Since starting Well Nourished a year and a half ago, I’m regularly contacted by people wanting to improve their own and/or families diet. Many are eating lots of processed food and are wanting to transition to include more whole foods in their diet. But they feel at a loss as to where to start, especially when they are not only catering for themselves but the whole family too.
So here are some of my ideas to create healthy food habits for the individual or the whole family (and make it stick)…
Make a plan to create a new habit
It’s human nature that we like to be accountable – it is definitely a tool that will increase your success in making changes and the reason why ‘diet programs’ are so appealing to many. When consulting with patients, they were accountable to me as their practitioner, but also ultimately accountable to themselves. Either way, it is not enough to think I’m going to or not going to do this or that – you need a well thought out plan to succeed at anything.
So to start with, make a plan (either with the help of a healthcare practitioner) or make your own. Now this bit’s important – write it down, and be specific including every detail of why, what, how and for how long. For example; for the next two weeks, I will drink two litres of water each day. Really think about how you are going to achieve that goal and address any perceived barriers, like in the case of this example, how to keep track of the amount you are drinking. So you might decide to buy and fill a two-litre bottle each day and make sure by 5pm it is empty each and every day. This is actually one of my routines and my kids are set the task of filling the bottle each and every day. All I have to do is drink it!
If you are making changes that involve your family, discuss the changes you are planning to make; having them on board is so important. My kids motivate me every day to go the extra mile to ensure good health for all of us. The little things add up, so keep chipping away.
Don’t take on too much
Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to making lifestyle and dietary changes. Many people after reading an inspiring book or listening to an inspiring speaker come away fired-up and motivated to make changes to their own or their families diet. This often develops into a state of overwhelm (for everyone involved), failure and disappointment.
Try to choose one thing to focus on and as you succeed, move to the next. If something becomes a struggle, then choose another focus and go back to it later. Change should be only positive – if you are frustrated or fed up, then rather than abandoning all hopes of a healthy future altogether, just try something else.
Clean-up your pantry
If you don’t want to eat (or your kids to eat) something, then don’t buy it. Out of sight, out of mind is my motto. We recently met a group of my husbands friends visiting from interstate for dinner. One of the kids (2 years old) sat down with a bowl of ice-cream with chocolate sauce for dinner – I think I must have looked shocked because the mum explained that ‘all he’ll eat is ice cream, lollies, and milk – he won’t even eat hot chips.’ Poor thing knew nothing about me (everyone else at the table were silently cracking up). I zipped my lips but thought, well if your willing to give him those things then, of course, that’s all he’ll want (last week I explained the evolutionary impulses that drive that kind of desire, you can catch up here).
So if you choose to clean-up your diet, then you’ll need to start with your pantry. I have a very detailed pantry guide here to get you started. Like I’ve said above, don’t go into overwhelm, just pick one food and each time you shop and choose a healthier product. Perhaps start with the oil you cook with or the type of sweetener you use. My pantry guide should help a lot, check it out here.
Breakfast is a meal that really sets your day up both nutritionally as well as mentally and emotionally. Studies have proven that adults and children who skip breakfast or have an inadequate breakfast are much more likely to make poor food choices throughout the day and in the long term generally. I have successfully treated so many fussy, nutritionally depleted and unwell children and adults over the years with awful eating habits. The key to my success I believe has been focussing on breakfast to start with and the rest of their eating habits tend to evolve into something beautiful (with much less effort and strain)!
Unfortunately, there is nothing in a cereal box or breakfast drink box that is good enough. For all of the information and inspiration, you need to improve your breakfast meal so that you can kick-start a healthier you, check out my ebook. It’s much, much more than just another cookbook, click here!
Don’t go hungry
It is really important to keep your blood sugars stable to avert any cravings developing (especially if sugar and refine carbohydrate is your weakness). To do this you need to make sure you eat regularly and avoid becoming famished at all costs. Feeling hungry is when most people make poor food choices. Again this has little to do with willpower; rather your brain’s survival mode kicks in driving you to find a food that will engage the reward system of your brain (more on this here). Often that tends to be a processed or fast food (which does a much better job than any whole food would at satisfying your primal instinct – but at a cost of course). So it is also really important not to grocery shop before a meal, it’s best to always shop on a full tummy (and always with a list).
You will feel so much better mentally and physically if you are hydrated (and, therefore, more likely to succeed with change). So if you are not drinking enough water, this should be one of your starting points for creating a healthier you.
Many people confuse thirst with hunger, as hunger and thirst signals are both controlled by the same part of your brain. Have you ever eaten but don’t feel quite satisfied? Perhaps you’ve addressed the wrong signal! Much more info on water and hydration here.
I know by embracing these six easy steps, you will be able to succeed at making the changes you desire. Good luck!
This gorgeous photo of my kids in action at breakfast is thanks to Angela from Banana Living
Let me know what you’ve found has helped you to improve your own or your families dietary habits? I’d also love to know what you feel have been barriers for addressing change. It’s great to learn from one another so get involved and write a comment below.