With spring just a few days away, many of us are thinking about sunny days at the beach or park, picnics and long lunches with friends. When the days get warmer and longer, we also begin to spring clean -- whether it's our wardrobe, home, life or diet.
If you've spent most of winter hibernating, snuggled up at home like a big toasty cinnamon bun (and eating them), don't worry. You don't have to overhaul your diet or lifestyle in one go -- it's all about making small changes.
"Every small change makes a difference," Zoe Bingley-Pullin, nutritionist, celebrity chef and founder of the Falling in Love with Food Program, told HuffPost Australia.
"You do not need to completely overhaul your diet and exercise routine all at once. Instead, slowly make day-to-day changes which assist in getting you back on track, whether it be more vegetables at dinner, a daily vegetable juice, or adding in an extra walk before dinner.
"Avoid overwhelming yourself and work with your body, not against."
The key to making positive changes and forming healthy habits is to make a plan. And to just start.
"Before embarking on breaking a habit, sit with yourself and jot down the reasons 'why' and refer to it when motivation is lacking. This will help reignite your drive," Bingley-Pullin said.
"Having more than 'intent' to break a habit is necessary to permanently change a habit. It's like the saying goes: practice makes perfect. To change, there needs to be a plan in place which is practised daily. To set an intention to change something, we need to know why we want to change it and why we want something else."
While fad diets and juice cleanses which promise quick weight-loss results are enticing, 'quick fixes' won't actually work in the long run.
"Don't restrict your diet and cut out whole food groups in an attempt to rapidly lose weight," Bingley-Pullin said. "Such weight loss is not sustainable and only causes damage to the body and mind."
While regular exercise is incredibly important, Bingley-Pullin recommends not engaging in excessive exercise, which can lead to burning out.
"Rest allows for repair and is necessary to benefit fitness and health in the long run," she said.
"Try not to expect results overnight. Each time we attempt to lose weight the process can be more difficult than the last. Healthy weight loss takes time, and knowing this from the start helps erase unrealistic expectations which can cause a loss of motivation."
Here are five easy ways to spring clean your diet.
1. Eat in season
With spring and summer comes beautiful, fresh produce like mango, blueberries, raspberries, melons, stone fruit, artichokes, peas and rhubarb. To help bring a variety of nutrients, flavours and colours into your diet, eat in season.
"Eating in season is a great way to increase diet diversity and get more nutrition from food," Bingley-Pullin said.
"Visit the farmers' markets and talk to farmers about what's in season, or download a 'what's in season' guide or app and take to supermarket."
2. Keep a food diary
At the end of a day, it's hard to look back and picture all the things you ate and why you ate them. To help identify food triggers, such as stress or sadness, keep a food diary for a few weeks and note what you eat.
"Reviewing this diary can tell a wealth of information, including which meals are lacking and therefore leading to overeating, or times when boredom eating commonly strikes," Bingley-Pullin said.
"Upon reflecting on the diary, start making the necessary changes to support a steady appetite and improve energy levels.
"Get to know your body and want it needs to feel its best. Once you learn how to eat right for you in a balanced way, any stress around food is usually resolved. Then, any desire to stray from this routine won't seem as appealing."
3. Add more veggies to your plate
As vegetables are high in nutrients and low in energy, they're perfect for filling up on and helping your body function optimally.
"Boost intake of vegetables, especially if intake has been low over winter," Bingley-Pullin said. "Aim for half a plate of vegetables at each meal and start the day with a small vegetable juice."
4. Increase fibre intake
Fibre helps to keep us feel full for longer, and, importantly, supports a healthy gut, which is connected to a host of things like mood and weight. Fortunately, it's incredibly easy to increase our fibre intake.
"Fibre is critical for a healthy digestive system," Bingley-Pullin said "Try oats with chia seeds for breakfast, add flaxseeds to smoothies, snack on fresh fruit such as pears, and add legumes to lunch or dinner."
5. Cut back on alcohol
If you're having four or more drinks on a night out or in, you're adding around half the daily intake of the average Australian adult (2,000 calories or 8,700 kilojoules) to your diet.
As alcohol is literally packed with empty calories, reducing alcohol is one of the most effective ways to lose weight.Suggest a correction