It's a New Year, a clean slate. It's an opportunity to break bad habits and develop good ones. A chance to redefine yourself, your goals and who you want to be for the next 365 days and beyond.
Eating and diets are always a huge topic this time of year. We constantly tell ourselves we are going to "eat better" and "exercise more." We make drastic decisions to become vegans, cut out all the carbs-everywhere-forever or only eat dessert on Tuesdays and Thursdays. While these plans have good intentions they are so unrealistic. Taking extreme measures only sets us up for failure, instead let's focus on a few simple dietary changes that will make eating healthier a more attainable reality.
No more soda
Have you read the ingredients on a soda can? I can't pronounce most of them let alone tell you what they are or where they came from. Yet we willingly guzzle these sugary beverages by the liter! Part of eating better means focusing on more natural ingredients. The fewer chemicals in our bodies the better, and sugary soda can easily be substituted with natural juices and sparkling water. In fact, you can easily subtract the sugars found in juice drinks by cutting your serving in half and filling the rest of the glass with water, sparkling or still. You'll be better hydrated and you'll consume fewer calories.
Say goodbye to fast food
I know. It's tough. Especially when you're crunched for time. If you rely heavily on fast food don't cut it out completely. Instead, begin by just cutting back. If your typical week consists of four days at the drive thru window aim for cutting that in half. The next month cut it in half again. Before you know it you'll find yourself managing a schedule that doesn't rely on the convince of fast food. Another excellent option is your local grocery store deli. Many of your delis have pre-made sandwiches, salads, rotisserie chickens and side dishes ready to eat. Take the extra 15 minutes to get out of the car and hit up your grocery store instead of the nearest fast food drive thru.
Use olive oil instead of butter
Unless you're baking there's really nothing you put butter on that you couldn't swap out for olive oil. Olive oil has so many health benefits, its nutrients have proven beneficial to your body's cardiovascular system, circulatory system, bones, joints, skin, hair and so much more. Not to mention the flavor of olive oil provides a rich and exotic canvas on which you can experiment with many herbs and seasonings. Oils compliment the flavors they work with more so than butter which just weighs dishes down. If you cook with a lot of butter make the change to olive oil and take a tasty step towards a healthier you.
Buy nutrient-rich foods
You've probably heard people say that "white foods" like plain white rice, white pasta and white potatoes don't have the same nutrients that whole grain products like brown rice, wheat pasta and squash do. It's true. The starch content in white foods is higher and therefore it overpowers the vitamins and minerals found in the earthier versions of these foods. The tastes and textures between the two are extremely similar so this is a very simple change to make with huge rewards. Nutrient-rich foods also make you feel full faster therefore you won't eat as much - BONUS!
Fruit is nature's candy. It's seriously so sweet and refreshing and delicious, and it often gets sidelined by chocolate, caramel and whipped cream. Why? Fruit has all the sweetness we crave in a dessert without the fat and calories of processed, heavy sweets. Phase out heavy desserts slowly by mixing fruit in with desserts, then swap a few desserts a week with just fruit. One of my favorite desserts is a bowl of grapes drizzled in olive oil with a pinch of sea salt. Sound strange? Try it! You'll be surprised what fruit can do when given the opportunity to shine.
The five steps above are very low-pressure and are a great start to a healthy New Year. The best thing to remember is even if you fall off the wagon, climb back on. If you set these goals on January 1 but you end up at a drive thru on January 2, that's okay, do better tomorrow. Remember to always stay conscious of your goals and eventually they will become a reality.
Another great goal to have is being more active, especially if you're a parent setting an example for your children. Being active doesn't have to mean hours at the gym, in fact, you'd be surprised how fun, simple games with your kids are burning tons of calories! Read more on our Five Toddler Games You Didn't Realize Were Exercise over at SheKnows.com.
Cheers to a healthy 2014 Yummies!