Simple ways to make this a healthier year

Try these simple steps to make a big difference to your wellbeing this new year.

07 January 2019
by Glynis Horning

Swearing off smoking and joining a gym are favourite resolutions, but often difficult to stick to. Why not try these simple steps that can make a big difference to your wellbeing.



  • Reach for water before you snack: Hunger pangs and thirst are easily confused, says dietitian Candice Smith, head of Wellness Strategy at Vitality Wellness. 
  • Keep a jug of water in the fridge and on your desk. If it seems too bland, add sliced lemon, cucumber, apple or mint leaves for flavour.
  • Start meals with a salad or wholesome soup: A great way to get nutrients and to fill you up – you’ll tend to eat less. 
  • Snack smartly: Try an apple or pear with nut butter, raw veggies with hummus, and a small wedge of avocado with wholegrain crackers.
  • Stock wisely: Always have fresh and frozen fruit and veggies at hand, beans and other legumes, whole grains and raw nuts.
  • Watch portion size: “The simplest way is to use your hands,” says dietitian Gabriel Eksteen, part-time lecturer in the Division of Human Nutrition at UCT. A protein portion should be the size of your palm; fat the size of the end joint of your thumb (use a whole thumb for nut butters or avocado); carbohydrates should be the size of your fist, as should fruit, and vegetable can be two fists.
  • Eat out strategically: Skip starters, or order two and skip the main. Share a dessert – order one, with forks for the rest of the table; a taste is often all you need.
  • Beat that chocolate craving: Have a cup of hot chocolate made with cocoa and fat-free milk.




  • Break it up: If you believe you don’t have time to exercise, get up just 10 minutes early and stretch and lift weights; take a brisk 10-minute walk at lunch time; and jog on the spot or dance vigorously during ad breaks while watching TV. “Small pockets of exercise beat no exercise and they add up,” says Durban fitness consultant Hayley Cassim of Gym in a Box.
  • Try something new to motivate you: Find an activity that fits your lifestyle and includes friends or family to make it fun, from fencing to beginners’ classes in martial arts. 
  • If you jog, cycle, swim or gym, incorporate interval training in your workout, doing short bursts at maximum effort to up the burn.




  • Take an hour now and set up these vital checks so you can pick up problems before they progress:
  • GP, gynaecologist: You need to get checked out every year, and discuss any physical changes you (or your close relatives) may have experienced.
  • Mammogram: Have a baseline mammo around 35-40, then go yearly, especially if you’re at higher risk of cancer (for example, if you have an immediate family member affected).
  • Go for a pap smear at least every three years from age 25, to detect abnormal cervical cells early. (If you use public sector screening services, you are entitled to three free pap smears, starting at age 30 or older, at 10-year intervals).  
  • Bone mineral density scan: Have a baseline scan at the start of menopause, then go two or three years, says Johannesburg diagnostic radiologist Dr Shirley Lipschitz.
  • Urologist: Men should have a PSA test or digital rectal exam annually after age 50, or from earlier if at high risk for prostate cancer.
  • Dermatologist: Have a baseline check and mole mapping, then go every two or three years if darker-skinned, annually if you’re light skinned, have a family history of skin cancer, or had a blistering sunburn in childhood, says Umhlanga dermatologist Dr Len Nel.
  • Optometrist: Go annually, especially if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of glaucoma.
  • Pharmacy check: Have an annual wellness consultation at your Clicks pharmacy (blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, HIV, PSA etc).

IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images