When I began my journey to better health 6 years ago, there was so much information out there it was hard to know where to start. What I did know, however is that something needed to change. I was tired and overweight and had no energy to play with my two small children. The first thing I did was eliminate candy from my diet. I remember going to the bank with my girls. At the time they were four years old and one year old. The teller gave my four year old a couple of lollipops for being so good. As we drove away from the bank my daughter asked me if I wanted her extra lollipop. I said no thank you. And of course as anyone with a four year old knows, that wasn’t a good enough answer. She asked me why I didn’t want it. I said, “Because I’m not eating junk food anymore.” She looked at me with a look of complete dread and exclaimed, “Mommy, why are you feeding me junk?” Wow. Why was I feeding her junk? I decided right then and there that this needed to be a family priority. Eating well was going to be for all of us. Since that time, I’ve found some practical ways to introduce and maintain healthy eating into the kitchen that I would like to share with you. I hope these tips will help to make the transition easier for you.
Tip #1- Get rid of your junk food
I really mean it. Go through your pantry, your freezer, your stockpile or wherever you have your food. Bag up whatever is deemed junk and GET RID OF IT. If it’s in the house that means it was bought with the intent of getting eaten and that’s what will happen. I have found that the easiest thing to do is start off right and eliminate that temptation. If you are opposed to throwing it out, donate your nonperishables like cereal, canned items, sugar, etc. to a food bank. If you’re feeling especially motivated, get your neighbors and friends involved and have a mini food drive for your local food bank.
Use this tip as often as you need to. A couple years ago I noticed that junk food had slowly made its way back in our home so I decided to go through the pantry to see what we had collected. Well, eleven grocery bags later we had a newly refreshed pantry. Some items were already opened but still had a lot of use to them and I just couldn’t bring myself to throw it away so I posted them on my neighborhood Facebook page and you would not believe how quickly they were gone! I know that sharing your junk food with someone else is probably not ideal, but you know what they say: one man’s junk is another man’s treasure…or in this case one woman’s Nutella is another woman’s Nutella. Everyone is on a different path to health and they need to make their own decisions. BUT, if you are stronger than I am, just throw it away.
Tip #2- Collect an arsenal of healthy recipes
Ok this tip may seem pretty obvious, but having a collection of recipes for not only main meals but snacks as well will keep you prepared. I have a Pinterest board dedicated to healthy food recipes but a binder or recipe box works great too. Be sure to have ONLY healthy recipes in one spot; that way you won’t be tempted to make grandma’s famous brownies as you are looking for your healthy recipes. I have a recipe box full of my “special occasion” family recipes set aside to use for holidays, birthdays, etc. if needed. We also have a “Nutrition Corner” on our blog that has healthy recipes we are adding to every week. You can also find them on our Pinterest page. https://www.pinterest.com/naturalhealthy1/
Tip # 3: Plan, plan, plan
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This is also true with your nutrition. If you go to the grocery store without a plan, you may come home with things you don’t need or forget to buy the things you do need. I always meal plan for a week at a time and use that meal plan to make my grocery list. I find that buying food for a week at a time also keeps my produce fresh and I can also use my weekly circulars to find out what’s on sale and meal plan around that too. If grapes and zucchini are on sale, then that’s what I buy. I find this also helps me to get a wide variety of fruits and vegetables since the same things are rarely on sale twice in a row. Here’s a free printable meal/grocery planner to get you started!
Tip #4- Prep healthy snacks
It is easiest to stick to healthy eating if you can prepare snacks in advance. I like to separate my almonds in small baggies or containers for the week–that way when I’m hungry I can reach for it right away. Some other ideas for healthy snacking are:
- Make a big batch of hummus and separate in serving-sized containers. We have an awesome recipe here http://bit.ly/1gSA1qw
- Bag cut up veggies for the week. I like baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery, bell peppers and cucumbers. Some veggies like cucumbers only last 3 days after cut so be mindful of that. Here’s a good recipe for it.
- Make a large batch of baked oatmeal, cut into squares and eat as a snack or breakfast during the week. Put any squares that aren’t eaten after 3 days in the freezer.
- Boil eggs. With the shell on and in a container, hard boiled eggs last for a week.
Tip # 5- Get everyone involved
If you are living with someone that is less than thrilled at your new lifestyle change, get them involved. Have them help you meal plan. I have handed my phone to my husband to peruse my Pinterest board of healthy meals and he has gladly given me dinner suggestions. When we decided to get rid of our junk food two years ago, we discussed it as a family and my kids helped me go through the pantry. They may not be completely on board now, but they will turn around and be more likely to be happy participants if they get involved.
Tip # 6- Use healthy substitutions
There are so many healthy substitutions I don’t even know where to begin. You can replace ground turkey for ground beef, agave for sugar, frozen bananas for ice cream, brown rice for white, wheat bread for white, oatmeal for cereal and the list goes on and on.
Tip # 7-Begin with the end in mind but don’t forget to enjoy the journey.
Remembering your goal of better health will help guide you to make good daily decisions about what you eat. Reaching those small goals will help keep you on track to reach your larger goals. Health is a lifelong journey and isn’t a sprint to the finish line. Take time to enjoy your small victories and the journey you are taking. Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you stray from your goals, brush yourself off, make a course correction and don’t beat yourself up. Remember, stress leads to many health issues and we don’t need to stress over making mistakes. We just need to learn from them. Make time to de stress daily and know that you are giving your body what it needs to heal and get healthy.