At some point, almost everyone says “I want to be healthier”. Maybe it’s a New Year’s Resolution or just a day where you were doing some self-reflecting but we’ve all been there. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve said “I want a healthier lifestyle” and started a new exercise routine only to fall off the wagon in 4 weeks or bought a whole bunch of kale only to have it go bad in the fridge untouched. Healthy living isn’t always easy. I’ve finally gotten to a point where I feel comfortable with my healthier lifestyle and it feels more a part of me than a chore or something I’m forcing myself to do. While there is always room for improvement and I am a work in progress I feel I have finally found my way. Focusing more on my health has definitely been one of the changes I’ve made to live a richer life. I wanted to share with you some of the tricks I’ve learned. Some of these things you may have heard before but hopefully some you haven’t. I hope you find them helpful if this is also part of your journey to a richer life.
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1: Start Small
When dealing with any kind of change, doing too much at once can be a recipe for disaster. Picture yourself fully motivated. You signed up for the latest workout challenge. You cleaned out your fridge and thrown away all the junk. Your shopping cart is overflowing with fruits and vegetables and all the superfoods you read about in a magazine article. You are off to an amazing start. This is it. This time it will work. Fast forward 3 weeks and you are starting to skip those workouts and you are sick of eating broccoli and baked chicken and digging into the chips. It was TOO much at once! Set yourself up for success by setting small goals. Pick the thing that is the biggest challenge for you and break it down into smaller goals.
For me, it was exercising regularly. Instead of telling myself I’m going to do these insane hour-long workouts 6 days a week, I set a smaller goal for myself just to create the HABIT. I aimed to do SOMETHING, most days. There is a little flexibility in that. As a stay at home mom, my “workouts” usually consist of cramming my mat into a small portion of my floor not littered with toys and propping up my phone on the end table while my kids eat breakfast or play. I have to constantly pause my workout to break up an argument, clean up a spill, get a snack, wipe a butt…you name it but I’m ok with that because this is how I can get it done. My workouts are usually fast (10-20 minutes) and they don’t always happen but I aim to do something. If I can’t do a workout I will at least do squats, pushups, and planks…something. These smaller goals don’t lead to the ultimate letdown or feeling of failure when I eventually burn out. Surprisingly, the small wins push me to want to do more and set bigger goals. So pick the one area that is the hardest for you and break it down into smaller goals. You’ll feel amazing from your success and be motivated to set bigger goals or move on to another area. Don’t try to do it all at once.
2: Don’t Buy It!
I know this is easier said than done but if you don’t have it in your house you can’t eat it. If you can fight the temptation and resist putting things into the cart that aren’t healthy for you then you will set yourself up for success later on at home when you are starving and ready to grab the chips. If you don’t have it then you can’t eat it. That’s not to say don’t buy ANY treats or special splurges just make sure you aren’t going nuts. A bar of dark chocolate or whole grain tortilla chips is fine in moderation. Not shopping hungry will definitely help you resist the temptations at the store. If you don’t buy it now, you can’t eat it later.
3: Wear Your Sneakers In The House
This one might sound crazy but go with me here. Imagine you are snuggled up on the couch with your favorite cozy blanket in your comfiest clothes. You probably don’t envision your sneakers on while you are cozy on the couch. Also, you probably aren’t ready to get a lot done. Now, when you put your sneakers on you are less likely to sit down and get comfortable. I stumbled upon this idea just by coincidence. I was going to workout and I put my sneakers on but I didn’t start right away for whatever reason but I found myself doing all kinds of random things around the house, walking around, going up and down the stairs and then eventually I found my way to my workout and I was extra motivated to work harder because I had already been getting some many other things accomplished. This will happen if you keep them on for awhile after exercising too. Your energy levels are up anyways so you might as well take advantage and take the kids outside and run around with them or go for a bike ride as a family. Chances are you won’t make a huge impact in your physical fitness goals BUT you will see you are taking more steps in a day and you are more likely to actually do your workout instead of finding an excuse not to do it.
For all of you thinking, that is gross I’m not walking around my house with dirty sneakers getting nasty germs all over the place. I’m with you on that one, I’m a germ freak and I agree. I actually have cheap sneakers that I only wear in the house or I’ll wash the bottoms of my sneakers off before wearing them all over the house, so yes, please clean your sneakers before trying this tip. I promise you this one will definitely help motivate you on your journey to a healthier lifestyle.
4: Find Replacements
No one wants to give up their favorite foods. It just doesn’t make life seem as enjoyable if you can’t eat some of your favorite foods but if you were indulging all the time then it’s time to look and find some healthier alternatives to some of those foods. I always love a little something sweet at night. I’ve finally put the kids to bed and sit down to enjoy some quiet time and I love nothing more than a small bowl of ice cream. This can get out of control! Even though it’s a little tiny bowl, having it too often was not good for my health goals. I had to find something else. I discovered this wonderfully delicious cinnamon tea at a local tea shop. I even told my husband I wanted a tin of this tea for Valentine’s Day instead of candy…it’s that yummy! So I started replacing my ice cream with a mug of this tea and it completely satisfied that taste I craved at the end of the day. If you are like me and love your ice cream but aren’t a big tea drinker another option would be a fruit smoothie or homemade banana ice cream.
All the crunchy, salty, chip lovers out there you could consider replacing with whole grain crackers and hummus or nuts. You could even try making your own sweet potato chips or zucchini chips. There are definitely options for almost anything if you just think outside the box. Think of why you like what you like and try to find something else that can satisfy that taste for you in a healthier way. If you replace a few not so good for you foods with healthier alternatives you will definitely be on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
5: Follow the 80:20 Rule
This one kind of goes along with #4. Even finding replacements can still feel like you are missing out. Definitely don’t give up everything you love completely. Your tastes will start to change over time and you won’t crave some of those not so good for you foods but in the meantime, if you just ditch everything completely you will start to think about everything you can’t eat instead of focusing on what you can eat. When this happens you are walking a fine line because you’ll probably end up losing control. If you follow the 80:20 rule where you aim to eat healthy 80% of the time it allows you the other 20% to loosen the reigns a little bit. This should help keep things in balance. You still get to eat those things you love, just not all the time.
6: Find a Healthy Living Podcast You Love
For a while, I got really into eating vegan. I had my husband on a semi plant-based diet as well and things were going well. I felt great and really motivated. I found a few vegan centered podcasts and started listening while I was getting ready in the morning or while I was cooking dinner. I found these to be immensely motivational in my new vegan journey. While I was trying to figure out what to eat for dinner I found that I WANTED to reach for lots of veggies to chop or make something super healthy for dinner. Another great time to listen is in your car on the way to the grocery store. You’ll be pumped to buy lots of nourishing foods for your body instead of processed junk. Now, this is just my example and you don’t have to go with the vegan podcasts. There are so so many out there to choose from. Give a few a try and see what speaks to you.
You ultimately have to enjoy the speaker and what they have to say or you won’t listen. A few that I really enjoyed were the guys over at No Meat Athlete, they are plant-based ultramarathon runners and Kimberly Snyder who is a plant-based nutritionist with a wealth of knowledge and a very positive spirit. For the record, I failed at being a vegan. It became very challenging to make meals that everyone would eat. I got worn out honestly. I started to just want an easier way and I fell off the vegan wagon. This is a goal of mine to revisit this after the baby comes. I felt like there were so many benefits and I felt really great eating this way. I still love these podcasts though. They are more health-focused than pushing a vegan agenda.
7: Get a Water Bottle and Carry it Everywhere
I love water. It drives my husband absolutely nuts but I literally have a water bottle with me everywhere I go. I carry it all over my house with me and in the car. I feel naked getting in the car without it at this point. I have to say it and yes, you probably already know this but if you want to live a healthier life there is no room for sugary beverages like pop. I love pop almost as much as I love water. The fizz is what gets me. I love it. I gave it up because I know it’s just not good for me. It’s hard to do. I first just cut back but then I realized if I bought it (see tip #2!) I was going to drink it so I just stopped buying it. It’s really that simple. When you eat out…get water. When you eat lunch at home…drink water! I know not everyone loves water like I do so there are a couple of things you can do to help make it taste better. Try lemons or another fruit to sweeten it up a bit. You can even get a water bottle with a fruit dispenser inside. My husband got me this one for Christmas and I love it! You can water down some juice and slowly over time use less and less juice and more water.
If pop is a hard habit to break, start with sparkling water. There are so many great kinds out there with tons of fun flavors. I’m not the biggest fan of sparkling water. It tastes a little salty but I realized that with just a tiny splash of cranberry juice it becomes much more appealing. This has actually become my go-to “mocktail” while I’ve been pregnant. Sparkling water or seltzer with cranberry juice and a squeeze of lime, so tart and fresh! You can even invest in a SodaStream Genesis Sparkling Water Maker and make your own sparkling water from home with all kinds of fun flavor combinations.
I personally just stick with the plain water bottle and keep it full of fresh water and I drink it all day. If you have it with you, you are more likely to reach for it when you get thirsty. A few bottles that I like are the Sigg and the CamelBak eddy .75L Water Bottle or Camelbak Groove . The Groove is nice because it has a built-in water filter so you can fill it up anywhere. The CamelBaks also come in a ton of fun colors and designs for kids so our kids can get their water too!
8: Visit the Library
In the past year, I have rediscovered how awesome the local library is. I don’t know why I never took advantage of all the wonderful things the library has to offer, not to mention how many programs there are to keep my kids busy that I’ll talk about in a future post. I used to search on Amazon and find books I wanted to read and just buy them. This plan is not so good for a single income family on a budget. One day I logged into the library’s website to check if they had the latest book I wanted to get from Amazon and they did! I could just click and place a hold right on my computer and pick it up when it came in. I haven’t looked back! The library is going to be a huge resource for you to find books about healthy living. Let me be clear, NOT diet books! Don’t get sucked into that trap but there are books about yoga, fitness, meditation, general health and nutrition just to name a few. All of these topics can be components of a healthier lifestyle.
The thing that I really gravitated to that helped me were the cookbooks. I highly recommend checking out a few cookbooks that look interesting to you. For one, it will encourage you to cook at home more and eat out less. Secondly, you can explore different cuisines and try new foods. When I was eating vegan I did this a lot and I found quite a few great recipes. After test driving some of the cookbooks you can then go and purchase the ones you really love. Don’t forget to check out the videos, magazines, and eBooks as well! You are bound to find something to help you on your journey at no cost. That’s a major win!
9: Meal Prep
Preparing your meals for the week can be a huge time saver but it can also ensure you are making the right choices. If you have a healthy salad waiting for you in the fridge come lunch time you won’t reach for something unhealthy when you are starving. This can look different for different people. Some people make everything for the whole week and portion it out into containers and their 3 meals a day are all ready for the week. For me, this is completely unrealistic for a mom with 2 kids to feed every day. Plus, I really enjoy a meal that is freshly prepared and piping hot for dinner and it just seems anti-climatic to eat similar things every night. This can certainly be a time saver for a family with a lot of after-school commitments as well as for a busy couple with different schedules. Here are the meal prep steps I take to set my family up for success for the week.
–Wash and chop fruit & veggies. I cut carrots into sticks, dice onions, slice peppers and wash apples. The carrots will be easy for sticking into lunches and for dipping into hummus and almost every dinner I make seems to require diced onions so now they are all ready to go into my recipe. Clean apples are always easier when one of my boys are asking for apple slices.
-Make a grain. I’ll precook brown rice, quinoa or farro for easy mix and match during the week. Quinoa can be put on top of a salad or the rice can easily be the base for a stir-fry. I love mixing farro with some tomatoes, cucumbers, kalamata olives and some feta.
-Portion snacks. It can help to have snacks already in pre-portioned containers. Almonds, crackers, trail mix, fruit, and veggies are all nice options to have on hand for snacks and it makes packing lunches a lot faster.
-Make and freeze smoothie packs. If you enjoy a smoothie in the morning for snacks this can be a big time saver. Chop bananas and fruits and portion into bags with all other smoothie ingredients you like and your done. When you want your smoothie all you have to do is add your milk of choice and dump you smoothie bag into the blender. You can also do this with oatmeal. Portion out all the dry ingredients for your oatmeal and freeze. I did this to prep for my second baby and it made life a lot easier not to have to measure out all the individual ingredients.
-Shred or grill some chicken breasts. Boil some chicken or put some chicken breasts in the crockpot and shred the chicken to have on hand for all kinds of different meals. You can make chicken salad, put the chicken into a wrap, put it on top of a salad, mix it into a sauce and put it over rice. There are so many things you can do with a little bit of chicken. For a time saver, you could also buy a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. If you are a vegetarian or vegan you could soak and cook some beans for the week. You could also roast some chickpeas. These are great on top of salads since they add a little crunch and extra flavor.
The list really could go on and on (future blog post, maybe?) but you get the point. If you like having your meals already prepared then definitely cook up a storm and have those meals ready during the week. If that is not really your thing or too much of an undertaking for one day then prep what you can to make preparing your meals during the week easier and you set yourself up to eat healthy all week.
Meal Planning can also help with meal prep. If you have a plan ahead of time you can prep for it. If you struggle with this then check out my meal planning strategy What to Do When You Suck at Meal Planning.
10: Ditch the Chemicals
I saved the best for last. This is by far one of the biggest, best, most impactful things you can do. Get rid of the chemicals in your life. This includes what you put in your body, what you put on your body and what is in your home. This is something that doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve been working on this for some time now. The first place you should start is with your food. Stop buying processed food. Shop the perimeter of the store and start reading food labels if you don’t already. Stick to the old rule, if you can’t pronounce it, it probably shouldn’t go into your body. Go organic if you can. This can be super expensive so if you can swing it then definitely do it but if you can’t focus on the Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen and stay away from the Dirty Dozen. This can still be expensive. My kids eat a ton of fruit and we buy a lot of vegetables. Even if I stuck to just the Clean Fifteen I’d bust my budget. I try to buy organic apples. That’s about it. It’s ultimately better to eat the fruit than to not eat the fruit. It’s better to buy fresh fruit than to buy those fruit cups loaded with syrup and sugar. During your meal prep just make sure you wash and scrub all of your fruit and vegetables.
Of course, not everything you buy will be fresh. Frozen vegetable and fruit are great to have on hand, especially if that food isn’t in season. Start to be picky about what you buy in a package. Read those labels and only buy items with a few real food ingredients. You can also start making staples at home. Bread is a good one to try. Hummus, nut butter, and nut milk are other good places to start.
Other areas you’ll want to start looking at are your skin care products, makeup, household cleaners, pet products, and baby products. If you were to ditch everything at once you’d certainly go broke and you don’t know what you like or what works for your family. Start super small and as you use things up, start experimenting with more natural brands to see what you like.
11: BONUS TIP – Add One More
Add one more! One more rep, one more set, one more serving of fruit or vegetables, one more lap around the track or trip around the block, one more walk for the dog, one more minute of meditation. You see where I’m going here. Adding just one more of something won’t feel like a big deal but can make a big impact on your overall health when done over time. Another added benefit of just adding one more is that it can turn into two more so grab those uneaten veggies off your kid’s plate and take an extra trip around the block, you’ll thank yourself when you are feeling amazing!
Comment below with your favorite tip and how it’s helped you. Or, what are some of your favorite healthy living tips not listed? I’d love to hear from you!
While it is not necessary to provide credit on the free stock images used in this post, I am a lover of photography and can appreciate beautiful photos and feel the photographer(s) should be credited. Photos provided by FOODISM360 on Unsplash and by Juan Jose on Unsplash