The holidays are over and the new year is here -- a special and exciting time where we make ambitious plans for our next twelve months and dream of the possibilities. The most popular resolution is improving health, and we usually are quite ready after the holidays. As tasty as the holiday tidings are, they leave us feeling a little less on track with our goals than we'd like.
Those new healthy resolutions don't have to be complicated, and they don't have to end before February even arrives. The key to looking and feeling your best is to keep it uncomplicated and simply focus on clean eating. In case you've heard the term "clean eating" but haven't quite understood what it means -- clean eating is all about consuming healthy, whole foods and cutting out the processed junk. Whether you’re ready to jumpstart your clean eating now or you’re wondering what it takes to get started, I’ve got super-simple steps for a no-fail progression into clean eating.
1. Focus on your inner motivation
Whether you’re determined to race in the Boston Marathon next year, or you have seen first-hand the damages done by not eating well through relatives or friends that have suffered as a result of their eating habits. Whatever it is that is motivating you to eat clean, bring it into your direct focus so you will be more successful in sticking to your clean eating plan.
2. Reevaluate what you’re currently eating
Before you begin your clean eating journey, it helps to journal about what you’re eating before beginning. This way, you can truly see what it is you are eating and look for patterns. After the stressful end of the week push at the office, you might notice you are more prone to ordering pizza, and you can take steps to head that off at the pass rather than fall into the same pitfall time and time again.
3. Set realistic, measurable and specific goals
When people make changes to things in their lives such as a change to their eating habits, they can set themselves up for significant failures if they don’t take it step by step. This means that if you want to be successful in the long-term, you should tackle one or two new things every 1-2 weeks, so you have a better chance of sticking to it. Don’t just say you’ll stop eating desserts forever. Instead, set a goal of only eating one small dessert per week, and go from there to decrease it further. It’s realistic, measurable and very specific.
4. Clean out your pantry
Sadly, most American pantries are filled with processed foods. A good rule of thumb is to cut out anything that contains more than five ingredients on the label, and anything unnatural should go. If you have a lot of unopened items, donate them to a shelter.
5. Refocus your grocery shopping strategy
We’re creatures of habit, every one of us. When we go to the supermarket, we usually follow the same path every time. Shake things up and head straight for the produce section. You really should be avoiding almost all of the middle aisles of your supermarket anyway because that’s where those processed food pitfalls lurk!
6. Master meal prep
One of the easiest ways to dive right into clean eating is to prep your meals. You’ll find tons of healthy meal prep plans online that even give you shopping lists to use. If time is a factor, look for crockpot recipes that require you to dump in the whole foods in the morning and come home to a hot, delicious, clean and healthy meal every night!
As you can tell, it only takes small changes over time to create a sustainable, healthy lifestyle. I’m here to cheer you on every step of the way, hit reply and let me know how you are feeling, and what you’d like to accomplish as your first step. I’d love to hear your plans.
Breaking habits can be even harder than starting new habits -- wouldn't you agree? Especially when those habits are related to your health. If you tend to gravitate toward unhealthy junk foods, it can be a considerable struggle to change your eating habits to incorporate healthier items.
There are a few reasons why this is so difficult to do, and even better, there are several tricks you can implement to get over that hump.
Today we're speaking specifically to breaking the junk food habit and beginning to eat more whole foods...
Go gradually with your cutbacks
Junk food is loaded with sugar, and your body gets hooked on it. Start by cutting down on these junk foods that are currently in your diet. You’ll get less of a high from them, and you’ll be more likely to stick to your healthy eating goals. Start by taking the sugar out of your coffee, or by switching out your snacks each day with a healthy snack. Whatever small step you choose, stick with it until you're comfortable with your new healthy habit -- then move on to your next healthy habit. It works like a charm!
Don't buy foods with more than five ingredients
In the supermarket, you should mainly roam the fresh aisles where the produce and unprocessed foods are. However, there are still staples you’ll need from the inner aisles. Read those labels when you find items in those inner aisles, and try to find the healthiest option possible of what you're shopping for -- the fewer ingredients and the more you can pronounce those ingredients, the better.
Add more colors and textures to your plate
A salad is impossible to eat if you just throw soggy lettuce in a bowl. Instead, make it a rainbow of colors and a playground of textures. Add tomatoes, colorful peppers, crunchy nuts, and even a bit of plant-based or goat cheese to please your palate.
Break your bad habit cycles
If you always ventured to the vending machine at work in the mid-afternoon, break the association with that by starting a healthier habit. Take a walk that keeps you away from that vending machine, for example. It will only take a few weeks to replace that old bad habit with a good one, and you'll be feeling so good about your swapped habit that you'll be ready to tackle your next habit swap.
Make healthy foods more accessible
You’re more likely to eat right when you’ve got a healthy snack ready to go. Bag up portions of mixed nuts, make your own trail mix, and keep cut up veggies with hummus around and you’ll always have a healthy go-to snack.
Don’t keep junk in the house
To make the switch complete, keeping those junky items out of your house is best. That way if you get a craving at midnight, you won’t be willing to run out and get it. You’ll train yourself to save sweets and treats for special occasions instead of for late night snacks.
Allow yourself to be disgusted
A great way to make the change to eating less processed foods is to really learn what’s in them. Go ahead, pull those packaged foods out and research the labels. Look up all the ingredients you can’t pronounce. They sound much less delicious now, don’t they?
Be patient and kind with yourself, too. Your inner voice needs your nurturing to make this change for the better.
I'm certainly no stranger to the occasional urge to rip open a chocolate bar, go through the drive-thru window, or dive into a bag of my favorite chips -- and I'll bet you aren't a stranger to this either. The occasional indulgence isn't anything to be alarmed about, but if you find yourself licking the remnants of these indulgences off your fingers on a more regular basis, you’ll need to practice some control to get in charge of those cravings. The goal here is to be in charge of your cravings, not have them be in charge of you.
Here’s how to handle these cravings and get back in the saddle for your healthy routine.
Get to the root of your cravings
Take note of when you’re going for these foods. Is it boredom? Did you have a horrible day at work? Is it that time of the month? All of these things can be a trigger for your cravings. Try to be mindful of them once you identify them. Next time the craving comes around, stop and evaluate your surroundings, noticing what may be triggering this craving. Restrain yourself 80% of the time and enjoy the things you crave 20% of the time. Eating healthy the majority of the time will lower your cravings drastically, anyway.
Try to eat regularly
It may sound counterintuitive, but if you eat regularly, meaning don't skip meals, you’ll keep your blood sugar levels on an even keel. Pack a healthy snack to enjoy when you find it difficult to make it to lunch or dinner in time. By doing so, you’ll feel satisfied and will be less likely to head to the office vending machine or a quick stop at the drive-thru.
Slow down when eating
Mindful eating is the best way to keep from overeating, whether you’re eating a nutritious meal or splurging. Your brain doesn’t get the message that your stomach is full for about 20 minutes. Therefore, slowly chew your food. Savor the flavors. You will notice that the desire to eat your entire portion is diminished, and so will your appetite for dessert.
Do something else
Cravings never last forever. Eventually, you’ll forget about your craving if you distract yourself. Go for a walk, read a book, message your friends, put up the laundry or involve yourself with anything else that you can think of. Before you know it, you’ll have forgotten about that nagging craving.
If you really can’t help munching while you are watching a movie, swap out unhealthy options for healthier ones. Choose crispy carrot and celery sticks with hummus or a small serving of mixed nuts. Want something cool, sweet and refreshing? Freeze melon balls to get an ice cream-like experience without the guilt.
Keep your food cravings out of the house
You know the saying “out of sight, out of mind,” right? It’s so true when it comes to food cravings. As much as possible, keep these things out of your home. If you get late-night cravings, you won’t have those things around to binge on, and you’ll be less likely to go out of your way to get them.
Cravings will come and go, but when you're armed with solutions to combat them, you're putting yourself in the position to control the cravings, rather than being controlled by them.
So, let's get honest here. My biggest craving I get is chocolate covered anything. I notice it happens when when I'm hungry, tired and late at night.
What craving nags you the most?
And if sugar is a craving that you want to combat, Join the challenge today!