This year the British Nutrition Foundation are challenging Brits to boost our lifestyles as part of Health Eating Week.
The foundation is calling on the country to take part in five healthy living challenges during Healthy Eating Week, which takes place June 10-14.
While we all know the basic rules of healthy eating and living, it can be more difficult to adopt these things into our daily lives.
The British Nutrition Foundation are asking us to focus on five key cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle with the following challenges:
- Have breakfast
- Eat your five-a-day
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Get active
- Sleep well
The foundation wants people of all ages to learn more about healthy eating and the small daily changes we can make to improve our overall health and wellbeing.
“BNF Healthy Eating Week provides the perfect opportunity to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and truly focus on health and wellbeing,” says Roy Ballam, the BNF’s managing director and head of education.
Ballam points out that every year in the UK, around 131 million working days are lost to sickness absence – with 200,000 alone attributed to insufficient sleep. “Promoting health is not only beneficial to employees, but to employers too. We hope Healthy Eating Week will help draw attention to some of these everyday health challenges and, in turn, help us along the path to resolving them,” he adds.
Here’s a closer look at the five challenges…
1. Sleep well
As poor sleep is increasingly linked to poor food choices and increased risk of obesity, the sleep challenge is really important.
While the occasional poor night’s sleep won’t hurt, regular sleep deprivation can make you more vulnerable to colds and infections – and is also linked to serious health conditions.
Sleep is vital for cognitive skills such as communicating well, memory, and creative thinking.
Dr Lucy Chambers, senior scientist at BNF, says: “Where a poor night’s sleep can lead to both adults and young people feeling grumpy and irritable, regular lack of sleep can have a negative impact on dietary choices, including higher intakes of calories and more frequent snacking on less healthy foods.
“Lack of sleep, and poor quality and interrupted sleep, may be linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.”
Avoiding alcohol, shutting the blinds, and turning off screens an hour before bed can help improve your sleep.
2. Have breakfast
Choosing better breakfasts is the focus of this challenge.
Going for wholegrain options is key – such as porridge or wholegrain toast, and other higher fibre foods.
It’s important to try and get in one of your 5-a-day here too.
This could be a banana, berries, grilled tomatoes, or even mushrooms – depending on whether you are a sweet or a savoury person in the morning.
Smoothies and 100% fruit juices can count towards your 5-a-day but should be limited to a combined maximum of 150ml per day.
Chambers says: “Breakfast helps to get the day off to a good start by providing the energy and nutrients the body needs for good health. This is particularly important for keeping children engaged in school throughout the morning – and probably for many adults in the office too.”
3. Eat your five-a-day
This challenge is all about the importance of veggies – especially within a healthy, balanced diet.
It’s important to eat a range of colourful fruit and veg – while remembering that things like potatoes don’t count!
Chambers says: “Vegetables, alongside fruit, provide vitamins and minerals that are needed for a range of functions in the body, as well as fibre, which is important for a healthy gut and can help reduce the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer in adulthood.
“Different types of vegetables and fruit provide different amounts and combinations of nutrients, so it’s important we eat a variety to ensure we get all the goodness we need.”
4. Drink plenty of fluids
Poor hydration is often behind a lot of health issues – including tiredness and headaches.
The challenge is to try to have at least six to eight unsweetened drinks daily.
Try experimenting with new flavours of infused water, if you need incentivising.
“We all need to remember to drink plenty of fluids and it’s important to encourage children to drink fluids regularly, as it’s not always something they remember themselves,” says Chambers.
5. Get active
Reducing the amount of time we spend being inactive is really important, as research tells us that sitting down is bad for health.
Try walking or cycling to work or school, taking the stairs instead of the lift, and getting up and moving while watching TV.
Adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity a week, and children and young people should be doing 60 minutes of physical activity every day, ranging from moderate to vigorous intensity.
Chambers says: “Physical activity is beneficial for people of all ages. It can help to maintain energy balance, improve heart health and strengthen muscles and bones, and may also have mental health benefits such as improving sleep, relieving stress and lifting mood.”
This BNF Healthy Eating Week runs from June 10-14. Organisations (such as schools and workplaces) can register to take part. To find out more, see nutrition.org.uk.