Staying on a healthy eating plan can be challenging. We all tend to indulge on hearty meals over the winter, it can wreak havoc on even the best and healthiest of intentions. In case you could use a little motivation and inspiration for April, I’ve got the seven easy steps you need to start on a healthier eating plan. The best part? You can start right now.
- Realize that a lifestyle shift will be most effective if it comes through simple and easy steps, with each small step leading to a permanent change. For example, rather than cutting out all sugar, start with eliminating all baked goods for a couple of weeks. Then add the elimination of ice cream and coffee sweeteners for two more weeks, and so on.
- At first, add in rather than take away. Add a side salad to your meal, some fresh berries to your breakfast plate, or some green tea to your daily beverage intake. Once you start to enjoy these you can phase out the less-healthy items to make room for more of the healthier stuff.
- Yes, protein really is that important. It makes you feel fuller longer. It increases your metabolic rate (how quickly you burn calories). It can help increase your muscle mass. And if you conscientiously work to add more protein items into your daily food intake, it leaves a lot less room for junk food. Great choices include poultry, fish and seafood, tofu, eggs, legumes, and quinoa.
- Keep calm and chill out. Periods of stress can break through our virtuous food intentions. And high levels of stress, which can increase cortisol levels, can lead to a more ample midsection. Work towards developing healthier methods for dealing with your stress, such as regular meditation, relaxation, or yoga.
- Don’t skimp on the Zzz’s. Does lack of sleep wear down your willpower? This isn’t all in your head. In fact, studies suggest that shortened sleep cycles are responsible for a higher rate of obesity in adults and children around the world.
- Call in the subs. Instead of taking away your three o’clock daily soda, replace it with an alternative you enjoy. Have a serious candy addiction? Try sucking on frozen grapes or sugar-free mints (there are all flavors and varieties out there). And give it some time. You’re not going to LOVE your healthy substitutions right away, but you’ll get there. Check out a list of junk food swaps here (https://spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/healthy-alternatives-for-favorite-junk-foods), and get creative with your own ideas.
- Give veg a chance. Veggies CAN be the shining star of your meal, and can indeed leave you feeling satisfied and full. Swapping out beef for seasoned and spiced black beans in your tacos, or using roasted veggies, chickpeas, and pumpkin seeds to top a salad will leave you and your family feeling happy and healthy. Check out some inspiration here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/deenashanker/meatless-30-minute-meals?utm_term=.vpVKmBMNn#.mlyOmrLX8
Lisa Bergart owner of Dynamix Fitness says that “change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.” Changes to your eating plan may not come easily, but they will come if you work at it. Give yourself some grace as you strive to be a healthier and stronger you. And don’t forget to periodically take a look back at how far you’ve come and give yourself a deserved pat on the back.