I have compiled a list of simple things that you can do today to start making better choices that will have a big impact on your overall health.
1. Switch out your baking powder for aluminum-free. This is really easy and inexpensive.
2. Find a good quality sea salt/natural salt and start using it in your cooking. The minerals contained in these salts are extremely important to our health, and we aren’t doing ourselves any favors using white table salt. You will taste the difference, I promise you.
3. Buy a small quantity of chia seeds or flax. You don’t have to go out and purchase a vast array of new seeds/nuts/flours, etc. It can be overwhelming. Start here, and gradually add in more. You can buy flax seeds and grind them yourself, or buy ground flax meal. Be sure to store chia and flax in the refrigerator, as they will spoil more quickly at room temperature. I have purchased big bags of flax meal from Costco, but only advise doing this if you are going to use it frequently, so that it doesn’t pass the expiration date before you use it all.
4. Start making “green” smoothies. Add some frozen fruit, juice/milk/water/kefir, etc, some chia/flax meal, and a handful of spinach into your blender. This is an easy place to start. Beginning each day with a smoothie instead of a heavy breakfast is beneficial to your digestive system and gives you more energy. As you become accustomed to the spinach, add in more green vegetables: cucumbers, kale, parsley/cilantro, etc.
Kimberly Snyder, a nutritionist, talks about nutrition myths on her blog. Regarding a heavy breakfast being the most important meal of the day, she says: “In fact, a heavy breakfast will start your day off just wrong! Every morning is a new opportunity to cleanse your body, since it has fasted all night and your food has digested. Eating a heavy meal in the morning can plug up the plumbing and decrease your energy stores as your body focuses on digesting all of that food you just ate. If you eat a huge breakfast, you will need more snacks and caffeine by mid-morning.”
Smoothies/juices are a great way to start the day with an extra kick of nutrition to get your body cleansing and feeling great.
5. Buy some coconut oil. This oil is one of the healthiest to cook with and has many other great benefits. It is more money than oils you may already be using (vegetable oils), but it’s worth every penny. Nutiva is the brand I use and love.
6. Add a healthy grain to your weekly menu plan. Quinoa, millet, or brown rice are great options. The more you add into your diet, the less you will want refined starches and grains. I have heard many people say they tried Quinoa and hated it, my own mother included (she has now found a love for it). My advice is to try different methods of cooking it. Grains are very versatile and can be used as a side (not my favorite option), in a casserole, for a hot breakfast cereal, as a dessert pudding (recipe to come), in wraps/tacos, thrown into pitas, etc. It is very important to soak your grains before using (more on this to come), as long as 12 hours if you remember to start them the night before. Don’t give up if you don’t like it on the first try.
7. Try a natural sweetener. Raw honey, pure maple syrup, coconut/palm sugar, or stevia are some great options. Start small by adding a little bit to your oatmeal, in some plain yogurt, or in your pancake batter. These sweeteners can be expensive, so just begin with one and gradually find more ways to incorporate it into your cooking/baking.
8. Buy some almonds. Instead of reaching for a snack when I get the munchies, I grab a handful of almonds. Nuts are a great way to stave off hunger and to get more healthy fats and protein into your day. I buy my almonds in 3 lb. bags from Costco for $10, which is a great price.
Both Amazon and Vitacost carry most, if not all, of these products. The base prices on Vitacost are less expensive if you order over $49 to take advantage of the free shipping. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you get free 2-day shipping. If I am ordering a couple of little things I use Amazon. The price difference is made up with the shipping. These are the two sites I order from most frequently. If you are with Amazon Prime, make sure the products you are buying are Prime eligible. Even the same brand through a different seller will be eligible, while the other will charge you shipping.
The most important thing I can say is to take a deep breath. I don’t want people to feel overwhelmed. There are a WHOLE lot of options once you start reading into “Natural,” or “Organic” ingredients. My job is to try them and tell you my opinion. Your job is to do some reading (including this blog) and find some answers to your questions. I will be as thorough as I can in my research, but I am bound to make mistakes. Feel free to have me clarify or find more resources on a topic you are interested in.
My main point is that you can start today. Make a small change. Pick even one of the things I’ve mentioned, and then add in another next week or next month. Begin by having a morning smoothie. You don’t have to go out and buy a juicer, but you can begin making small changes, right now. My blender was $30 and lasted me years. If you don’t already own one, that could be a great place to start. The feeling that you have to have a lot of fancy equipment (juicer, vitamix/blendtech, food processor, dehydrator, etc.) can keep many people away from doing anything. I am here to tell you that you don’t need all of that right now; you just need the determination and the knowledge to back you up.
Go ahead, make a smoothie. They taste great. Once your husband/wife/children/roommates have adjusted to the green color of the drink you’re serving, start adding in more veggies. If you make gradual changes like these, it will become something that slips quietly into your life and suddenly you will be feeling great, having more energy, and will be wondering what happened.