With the season of family and friend get-togethers, delicious food and great wine behind us, many of us welcome January bloated, fatigued, moody and a few pounds heavier. Naturally, we promise ourselves to improve our lifestyle: to go to bed earlier, to take short breaks from social media, to exercise more and to eat healthier. And we seriously mean it!
Well, if you’ve already tried and failed to get your eating habits in check, then you know how frustrating “dieting” can be. Undereating and failing to properly balance your meals can make it impossible to get back on track.
Here are five essential steps to begin your transition towards healthy eating and feeling energized!
1. Plan your meals a week ahead. The truth is that packing lunches or preparing a homemade dinner is time-consuming. Still, it is feasible when you create a meal plan and prep your meals ahead. Once you select your recipes, write down a shopping list of ingredients needed for next week's meals. When shopping, stick to your list and stay clear from the aisles with pre-packaged processed foods to resist the temptation. Once your shopping is done, pick a day to reserve a couple of hours for meal prepping. Cook at least two different meals, each providing two or more servings per person and pack them in single serving containers for grab-and-go lunches. You can also pre-cut some vegetables and store them in the fridge. These can be used for quick stir-fries, salads, smoothies or as healthy snacks throughout the week. Do not forget to include small but important details in your meal plan, such as when to pull the meat out from the freezer so it is thawed when you need it, or turning the slow cooker on in the morning so your dinner is ready by the time you come home from work. It's all about detailed planning!
2. Create a daily routine of alternating between a 10-hour eating window and a 14-hour resting time. This time-restricted eating, which is a form of intermittent fasting, has many science-backed benefits such as regulating blood sugar, promoting weight control, improving heart health and reducing inflammation (just to name a few). How does it work in practice? If you start your day with breakfast at 9am, you should be finishing your supper by 7pm to begin the 14-hour "fasting" window which is used by the body to rest and restore. You can also start with an earlier breakfast, but then you need to finish your dinner earlier as well to keep your 10-hour eating period.
3. Make sure your plate always contains some vegetables. Experts recommend eating six to ten servings of fresh vegetables and fruits daily for good reason. The high vitamin-, mineral-, fiber- and phytonutrient-content of fresh produce helps us to increase our energy, boosts immunity, improves our gut health, promotes bowel regularity, manages our weight, and supports the body's detoxification pathways. The vibrant white, yellow, orange, green, purple or red colours of veggies and fruits, called pigment, represent various groups of phytonutrients that support a wide range of biochemical functions in the body. So remember: the more colours on your plate, the healthier your meal is.
4. Incorporate fermented foods into your meal plans. Eating these powerful plant- or dairy-based foods on a regular basis will fortify your intestinal bacterial population and strengthen your gut health. Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi, and the fermented dairy-based kefir and yogurt are chockfull of beneficial microbes that support our digestion, immunity, brain health and many other body functions. These foods are available at health food stores as well as at the refrigerated food section of the grocery stores.
5. Introduce your diet and lifestyle changes gradually. Making small adjustments continuously is much more effective than starting with a brand new strict eating plan, which often leads to failure. Each week, introduce a small change, whether it is drinking 6 to 8 cups of water daily, eating 2 servings of green leafy veggies a day, or skipping your snacks and eating your main meals only. Taking baby steps by following your weekly targets will gradually lead you to healthier eating habits that do not feel forced and overwhelming, but rather become natural and invigorating. You will learn to eat well without dieting!
If you are ready to start the New Year with healthy changes but need some guidance with meal planning and support for accountability, then my 21-Day Fresh Start Program for the Busy Woman is ready for you!
Check out the details here.
Wishing you a healthy, vibrant and successful 2020!