It's a new year and a new decade. With that, I believe it is time for change. We all have habits that hinder us from being our best selves whether it is watching too much television, drinking, smoking, or lack of exercise, but many of these bad habits involve our diet. Many of us who aren't so lucky to have those skinny genes (pun intended) really have to watch what we eat. From time to time, depending upon what is going on in our lives, we lose track of those calories. Sometimes it is because we are having so much fun in life that we stop counting those dinners out, glasses of wine, and coffee shop mornings. Other times we find ourselves working hard at our jobs or raising a family allowing stress to take over our lives, leaving us feeling as if there is no time for a healthy, home-cooked meal or an hour of exercise.
With a new outlook in mind, we must realize that there is always time for ourselves. We just have to make the time. Maybe we have to wake up earlier and get to bed earlier. Maybe we need to plan out healthy meals at the start of the week, so we are prepared with the right ingredients all week long making for quicker, smarter meal preparations. Whatever it is we need to do to change to make our lives and bodies healthier is worth it. The healthier we are, the more we have to give to our families and friends. Making changes don't always have to be huge, they can be simple, small changes that make a huge difference over time.
Give up soda, fast food and candy. These very bad things should be eaten rarely or never. Never put yourself in a situation where you feel like the only option is to hit the drive-thru. For a full day of errands, arm yourself and family with healthy snacks to turn to like apple slices, bananas, nuts or carrots and peanut butter. Never leave your home without a full reusable water bottle. Quenching your thirst with water will keep you much more energized than gulping down a Coke or other sugar-filled drink.
Cut back on the carbs. I'm not an advocate of cutting out things completely. It is just not realistic. Try cutting back to eating carbohydrates for only one meal a day. I find that planning your meals for the week on a Saturday or Sunday can help tremendously with keeping your carbs and overall calorie intake in check. If you eat oatmeal for breakfast, then try a salad for lunch and turkey meatloaf with vegetables for dinner. If you know you will be eating a pasta dinner, then make sure your breakfast and lunch are free of carbs with eggs or egg whites and veggies in the morning and a bean or vegetable soup for lunch.
Make the switch to fat free dairy. If you are a dairy lover like myself, then you probably keep items like milk, half and half, sour cream, yogurt and cheese in your fridge regularly. Fat free or skim milk, fat free half and half, fat free sour cream and yogurt are all easy switches. Obsessed sugar gram counters will argue that fat free dairy has unnatural ingredients and more sugar, and therefore the fat free dairy is not as healthy as the natural, high fat dairy. While I wish I could have my cake and eat it too, the fat free dairy is a better compromise for an overall healthier diet especially if you are a heavy dairy consumer. Go fat free.
No more fancy "coffee" drinks. I say "coffee" because I don't think those cream, sugar, and syrup saturated coffee shop creations counts as coffee. After all those extras, let's be honest, it is dessert. Never let your coffee shop barista or server add cream and sugar for you because they tend to have a heavy hand. We are perfectly capable of adding milk and sugar to our liking. I guarantee whatever we add will likely be less than what they would add. If you have to add a bunch of sugar and fat to make coffee taste good, then you probably just don't like the taste of coffee. If you do like the taste, then try going back to the classic regular coffee. A cup of regular Joe will give you the jolt you want without weighing you down.
Boo white food! Go brown! Get in your grains by eating whole wheat breads, pastas, rice, and cereals instead of the white stuff. Whole grains offer you more fiber and vitamins and less sugar ultimately filling you up more. Making the switch to whole grain pasta is an easy one. You and your family will hardly notice the change, but your body will.
Plan for your snack attacks. If you are anything like me, then you might experience a snack attack sometime in the late afternoon. This is inevitable for me, so I always make sure to have healthy snacks to turn to like hummus and veggies, edamame, or toasted chickpeas. It is better to give in to the snack, and eat something healthy than to try to ignore it, which can cause you to binge on something unhealthy like chips and sweets. Plan ahead!
Lighten up on the meat. Try eating vegetarian or fish a few nights a week. Cutting out red meat or any kind of meat a few times a week is not only good for your body, but also good for the environment. If you are a big meat-eater, then try switching to chicken and turkey instead of red meat. Anything that you eat with ground beef, can taste just as delicious and satisfying with ground turkey. Just remember to season the turkey well and keep it moist when cooking. Incorporating fish in your diet is one of the best things you can do for your body. Even if it is just one night a week, try a simple, flaky white fish, scallops or salmon. Experiment with some new recipes, and you might realize you are more of a fish and seafood eater than you thought.
Incorporate exercise. Exercise doesn't have to be running a marathon although that's good too. Exercise can be as simple as moving. Just move more. Walk the neighborhood with your family. Walk to work or walk to the store. Just start by moving more within your day. If you are up for it, then challenge yourself to a race. Sign up for an upcoming 5K or 10K in your area. Exercise makes you stronger and gives you a healthier body image and confidence.
Quick Tips. Cut back on the condiments. Use cooking spray instead of butter or oil. If you must use a fat to cook with, then choose extra virgin olive oil. It still has fat and calories but is a much healthier option. Buy lots of fruits and vegetables. If all you have to eat are fruits and vegetables, then you just might eat them. If you shouldn't eat it, don't buy it. Don't keep things in your kitchen that tempt you like ice cream or chips. If you must have these things, then find a healthier alternative like fat free frozen yogurt or Pop chips, popped chips instead of fried or baked. If you eat badly one day, then start out fresh by eating healthy the next day. Don't beat yourself up; just get back on track.
I hope these tips help you start off on the right foot this year. Before my wedding, I was dedicated to eating healthy and using these tips. Since then, I have certainly been slacking and bending the rules more often than not. But with the start of a new decade and the start of my 30th year, I am ready to get back on track. Hope you can join me in kicking off this new decade by kicking out those old habits.