January ‘The Vitality City Makeover’ TOP TIPS

January ‘The Vitality City Makeover’ TOP TIPS

The Vitality City Makeover Top Tips

Take on the Blue Zones Habits:

1) Move naturally– be active without thinking about it. Identify activities you enjoy and make them a part of your day.
Inconvenience yourself: ditch the remote, the garage door opener, the leaf-blower; buy a bike, broom, rake, and snow shovel.
Have fun, be active. Ride a bike instead of driving, for example.
Walk! Nearly all the centenarians they talked to take a walk every day.
Did you know that watering houseplants burns the same number of calories as stretching and walking?

2) Cut calories by 20 percent.
 Practice “Hara hachi bi,” the Okinawan reminder to stop eating once their stomachs are 80 percent full.
Serve yourself, put the food away, then eat.
Use smaller plates, plates, bowls, and glasses.
Sit and eat not in the car or standing in front of the fridge.

Being mindful when eating can help you determine the impact your current kitchen has on both the quality and quantity of your own food consumption.

Package your snacks in proportioned, small bags.
How to do it: When you buy snacks like pretzels, portion them into small bags to avoid overeating.
Why do it: Re-bagging your snacks will help you eat reasonably sized portions. Additionally, you actually burn more calories by preparing fresh meals and snacks.

Dedicate the top shelf of your refrigerator to fruits and vegetables.
How to do it: Get in the habit of keeping your healthy foods on the front of the top shelf of your refrigerator.
Why do it: Placing the healthy options at eye level will encourage you to snack mindfully.

Only own dinner plates that are 10” or smaller.
How to do it: Replace your oversized plates with smaller 10” plates.
Why do it: Eating on 10” plates promotes eating in smaller proportions. Over the last 20 years, the average U.S. dinner plate has grown to over 12 inches. During the same timeframe we are eating 22 percent more calories. The easiest, mindless way to eat less is to eat off smaller plates.

Drink beverages out of tall, narrow glasses—no more than 2.5” in diameter.
How to do it: Replace your big slurp drinking glasses with narrow, cylinder shaped glasses.
Why do it: We visually measure our drinks by height, not width, of the glass. It’s far better to drink out of narrow glasses because we THINK we are drinking more than we are. Switching from the “Big Slurp” size glasses to more normal sizes will help you consume less.

Create a junk food drawer.
How to do it: Put unhealthy snacks and food out of eyes’ reach on bottom shelves or behind cabinet doors. Label it “Junk Food.”
Why do it: Most junk food is consumed because you see it and it looks good. If you’re going to have junk food in your house, hiding it from your line of vision will dramatically decrease consumption.

Pre-plate your food.
How to do it: Plate your entire meal before sitting down at the table. Avoid eating family style by leaving the serving dishes on the counter.
Why do it: Leave the serving dishes on the counter—not on the table—so you won’t be tempted to take more food than you’re hungry for. Research has shown that when people pre-plate their food, they consume about 14 percent less than when they take multiple, smaller servings as seen in family style dining.

Remove the TV from your kitchen and dining room.
How to do it: Remove the TV from your eating environment.
Why do it: When other things are going on in your eating environment, you are more likely to pay attention to them rather than the food you are consuming. Avoid multi-tasking while you eat by turning off the TV and radio. Practice this habit while you’re at work, too—try not to work while eating. Take some time away from your desk to eat lunch.

3) Plant-based diet. No, you don’t need to become a vegetarian, but do bump up your intake of fruits and veggies.
Use beans, rice or tofu as the anchor to your meals.
Eat nuts! Have a 2-ounce handful of nuts daily.
Focus on increasing your vegetable intake, rather than relying on fruit for your 5-a-day.
Aim for 7-a-day of which 5 should be vegetables.
Opt for a rainbow of different colours to promote the different antioxidants in each food.

A plant slant is not just about vegetables though – focus on increasing your intake of plant proteins. Other protein options include: beans, pulses, eggs and fish.

Reserve meat for Sundays and special occasions. Choose meats from grass fed animals as they contain a more beneficial balance of essential fatty acids to lower inflammation.

Processed meats have been linked to increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Focus on beans – the fibre content is essential for the digestive system, improves satiety (which means you stay fuller on fewer calories), lowers cholesterol, improves blood sugar regulation (which may help prevent diabetes), and helps reduce blood pressure and inflammation.
Beans are also a rich source of protein and vital nutrients — such as B vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron.

4) Drink red wine (in moderation)
Wine, especially the red variety, has been studied extensively over many years with impressive findings suggesting it may promote a longer lifespan, protect against certain cancers, improve mental health, and provide benefits to the heart.
A medium glass of wine is equivalent to about 2 units of alcohol.
Keep a bottle of red wine near your dinner table.
Keep the daily intake to two servings or less.
Drink with friends

5) Plan de Vida: determine your life purpose.
Ask yourself the following question:
Why do you get up in the morning?
Write your own personal mission statement.
Take up a new challenge like learning a language or an instrument.

6) Down shift — take time to relieve stress. You may have to literally schedule it into your day, but relaxation is key.
Cut out the noise – limit time spent with the television, computer, or radio on.
Don’t rush – plan on being 15 minutes early.
Build in time for hobbies & activities that chill you out – yoga, cycling, running, meeting up with friends, arts & crafts.
Take recovery breaks
Move away from your desk walk over to see colleagues instead of emailing them about small things
2 minutes of deep breathing and mindfulness

Rest one day a week
Commit to not checking work emails on at least one full day per week.
Spend time in nature – a combination of fresh air and nature has been show to successfully reduce levels of cortisol.
Feel free to say ‘no’ to things so that you’re not overstretching yourself outside work. Schedule in 1 hour per day at the weekend which is ‘me’ time and doesn’t involve the rest of the family, if you have a busy family life. This could involve a massage, exercise, a walk in the park, an Epsom salts bath, time alone in a room to read, listen to music, yoga or meditation.
Do a creative activity or take a course in a creative area – art, creating collages, photography, learn to make sourdough bread, playing an musical instrument, dancing. This uses a different part of the brain and will help you disengage from the stresses of everyday life.

Put your tablet/phone away after 8pm – these promote ‘lean-forward’ activities which will over-stimulate you. ‘Lean-back’ activities such as reading, listening to music or watching television will help to promote relaxation.

Sleep like a dream for optimal health
Sleep hygiene tips:

Own a comfortable mattress and comfortable pillows.
How to do it: Mattresses should be replaced every 8-10 years. Make sure that your mattress is not sagging or not supporting you comfortably during sleep. When choosing a mattress, spend at least 10 minutes testing it out before buying. Choose pillows that support your head and neck and are comfortable to you.
Why do it: Having a comfortable mattress and comfortable pillows are important to getting a good nights sleep. Getting a good night sleep improves productivity, physical and emotional health, and longevity.

Set the temperature in your bedroom to 18.5°C at night.
How to do it: Set your thermostat to 18.5°C at bedtime. If you have a programmable thermostat, program it to automatically adjust to 18.5°C during sleeping hours.
Why do it: Temperatures below 12°C or above 23°C can actually wake you up at night. The ideal temperature for sleep is around 18.5°C. If it feels a little colder than you’d like, grab a coupled extra blankets.

Dim the lights an hour before bed.
How to do it: Dim the lights in your home an hour before you go to sleep.
Why do it: Practicing good sleep hygiene is the first step to getting the optimal 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Dimming the lights before bedtime prepares your body for sleep, allowing you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Remove digital alarm clocks or turn the clock so it is facing away from the bedside.
How to do it: Remove digital alarm clocks from your bedroom or turn your clock away from your bedside so the time is not visible to you.
Why do it: The light from digital alarm clocks can disrupt sleep. In addition, hiding your clock from your line of sight will help you avoid clock watching during the night.

Hang light blocking window shades in the bedroom
How to do it: Hang dark shades and heavy drapery that can block out all outside light when drawn.
Why do it: Light can be disruptive to sleep, even light from a clock or a computer. Make your room as dark as possible for the best sleep.

Remove the TV and computer from the bedroom.
How to do it: Remove all screens from your bedroom including televisions, computers and cell phones.
Why do it: The bedroom should only be used for sleep and sex. Removing electronic screens from the bedroom helps reinforce the association between the bed and sleep. In addition, artificial light from screens including digital clocks can disrupt sleep.

Remove all phones (including cell phones and land line phones) from your bedroom.
How to do it: Remove all phones from the bedroom.
Why do it: Removing phones from the bedroom minimizes interruptions to sleep. The 2011 Sleep in America Poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that cell phones were a sleep disturbance. Twenty percent of generation Y’ers and 18% of generation Z’ers polled said that they are awakened after they go to bed by a phone call, text message or email at least a few nights a week.

Put a lavender plant next to the bed.
How to do it: Purchase a lavender plant from your local florist or sprinkle a little lavender essential oil on your sheets.
Why do it: The smell of lavender is calming, soothing, and helps induce sleep.

Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex.
How to do it: Avoid doing work, watching TV, using the computer, or doing anything else that might agitate you in your bedroom. Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex.
Why do it: Your bedroom environment should be a comfortable and relaxing place that promotes sleep. Avoiding activities that may lead to stress is one way to ensure the bedroom is a place associated with calm and sleep.

7) Belong / participate in a spiritual community.
* Deepen your existing spiritual commitment.
*Seek out a new spiritual or religious tradition.

8) Put loved ones first / make family a priority.
When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks.
Establish family rituals (game night, family walks, Sunday dinners).
Show it off: create a place for family pictures and souvenirs that shows how you’re all connected
Get closer: consider downsizing to a smaller home to promote togetherness.

9) Pick the right tribe – the people surrounding you influence your health more than almost any other factor. Be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone values.
Identify your inner circle. Reconsider ties to people who bring you down.
Be likable!

Don’t try to change all these behaviours at once. Pick two or three things to work on at a time.
Research has shown that if you can sustain a behavioural change for six weeks, you should be able to sustain it for the rest of your life. Which, as the world’s centenarians have shown us, should be a long, long time.

Feel Good Recipe Suggestions

Bean and pepper chilli
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion chopped
350g pepper deseeded and sliced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
400g can kidney bean in chilli sauce
400g can mixed bean, drained
400g can chopped tomato
rice (optional)


  1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion and peppers, and cook for 8 mins until softened. Tip in the spices and cook for 1 min.
  2. Tip in the beans and tomatoes, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 mins or until the chilli is thickened. Season and serve with rice, if you like.

Chicken, broccoli & beetroot salad with avocado pesto
250g thin-stemmed broccoli
2 tsp rapeseed oil
3 skinless chicken breast
1 red onion, thinly sliced
100g bag watercress
2 raw beetroots (about 175g), peeled and julienned or grated
1 tsp nigella seeds

For the avocado pesto
small pack basil
1 avocado
½ garlic cloves, crushed
25g walnut halves, crumbled
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
juice and zest 1 lemon


  1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the broccoli and cook for 2 mins. Drain, then refresh under cold water. Heat a griddle pan, toss the broccoli in 1⁄2 tsp of the rapeseed oil and griddle for 2-3 mins, turning, until a little charred. Set aside to cool. Brush the chicken with the remaining oil and season. Griddle for 3-4 mins each side or until cooked through. Leave to cool, then slice or shred into chunky pieces.
  2. Next, make the pesto. Pick the leaves from the basil and set aside a handful to top the salad. Put the rest in the small bowl of a food processor. Scoop the flesh from the avocado and add to the food processor with the garlic, walnuts, oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2-3 tbsp cold water and some seasoning. Blitz until smooth, then transfer to a small serving dish.
    3. Pour the remaining lemon juice over the sliced onions and leave for a few mins.

Pile the watercress onto a large platter. Toss through the broccoli and onion, along with the lemon juice they were soaked in. Top with the beetroot, but don’t mix it in, and the chicken. Scatter over the reserved basil leaves, the lemon zest and nigella seeds, then serve with the avocado pesto.


Prawn & mushroom five-spice stir-fry
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced
2 celery, sticks, cut into matchsticks
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2cm piece ginger, grated
175g chestnut mushroom, sliced
250g Savoy cabbage, finely shredded
450g raw king prawn
4 tbsp low-salt soy sauce
cooked wholewheat noodles, to serve


  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add the spring onions and celery, and cook for a few minutes. Add the garlic, five-spice and ginger, and cook for 1 minute more. Add mushrooms and cabbage, and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until the cabbage has wilted.
  2. Add the prawns and soy sauce, and cook for a further 5 minutes until the prawns are pink. Serve with wholewheat noodles.

Feel Good Wine Suggestions:
Red wine’s with the highest antioxidant- make sure you drink good quality wine
Cabernet Sauvignon (highest level of flavonoids)
Petite Syrah
Pinor Noir


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