Because few of us have time to revolutionise the contents of our kitchen cupboards, and because hiring your own chef and team of dietitians is expensive, we've rounded up the easiest and most affordable ways you can tweak your diet to stay healthier for longer.
1 | Swap Your Builder's Tea For Green Tea
We know: 'milk, two sugars' rolls off the tongue, but swap your Tetley's for green tea and you'll feel the benefits all day. Improved brain function, a speedier metabolism and cancer-fighting properties are all benefits of a drink which is also packed with antioxidants and amino acids that can increase dopamine levels in the brain, keeping you sharper for longer. If coffee's more your thing, you'll be interested to know that green tea contains about 70% less caffeine than your Starbucks latte, meaning you'll still get a kick, but won't feel like your hearts about to burst out of your chest.
2 | Throw A Handful Of Flaxseeds Into Your Stir Fries
Flaxseeds (or linseeds) are the A Team of edible seeds and were eaten as far back as Ancient Egypt. They're rich in fibre, manganese, vitamin B1 and essential fatty acids all of which can help lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Plus, they pass pretty much unnoticed in a stir fry or curry. For maximum benefits, make sure to grind your flaxseeds to stop them passing through your system undigested.
3 | Opt For The Cheeseboard When Eating Out
The cheeseboard vs. dessert debate has been raging since the dawn of civilisation – or at least since the first person (possibly French) suggested a slice of Camembert might go down better after a roast dinner than a syrup sponge pudding. New studies are challenging the traditional belief that saturated fats are bad for you, meaning that, while it's not exactly marathon training-form, opting for the cheese over the cheesecake in a resturant is a significantly better choice. In fact, not only does cheese contain less sugar, fats and cholesterol than most desserts, it may also reduce the risk of diabetes.
4 | Swap That Korma For A Jalfrezi
Not only is this the tastier option, but it is also better for you. The chilies that give hotter curries their kick contain capsaicin, a component that stimulates blood circulation, reducing the risk of blood clots. Chili peppers also prevent cell damage and may help suppress your appetite – perfect for aiding that diet. So man up.
5 | Swap Your Late Night Chocolate Bar For Yoghurt
Not only is it a healthier late-night snack than things like chocolate, ice cream and leftover pizza, yoghurt also contains bacteria cultures that can aid digestion and improve the immune system. Perhaps most importantly, the calcium in yoghurt helps break down the fat cells around your waist while providing protein for muscle repair. You don't just have to stick to the bland, Greek-style stuff either – most yoghurts pack the same benefits. As long as you're not going for the chocolate and caramel Rolo yoghurts, you're on the right track.
6 | Sort Out A Fruit Bowl For Your Office
It's 3pm, you're feeling peckish and the corner shop round the corner is calling your name. We all know that a bit of fruit is a healthier option than that Kinder Bueno, plus a bowl of 'nature's candy' on your desk is good for workplace morale ('Come on mate, you've not had you banana today. Get stuck in'). You needn't go all out with lychees, ackees and rambutans either. Apples can help reduce cholesterol, prevent gallstones and protect against Parkinson's, blueberries protect your nervous system and improve memory and bananas are rich in potassium – perfect for easing your hangover on a Friday. And FYI, swapping fruit for smoothies isn't the same. You lose out on the fibre by blending the fruit, meaning you're essentially drinking sugar.
7 | Replace Every Third Pint With A Vodka Tonic
Whether you're a Carlsberg or a Camden Hells man, your pint is one of the most fattening things you indulge in each week. Clear spirits, on the other hand, such as gin and vodka are the lowest calorie alcohols, while tonic water is the lowest calorie mixer. Combining the two gives you a chance to de-bloat and keep trim(mer) between pints. Apparently vodka also relieves toothache and treats dandruff, making it probably the best drink in the bar.
8 | Make Sure Vegetables Cover Half Your Plate
No, chips don't count. Neither do baked beans. If you really want to have a balanced meal, half of the plate should be covered by fibre-rich vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli or sweetcorn. Not only does this mean you'll get the correct amount of benefits from the veg, it also means there's less room for an exaggerated serving of pasta, potatoes or casserole.
9 | Ditch The Soft Drinks For Perrier
Come on, you're a bit too old to be nursing that can of Vimto every afternoon anyway, especially if you want any chance of fitting back into those 32" jeans. Fizzy drinks are bad for your dental hygiene, can cause obesity and leave that furry feeling on your teeth. Water on the other hand helps your skin look good, helps you lose weight and keeps your kidneys healthy. If you're struggling to go cold turkey with cold H2O, carbonated water is an easy step in the right direction. It's still got the bubbles and slight acidic tang of soft drinks, but is sugar / calorie free (and slightly more grown up).
10 | Remember: Hara Hachi Bu
Or 'Eat until you're 80% full'. Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world and it's largely down to this principle. Rather than considering demolishing a whole Nandos chicken plus spicy rice and mash a badge of honour, the idea is to slow down and stop eating earlier. Because we don't feel full until twenty minutes after a meal, eating all of the food in front of us means we're at risk of putting away too much and storing it round our midriffs. Leave that final chicken leg and you'll feel more satisfied – and slimmer – later.
Anything we've missed?