Happy New Year! I hope this new year and the start of a new decade will bring you joy, laughter, lightness and of course – health.
As usual the New Year is time to set resolutions and goals, and while some take this time seriously others think this is a pointless exercise. In my personal opinion the end of the year provides an excellent opportunity to sit still, contemplate and go over the experiences you’ve made in the past 365 days. We can do this with positivity, where we acknowledge our achievements, extracts the lessons the challenges and failures have provided us with and set the foundation on what we want to focus on more in the next year.
Eating healthy or starting to exercise are always in the top of the New Year’s Resolution list. However, just as many set these resolutions, many also fail to reach their goals. Why is that? It is because saying that you’ll start eating healthy or exercising is not enough. It is not concrete. It sounds more like wishful thinking. On the other hand, going into a completely different diet from the one you were on just a few days ago, might prove difficult to sustain in the long run, and so chances are much higher you will give up much sooner because you do not enjoy the process.
Start with answering your “Why”?
Why do you want to eat healthy or exercise more often? Remind yourself of your why on a daily basis, as this is going to fuel your motivation. Most of us simply want to feel better, enjoy better health, have more energy, feel lighter and stronger in their body. These are all fantastic reasons why you would want to improve your diet and lifestyle.
The power of daily rituals
This is what I believe can make the biggest difference when we want to achieve our goals. It is the small things we do every day. Starting a new weight-loss diet might seem overwhelming and thus can stop our progress. But if we implement easy daily rituals or routines, we can create more structure to our day and set the foundation to a healthy lifestyle that is effortless and enjoyable.
Do these little daily swaps to achieve long-lasting results
Start the day right
How we start our day sets the tone for the entire day, so this is probably the most important part in adopting and creating daily rituals that will stick and make a difference.
Set aside 5 minutes each morning to just breathe, open the windows and focus on what you’re doing right now. Try not to go on your phone immediately as this will scatter your attention and will increase your stress levels. Consider this time just for yourself.
Drink a glass or two of spring water to gently wake up the body. If you have breakfast in the morning, this is where it is important to make some important swaps. Choosing foods that will keep you satiated and give you steady energy that is released slowly will keep your energy and mood stable and will not start the cycle of hunger. If we instead choose foods in the morning that spike our blood sugar, we will find ourselves hungry soon again and probably reaching for sugary treats.
You can also try intermittent fasting as it can provide many benefits. It is not for everyone however, and so if you need your breakfast in the morning, opt for foods that have a lower glycemic index, such as oats, buckwheat groats, eggs, vegetables, apples and berries or plain yogurt (whatever kind you consume).
Add greens to your meals
This is a simple way to increase the nutritional profile of your meal and to get more nutrients. Add some spinach to your stews, some arugula or sprouts to your sandwich or wrap; start your meal with a green salad. A trick I do to make sure I add more greens to my meals is that I wash and store them in an airtight container in my fridge as soon as I buy them. This way whenever I prepare my meal I simply reach in the container and add a handful or two – so convenient.
Swap the “bad” fats for healthy ones
Trans fats and saturated fats can sneak into our food and many times we might not even be aware they are there. Trans fats are particularly harmful as they create free oxidants in our body and thus harm our cells and create inflammation. Consuming these over a long period of time can lead to some very unpleasant symptoms, weight gain and disease. Avoid any pre-packaged food as these contain trans fats – cookies, crackers, chips, ice cream, pastries, pudding etc. These are not only source of unhealthy fats, but they are high in calories and very low in nutrition.
Additionally, knowing which fats and oils to use when cooking can make a huge difference as well. Using stable oils when cooking in high heat is really important for health, because whenever oils become rancid or oxidized, they have incredibly negative effects on the body. I will focus on cooking with oils in a separate post, as this topic is a little longer.
For now, focus on including whole fat sources in your diet, such as nuts, seeds, the occasional avocado, coconut milk or tahini.
Take control of your meals
Outsourcing your meals (by going to restaurants, buying your lunch from a counter or cantine or buying ready meals from the supermarket) puts you out of control of what you put in your body. Restaurants often use food enhancers, excessive fat, salt and sugar to make meals taste better, and while it might be convenient, it does not play well on our health and wellbeing. This is why I consider going to restaurants should be something we enjoy mindfully and not on a daily basis.
Meal prepping is a great way to make sure you prepare healthy meals that are nutritious and balanced. Taking some time on a Sunday to prepare your meals for the next few days can pay off a lot. Soak and cook some whole grains, marinate some tempeh, roast some veggies and prepare a few healthy dips. These can be a great start to compose healthy meals in under 5 minutes that you can take to work. If you need help with meal prepping or want to learn how to compose a healthy plate then the online course, I have created might be really helpful for you.
The course comes with lots of information on food, nutrition, and the principles on creating a healthy plate. It also comes with a 4-week meal plan combining principles of meal prepping, over 40 recipes and grocery shopping lists. You don’t have to stick to the meal plans but they can give you some great start and inspiration.
We oftentimes mistake hunger for thirst and can end up eating when what we actually need is some liquids. Drinking room temperature spring water throughout the day will keep you fresh and energized, it will help flush out toxins and keep your metabolism functioning well.
Making healthy eating choices starts with small steps. You don’t necessarily need to go on a restrictive diet to feel that you are doing something for your health, it is far more likely you will succeed in the long term if you start small and make incremental changes with each meal you eat.