I have another reader request today and though I deleted all the names from the suggestions (I never know if people want to be mentioned or not), if this is you, please come hang out with me. You are hilarious!
I would love to see a post about where to START making your family healthier. Back before kids I used to eat pretty healthy, exercise, etc. but after having three kids in five years I’m afraid I’ve fallen so far off the wagon I don’t even know where to start getting back on! I still follow a few “healthy living” blogs from back when I used to actually BE healthy, but now everything seems too daunting. Kale salad?! I’m lucky if I can throw some romaine in a bowl with ranch and get that on the table. Many nights lately I’ve realized I’m not even serving a vegetable with dinner!! I hope I don’t sound whiny and pathetic, but I would love some tips for starting a healthy lifestyle from ground zero. (I also think this would be a great post for around new year’s resolution time!!) Thanks for all you share, after many years your blog is still one of my favorites!
First let me say that I highly doubt you are alone in this. 3 kids in 5 years is no joke (not that I know, but from me just trying to keep up with two, I can only imagine the fun and chaos of keeping up with three).
Once we’ve fallen so far off a wagon, it can feel too intimidating to figure out where or how to jump back on. I totally got it. I’ve felt that way with fitness more than once, but found the best way to start the process is just, well, to pick a spot and start.
If I was starting from scratch with my health, here is the plan I would follow.
1- Identify main health objectives. What does healthy look like to you and why is that goal important? A more nutrient dense diet? Less eating out? More energy? Clearer mind? Better digestion? Stronger immune system? Decreasing inflammation in your body?
Narrowing down your particular focus can help guide you to which area you start working on first. For better digestion, maybe it’s adding in probiotic foods and/or supplement. If it’s more nutrient dense meals, perhaps it’s starting to look for new ways to add vegetables into meals. If you want to focus on eating more real food, maybe it’s learning how to phase out convenience foods that you’ve become reliant on.
I’ve found that having a strong why for any goal is key in staying motivated to make new habits when life starts getting in the way. So spend sometime and figure out why you want to make the change you’re looking into before just loading up your cart with buzzwords (kombucha! turmeric!).
2- Focus on adding, not subtracting. A common idea is to nix all the junk you eat/drink that you “know” you shouldn’t. A diet mountain dew is certainly not getting anyone closer to a healthier way of living, but if you’re used to having 3 a day and yank it out from under you (or your kids) all at once, deprivation is going to rear its ugly head.
Instead, add in a better option- like water. Make a goal that challenges you but is realistic. Maybe it’s 2 glasses as you work your way up to 8 a day, but add the good stuff in and you’ll see it will slowly start to edge out the less healthy habits. It’s really hard to drink 3 sodas if your focusing on getting in your body weight in ounces of water.
If you are a snacker, start buying healthier options to replace the junkier foods as they run out. You might even discover some new favorites (like key lime lara bars- YUM). Snack foods can really increase my grocery bill quickly so I suggest checking out lower prices stores like Trader Joes, Aldi, or Walmart or ordering online through Thrive Market which has some pretty impressive discounts on certain items.
3- Meal plan and do Sunday food prep. For some reason it’s always an unpopular suggestion (probably because it does take some real time and effort) but personally I see no way around it. Having fresh produce ready to eat and in clear containers makes it easy for kids to grab. It makes it easy for me to snag when I’m hangry and need a snack while I make a meal (happens quite often).
Plus it looks pretty, right?
Don’t over commit with meal planning, but even having a loose plan makes a big difference. You can even keep the theme the same every week. Monday is meatless, Tuesday is Mexican, Wednesday is Italian, Thursday is slow cooker, etc, and switch up the meals each week. Here is how I write my meal plan each week and if you’re looking for new recipe ideas, check out my meal plan archives!
4- Keep the pantry and freezer stocked with healthy helpers. Frozen riced cauliflower cooks up in less than 6 minutes and makes an awesome veggie-heavy and low carb swap for rice. You can make your own or buy it ready to go. Having sauce and pasta on hand means you won’t have to resort to take out because it can always make a meal. I also keep frozen veggies because produce goes bad, obviously, but having frozen options on hand means I can always bulk up a meal with added vegetables. Whether it’s adding frozen veggies into a canned soup or using frozen peppers with chicken for fajitas, the mix and match options are endless.
Frozen fruits are great too. The girls love to gnaw on frozen mango chunks and I keep frozen bananas for smoothie. We’ll add frozen berries on top of yogurt or into oatmeal. It’s an easy way to add flavor and nutrition for relatively cheap.
5- Phase out processed foods. Take your time, but slowly start swapping processed options for more real food. Getting excess sugar and processed foods out of your diet will make you feel more energized and healthier faster than anything else I know of.
Trade up with pantry items. I look for sales and stock up on basics then- wild caught tuna and salmon, quinoa because it cooks up in 10 minutes, organic sauces, different pastas– all ready to be turned into simple, healthy meals.
6- Invest in equipment that is most helpful to you. The Insta-Pot is certainly all the rage right now and may help cut down on cook time for busy evenings. Personally, I couldn’t love without my new slow cooker (I upgraded because my old one cracked and I wanted one that could saute in the same pot then switch to slow cooking- love it!).
I usually have a slow cooker meal planned at least once a week because walking in the door and having dinner ready is the best feeling ever. But maybe it’s a quality blender for smoothies in the morning, a programmable rice cooker, or a new water bottle. You don’t need all the gadgets, but singling out one or two that are really helpful to you is definitely worth it.
I’m going to stop there and sum it up with this:
Start small so you can stay consistent.
Consistency is the only thing that’s going to make a real change so pick which area is most important to you, make a small change that is a step towards that goal, then do that for 2 weeks before adding in another.
I know so many of you are home and health gurus, so I’d love your input.
What is the one suggestion you’d offer to someone that feels like they are starting from scratch but wanting to make healthier changes for themselves and their families?