I feel very grateful that from an early age, my parents taught me the importance of clean eating. We focused on healthy and whole foods most of the time but on holidays and summer vacation we threw caution to the wind and lived it up. My younger brother would remind us at the end of our vacation, “Ah well – back to nutwishion”.
September is a perfect time of year to refocus on your diet and set some goals for the remainder of the year. Here are five tips to help you and your kiddos transition back to healthier eating habits.
Plan ahead. Healthy eating does not need to be complicated – we just need to be intentional about it. If we wait until we are hungry to decide what to eat…the odds of making the right choice are considerably lower. We are responsible for what we eat and don’t eat. Take some time once or twice/week to plan ahead. Make your grocery list, map out your meals for the week and commit to your plan. While this may be counterintuitive to some – this truly will simplify your life if you can commit to the process.
Prep is key. Everyone’s work schedules are different but most of us feel like we are pressed for time and that our days are busy. This makes it even more important for us to create ease by preparing for the busyness and having fuel ready and available ahead of time. A little bit of prep goes a long way. A focused two hours hour on the weekend is enough time to chop your veggie sticks, get some protein ready (boiled eggs, drained and rinsed beans or legumes, baked or roasted chicken, fish, turkey, tofu or tempeh), roast some nuts and seeds for snacks or for salads, mix a salad dressing, prep your breakfasts, make some energy balls, etc. The more prepared we are for our day and our week, the easier it is to stick to our plan. You don’t start a road trip with an empty tank of gas, so don’t start out your week with an empty fridge.
Focus on three meals/day. As life has gotten busier, the snack industry continues to capitalize its marketing efforts around our need for “quick”, and “ready-made” alternatives to meals. But there simply is no healthy replacement for a diet that consists of three macronutrient balanced meals/day. These are the meals that we plan for…the extras can be fun and can fill in the gaps in emergencies but they can also derail us from our healthy habits. Remember that time when you went grocery shopping hungry? Remember how different your grocery order looked from previous ones. It is almost comical what ends up in my shopping cart when I am hangry – fritos, pizza buns, licorice, an oversized tub of salted cashews, more fritos, all the crackers… you get my point. Those aisles in the middle section of the store, take up this space for a reason. Try to keep snacking in check and focus on your meals first.
Stay hydrated. There is a nifty little calculation that you can use to determine how much water to drink. The general rule of thumb is that you should consume ½ an ounce of water for each pound that you weigh. If you are drinking diuretics (coffee, alcohol, black teas) and exercising that calculation should be closer to 1 ounce for each pound. It is easy to get dehydrated if we don’t pay attention to our intake. Thirst can manifest as hunger, so pay attention to this. We want to be sure that we are re-fueling our body with the single most important ingredient that it needs to function efficiently – H2O.
Mix things up. Most of us are creatures of habit when it comes to our nutrition but variety is so important. It ensures that we get a good mix of all the nutrients that our food can provide us with – amino acids, minerals, vitamins, healthy fats, fiber, etc. Try new recipes, buy new ingredients, take your shopping cart and grocery list off of ‘auto-pilot’ mode, surprise yourself. Keep things fun. Variety is the spice of life.
When it comes to clean eating, make your focus about healthy habit stacking and one small change at a time. None of these tips will completely change your life but the combination of healthy habits over time, will define your future and contribute to your quality of life. “Healthy habits are learned in the same way as unhealthy ones, through practice.” Wayne Dyer