Here are some tips I use in my daily life and share with my health coaching clients to help make small adjustments each week leading to a massive overhaul for our health and well being. My advice for these tips is to take it slow. Don't be in a rush to incorporate all of them at once. Pick one to work on for a week or two so you really develop it as a habit before adding on. I would rather have you be successful with just one of these tasks than have you be mediocre at a bunch of them.
A great way to keep on track with these "challenges" is to keep a checklist in your calendar so that every time you X during the day you can check it off. You'll feel such accomplishment and reward after completing each task!
1. Get your greens in.
Set "green goals". Adding greens to your diet will leave less room for junk and it will leave you feeling more energized and nourished. Challenge yourself to eat greens at least at two meals a day. It doesn't matter if it's kale, spinach, swiss chard or something mild like a romaine or butter lettuce. Start making it a habit to incorporate greens in your meals and over time you'll get more comfortable with the darker, more flavorful varieties.
2. Put color on your plate.
Nature's beautiful colors that is, not artificial dye. Make an effort to put a rainbow on your plate: a good place to start is to aim for three different colors at each meal (bonus points if one is always green!). Nature had a lovely way of grouping vegetables and fruits in colors based on the key nutrients in them, so the best way to get a variety of nutrients is to diversify the colors on your plate.
Open your mind to all sorts of different vegetable/fruit combinations and allow your eyes to paint your plate. It's always fun to get creative with your food. Maybe you'll make some weird meals, but more likely, you'll stumble upon some new winning combinations!
3. Make the farmer's market your friend.
Look up your local farmer's market and plan a date with yourself every week to go. It's best to make this a time that you'll be able to go so it can become a natural part of your weekly schedule. Make this date your "me time"; let yourself relax and just explore. Shopping is not part of your homework here, all you have to do is go, get interested, chat with local farmers, and make this outing part of your schedule. I'm confident the buying of delicious, colorful produce, and other great local products will happen naturally.
4. Become an ingredient snob.
Yes, it's time for you to become THAT person. The person that always has to ask what's in something before eating it. Let me tell you a secret, "People that put better ingredients in their bodies, get better, healthier bodies!" You are only punishing yourself by not being inquisitive.
Look at labels, not for the calories but for the ingredients. The ingredients should read like a shopping list. If there are some ingredients that you either couldn't find in a supermarket or would never put in a recipe yourself (like high fructose corn syrup) skip it. It's best if the ingredient list contains no more than six different items. It's hard to say "stay away from all processed foods" because almost all foods that aren't in their natural state when you ingest them, are processed.
Instead, in general it's best to avoid mass-produced foods. Eat restaurant-made pasta instead of buying a box if that is what you crave. Apply that principal to anything that's processed and you'll be putting a better version of it in your body, it will taste better, and it is likely to have more nourishing ingredients.
5. Step outside your comfort zone.
One of the things I did when I first went on my elimination diet was to try a different vegetable each week. I would go to the supermarket or the farmer's market and pick out something I had never eaten, never cooked or never heard of. I would buy enough to play with it all week and cook it in various ways and with different meals. It was incredibly fun and extremely educational. I learned about vegetables I would have never tried otherwise, created some really yummy recipes and discovered some vegetables that I loved eating. You can even use some vegetables you already know and use them in different ways than you normally do. It really opens your mind to all the possibilities and helps you build a bigger repertoire of healthy go-tos.
Photo courtesy of the author