Living well

Dr Hazel Wallace tells us how we can make healthy changes in 2018


Making healthy changes doesn’t have to be difficult. Woman’s Way spoke to Dr Hazel Wallace, the Food Medic, and got her top tips on how to lead a healthier lifestyle in 2018.

How important is education when it comes to healthy living?

“I think ‘healthy’ is very subjective. It doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone and not everyone can fit the common definitions of health (i.e. if they have a mental health condition or chronic disease), regardless of their lifestyle practices. However, I think it is important for us to be aware of how our lifestyles can impact our health – the food we eat, how much exercise we do, the amount of stress in our lives etc., as these factors can all affect our current level of health – for better or for worse.”


How can we assess how healthy our lifestyle is right now?

“When it comes to maximising your health you need to look at the whole picture – one green smoothing isn’t going to protect you from the flu, just like one pizza isn’t going to make you sick or gain weight. It’s what we do the majority of the time that matters most. Aim to have a nutrient dense diet full of fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, healthy fats and lean proteins. The odd slice of cake or glass of wine is perfectly healthy too and can be part of a balanced diet. Prioritise sleep and rest – something we are all very poor at doing as we seem to equate lack of sleep as a measure of success or drive! Stress and exhaustion can be just as detrimental to your health as a poor diet can be. Move everyday – whether it is a walk in the park or a sweaty gym class, aim to move your body every single day. Even on days of rest, take the dog out for a stroll or stretch in your living room.”


How can you set yourself up for success when you decide to make a positive lifestyle change?

“Take it step by step. Jumping into the deep end is going to overwhelm you and add stress to your day. Ste yourself a weekly goal, maybe one week start bringing a homemade packed lunch to work and the next maybe sign up to a yoga class. Soon these daily habits will be second nature to you.”


What are your top tips for eating healthier?

“Add more fibre to your diet – we massively undershoot our fibre recommendations of 30g per day. It helps us keep our gut healthy by encouraging smooth transit of digested food through our bowel and by nourishing our healthy gut bacteria. A diet high in fibre is also associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Make your diet more colourful – try to eat one or two portions of fruit and vegetables with each meal and make them your first choice for a snack. Omelettes and stews are an awesome vehicle for veggies, particularly leftover veg! Cook from scratch – this way you can choose what goes onto your plate; more vegetables, lean meats or fish and healthy fats from olive oil, nuts and seeds.”


What are your top tips for motivating yourself to move every day?

“Find what you love because chances are if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it. You don’t have to go to the gym to stay active. Plan ahead by bringing your workout kit with you to work or keep it in your car so you can squeeze it in before or after a day at the office, or on your lunch break. Rope in your buddy or partner to start with you to keep you motivated.”


Are there any check-ups or tests everyone should have each year?

“Unless you are at risk of a certain condition (such as diabetes or high blood pressure), you don’t need to have yearly tests or check ups. The only caveat is our national screening programmes, for example cervical screening, which you should attend when invited.”


Aside from physical health, how important is it for people to keep tabs on their mental health?

“Incredibly important! And it is even harder for us to recognise when our mental health is affected, as it is not visible to anyone else which means it often goes unrecognised and people learn to cope even when they’re really suffering. It is so important to practice self-care and speak up when you’re feeling low or anxious or experiencing any other mental health symptoms. Speak to someone you trust. Let them know you’re having a hard time and see if they can offer any help or some support. Visit your GP and express your concerns, they can signpost you to the best services and refer you on if need be.”


Dr Hazel Wallace is a practicing doctor, qualified personal trainer, blogger and author. She is also a spokesperson for Linwoods. Linwoods’ range of Superfoods provide a convenient way to include essential fatty acids, nutrients, vitamins and minerals in your diet. For more information about Dr Wallace see


Catherine Devane