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Making the right choice

January 14th 2013 / Hilly Janes

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Overwhelmed by all the health advice being thrown at you in the past few weeks? Taken from her new book “Latte or Cappuccino”, health writer Hilly Janes has done the research to help you make the most effective health decisions

Pick a good breakfast

Most nutritionists agree that eating nothing before lunch leaves blood sugar levels low and reduces concentration. Research also suggests that those who don’t eat breakfast are more likely to gain weight. So, breakfast is a good idea – but what should you eat?

If you want an easy breakfast, cereal is probably the quickest option, but eggs, whether boiled, poached, scrambled or fried in a dash of oil, are also fast food. Eggs are low-calorie, protein-rich and a good source of vitamins and nutrients. Although they contain cholesterol, it’s not the potentially harmful kind, and contrary to popular wisdom, there are no guidelines on the number you can eat.

Cereal, on the other hand, may be full of sugar – even so-called ‘healthy’ options such as granola and raisin bran. If you choose it, stick to the wholewheat varieties, with no added sugar, and always check the box for added ingredients.

Travel wisely

You might have little or no choice about how you travel to work, the daily commute by bus or train being something that has to be endured. But for those of us who do have some flexibility, walking is better for you than cycling. The joy of walking is that you don’t need any kit, like helmets and lights, and you won’t worry about where to park your bike and whether it will be stolen or vandalized. Walkers’ minds can wander more freely, and you can listen to your favourite tracks on the iPod to keep your speed up on the way in or to relax on the way home.

Swap your coffee

An easy way to quickly cut your calorie intake is to swap your morning latte (about 150) for a cappuccino (about 90). The difference is explained by the amount of milk contained in proportion to water. Of course milk is a nutritious drink, but large, sweetened milky coffees arguably are not. Over the course of a few weeks or months, this change will really make a difference.

Fill up your lunch

At lunchtime, sometimes you need something more satisfying than a sandwich. A freshly baked baguette with your favourite filling is tempting, but in fact, wraps are a far better choice because the proportion of filling to bread is high. It’s the filling that keeps you going, especially if you choose some lean protein like chicken with lots of crunchy salad and raw veg. Flatbreads have a lower GI (glycaemic index) value than baguettes, which means your body will burn the energy they give more slowly - and you won’t feel hungry so soon.

Burn it off

We all lead busy lives so when it comes to exercise, we often don’t have hours on end to spare. So what’s the best way to get the most out of your time? Considerations such as how much kit you need, showers, cost and accessibility can potentially undo good intentions. Swimming vigorously burns up about 300 calories and is a great way to exercise your whole body, but it costs money and you have to build in time to get to the pool and dry your hair afterwards. If you really want an efficient way to burn up calories, running is hard to beat: at 8mph; it will use around 400 calories in 30 minutes. So, that’s burning off lunch sorted.

Sleep better

You may have heard that you’re less likely to burn calories if you consume them late at night, so it’s best to eat early in the evening. Several trials have shown that this is not true: it’s how much you eat overall, not when, that counts. People who eat late might be fatter because they eat more throughout the day. Sleep experts, however, advise that eating a big meal or drinking a lot of alcohol late at night can cause digestive problems and interfere with sleep.

Latte or Cappuccino? 125 Decisions That Will Change Your Life by Hilly Janes (Michael O'Mara Books, £9.99) is available at all good bookstores

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