Updated: May 30, 2022
Welp—there goes another year. The time for reflection has come, triggering a wave of resolutions to do better and be better in the new year. Studies show that the top resolutions in 2018 were to save money and lose weight or get in shape. More than half of Americans traditionally make resolutions on December 31, however, only a small amount of people actually keep them. According to a Statista survey, less than 5 percent of people kept all resolutions and only 16 percent kept some of their resolutions. Resolutions might be helpful in signaling a new start, but they don't necessarily provide the tools needed for lifestyle change.
Making a lifestyle change is not easy, especially when wanting to change many things at once. The American Psychological Association recommends thinking of it not as a resolution but as an evolution. Think about that for a second—the lifestyle you want to create is evolving, little by little, and doesn't have to be overnight. Do you feel like a weight has just been lifted? I do!
Lifestyle changes are a process that take time and require support. Set small goals and take one step at a time. Maybe you add one minute onto your cardiovascular workout each week until you build up to a goal of 30 or 40 minutes each workout. Or maybe you want to start a meditation practice, but know you can't sit for 20 minutes. Start meditating for only two minutes each day for one week and add one minute each week until you reach 20 minutes. Or, if you want to lose weight, maybe you start by substituting naturally flavored sparkling water for soda or tea.
One common comment I often hear from those who want to eat plant-based or plant-forward (simply eat more plant-based foods) is "I don't know where to start." If your resolution (or evolution) is to eat more plants, or just to be healthier in the new year, consider these tips to help create changes that will become a lifestyle. Take your time, don't be in a rush and celebrate all accomplishments!
1. Purge the pantry.
While I'm not a fan of wasting food, clearing space to bring in new healthy whole unprocessed food is essential to laying the groundwork for healthy eating. Find one hour to pull out the contents from your refrigerator, freezer and cabinets. Set aside anything that is not lending to your health—Christmas cookies, expired items and foods that are processed with sugar, white flour or preservatives. Find a local food pantry or shelter to see if they can use unopened foods you don't want and bring holiday sweets to work.
2. Stock up on high fiber foods.
Next, you'll want to stock up on foods that will make you feel energized, focused and healthy. I recommend making a list for the grocery store and stocking up on three of each:
whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, farro, wheat berries, quinoa)
canned or dried beans (black beans, lentils, chickpeas, white beans, kidney beans, edamame)
fruit (berries, bananas, oranges, pomegranate, apples)
vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, kale, arugula, radish)
nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, pecans, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds)
Check out this blog on the best staples to keep in your pantry for delicious plant-based meals.
3. Preplan your meals.
Try to plan at least 2-3 meals a week. Lack of planning leads to last minute scrambling and unhealthy choices. Choose two plant-based recipes a week, make a grocery list and precook what you can on a day where you have time. Make one or two grains on a Sunday and keep them in the fridge so you have them to eat all week. Wash and cut vegetables for the week. Have cooked beans or nuts and seeds ready to add to any meal. When you preplan and prepare what you can ahead of time, it's makes healthy weekday eating much easier. Check out this blog for tips on how to easily build a plant-based bowl.
4. Think in layers.
Most diets create a "can't" mentality. "I cant' eat that" or "I'm not allowed to have [fill in the blank with the long list]." Rather than think about what you can't eat, think about what you can ADD to your meal that will amp up the flavor AND nutrition. Add cilantro, parsley or basil to stir fries. Experiment with mustard, cumin or fennel seeds and other spices in cooking. Cook with garlic, ginger and onion. Add arugula, tomato or broccoli sprouts to a sandwich. Top avocado toast with kimchi. Adding high-fiber, plant-based foods to meals will help keep you full and satisfied. There are countless ways to add more healing foods to meals!
5. Count colors, not calories.
Shoot for at least three colors per meal. Filling up on high fiber foods will help you feel full and satisfied, preventing overeating and helping to make better food choices. In the case of beans and whole grains, browns and tans count as colors. Add reds (tomato, strawberries, peppers, radish), purples (beets, red onion, cabbage, potato, grapes) , greens (arugula, broccoli, spinach, kale, kiwi, avocado, apple), oranges (pepper, citrus, sweet potato, squash) and yellows (banana, lemons, pepper, zucchini). This arugula salad started with just arugula but lentils, avocado and strawberries made it. Plants get their beautiful colors from phytonutrients (plant nutrients), which are healing and nourishing for us when we eat them.
6. Start the day with health.
Start the day with a meal that's high in fiber, low in sugar and balanced in carbohydrate, protein and fat. Studies show that eating high fiber foods and plant-based protein and fats early in the day help to keep you full longer and eat less calories later in the day. Think chia pudding, overnight oats, hot oatmeal or smoothies if you want something quick. If you have more time, consider a tofu scramble, black bean tacos or avocado toast with all the plant-based fixings. This will set the pace for eating a balanced lunch and dinner, not to mention the energy, focus and clear mind you'll have all day.
7. Set small goals.
I like to set goals in 3's because it's much more feasible to achieve three small goals than a long list of goals or one huge goal that seems insurmountable. Small changes lead to a healthy balanced lifestyle and long-term health. For example, swap out plant-based milk for cream in coffee, eat a black bean burger in place of a hamburger or try one new plant-based recipe a week. Small changes each week lead to long-term healthy habits.
8. Focus on how you feel (energy, cognition etc) rather than weight.
Before eating, think about how it will make you look and feel. Energized or tired? Radiant or depleted? Glowing or fatigued? Foggy or focused? Moody or happy? Colorful and radiant plant-based foods have the power to make you feel energized, happy, vibrant focused and overall really amazing.
9. Drink Plenty of Water
Often times, we don't drink as much water during the colder months because we won't feel as thirsty. It's important to continue to stay hydrated by consuming half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weight 150 pounds, then you need approximately 75 ounces of water a day, maybe more depending on your activity level. Room temperature is just fine during the colder months! Add lemon or hibiscus tea (or other natural flavorings like cucumber or basil) to make water more enticing during the winter months or drink warm water with lemon.
If you're feeling scattered, stressed, tired or indecisive, take a 5 minute walk outside to get some fresh air, clear the mind and reset the body. Leave your phone at home, focus on nature, the air, the rain (yep, take a walk in the rain!) and trees while taking deep breaths and letting go of any negativity with each exhale. Returning home with a clear mind will help you make better food choices, prevent overeating and be fully present with the food you're eating.
What are some of your healthy eating goals for the new year? Please share below!
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