New Year’s Resolution or not, most of us hope to lead a healthier life. Some of us know what we need to do but struggle with the execution, some of us have trouble with being consistent, and then some of us just don’t even know where to start. No matter which one best describes you, we all need to, literally and figuratively speaking, only bite off what we can chew.
For many years, getting healthy has revolved around diets, weight loss supplements, workout programs and the like that claim to, and only sometimes deliver on, getting you to that target weight or pant size. But health is not just about how you look or the weight on the scale, it is also about how you feel and what is going on inside too. This is where the health fads fall short, as they are very surface, short-lived and not sustainable.
I don’t think anyone needs a strict diet or workout regimen to be “healthy”. I do however, believe small changes lead to big results. If you focus on making small changes, think of the cumulative change that will add up to over time. This mindset can really be applied to anything, but in this case, I am talking about our habits in the kitchen.
When we view our small changes as a life choice and not a short-term fix, we soon begin to lead a lifestyle backed by our intentions and not what some diet or program is telling us to do. Being healthier doesn’t mean you can’t have your cake and eat it too. In fact, I don’t believe you have to cut anything out or make yourself feel guilty for those times you do splurge, but you do have to keep making those small changes.
Looking back, I have made small changes in the past without even realizing it. When I was younger, I made the decision to switch from 2% to skim milk which tastes closer to water when you’ve drank 2% milk your entire life. I first started having skim milk only with my cereal to help me get used to the taste and consistency and was soon on my way to drinking full glasses and have never looked back. Similarly, I made the switch to whole grain bread after learning how white bread looks and tastes the way it does because it is refined and stripped of all of its nutrients.
More recently, I have been setting intentions to try out quick and easy health hacks to make more small changes to my daily habits. First, I have added drinking warm lemon water to my morning routine. Drinking lemon water in the morning is said to have many health benefits, including boosting your immune system and rejuvenating skin from the vitamin C, as well as aiding in digestion by supporting the acid in our stomachs to break down food. Lemon or no lemon, it helps you start your day with a glass of water, which helps with hydration, a key component of weight loss.
Secondly, I have been experimenting with substitutes for coffee creamers. Coffee is actually very healthy, but we many times outweigh the health benefits by loading it with extra sugar and calories. Not only is coffee known to help with energy levels and fat burning, studies have found it can lower the risk for several serious diseases such as Type II Diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkison’s, just to name a few. Instead of adding 1-2 creams to my daily coffee, I have tried switching it up with a little bit of almond milk, coconut oil, or one of my new favorites, cinnamon. Just like coffee in it’s purest form, cinnamon is low calorie and has many numerous health benefits.
Lastly, I have been focusing on portion control at dinner with one easy change…using a smaller dinner plate. Naturally a smaller plate leads to smaller portions, that is unless you start stacking up Thanksgiving dinner style. Once I have my small plate, I try filing it based on the recommended portions. The general guideline is to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables and the rest of your plate with one quarter of whole grains and the other quarter protein. Fats are good, and necessary, but to the extent possible, try to go for “healthy” fats (e.g. avocado, nuts, olive oil, salmon) and don’t forget to use portion control around these too. Just because they are healthy, they are still fat.
Making small changes is less about the destination and more about the journey. Enjoy making the changes that support a healthy lifestyle and forget checking the boxes of a short lived fad. Have fun experimenting. Get creative. And most importantly, enjoy a healthy life!
Check out the list below for some other ideas for easy, small changes you can make:
- Cook with coconut oil instead of butter.
- Use *Extra Virgin* olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a salad dressing.
- Add flavor and (micro)nutrients to your meals by using more spices and herbs.
- Stock up on frozen veggies for when you can’t cook fresh.
- Step up your potato game by introducing sweet potatoes into your regular mix.
- Freeze that fruit you normally throw out so it’s ready to toss into a smoothie.
- Use whole grain English Muffins as hamburger buns and don’t forget to toast them.
- Substitute ground beef with lean ground turkey.
- Transform cauliflower into pizza crust, rice or mashed “potatoes” to reduce your carb intake.
- Switch up your favorite pasta dish with spaghetti squash.
- Trade in the milk chocolate for dark chocolate.
- Drink more water throughout the day by making it taste better with things like ice, fruit, bubbles or low calorie flavor packets.