 tablespoon water1 tbsp chia seeds1 tsp vanilla extractPinch of sea salt – Dash of cinnamonINSTRUCTIONS
- Add the dates and apricots to the food processor and pulse for a minute until finely chopped.
- Add coconut, cashews, water, chia seeds, vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon. Process for a couple of minutes or until well combined
- Add 4 tablespoons of tahini and combine well. It should be perfect but if it is too dry, add a little extra tahini. If too wet, add in some more coconut.
- Take tablespoon amounts of the mixture and roll into balls in your hands.
- Chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.