Refuel your health

Beating the Winter Spare Tyre!

I don’t know about anyone else, but at this time of year all I feel like doing after a full day at work is going home, eating lots of comfort food, which is usually high in fat and sugar and walking as little as possible to get from A to B, avoiding all the harsh weather in the process.

So for some of us it is a challenge to keep our fitness and health measures securely in check and within a manageable zone before we head full force in to the Christmas season. In this article I will give you a few tips and a bit of guidance based on well known research, to hopefully keep you somewhat on track.

How many calories can I have?

An average man needs around 2,500kcal (10,500kJ) a day. For an average women, that figure is around 2,0000kcal (8,400kJ) a day. These values can vary depending on age and levels of physical activity, among other factors, but be aware a few snacks, treats and drinks throughout the day can very quickly add up to more than a few thousand calories.

A rough guide as to how our energy requirements can be spread throughout the day is outlined below:

Breakfast: 20% (a fifth of your energy intake)

Lunch: 30% (approximately a third of your energy intake)

Evening meal: 30% (approximately a third of your energy intake)

Drinks and snacks: 20% (a fifth of your energy intake)

For most driver trainers, lunch is the one meal in the day when we are normally away from home and open to the temptations of a quick, easy and convenient lunch at say MacDonald’s or the chocolate and sweet ‘quick fix’ isle at the nearest petrol station.

There are a few of us out there who are really organised and take time to prepare a lunch at home, a healthy salad, wrap or pasta may be the best solution to keep the calories down. Being mindful when buying low calorie snacks and drinks to keep you going throughout the day, particularly if it is a long day, will keep the temptations down to a minimum.

Below are some good and bad choices regarding snacks:

For those of us who are not so well organised it is all about making good choices when considering what to have for lunch. Starchy foods should make up around one third of the foods you eat. Starchy foods include potatoes, cereals, pasta, rice and bread. Choosing wholegrain varieties are best where you can as they contain more fibre and can make you feel full for longer.

Eat more fruit and veg. It is recommended that we eat at least five portions of different types of fruit and veg a day that is of course easier than it sounds. A glass of 100% unsweetened fruit juice (150ml) can count as one portion. Good snacks are bananas, dried fruit or nuts. Watch out for nuts, the key is not to eat too many they are very calorific. Carrots, apple pieces or grapes are all good snacks and even Macdonald’s have these on offer.

Fish is a very good source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. Ideally we should all be aiming for at least two portions a week. Some mini supermarkets have some good varieties of salmon salad or sushi, which are both low in calories and fat. I appreciate this is not always the easiest lunch choice and it will of course depend if you have somewhere sensible to sit and eat.

Cutting down on saturated fat and sugar is always the difficult bit. We all need some fat in our diet but it is important to pay attention to the amount and type of fat we are eating. There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.

Saturated fat is found in many foods, such as hard cheese, cakes, biscuits, sausages, cream, butter, lard and pies. Check your colour coded nutritional food labels and make wise choices, swapping red for orange labels and orange for green labels will reduce your fat and calorie intake very effectively without having to monitor every calorie you are consuming.

Eating less salt is another quick fix. By cutting down you reduce the risk of high blood pressure, which in turn will reduce your risk of heart disease and strokes. Again by using food labels to monitor your intake it makes life much easier, the basic rule is always to avoid foods that display red in their nutritional labelling.

Another good tip is don’t get thirsty. We need to drink approximately 1.2 litres of fluid every day to stop us from getting dehydrated. This by the way is in addition to the fluid we get from the food we eat. All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water and milk are the most healthy options. Try to avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks that are high in added sugars and can be high in calories and bad for your teeth. Even unsweetened fruit juice is sugary, so try to drink no more than one glass (about 150ml) of fruit juice each day. If you are thirsty you may also feel hungry, which in turn may encourage you to eat more than you need, another good reason then to say hydrated.

This sample of menu options is just a fraction of some of the products available to buy. These days there is a lot more choice with regard to lunch options, with many petrol stations having decent mini supermarkets attached such as little Waitrose and M&S food. Things have come a long way since the crusty old sandwich and leather look sausage rolls. Mini supermarkets now offer an array of manageable sized salads, wraps, dips, sushi packs and sandwiches. You even get the offer of cutlery to help you on your way (albeit plastic options).

As mentioned earlier food labelling is also easy to follow with traffic light or colour-coded nutritional information, which tells you at a glance if the food has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt. Red usually means high, amber medium and green low, basically the more green(s) on a label the healthier the choice. For more information on food labelling and choosing a healthier diet go to

As well as weight gain and health, food and what you eat or don’t eat can have a big impact on driving and concentration, as a driver trainer, keeping yourself in a good physical and emotional state is a real consideration. You may also need to consider if you or your client is fasting for religious reasons or is tired after a large meal, diet for numerous reasons can change a drivers’ ability to learn. What time and when you conduct lessons should take into account these very important factors.


I mentioned thirst and what to drink earlier however, the very real consequences of being regularly dehydrated are hugely underestimated and can lead to complications with kidney stones, digestive problems like constipation, hear disease, high blood pressure and joint pain. Basically, dehydration slows down the fat burning process.

It is very easy not to drink enough when you are on the road a lot and may people mistake hunger for thirst. Dehydration can make you feel tired and lacking in concentration, not good if you are a driving instructor. When you are hydrated your brain works better and you feel more alert. It is good practice to always keep a bottle of water handy in the car and try to have approximately 1.5-2 litres per day.

Sipping slowing throughout the day is better than downing a whole litre in one shot, leaving you having a panic search for the next decent toilet. You may even want to consider one or two extra small bottles of water in the boot or glove compartment should the need arise to offer this to your student.


Exercise is a big subject and there are a variety of options to consider. Many instructors spend more than eight hours a day sitting in the car. Studies have found that sitting down for long periods of time have very significant health implications such as a shorter life span regardless of age, weight and general health and activity levels. Moderate exercise has proven to improve blood flow throughout the body including your digestive system and helps to improve your metabolism, reducing the risk of aches and pains in the joints.

Consistency always works best when it comes to exercise. Consider exercising twice a week for approximately 40 minutes per workout, this is a good place to start. (40 minutes helps with fat burning and keeping stress levels down). This could be translated in to a brisk walk, consider parking the car up somewhere in between lessons and take a walk around the block, it will do wonders for your health.

The health problems associated with a sedentary job like driving instructing and the consequences of excess weight gain, are very real as they include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, joint disease and ultimately a higher risk of developing cancer in the worst cases. Along with all of the above there is the worry of what happens if you are no longer able to work and questions such as how will I pay for my car? Mortgage? No one likes to think about these consequences so the as you can see we could all benefit from a much happy, healthier and fitter lifestyle.

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