Guest Post: Five Simple Steps to Eating Healthier!

Today’s post comes from my friend Kara. In five short months, she has made huge steps toward eating and living healthier. I am inspired by her desire for growth in both her professional and personal life; I am blessed to call her a friend. Please enjoy her thoughts, as a busy working mother, on simple steps to eating healthier.

Healthy Eating Habits Start Young

I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist. (But not when it comes to cleaning my house. If you saw my house, you’d laugh at my opening statement.) After the birth of our second (and last) child, I really wanted to get healthy and fit. Badly.

But I felt like I had to be ready first – ready to fully change how I ate, exercised and lived in general. I’m not sure what I was waiting for. Enough time? Money? Sleep? 

I kept waiting.

My son was 16 months old before I finally decided: no more waiting. Today’s the day. I started researching information online and began by making small changes. Some things I changed willingly; others begrudgingly. One thing is for sure: I was a total beginner! I felt like my changes were too small and weren’t going to make enough of a difference (there’s that perfectionism creeping in again). 
 
Today, 5 months later, I realize those small changes in my eating (as well as regular exercise) have made a difference! 
 I feel stronger and more energetic. My scale says I’ve lost some pounds, my kids say I’m more fun on the playground, my friends compliment me on how I look in my jeans, and my husband tells me I’m happier overall. Have I done things perfectly? Not even close. Just last weekend our family went to the lake and I consumed hot dogs, S’mores, Cheesies and wine. Ugh. After that day I wanted the chance at a re-do. 
 
The great news is, every day is a chance at a re-do! 
 
In the past, that day at the lake would have derailed me. I would have eaten badly for days or weeks, convincing myself that I wasn’t ‘ready’ yet to make changes and that nothing would ever work. But these days, I wake up after a particularly bad day of eating (feeling slightly de-hydrated and discouraged) and I resolve to wipe the slate clean. Then I try to re-implement the small changes.
If you’re a regular on this blog, you know that Caran is an expert at making healthy meals and snacks. She’s always substituting something healthy for something not-so-healthy (squash in tomato sauce! zuccini in muffins! avocado in salad dressing!). I often read her blog with respect and awe, but then that perfectionism creeps in again.
I’ll never be an expert.
I don’t even know where to buy almond flour! Let alone how to use it. But I finally figured out that I didn’t need to start with complicated changes. I started really simply. Like, substituting breakfast cereal for eggs. See? Simple! And then I continued from there.
Recently, someone asked me: “What are the top 5 things you’ve learned on this beginner’s journey to healthy eating?” That got me thinking, and here are  my answers, along with a few pointers for you perfectionists who are having a hard time getting on the proverbial horse.
1. Eat lean protein at every meal.
Small changes:
-switch breakfast cereal to ham/veggie scrambled eggs.
-any time you’re about to use ground beef, use ground turkey instead.
-add more fish in the form of canned tuna/salmon or frozen fillets.
2. Eat 5+ servings of veggies per day.
Small changes:
-not 5 servings of fruit and veggies! 5 servings of veggies. It seems hard at first but it’s totally doable. To succeed, start by including veggies in breakfast. It gets a jump start on your servings for the day.
-find your favourite healthy dip (fresh salsa, hummus, natural peanut butter) and dip carrot or celery sticks in it. Easy.
-throw kale into a frozen fruit shake – yum!
3. Eat complex carbs instead of simple ones.
Small changes:
-a sweet potato is better than a regular potato (this was news to me).
-instead of spaghetti noodles, eat spaghetti squash with pasta sauce.
-use your can opener! Add a can of beans or lentils to your meal whenever possible.
4. Eat whole foods for snacks.
Small changes:
-Ditch flavoured yogurts and switch to plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit. It takes some getting used to but it’s doable.
-Instead of eating toast with peanut butter and jam, eat apples or bananas with peanut butter.
-Instead of chips or crackers, grab a handful of almonds.
5. Drink mostly water – and lots of it.
Small changes:
-track water consumption. My husband put an app on my phone that helps me remember to drink more. Usually, when I feel snacky in the middle of the afternoon, I can see from my app that I haven’t been drinking enough water that day.
-drink coffee black. Wow. This was a killer. It took time to adjust from my previous ‘almost-dessert’ coffee with milk and sugar to a steaming cup of black. Over time I’ve gotten used to it and I feel so good knowing I’ve removed all of that refined white sugar from my diet. Try this one in incremental steps… it helps.
-knock out almost all other drinks. This was hard too. I used to be addicted to Coke Zero. I had to quit that one cold turkey. I also liked juice, mocha frapp’s and a hot French Vanilla on a cold day. Now that I’ve switched to mostly water, I’ve not only saved a lot of money, I realize that I really didn’t need those drinks. I do find that a treat here and there is better than total deprivation. Who doesn’t love a glass of wine at book club? Moderation is our friend.
So, the main takeaway is this: just get started! Take small and easy steps. If I can do it, you can do it. Who knows? Before long I may be adding chia seeds to my dishes, and making quinoa salad without a recipe! But until then, I’m not going to worry about the end result. And you don’t need to either; just start by taking one small step toward healthy eating and living. And once you get started, you’ll like where you’re going!
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