As we prepare to celebrate the end of 2017 and ring in the New Year, VicHealth has put together some handy tips to help Victorians improve their health and wellbeing in 2018.
VicHealth Executive Manager of Programs Kirstan Corben said while it’s not easy to make and maintain New Year’s resolutions, there are some simple steps towards making lifelong healthy changes.
“It’s so true that being healthy is easier said than done. People often put a lot of pressure on themselves to stick to New Year’s resolutions which can at times seem overwhelming,” Ms Corben said.
“Ensuring a safe, happy, and healthy 2018 for you and your loved ones doesn’t have to be a chore.
“Start by making small changes. Setting modest goals, like swapping treats for a piece of fruit, or walking an extra block each day, can make major differences to our health and wellbeing in the long term.
“Setting small, realistic goals helps to make them more achievable and less daunting, which means you’re more likely to stick to them.”
Kick start your healthy habits with these ten tips
- Cut back on sugar – you’re sweet enough
While it can be especially hard to steer clear of treats during the festive season, one simple way to avoid excess sugar is to swap sugary drinks for water. Sugary drinks like soft drinks are the largest source of sugars in the Australian diet, and they can lead to weight gain and tooth decay. Not to mention water is essential on those sweltering hot days! Why not jazz up your H20 by infusing it with some cucumber, mint and lemon? Check out VicHealth’s H30 Challenge website for some top tips to boost your water intake.
- Sink less drink
It’s easy to indulge a little over the Christmas and New Year period – it’s called the silly season for a reason – but all of those extra drinks can seriously impact your health. Try to keep your alcohol consumption down – this doesn’t have to mean entirely cutting out the booze, it’s all about moderation – and about the message we send our kids. Drink water in between alcoholic drinks and slow your drinking down by eating healthy food when drinking alcohol. Remember, alcohol contains a lot of empty kilojoules, meaning that while it’s high in energy there is no nutritional value.
- Make exercise a part of your holiday
Buying presents, preparing puddings or planning to spend every day at the beach may all be on your to-do list these holidays but make sure you continue being physically active. You don’t need to spend hours at the gym – try parking your car at the far end of a car park, challenge your family and friends to game of cricket, or visit the local swimming pool and do laps in between relaxing this summer. Being active, especially during this busy period, helps us to clear the mind, feel energised and importantly reduces our risk of nasty chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. In a food coma after Christmas lunch? A quick walk around the block might be just what you need to feel better.
- Don’t pass the salt
We tend to eat more treat foods over the holidays which are not only higher in sugar and fat but are packed with salt. Salt increases the risk of high blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke. Try to buy low salt versions of your favourite foods at the supermarket and where possible cook yourself instead of getting takeaway or eating out. To cut back your salt intake fill up on fresh fruit and vegies and use herbs, garlic and pepper to give your food a flavour hit. One of the easiest things we can all do to lower our salt intake is to take the salt shaker off the table – out of sight out of mind! Visit unpackthesalt.com.au for more tips.
- Stress less
The Christmas holidays are a great time to have fun with family and friends but let’s face it, it can also be really stressful. Stress can impact our physical health, making us more prone to illness, and it also impacts our mental wellbeing. Stress is also linked to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression so take care of yourself. Make some time for you these holidays – read a book, go for a run, listen to music or just sit in a park. Some people also find mindfulness activities such as yoga, tai chi or meditating can also help keep stress at bay. If you feel like you’re not coping, reach out to a friend or family member or contact a support service like beyondblue.
- Help your kids ditch the screen and embrace going green
Aussie kids spend an increasing number of hours in front of screens –research shows kids spend on average 32 hours a week in front of a screen and their parents average 40 hours! Too much screen time can impact kids’ sleep and reduces the amount of time they spend being active. So try to swap screens for the great outdoors. Take your kids to the beach, the park or explore Victoria’s beautiful wilderness with a hike. Being outdoors is a great way for kids to learn about the world around them and a fun way to spend time as a family.
- Look out for each other
Catching up with family and loved ones is one of the best parts of the holidays. But for many people in our community it can be a lonely time of year. Keep an eye on your friends, neighbours and loved ones and offer support when needed. Social connection is important for strong mental wellbeing. If you’re feeling a little isolated, why not volunteer to help a charity these holidays – you’ll meet new people, and helping someone else can be one of the best ways to help yourself.
- Wave goodbye to tobacco
Smoking is not a good idea at any time of year. It’s never too late to quit – research shows smokers who quit at age 50 halve their risk of death caused by smoking, while quitting by age 30 avoids almost all of the excess risk associated with smoking. There’s plenty of support to help you kick your smoking habit, for good! Visit www.quit.org.au for support.
- Veg out
Craving something fresh after holiday feasting? Why not try creating some new and delicious meals to increase your vegie intake! Victorians on average eat less than half of the recommended 5 serves of veg a day. Boost your veg intake by mixing up one of your family favourites by adding kidney beans to spaghetti or toss plenty of colourful veg like capsicum, carrot, broccoli and eggplant into a stir fry. for more ideas visit Nutrition Australia's Try For 5 website.
- Support our girls
One of the highlights of 2017 has been the explosion in women’s sport. From the kick-off of AFLW, the women’s cricket team bringing home the Ashes, to the Matildas absolutely dominating on the world-stage it’s been a historic year for women in sport and 2018 promises even more! Do yourself a favour and catch some women’s sport these holidays – whichever sport you choose our inspirational and kick-ass sportswomen will not disappoint.
Rachel Murphy, Senior Media Advisor, P 03 9667 1319 M 0435 761 732 E [email protected]