Healthier Eating: Where to Start
Eating healthier can seem completely overwhelming. Believe me, I totally understand that feeling. Let’s just say that six or seven years ago I could hardly cook soup...from a can. To say I have come a long way is an understatement, but it didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t go from burning soup to making homemade hummus the next day - it was a process full of baby steps.
With all of the information, recipes, and advice out there it can seem truly daunting to even get started. In fact, there is SO much information that it can sometimes feel paralyzing and prevent you from starting at all. Don’t let it stop you. You’re going to have kitchen failures and setbacks, but remember to treat each one as an opportunity to learn and improve.
Fear can be a terrible obstacle for us all, but don’t be afraid to jump in. We all begin this journey in different places. My starting point was learning how to cook a few meals. Maybe your starting point is upping the ante on the meals you already cook by making them healthier. Maybe you are looking to ditch dairy or gluten. Maybe you need to work on food prep so that you don’t opt for the “quick and easy” option of fast food when you get too hungry to think about cooking. The point is, we all start somewhere. Figure out where your starting point is and go from there.
Add More In
When we think about removing foods from our diet, it can get very frustrating, very quickly. We start thinking about and focusing on the things that we “can’t” have or the things that are “off limits.” These thoughts become toxic and we can start feeling deprived before we’ve even begun, making it easier to give into temptation and eat those foods anyway. Not a great way to start a new way of healthier eating, right?
Instead of removing foods from your diet, start by adding foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables are excellent choices, especially because they are often lacking in many people's’ diets. Can you add a fresh fruit or vegetable to your meals, even if you are already eating some? The USDA recommends 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day (a serving is a half cup), but aim for more than that if you can. Add some extra spinach or greens to your smoothies, hummus with veggies for your snack, or serve a salad with your dinner each night. These are easy ways to add nutrition to your diet without feeling like you are taking anything away.
Strive for at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day, and vary your options to keep your palate excited and intrigued.
Love Your Food
I once heard Talia Pollock of Party In Your Plants say “if you hate every bite of your salad it won’t make you healthier.” It is one thing to make healthier choices, but to embrace your healthy eating habits is another entirely. Eating all the vegetables in the world will not make you healthier (or happier!) if you hate every bite. So pick foods that you love and start there. Branch out and find new favorites from the farmer’s market or your local grocery store. And always, always show gratitude for your food. What you eat has the power to heal you or hurt you, so make healing choices and be grateful to yourself and to your food to get the most benefit from your new eating habits.
It’s also important to note that our tastes change every 7 years. If you hated carrots growing up, it’s time to give them another chance. Maybe you don’t like them cooked, but try them raw. Or dice them really tiny and add to soup, salad, or stir fry. (Rainbow carrots are amazing so grab some of those from your local farmer!) There are many ways to eat all fruits and vegetables. Don’t be afraid to experiment! You just might discover your new favorite vegetable is one that you used to loathe. Yes, I’m looking at you brussel sprout haters ;)
New habits take time. As much as we want “quick fixes” that happen overnight, that is not usually attainable. However, you can be a little bit better every day and those baby steps will add up to big benefits over time! Accept wherever you are starting and be sure to look back and see how far you’ve come! Keeping a food journal or a gratitude journal are great ways to be mindful about how you are making progress each day.
Typically, scientists say that forming a new habit takes 21 days (or three weeks.) Challenge yourself to a 3-week regimen you can stick to and enlist a friend to join you. Decide what your goal will be:
Eating more vegetables?
Cooking more of your meals?
Bringing homemade lunches to work?
Eating fewer packaged foods/snacks?
Working with a friend and holding each other accountable can be really powerful when you are starting out. Miss a day of your goal? It’s okay. Just hop back on board tomorrow and keep going. Don’t be too hard on yourself, no one is perfect!
Know What’s Best for YOU
We all take baby steps to get to our end goals. Know yourself and what will work for you when you consider your starting point. To achieve success, you need to feel good about your plan and be sure that it is realistic.
It’s also important to know that you are not alone. Reach out to friends to help you attain your goals. If you can’t find anyone to support you at home, you have someone right here who will - and I’m always happy to be your biggest cheerleader!
You’ve totally got this!