I got so much great feedback about the lifestyle changes in last week’s post (you can read it here) that I wanted to expand on them AND share more suggestions to help you incorporate these changes into your life everyday.
Here’s the truth that I’ve learned after years of getting it wrong: eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard! Just a series of small, thoughtful steps daily can completely change your lifestyle over time; they did for me and I hope that you will experience these amazing changes too! Please let me know if you find these tips helpful – I love hearing your feedback and comments!
Step 1: Add More Nutritious Foods to your Diet Daily
I love using Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate as a starting guide. Aiming for half your plate filled with veggies and fruits may seem impossible right now, but start with adding one additional serving of vegetables and fruit at every meal and increase until you get there. Bonus: improving the quality of the foods you consume will also reduce the quantity, because 500 calories of vegetables will fill your tummy more than a 500 calorie burger will! Here are some easy ways to add healthier foods to your diet:
- Add spinach and berries to your breakfast smoothie. I love knowing that my first meal of the day is packed with fruits and veggies – if it wasn’t in my smoothie, I certainly wouldn’t be sitting down to a plate of veggies and fruit everyday. Adding fresh produce to my smoothie makes it easy and done!
- Pack your salad full of veggies & fruit: cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, celery, carrots, shredded cabbage, broccoli, fresh strawberries, radishes, and snap peas are all great options for a delicious and filling salad full of nutrients. There’s really no limit to the varieties you can choose, so get creative!
- Flip your plate: make roasted vegetables your main dish – squash, eggplant, leeks, mushrooms, cauliflower, peppers, brussel sprouts, asparagus, sweet potatoes and onions are all great roasted – and make protein your side dish.
Step 2: Make Your Snacks Count
Ever heard the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?” There’s some truth to that: apples are chock full of vitamins, nutrients, and fiber, and they provide a quick pick me up so they’re the perfect mid morning or afternoon snack. They will keep you fuller longer and won’t cause a sugar rush, then crash, like a snack from the vending machine. Other great options:
- homemade granola
- nuts – almonds, walnuts, peanuts; also nut butters are great for dipping you favorite sliced fruit or veggies
- seeds – sunflower, pumpkin, and watermelon seeds are my favorites!
- chopped veggies and hummus – celery, carrots, tomatoes, and sweet peppers are all great for dipping
- avocado- this is one of my favorite quick, healthy snacks. Just a little salt and lemon juice and it’s perfect!
Whatever you choose, if you stick with as many single ingredient plant based foods as possible, you’ll be getting some added nutrition while giving your body the fuel it needs to keep going strong.
Step 3: Make Small Healthy Switches
Here’s some of the healthy switches that helped improve my family’s health. This list is just a start, get creative and find ways to lighten up what your family already loves!
- Instead of eating fried chicken, how about grilled or baked, or even trying your hand at tofu or tempeh?
- Switch from white rice to brown, it is less processed, has more nutrients, and is more filling. And while you’re making this switch…
- Work to eliminate all white and processed foods – yes that means bread and pasta! There are some delicious plant based pastas out there – using foods like chickpeas and quinoa – that are full of protein, which will keep you feeling fuller longer. My favorite brands are Banza, Whole Food’s 365, and Trader Joe’s – experiment until you find the ones you love.
- Swap deep fried foods for baked versions. Potatoes aren’t a bad food – but the preparation of dunking them into hot oil makes them a bad choice if you’re trying to lose weight or improve your health. Baked fries are just as delicious, and your heart will thank you later! Bonus: bake sweet potato fries for an even healthier choice.
- Replace high calorie, high fat dairy ingredients with healthier options. This was a game changer for us – and way easier than I thought! There are so many plant based “cheese” recipes that I love and have used to replace cheese in our house. Instead of cheese sauce with pasta, I’ve made cashew cheese sauce, cauliflower cheese sauce, and even a veggie cheese sauce with – wait for it – potatoes and carrots! I enjoy these sauces a lot, and for my kiddo who still eats cheese I just top her pasta with a bit of cheese, and she doesn’t miss having all that cheese at all!
Step 4: Eliminate Empty Calories
Dressings, mayonnaise, sauces, and yes, even ketchup, all have calories; and while it might not seem like such a big deal when you’re just having a little bit, we underestimate the amount of food and condiments we eat. A simple exercise is to pour yourself a serving size of your favorite sauce, and compare that to how much you’re actually using. I tried this with syrup, and I was shocked at how much I used versus how much a serving of syrup is – I was literally using three times the amount!!! Limiting the amount of toppings you add to your food can literally cut hundreds of calories a day, and consuming less calories adds up to weight loss!
Step 5: Say No to Soda
I think this is self explanatory, but if it’s not, you are just drinking artificially flavored corn syrup with bubbles; it has no nutritional value, and it’s highly addictive. Even if you’re a diet soda drinker, you need to let it go – diet sodas actually cause people to gain weight and the chemicals in them have been linked with various diseases. Just don’t do it. If you can’t go cold turkey, drink flavored sparkling water with a little fruit juice for flavor, then decrease until you no longer need the additional sweetness.
Step 6: Drink More Water
Did you know you need to drink at least half your body weight in water every day, more if you’re an active person? A 150 pound person needs at least 75 oz. of water every day, plus an additional 8-16 oz for every hour of physical activity. If that seems like a lot, try aiming for a glass an hour – over 9 hours you will have consumed 72oz! Drinking water also aids in weight loss – often when we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty – so before you reach for a snack, reach for a glass of water and wait ten minutes to see if you’re still feeling hungry. You could be saving hundreds of calories everyday by giving your body what it needs, instead of filling it with unnecessary calories.
Step 7: Move Your Body
While weight loss is considered to be 80% of what you eat and only 20% exercise, twenty percent is still a lot – just imagine if you were offered a 20% raise, would you take it? Of course you would! Exercise has so many benefits for the body, not only in aiding weight loss, but improving heart function, reducing stress, and improving mood and attitude. Any exercise will do – my mom has some health conditions, so she needed a light exercise program; she found a walking series on Youtube and walked off over ten pounds with 20 minutes of activity a day!
The key is to find something you like – and will stick to – then get moving – even if you have to start small, just 10 minutes a day, is better than not doing anything at all.
That’s it! Start working one of these 7 simple steps into your life at a time, and you’ll be seeing results before you know it! I have a checklist you can download and keep handy as a reminder of how simple it is to improve your health – download the checklist here. If you need help getting started, send me a note and let’s schedule a time to chat about your health goals. Stay tuned for more tips and tricks, plus an exciting program coming soon!