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We all make at least one of our New Year’s Resolutions about being healthier, right? Well, at least for those of us who actually make resolutions. And, if it’s not about being healthier, it’s about losing weight, getting fit, or being happier in some way!
And, let’s face it; accomplishing any of those resolutions will only come from eating well, staying active, and feeling successful. So, let me at least help you out with one of those: eating well!
**Disclaimer: I am not a registered dietitian or a professional nutritionist. I simply believe in eating well for people of all ages, and I believe that a whole foods plant based diet is eating well, whereas processed foods are not.
Cause’ you know what they say; 70-80% of your health or fitness comes from what you eat, only 20-30% comes from exercise. Plus, I’m a bit of a health nut, so I know a thing or two about eating well!
That’s not the only reason I want to show you how to eat better; eating better, and the right foods, can help you on so many levels. Eating well can:
- help you find your natural body shape
- fight fatigue and help you feel less groggy
- give you more energy
- prevent headaches
- prevent chronic disorders (and even help cure some)
- reduce the number of cravings you get (after eating well for a period of time)
- fight depression
- help with much more!!
So, now you’re thinking; how do I eat well to get some of the benefits above!?! And, that’s exactly what you’ll learn in the steps below.
I so, soooo, hope that you can fly by the first step or two (or three) because you’re already doing these on a regular basis. If not, that’s alright, it’s not too late to start! And, if you love pinterest and are on it everyday like I am; you may want to pin this post and come back to it once in awhile simply to refer to. (Especially if you find yourself losing momentum through out the year to keep your healthy eating resolution going strong.)
Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for fresh ideas everyday; to help you with your healthy lifestyle journey (and mom life)!
Step One: Get Inspired
One of the best things you can do to start eating healthy, or eating slightly better than you’re used to, is to inspire yourself to eat better. (This first step is important, the New Year feeling won’t last forever; you may have to come back to this step every once in awhile.)
Now, depending on your goal, or resolution, you may get inspired to eat better from something different than I do. If you want to eat better so you can lose weight, then that may be inspiration enough. Same with being healthy.
But, if you’re unsure of your why behind your resolution of eating better; then this step is vital to sticking with your resolution. Maybe you know you should be eating better but you don’t really want to; you don’t have a strong enough why, yet. I’m going to share with you a little trick to help you get inspired!! One that even worked with my husband.
Watch a health documentary!!
I’m serious, go ahead and watch one (or two, or ten). Netflix has them, Amazon has them: they’re not that hard to find. And it’s way better than doing all of the research yourself!! (You get to sit on your couch, eating whatever you want and watch Netflix- that is, until they tell you about what actually goes into that ice cream you’re enjoying…)
And, you don’t even really need to do too much research yourself to find the most inspiring documentaries to watch! If you have Netflix, you could start with What the Health! And then look at similar films, to find out which documentaries you should watch to be inspired and motivated to eat better!
Step Two: Drink Water
This is the second most important step, and one you can start right now. I soo hope that you are already drinking water, and hopefully enough water, too!
I know, you’ve been told 8 eight ounce glasses a day. Have you been drinking that much? Because that is a great start! Different sources will tell you different amounts. But, whatever the recommended amount, know that it’s for all of your fluid intake during the day; including the fluid from your food, like from fruits and veggies, too! So, if you’re eating plenty of fruits and veggies and drinking 8 eight oz glasses of water a day; you’re golden! Keep it up!
How much water you require will also depend on if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, men need more water than women, and children need less (except for teenagers, who need just as much as adults). In general, if you’re pregnant you need more water than if you’re not, but not too much more (thank goodness, we’re running to the bathroom enough during pregnancy). I hope this makes sense to you; you’re providing water to two human beings, you have a ton of extra blood in your body and your body is working harder than usual.
And then, when you’re breastfeeding, you need even more water. When I was breastfeeding my first daughter I was actually taking a nutrition course in college. The professor had us buy expensive nutrition software (that expired after 6 months *sad face*), and according to that I had to drink at least a gallon of water a day! Other sources will tell you differently. But, if you can aim for about a gallon a day when breastfeeding, it’s only going to benefit you and your baby…or toddler. (Something else I remember clearly about water from that course was that we should be sipping water all day long, not just drinking a few glasses with each meal.)
A few benefits of drinking enough water:
- increased energy
- helps prevent constipation
- helps you lose weight, or stay full longer
- keeps your skin stay healthy and looking hydrated (young)
- helps reduce headaches (and helps get rid of headaches)
- helps keep your kidneys functioning normally
- and more!!
To be honest, I didn’t get serious about drinking enough water until I was in college; I didn’t know any better. But, when I did know better, I was that person carrying around a huge water bottle everywhere I went. And, I still do. My water bottle now holds 52 ounces of water!! I try to fill it up 2-3 times a day (I’m still breastfeeding my 2 year old). I highly recommend investing in a good water bottle to keep by your side at all times!
Step Three: Eat More Fruits and Veggies
I hope this step is obvious.
I know you know this one; so, why aren’t you doing it? Fruits and veggies add extra liquid, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and even protein to your diet. This is where you could get most of your variety of what you eat from, not different flavors of ice cream or juice.
Have you ever heard that you should be eating all of the colors of the rainbow? (I’m not talking about skittles here!)
Different colored fruits and veggies have different vitamins and minerals. You probably already know that many warm colored fruit, like oranges and strawberries, are famous for vitamin C. And that warm colored veggies, like carrots and sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene (a precursor for vitamin A). But, there are a ton of other vitamins and minerals than just those, just think of all the B vitamins and all of the minerals I didn’t mention. (Like potassium; bananas probably come to mind when you think of this mineral.)
Some ideas to get more fruits and veggies into your diet:
- Eat them fresh for breakfast or snacks (like a fruit salad)
- SMOOTHIES!! (green smoothies are actually quite delicious)
- hide the fruits and veggies in baked goods, like muffins and breads (even cookies!)
- focus your meals around veggies (instead of protein or grain sources)
You could even use these 12 Ways to Get Veggies into a Childs Diet for yourself to get in extra veggies!!
To be completely honest, the way I was able to get in enough fruits and veggies daily was by making it a challenge for myself!! I wrote down on my habit tracker to eat 6-10 fruits or veggies a day for the first month. And, after that I wrote down to eat 8-10. I follow through almost everyday!
Step Four: Switch up Your Protein
Now, I don’t want to sound pushy or anything in this step (vegans get a bad rap for this), so I’m just going to recommend some healthy proteins below that anyone could enjoy (vegan or not). And since eating meat and dairy doesn’t have too many benefits, these would not really be considered healthy. They raise your cholesterol, are high in saturated fat, contributes to diabetes, heart conditions, and more. Plus, if you’re trying to lose weight; consuming meat and dairy will prove counter productive (yes, even skim milk).
So, what are you supposed to eat if you want to reduce the unhealthy protein (animal protein) from your diet?
- Beans (any kind you can think of- make some soup and burritos!)
- Quinoa (this stuff is delicious! You can even make desserts with them, like Quinoa Blondies!)
- Tofu (add silken to smoothies or extra firm and cubed- cook and serve with brown rice, sweet potatoes, and broccoli!)
- Veggies (yes, veggies have protein!)
- Nuts and Seeds (my daughters favorite is peanut butter)
- Lentils (I’ve been loving split pea sweet potato soup lately!)
- Non-dairy milk (I drink unsweetened soy milk)
- and more!!
It’s really not that difficult to add different, healthier, proteins into your diet. This will help you reduce the other protein in your diet that may not be as good for you. (If you want more details for why animal protein isn’t the best kind of protein for you, please watch some health documentaries- they will change the way you think!!)
Step Five: Know What You’re Eating
In this step you will find out what you are actually putting into your body!
Do you know what you’re eating? Have you ever looked at the nutrition label on the back of the package? I sure hope so, and not just for the calories!
In this step, I don’t want you to worry about the calories, protein, carbs, or fat in a product. Focus on the ingredients. Read them!! Read them out loud (maybe wait til you get home). Can you pronounce all the ingredients on the list? Probably not! Should you be able to? Yes, at least for the most part! If there’s an ingredient in your food that you can’t even pronounce, chances are that it’s not very good for you.
Now, if you’re thinking my food doesn’t have a nutrition label; then you’re probably eating something from a bulk food bin from the health section at the store or it’s produce. And in that case, go ahead and buy all of these you want. It’s probably just that one food that would be on the ingredient list. (Like an apple, or dates.) Be careful of some of the items in bulk food bins though, read the ingredient list on the bin before dumping them into a bag!
Watch out for added sugars and MSG; these have a ton of different names that they go by on the ingredient list, to either make them undetectable to the average shopper, or to appear like there’s not as much. If you’re trying to lose weight, then you will want to avoid MSG as much as possible. Did you know the way scientists study obesity with rats is by giving lab rats MSG to make them obese (because they won’t naturally become obese)? It’s true! (Unfortunately, in my psych lab in college I didn’t get to experiment this way with the rats. We did teach rats how to dispense their own food, though.)
Here’s a few different names that MSG goes by (so you can watch out for them):
- Glutamic Acid
- Monosodium Glutamate
- Yeast Extract
- Hydrolyzed (something)
- many more
Make sure you are aware of what you are putting into your body. And, if you don’t know what an ingredient in your food is; look it up. Isn’t that what our smartphones are for?
Step Six: Know What You Love to Eat
If you’re concerned with more than just your own eating habits, or cook for more than just yourself, like us mothers do on a daily basis; this step may take a little bit more time and a lot more thought, and not just from ourselves. In this step you’ll need to figure out what meals and snacks you actually enjoy, and which ones are good for you to eat. Tell your kids sorry and let them know that cake and ice cream don’t belong on the list (unless it’s home made ice cream, in that case- go for it).
I would recommend you sign up to receive my meal planning templates; there’s one page for you to write down all of your (or your families) favorite foods. Use pencil; these can sometimes change, plus after you write them down you’ll have to figure out which ones actually benefit your health, rather than sabotage it.
Which meals are based around veggies? These are the ones you’ll want to put at the top of your list.
Do you have any without a lot of nutritional value; like white pasta with white bread and butter? Erase those.
Anything with a ton of sugar? Erase those too, or try to reduce the sugar or find an alternative to use instead, like maple syrup.
Don’t skimp on this step; it’s a stepping stone to the next step in this how to guide.
Step Seven: Meal Plan and Prep
Use what you learned about your (or your families) tastes, and preferred snacks and meals, from the last step to create a meal plan. You could plan for one week, 2 weeks, or even a whole month. I recommend planning for two weeks at a time, which is why my meal planning template has enough space for two weeks on it. With two weeks, you’ll know what ingredients you’ll need for half of the month, without being overwhelmed. Trying to find meals, or snacks, with similar ingredients for two weeks worth of food, and not feeling like you’re eating the same thing everyday; it’s a lot easier than you’d think than just planning for one week. Plus, the only thing you may have to buy every other week when you go to the store is produce, or things you run out of in a week, like soy milk.
Meal planning is only the first part of this step; the second part is meal prepping, which comes after grocery shopping. For this step I recommend prepping for only one week at a time; unless you want to buy all of your food for two weeks at a time and freeze the meals for the second week. And, you may be thinking that you don’t have enough time to plan out your meals, let alone make them ahead of time. But, if you think like this; then you don’t have time to not take this step! It will save you a ton of time in the long run; time thinking about what you want to eat, going to the store to buy last minute ingredients, and making the meal on the spot.
Making all of your food for the week ahead will actually save you quite a bit of time through out the week. And it may not take as long as you think! When I was working full time outside my home, running my older daughter to preschool and then back home; meal prepping was a life saver. Every single day of the week I was busy. I didn’t have a break; I had an infant, a preschooler, a husband, and a 40 hour a week job. If I didn’t prepare all of my food during my weekend, then I didn’t eat. (Well, I did eat, but the food wasn’t as healthy, and at times may have been questionable.)
It really won’t take as long as you think, either. Even on weeks where I made meals that required the stove and the oven; it only ever took me a few hours. Plus, I only had to do dishes once for all of the baking and cooking for the week. Meal planning and prepping will help you save money and avoid waste; who doesn’t want that!
Step Eight: Don’t Lose Focus!!
This step is what’s going to help you keep your resolution for eating better through out the whole year! Stay focused on your goal. Stay focused on what goes into your body, and why you care. If you start to lose focus, then go back to step one. It’s alright if you need to go through this process multiple times through out the year. No one’s perfect and we all get off track sometimes. Situations change, and we may get distracted by life for a few weeks and rely on packaged foods to keep our hunger down. The important thing is that you always come back and try eating better! Eating better, or preferably plant based, not only benefits your mind, body, and family; it also benefits the planet.
If you slip up, no big deal, just get right back to it when you can!!
Once in awhile you’ll need to take some time to regroup and focus on your eating habits again to get them where you’d like them!! You may want to head over to pinterest for some inspiration! Start focusing on drinking more water than coffee again, and eating more fruits and veggies. You’ll want to figure out some new delicious meals with healthier proteins in them and start reading the ingredient list on the back of the food that you’ve been eating lately. Write down any new favorite meals you have, and get back into the habit of meal planning and meal prepping if you’ve been too relaxed about it lately (it happens)! And, that’s why we need to stay focused!
Sure, there can be a lot to do, or know, about sticking to a healthy lifestyle and eating well all the time. But, it’s totally worth it! No one’s asking you to be perfect, and no one will pick on you if you slip up and eat a whole bag of Reese’s in one sitting because you caved just one time. We’re human, we can’t expect ourselves to have perfection when it comes to eating. Just do your best to stay focused and eat well!!
Share with someone who told you they want to eat better this year as a goal or resolution!! (Or, send them to download my meal planning template!)
5 Ways to Avoid Common Pitfalls of New Year’s Resolutions
How to Make a Healthy Meal Plan on a Budget
The Benefits of Meal Prepping
10 Tips for Creating Habits You Need in Your Life!