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Top tips on how to get healthier in mind and body for the year ahead

Already thinking of making a New Year resolution to improve your health in 2017? Una Brankin and Kerry McKittrick ask some well-known people what’s their best tip for improving overall wellbeing.

Multi-award winning master chef Ian Orr (33) is co-proprietor of the acclaimed Ardtara Country House near Maghera, and Brown's restaurants, Londonderry, both Michelin Guide recommended. Ian, who is married to Jennifer and has two children, Oliver (7) and Emily (2), is also a Lidl food ambassador. He says:

I'm trying to lose weight for the New Year, so I'm steaming fish and vegetables, and cooking chicken in a tray with rosemary, lemon, garlic and a pinch of salt. It cooks in its own juices - beautiful.

My advice for making your diet healthier in 2017 would include using real butter rather than spreads, and good extra virgin olive oil. I prefer good natural yoghurts, especially Greek yoghurt and avoid anything labelled 'low fat'. I also always make an effort to eat food that's in season.

If I have carbs, like pasta, I have them at lunchtime so I can work it off. I'm taking the advice of a nutritionist and I don't eat after six, if possible. That's hard for a chef, when you're tasting food. If I need a snack, I'll have an orange or an apple. Weight definitely gathers on you if you eat later in the night.

The guy advising me reckons I should eat 40% of my daily food at breakfast time. I'll have some smoked salmon or cheese on a bagel or some good sourdough or rye bread, which is filling.

If I have anything with sugar or bad fats, it will be earlier in the day. I use honey if I need to sweeten anything.

I'm sure I'll be putting on a few pounds over Christmas, but I'll be back to healthier eating for January."

Julian Simmons (64) is a UTV presenter and lives in Belfast. He says:

Always have the flu jab. I have to smile when I meet a colleague in UTV who tells me "I'm dying with the flu and I shouldn't be in today'. If they actually had the flu, they wouldn't be able to lift their heads off the pillow on their bed. In these winter months, I make sure that I get plenty of sleep, fitting in a wee afternoon siesta if I'm heading for a big night out. There's nothing to beat phone off, iPad off and all off! Get under the duvet for a 90 minute nap.

I also have a 1000mg Redoxon vitamin C tablet every day, plus a multivitamin 'For Men' and a 400mg Vitamin E to keep everything ticking over. We have to keep going, no matter what!

I also travel round the world quite a lot, so I make sure there is always a wee trip up ahead to look forward to.

Now that we are past the shortest day of the year, we can all be positive as we head ever upwards towards the spring."

Brenda Shankey (45), is a mindfulness coach and male grooming expert. She lives in Belfast and has two children, Lauren (14) and Will (12). She says:

T he easiest change to make is a simple one before you go to sleep. First of all, have a think for three things, no matter how big or how small, to be grateful about that happened that day. They say that if you instil gratitude into your mind, then it will help the positive outweigh the negative. You'll become more content if you're grateful for the little things.

The other thing to do is concentrate on your breathing - breathe in and out slowly five or 10 times. As we go to sleep we have a tendency to go over the day and also think about all the things you need to do the next day and that can leave you with your mind racing. To focus on your breathing for just a short while will relax you and calm your mind, allowing you to ease into a more peaceful sleep."

Lorna Byrne (63), who is widowed with four children, is an Irish author who claims to see angels and spirits and whose best-known book is Angels In My Hair. She says:

I find that taking a walk in nature is wonderful for the body and soul. We are the guardian angels of nature and it's good to enjoy the beauty that's around you. The angels are always trying to get you to notice the beauty of the world and when you are out walking, they are all around you, in all weathers.

I believe the best starting point for becoming energised, physically and mentally, is by making the decision to really love life. Having hope makes us happier and healthier people, more able to cope with whatever life throws at us.

When you approach work or any task with love-of-life, the job becomes much easier, you gain more confidence and start to see the positives in the work you're doing. You realise how much you enjoy your colleagues, for example, or how nice some of your customers are. When you have this positive approach, you have more mental and physical energy and are able to do a better job.

The angels have always told me that we should constantly remind ourselves to see the bright points in everyday life, however small they might seem. Choose to enjoy the little things, to appreciate the cup of tea you're drinking, the budding snowdrops and a smile on a child's face. When someone is down, they get out of the habit of appreciating these things, so we always need to remember to enjoy them."

Chef Paula McIntyre (63), is a regular on Radio Ulster's Saturday Magazine. She says:

I wouldn't be known for my fitness, but I'd really recommend getting a pedometer. I've had a FitBit since September. I'd started getting bad pains in my ankles and didn't want to go to the doctor, so I started walking more instead and it has really helped.

You're supposed to do 10,000 steps a day, but I've been driving so much to demos and events this past month, I've only managed about 6,000. But I make up for that and try to do 13,000 or 14,000 when I can.

In a normal eight-hour day in the kitchen, I can get 6,000 or 7,000 steps clocked up and then another 3,000 is easy to do in a 20-minute walk. It's great if you have an office-based job. I've the advantage of having to run about a lot of the time but the FitBit is a great incentive to get out for a quick walk to make up the extra steps, especially when the weather's bad and you don't feel like it.

You can also link up with Fit Bit buddies, who can keep track of your daily steps and ask 'what happened you yesterday?', if you haven't notched them up. That's another good incentive.

I live near the beach in Portstewart and walking there, instead of sitting watching rubbish on TV, really helps clear my head and gets the creative juices flowing. So it's good for your mental health, too."

Fionnbharr Toolan (26) is a strength and flexibility coach with Virtue Belfast. He says:

You really don't need to make a big investment on a daily basis. I advise people to give just two or three minutes a day as an investment - it all adds up and over a week you'll find it can be nearly 30 minutes more than you did the week before.

It's all about being mobile these days, to focus your strength and flexibility. It's absolutely worthwhile to wake your body up as soon as you get out of bed with movement. Any kind of yoga-based move or stretches are a good idea.

For me, firstly I would do a few neck rotations - roll your head around your shoulders in one direction three or four times and then repeat in the opposite direction. You've spent all night lying in bed with your neck propped on a pillow and you will be extremely stiff when you wake up. Moving your head and neck will help your blood flow and relieve a lot of tension first thing in the morning.

The next thing to do is just a lunge. Stand with both feet together and then, with one foot, step as far forward as you can. Bend your front knee and place your hands on the floor on either side of your front foot. Hold that for just two or three seconds and then step back to repeat it using your other leg.

A good deep lunge 10 times first thing in the morning will stretch your hips and pelvic area, which again have been static overnight. It's a very good exercise for people who spend a lot of time sitting at desks all day.

Doing both of these exercises will take just a couple of minutes in the morning. You'll feel more mobile, healthier, stronger and more energetic.

I think that everyone, from people who sit at desks to medal-winning athletes, need a small victory in the morning. Getting up and doing those small thing means your start your day with a win. The big challenge is to stick with the habit, but once you develop that small act then you'll find yourself wanting to do more. Building habits like this will leave your stronger for life."

Claire Ferry (42) is an Iyengar yoga teacher and a director of Maitri Yoga Studio in Belfast. She is married to Geoffrey. She says:

The simplest tip I would give is to try and do at least one yoga pose a day. A pose that would be good for almost everyone - unless you have an injury or underlying issue - is downward dog. Sit on your heels on the floor and stretch your hands all the way forward as far as you can. From there, come on to your hands and knees then tuck your toes underneath and lift your hips as high in the air as you can. You should end up on just your feet and hands with your tail in the air and with your head hanging down - you're trying to make an upside-down V-shape.

Downward dog is an inversion - you're upside down so you get a different perspective on the world. It will build strength in your limbs. It will build flexibility in your shoulders and your hamstrings and it brings freedom to the spine. Most people can give this pose a shot, even if they find they're not quite making the shape they see in yoga books at first. Their hamstrings will be tight or shoulders weak at the beginning. To make it easier, people can bend their knees to stretch the back a bit more or stretch one leg out at a time. You can prop your heels on a skirting board if you have very loose hamstrings. It can be modified in lots of ways.

Doing one yoga pose a day is mentally very good for you, as it will instil discipline. Just one pose is the start of yoga practise which has infinite dividends.

At a basic level, yoga is a very safe, all round way to look after your body - muscles, bones and internal organs - building strength and flexibility.

Moving on from that, you realise it starts to bring mental and emotional benefits like rest, relaxation and restorative support to your body, as well as freedom to your mind."

Jane McClenaghan (42) is a nutritional therapist and author of the Vital Nutrition Cookbook. She lives in Belfast with her partner Nev. She says:

T here are two simple things that will help you to make positive changes to your health. The first is to drink lots and lots of water to keep you hydrated. We may not feel thirsty when we're dehydrated, but we might notice that our energy levels are flagging and that we feel a bit flat and lethargic. Keeping hydrated will have a surprising effect on your energy levels.

Tea and coffee dehydrate you as they act as diuretics, while many cordials and fizzy drinks have lots of sugar in them. What's really nice is to put a bottle of water in the fridge with some mint, lime, or orange slices. That will add a little flavour, without the sugars that you get in fruit juice.

The other thing I would suggest to people is to get back to making sure that they eat three good meals a day. No more grabbing processed foods to eat on the run or missing breakfast.

Doing this is actually very easy and you can make it easy for yourself. Batch cook something really nice and tasty like a stew or curry or a ragu and then just take the leftovers to work with you to have for lunch the next day. A meal like that will have a lot more nutrition in it than a sandwich that you've bought from the supermarket.

It will also be tastier. Plus, you'll save yourself time and money - it's so much cheaper to bring a lunch to work and not buy one of those meal deals.

Breakfast is also really important. With cereals, microwave porridge sachets and breakfast biscuits, we're starting our day off with far too much sugar. Porridge is great, but choose plain oats instead of flavoured ones and add nuts, seeds and spices like cinnamon and ginger. You can also add honey or grated apple for sweetness.

If time is a problem, then go for overnight oats - soak porridge oats with fruit, yogurt and nuts and it will be ready for you in the morning. You can do it all in a jar and take it with you to have at your desk. You can also have things like toasted rye bread with peanut butter and banana for something sweet but healthier, or even just an avocado on whole wheat toast. Add as much flavour as you can - far too often healthy food is brown, bland and boring."

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