7 Simple Hacks to Health and Wellness
Maintaining a healthy diet is not that difficult. Take tiny steps and start small.
A majority of our health problems stem from our diet habits. During the pandemic, working from home freed up more time for myself and also made me ponder about my health when my body started to show signs of fatigue. I took online courses and read up more about health and wellness, then applied these knowledge to the daily routines of my family. Everyone in my household benefitted and everyone looks healthier and better than ever.
Our body is like a car, and we are the driver in the seat. The car has to be filled with quality fuel and given occasional rest.
Consuming nutritious and balanced meals can boost our immune system, while putting food additives into our body or having imbalanced diet habits over a prolonged period will cause several health issues as we get older. By then, it will be too late to start eating healthier, and we may end up having to rely on medication on a regular basis.
Here are 7 quick tips that I have learnt and hopefully these can be beneficial to anyone who wants to live a healthy lifestyle.
1. Look out for all types of sugar
First thing to do is cut down on all sugary drinks (especially bubble teas and most canned drinks). The recommended daily sugar intake is 45g and a cup of bubble tea can range from 40g to 100g of sugar, while a nut bar can range from 5g to 15g. Consuming sugar more than recommended can lead to various health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes.
It will be hard to avoid sugar completely, hence it is best to be mindful of what you are eating and drinking. Examine the labels on all food packaging and look out for different sugar variations. One simple way is to look out for anything that ends with “ose” like fructose, sucrose, maltose. Nowadays I drink mostly teas with zero sugar, celery + spinach juices, plain water and consume lower sugar content food like nut bars, fruits to curb the sugar cravings.
2. Eat a lot more greens and fruits
Many of our health problems stem from our daily food intake. Especially in Singapore, we can get access to hawker food easily at an affordable price. Most hawker meals do not provide adequate portions of vegetables, unless you order mixed rice or Yong Tau Foo with mostly greens. A regular plate of chicken rice or bowl of noodles normally comes with only a few slices of cucumbers or greens.
The recommended balanced meal should have at least 40–50% of the food portion to consist of greens and fruits. Whenever I dine outside, I normally opt for healthier choices like salad bowls. Although healthier food choices can be more pricey, I would rather pay the price for salad bowls now than the price for medication in the future. Health is not something we can easily use money to buy back later.
3. Avoid all processed food, fast food and food with artificial flavourings, preservatives, colorings and any other food additives
Processed food/ snacks are food that you cannot tell what they are made from, for example most fast food or hotdogs. They have been processed in factories and added with various preservatives, coloring or additives to make them more tasty and appealing. It is also a good habit to pay attention to the ingredient list on packaged food. If you find an ingredient name that consists of the letter “E” followed by a series of numbers, that is a food additive which could be food coloring, a preservative or a flavour enhancer. Although these additives are approved by health regulators, it is advisable not to consume them on a regular basis.
Every weekend, I go to the wet market and supermarket with my mother to buy greens, fruits, and healthier packaged food without high sugar content, artificial flavoring, preservatives, colorings or any food additives. As for snacks, I normally opt for granola, muesli, grains or oat, mixed with organic rice, soy or oat milk. Be careful that some of these can still potentially contain high sugar content. Do read the nutrition information panel for the amount of sugar per serving.
4. Consume less carbs and choose healthier options
This will be challenging if you are living in Singapore or the South East Asia region. Carbs are found in most of our meals and are our body’s main source of energy, but taking too much will cause the excess to turn into fats, which leads to weight gain and increased chance of other health issues. Unless you are active at gym, sports, or have a job that requires physical strength, you do not need much carbs while working in office bound jobs or living a sedentary lifestyle.
Nowadays I reduce carb intake and go for healthier carb options like brown rice and quinoa which provide more fibre and protein. For some meals, my family will skip carbs entirely and have a meal consisting of vegetables and meat only. Bread is another popular type of carbs especially for breakfast, however, beware of over consumption as sometimes you have no idea how much sugar is in the bread you buy from local bakeries.
5. Sleeping on time
While in school or in early career years, we may have the urge to stay up late to get work done especially during crunch time. Often we get burnt out and cannot perform well the next day and may take a few days or a weekend to recover. Having irregular dinners or suppers close to our sleeping time are also common bad habits. Our body slows down its functions before sleep, thus food digestion is disrupted, resulting in weight gain.
Aim to maintain a strict sleep cycle by going to bed at a regular time whenever possible, sleeping at least 7–8 hours every night, and not having any meals 3–4 hours before bed. Our body needs sufficient rest and recharge every night in order to function well and be productive the following day.
6. Balancing “cheat” days
No one is perfect. It is okay to have days when you want to wind down and enjoy the food or drinks you love the most. For me, once every fortnight or month (depending on the occasion) I allow myself to indulge in anything I want for a single meal, like my favourite chicken rice.
If you are able to do most of the above, you would not need to sign up for a gym membership or exercise vigorously to burn off the calories. Consider doing simple cardio exercise daily for 20–30 minutes like walking, doing simple workouts at home, playing games like RingFit or picking up a sport. Exercise helps to get your heart rate up, pumping more oxygen to your organs, reducing the chance of chronic diseases.
For me, I do simple cardio workouts everyday, take a brisk walk after dinner and do sports over the weekend. A novice can start off by doing 1–5 mins of daily exercise before ramping up.
Other than the above 7 points, eating meals at regular times, reducing oil, stress and caffeine, cutting down on unhealthy vices like alcohol and smoking, and looking out for signs that your body is giving out are also points to take note of.
Always be mindful of what you put into your body, asking questions like whether you want excessive amounts of processed food, carbs, sugar or food additives to be in your body can make you think twice whenever you are eating unhealthily.
You do not have to execute all the above hacks at once. Take tiny steps and start small. Celebrate small wins along the way. I wish that there is a magic potion in real life that can restore our health just like in video games, but sadly there will never be one.
It takes a lifetime of good habits to maintain good health. Start early before your health starts to wane, because by then, reversing the issues will be way harder.