By the women who should know!

Few of us can afford a personal trainer or dietitian – but we all want their tips for staying happy and healthy. So we asked four of the UK’s top experts to share the secrets they live by – and guess what? Chocolate is OK!

The Dietitian

Laura Clark, 33, is a registered nutrition professional offering tailored dietary advice

My health rules

Description: “In fact, I have chocolate most days”

In fact, I have chocolate most days”

When people find out what I do, they expect me to have a perfect diet. In fact, I have chocolate most days and not one square of the organic, dark stuff – a fun-size bar of whatever I fancy. Small portions of treats are part of a healthy diet. Seeing them as naughty, stuffing them down in secret is a surefire route to disordered eating. Savour treats and don’t beat yourself up about it. Heath for me means being active (I walk everywhere and love Pilates) and enjoying nutritious food: I can’t get enough fruit and vegetables and never skip breakfast.

My current goal

I need more calcium, a vital bone mineral. Dairy is the best source, but many women go short for fear it’s high in fat. It doesn’t have to be, if you choose low-fat produce, such as semi-skimmed milk. For me, it’s lack of milk, as I don’t like coffee or tea, so I need more low-fat yoghurt and cheese. I don’t believe in supplements when you can get the nutrients from food.

My new favourite tip

All the new research I’m reading shows whole grains are where it’s at, which helps me convince clients that carbs aren’t the enemy. Whole grains play a big role in heart health, weight control, immunity and reducing bowel cancer and type 2 diabetes risk. One serving is 16g, and you need three a day, so that’s a slice of whole meal bread, a couple of handfuls of plain popcorn (yes, it’s a wholegrain!), or 2-3 tablespoons of dry cereal or cooked wholegrain pasta or brown rice.

If you do nothing else…

Eat regular, balanced meals. People over-complicate nutrition by subscribing to unsustainable fads, believing in ‘superfoods’ or their ‘bad’ opposite. The reality? There’s no such thing as bad food, only bad diets. Sit down to regular meals that include cards, protein and fruit or veg and you can’t go wrong.

lecnutrition.co.uk; @lecnutrition

The Life Coach

Sarah Oakley, 31, is a yoga teacher and stress-management expert

My health rules

I live by four principles from yogic tradition: exercise, relaxation, a wholesome diet and daily positive thinking or meditation.

Description: Meditation is an important part of my life

Meditation is an important part of my life

Meditation is an important part of my life. The idea can bring to mind mysticism and seem an impossible skill, but it’s easier than you think. Basically, it means doing anything that allows you to focus and calm your mind. I do a walking meditation while out with Alfie, my dog – just concentrating on my breathing, matching it to my steps. Meditation helps you to feel peaceful and more in control of your life. The health benefits include reduced heart rate, deep relaxation, reduced stress hormones and stronger immunity. It’s ‘rest without sleep’, and studies have shown it lowers biological age.

My current goal

I don’t feel physically strong enough at the moment, so I need to make more time for some dynamic yoga. And I need to get to bed earlier.

My new favourite tip

I read an interview with spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, who said two questions can dictate your lifespan: ‘Do you have a sense of purpose?’ and ‘Do you like your job?’ If you say yes to both, you’ll live longer and suffer fewer health problems. This resonated with me. Lack of self-worth and job satisfaction are two of the most common reasons clients come to me.

If you do nothing else…

Spend your free time productively. If you want to feel calm, do something peaceful. If you want to feel content, do things that make you happy. Take a negative in your life and look for its opposite. It sounds simple, but it’s easy to follow the crowd to the bar after work on Friday when, if we followed our instincts, we might prefer something else. We don’t get a lot of spare time; it’s important to make the most of it.

sarahoakley.com; @yummyyogasarah

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