When you resolve to live a healthier, more fulfilled, happier, more peaceful or generally just better quality of life you are probably starting out with a lifestyle that has lots of room for cleaning up. When it comes to your nutrition, there are tons of tiny changes you can implement that will add up to greater health for you by this time next year.
If you know me at all, you know I generally prefer to keep things simple. So this is how I plan to start discussing healthier and more sustainable food choices and behaviours. The following are a few simple things you can start doing today that will make you and your family healthier: (Remember I said simple, not fun or zero effort required)
1. Vegetables are your friends.
If you are not a fan of leafy green and/or dark colored vegetables, too bad!!! You have to eat them anyway. Vegetables are foundational in good nutrition and you need them to create health and wellness for yourself. They are nutrient powerhouses and contain many elements essential for all body functions. If you think that peas and carrots are enough, you are sadly mistaken. They could be considered vegetables, but you require a diet varied in many types of plant matter in order to get what you need out of the foods that you eat. The next time you go to the grocery store, follow the cliché and shop the rainbow. Buy purple cabbage, dark green spinach or kale instead of regular green cabbage and iceberg lettuce. Fill your cart with sweet potatoes, rutabagas, turnips and celeriac instead of white potatoes. Try a new vegetable every time you go to the grocery store and do some research in the University of Google to figure out the best way to cook it. Vegetables are not only full of nutrients that fight disease, but they aid in your digestion process (as they are packed with fiber), they fill you up without loading you up with calories, and they just make you feel good! Train yourself and your children to like vegetables. They truly are one of the best additions you can make when transitioning to a healthier way of eating.
2. Drink more water.
This one is really important. I truly believe that if we all ate six or seven servings of vegetables a day and drank our daily recommended amount of good old fashioned H20, we would be a much healthier (and leaner) nation. If drinking water does not appeal to you too bad!! You have to drink it anyway. How do you figure out how much water you need to be healthy? There are calculators all over the Internet that will help you determine your hydration needs based on your weight and activity levels, so do a simple search and you should soon know your optimal water intake. One important piece of advice is to pace yourself. Do your best to not drink all of your water in the morning or before bed. Spread it out over the day and just drink drink drink and then drink a little more (water remember, no fancy beverages here)! Water is the ideal beverage for all of us. Swap out the juices and sodas for this simple thirst quencher.
3. Remove packaged foods.
Stop buying processed foods! Commit to cooking more meals for you and your family from scratch. This will likely be the one item on this list that makes the most people cringe, but it is an important one. I wish that everyone could experience the joy that comes with putting a nutritious, homemade meal on the dinner table every day. A good start is not purchasing anymore of those ‘helper’ meal kits from the dry food aisle as well as the frozen meals from the freezer sections of the grocery store. These are highly processed foods (and are often just food-like substances tricking your taste buds into thinking they are real), chock full of GMOS, chemicals, sodium and other ingredients that nobody without a science degree can pronounce. Again, the cliché works, shop the perimeter of the grocery store and make meals from the vegetables and meats that you buy. It is way easier and less time consuming than you think, provides way more nutrition and tastes better too!
4. Add a new food or cooking method at least once a month.
Have you been hearing about all the health benefits of coconut oil lately? (If not, you definitely have not been following me!!) Resolve to incorporate it into your diet this month. Next month, perhaps you will venture out on a limb and want to give wild caught salmon a good honest try. Maybe try some flax or chia seeds. Swap sugar for some wild, raw honey you found at the farmer’s market. You get the drift. Slowly start incorporating more nutrient dense foods into your diet and by this time next year you will have a totally different looking plate! Also, vowing to add one new food per month is less overwhelming than trying to do it all at once . . . baby steps! Trying new cooking methods or recipes with some of your favorite healthy ingredients helps create some diversity too – braise, roast, try a new sauce or salad dressing recipe. Keep your eyes peeled for lots and lots (and lots!) of ideas.
5. Stop baking.
Do you have weakness for cookies, or cake, or muffins or bars? Quit baking them. Have you found you have a tendency to sit down to a few samples or cook’s treats every time you bake a batch? Do you always leave some batter in the bowl that requires some ‘quality control’ tasting? How about not making the batter or baking them anymore? I see these recipes all over the place for healthy muffins, paleo-friendly cookies, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free desserts, and I have to ask myself why? Treats are okay sometimes, but they are just that, treats, very occasional indulgences. Your diet should be based on high quality vegetables, well raised meats, poultry and fish and good, naturally occurring saturated and unsaturated fats. Do you really need another muffin? If you must, snack on nuts, fruit, eggs, raw vegetables and berries. Better yet, eat well portioned meals that will provide sustained, consistent energy for hours.
So that pretty much sums it up. Follow these little pearls of information and by the time 2018 rolls around, I am willing to bet that you will be be feeling amazingly healthy and resolving to never go back to your old eating habits that left you feeling less than wonderful ever again!