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Lifecoach: How to spring clean your diet

We all like the idea of a good spring clean, but in terms of our diet, this doesn’t mean we have to turn to cleansing teas, roughage or milk thistle, or fast for several days to detox our whole system. Our bodies are perfectly capable of excreting waste, and very restrictive diets can leave you suffering from headaches, digestive problems and lethargy.

However, spring is an ideal time to give your dietary habits an overhaul and you can take advantage of all the seasonal spring foods – which can be fresher, cheaper and richer in nutrients – to eat a diet that will leave you feeling energetic and healthy.

Eating more fruit and vegetables, drinking more water, cutting back on alcohol, and thinking more about what you’re eating and drinking (the main principles of sensible detox diets) can boost your energy levels and motivate you to take charge of your health.

Starting the day with a breakfast low in fat, high in fibre and containing a wide range of vitamins and minerals will improve your energy and concentration levels in the morning.

For a healthy springtime breakfast, slice fresh seasonal fruit, such as strawberries and apricots, over a bowl of muesli soaked in low fat milk (its high water content will fill you up more) or a whole-grain cereal with low-fat yogurt or milk (the fibre and protein will sustain your appetite throughout the morning).

Keep your energy levels high throughout the day by including a source of lean protein with each meal (skinless poultry, lean meat, fish, beans, pulses, nuts) and opting for healthier snacks providing slow-release energy (whole-wheat pitas with hummus; peanut butter on whole-grain bread).

There is an abundance of lovely vegetables in spring including asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and spinach. Using these in dishes such as asparagus risotto, broccoli and cauliflower cheese and stir-fried rice with cabbage and bacon (see for recipe ideas) will provide antioxidants, vitamins (for example vitamin A and folate) and minerals (for example calcium, iron) and fibre.

Low iron levels are one of the leading causes of fatigue, so eat iron-containing foods regularly, such as lean red meat, poultry, pulses, iron-fortified cereals, eggs and nuts.

Finally, you need at least 6-8 glasses of fluid a day – even slight dehydration will cause fatigue and headaches. Drinking more fluid will not only make you feel better, it can also help you cut back on your food intake.


There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to exercising for energy. If you need to get stronger, for example, to help you do something specifically involving a lot of strength, then you need to emphasise strength training over aerobic exercise in your workouts – or vice versa.

General fitness workouts, however, are probably best suited for everyday requirements. Aerobic exercise will get your blood pumping and give you that feeling of energy but will also help with building stamina and endurance, which is useful for maintaining good concentration during the day. If you prefer less cardiovascular, then yoga will reduce tension, too, and induce better sleep thereby increasing mental sharpness.

Quick fixes, or “cheats” as they are sometimes referred to, are not ideal but attainable for most. The upside is that they can help create a habit that you may continue and grow over time – and besides, a small something is usually better than nothing at all. For some ideas on 8-10 minute workouts, go to

As regards your day-to-day habits, decide what personally gives you energy – and not necessarily just fitness activities. Some suggestions are: (don’t attempt to do everything on this list all the time since you would tire yourself out – see which ones work in your daily schedule, and try to mix them up to stay motivated).

Free up some time to read a book, or go for a walk, just to give your mind a break.

Walk away from the computer, as it has a tendency to sap energy.

Meditation, if done correctly, can relieve stress and lead to better mental clarity, thereby providing you with more energy and a sense of peace. To learn how to achieve this, go to You can get a free CD at

If you constantly have a long to-do list that you are never going to get through, you’ll feel tired just thinking about the list. Practise throwing out the tasks that you don’t want, or need, to deal with. By delegating – or moving them into a second, not critical, sub-list – you will give yourself energy to do what’s important.

Which breakfast cereals are healthiest for children?


Breakfast cereals are a popular and generally healthy choice for children because they are usually low in fat, enriched with vitamins and minerals and eaten with milk, which is a good source of calcium and a range of other essential nutrients.

In recent years the salt levels of breakfast cereals have fallen substantially and any small amounts of hydrogenated fat have been removed.

As some children’s diets can lack important micronutrients such as B vitamins and iron, fortified breakfast cereals can be a major contributor to intakes of these nutrients.

Whole-grain cereals are a good option as they are generally higher in fibre and naturally contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals (although young children shouldn’t be given too many high-fibre foods). Some also include freeze-dried berries and dried fruit such as raisins, apples and bananas which can help meet the five-a-day target.

Mothers often worry most about the sugar content, especially those, such as the frosted varieties, that are popular with children. However, overall, breakfast cereals make a fairly small contribution to most children’s total sugar intake (less than 10 per cent).

Food labels will help you compare the total sugar content but remember that sugars occur naturally in foods such as fruit and milk so cereals containing these may have a high total content but little “added” sugar.

Is it possible to drink too much water? My sister, in her thirties, has been trying to lose weight and seems to be swigging from a bottle almost constantly. It looks like it has become quite compulsive.


Keeping well hydrated by regularly drinking water can help weight loss. As well as lowering energy intake by replacing calorie-containing drinks, it can help control appetite as the feeling of thirst can be misinterpreted as hunger.

Drinking before a meal fills up the stomach with no calories and makes you feel fuller and therefore likely to eat fewer calories during that meal.

Adults should drink around 2.5 litres (6-8 glasses) of fluid a day to prevent dehydration. But individual needs vary, for example depending on age and diet. You will need to drink more, for example, when consuming a high-fibre diet.

But it is possible to drink too much water. In extreme cases, if water is drunk more quickly than the kidneys can remove it, the blood becomes diluted and cells become swollen. When this occurs in the brain and central nervous system the body can stop functioning. Warning signs include headaches and confusion.

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