I have outlined 6 healthy habits/lifestyles that my family and I adopted in 2019. I hope to be more unswerving about them in 2020. From my continuous reading about bettering health and lifestyle, I realized that these things are important and I saw great benefits in our health and wellbeing in 2019. Most of them have solid scientific support so I am confident about them. They are:
- Prioritizing Sleep
Sleeping for at least 7 hours was very beneficial to my health. I realized that when I stuck to sleeping 7 hours and sleeping well, I had more mental strength to get through the day to achieve my tasks, and eat my ‘frogs’. However, I noticed that when my sleep was interrupted, e.g. by my 14 month old child, I found it hard to focus and the mental strength to stick to my goals was poorer.
Knowing this about myself even helped me fight or channel my energies to other activities that do not require serious concentration on such days. If my sleep was interrupted often, I made sure to sleep early the next night and I tried not to turn on my phone during that period.
The children slept an average of 11-12 hours while adults slept 5-7 hours. My goal in 2020 is to ensure that the children sleep 11-13 hours and Adults 7-8 hours every day.
- Eating between 8-10 hour window
One of the things that I found very useful in maintaining weight was to eat between a 8-10 hour window period. Some call this intermittent fasting. This is something that I did even when I broke other rules such as eating lots of ‘junks’. After 6pm, I only allow myself to have some water. During a particular month, I got cocky about being able to maintain my weight that I started eating late into the evenings and the result was some weight gain.
I know that some people cannot do this because of their health, lifestyle, workload or eating habits but if you can, it is worth a try.
I should point out that my children eat between 11- 12 hour window period.
- Diversifying our diet
If you want to improve the quality of your meals, you need to think diversity. Eating a variety of foods from the different food groups is something I have written about many times in the past. Every time I plan meals for the day/week, I run my mind through the different food groups to ensure that we consume more than 5 food groups per day.
To the family diet, I added Fonio (Acha) and Oats. Also, I added more leafy vegetables to our diet like Chaya (Efo Iyana Ipaja), Garden egg leaves, and marugbo. I also started using more of African Basil (not for flavor but consuming as vegetables) and more of Jews mallows (using whole leaves in soups to consume more).
The weeks that I got too busy to go the extra mile for the sake of local diversity, I stuck to the regular leafy vegetables in the market place such as waterleaf, fluted pumpkin leaves (Ugu), bitter leaf and Amaranth or celosia leaves.
I increased consumption of cowpea in particular in form of stewed beans, moinmoin, Akara, and gbegiri. I would love to try out other legumes like chickpeas, black beans, Bambara but I don’t want my family to revolt; so one step at a time.
For fruits, I just focused on seasonal fruits ensuring that we got some of the coloured fruits (papaya) because of the beta-carotene (Vitamin A) we can get from them and the other types like oranges and banana.
- Eating More fibre
Fibre is something I have written about a lot in the past and I tried to live by what I preached. I was focused on ensuring that my family and I, particularly my children, consumed a good amount of fibre each day. I achieved this by including more oatmeal frequently, fruits (twice a day for the children – school and home; and once for adults but more than one portion), vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, okro or leafy veggies in at least 2 meals a day. I also ensured that we consume beans at least 3-4 times a week.
I should mention that I realize that the fasted way to increase fibre for me is to increase consumption of beans, oats and vegetables (in that order). While, it is not easy to process vegetables everyday as a working mother, I try to purchase in bulk, process and freeze. The same goes for beans; I cook and freeze in portions for the week.
- Eating fruits and vegetables
Every week, we buy fruits in bulk and consume at home. While I focus more on purchase of vegetables, my husband does the purchase of the fruits most of the time.
The children take oranges at home almost every other morning when they are not eating bananas or papayas. This is an expensive venture for us but we treat it like insurance. At school, the children also consume fruits (pineapple, watermelon, papaya, oranges, bananas etc.) during one of their break times. I am grateful that the school keeps the communal fruit-eating tradition going.
- Engaging in Physical activity
At home, I encourage the children to take strolls in the evenings or go to the field to have some fun. This is not always possible especially when they have homework or when I am too busy. In the New Year, we are going to incorporate physical activity into our daily lives. I have hidden this activity under being more social. We have to build social capital, lol.
For the adults in the family, we got ourselves fitness watches that help us to at least achieve 10,000 steps. These steps must be taken at different points of the day to avoid being sedentary. When target not achieved, a conscious effort is made to complete it in the evening.
- I try to cut out Trans fats as much as possible.
- Processed meats – like sausages, corned beef and tinned meat products and bacon (consumed once –twice a month).
- Soft drinks and other drinks are taken only occasionally.
- Children’s sugary drinks are not ‘accepted’ at school. Fruits are given instead. They are allowed during celebrations and occasionally.
- For sweeteners, we try to make use of honey instead of pancake syrups and sugar. Honey and Sugar are used minimally.
- I avoid packaged cereals with added sugars as much as possible expect for a particular maize-soya cereal in the market.
- While it can be difficult avoiding certain refined foods, I try to make them a bit better. E.g. I try to make composite flour when making pancakes (white flour + Acha flour). I also add carrots and cabbage to the regular pasta (vegetables are usually hidden because of the children).
IN A NUTSHELL
The goal for my family is not to create habits that we cannot sustain. We cannot sustain jogging every morning or abstaining from added sugar totally every day of our lives for now. What we can do is to move more and avoid being sedentary. We can increase our fibre intake and ensure ample intake of fruits and vegetables. We go to bed early.
If I learn about any new health information that is beneficial to my family during 2020, I will surely adopted it and share it with you.
In 2020, I plan to focus on these things and get my family to be better at all these things so that we can live better.
Don’t forget to eat better and live better.