It's that time of year again. The new year. A time to reflect on the year we're leaving behind and make promises to ourselves about how we may live better for the next 12 months.
If, when the clock struck twelve on Monday night, you made some resolutions that involved living a healthier life in 2013, I want to make sure that you start out nice and slow so that you don't get all overwhelmed, with your good intentions discarded by the time Valentine's Day rolls around.
When you resolve to live healthier and you're starting out with a lifestyle that has lots of room for cleaning up, 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'm about keeping things simple. So that's where we'll start. The following are five simple things you can start doing today that will make you and your family healthier:
1. Get friendly with vegetables. You don't like leafy green and/or dark colored vegetables? Too bad. You have to eat them anyway. Vegetables are key in weight management and we need them to make ourselves healthy and to get in all of those nutrients and minerals that are essential for our bodies. If you think that peas and carrots are enough, you are sadly mistaken. Sure they count as veggies, but we need a diet varied in fruits and vegetables in order to get what we need out of the foods we eat. The next time you go to the grocery store, 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 instead of white potatoes. Try a new vegetable every time you go to the grocery store and do some research on 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 (can you say 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. It's the best thing you can do for your family's health.
2. Add one new healthy food to your diet each month. Hearing about all the health benefits of coconut oil lately? Resolve to incorporate it into your diet this month. Next month, perhaps you'll want to give salmon a good honest try. Start eating flax in March. Swap sugar for honey in April. You see where I'm going with this. Slowly start incorporating super foods into your diet and by this time next year, you'll be laughing. Also, vowing to add one new food per month is less overwhelming than trying to do it all at once it's all about baby steps! Every Friday, I feature a different healthy food here on the blog. Search through the archives and keep your eyes peeled for lots and lots (and lots!) of ideas.
3. Drink more water. This one is key. I 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 you're not a water lover, 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. Don't drink all of your water in the morning or before bed. Spread it out over the day and just drink drink drink! Water is the ideal beverage for all of us. Swap out the juices and sodas for this simple thirst quencher.
4. Cut out packaged foods. Stop buying processed foods and resolve to cook all meals for your family from scratch. This will likely be the one item on this list that makes the most folk 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. Start by not buying 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, chock full of GMOS, chemicals, sodium and other ingredients that nobody without a science degree can pronounce. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and make meals from the vegetables and meats that you buy.
5. Stop baking. Have a weakness for cookies? Quit baking them. Have a tendency to sit down to a couple of muffins every time you bake a batch? How about not 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? Our diets should be based on high quality vegetables, lean meats, poultry and fish. Do you really need another muffin? Snack on nuts, fruit, eggs, raw vegetables and berries.
There you have it. Follow these five little nuggets of information and by the time 2014 rolls around, you'll be feeling amazingly healthy and resolving to never go back to that old lifestyle ever again!