The new year always brings out the best in us when it comes to outrageously "healthy" (or shall we call them wacky?) resolutions.
We pledge to detoxify our oh-so-toxin-ridden bodies with the greenest of the green juice, we shun gluten-containing anything, and we chomp on raw fruits and veggies for a gazillion days straight. While all those things may very well help flush the New Year's Eve vodka sodas and Christmahanakwanza cookies out of your system, you don't have to go to extremes to start the year off on a healthy note. Set yourself up for success by developing detailed and most importantly realistic goals for a shinier new you.
Start out 2015 with a bang! Oh yes, I'm hereby giving you permission to eat real, crunchy, chewy food (not just kale juice) in the coming weeks. Fill your plate with plants. Don't drink your calories. Dive head-first into green smoothies. But wait...there's more! Look and feel better this year with these realistic yet effective tips and tricks.
1. Start the day with a big smoothie. Preferably a green one!
Beginning the day with a hugh jass glass o' fruits and veggies is the first thing I recommend to clients looking to not only drop a few pounds, but also to feel more naturally energized and to improve mental clarity. I thought I would be in a constant state of tiredness having to open Alchemy at 5:45am most days of the week, yet I've noticed that I rarely yawn at work and I drink coffee next to never. I have green smoothies to thank for that!
Typical breakfasts like cereal and bagels are loaded with refined white flour and sugar that cause quick spikes and dips in blood sugar. Even if the rest of the day's meals consist of a microwaved Amy's burrito or scrambled eggs, I rest assured knowing that I got a dose of superfood nutrition plus at least three servings of fruits and veggies (including at least one serving of those hard-to-sneak-in leafy greens) at breakfast.
Go for one cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk (hello, calcium and vitamin D!), coconut water, or regular water as your base. Add in one sliced and frozen banana, a half cup of frozen blueberries, a tablespoon of anti-inflammatory chia seeds and/or hemp seeds, and a pitted medjool date or two for sweetness if you prefer. Stay away for inflammatory added sugars. Next is a big handful of leafy greens. Organic spinach is my go-to green, but baby kale and swiss chard are tasty as well. I promise you won't even know they're in there! From here, you can add a tablespoon of almond butter, oats, cacao powder, or whatever other healthy add-ins you prefer. Cinnamon and vanilla extract are tasty additions as well! For more smoothie ideas, check out this Peachy Pineapple Kale Smoothie, PB&J Protein Smoothie, Pumpkin Pie Smoothie, Snickerdoodle Smoothie, Coconut Coffee Smoothie, Three Veggie Banana Berry Smoothie, and Blueberry Cacao Smoothie.
2. Snack on real food.
Many people hear the word "snack" and automatically think of nutritionally void items like chips, crackers, cookies, and sugary bars. This year, challenge yourself to get in the mindset of considering snacks mini-meals rather than energy-dense convenience foods. Also, be sure to eat every three to four hours to keep your blood sugar and metabolism in check. Going extended periods of time without eating only leads to over-eating later. Snack on roasted sweet potato slices with hummus, apple slices with almond butter, celery slices with sunbutter, a handful of almonds with a bag of grapes, natural popcorn, or a small bowl of lentil soup or chili! Just because it doesn't come in a bag doesn't mean it's not "snack food."
3. Don't drink your calories.
Just drink water! Unsweetened iced or hot tea with lemon is another fabulous option. Save your calories for nutrient-dense foods that actually provide nutrition rather than wasting them on empty sources like energy drinks, pop, coffee drinks, and sugary store-bought juices. A grande non-fat eggnog latte has nearly 50 grams of sugar and 500 calories. That's an entire meal's worth of calories and almost twelve teaspoons of added sugar!
If you're a coffee drinker, try adding vanilla soymilk to black coffee or a quality cream of choice with stevia, a dash of pure maple syrup, or raw sugar. Say a big fat NO to polluting your coffee with chemical sweeteners like Splenda and Equal. They're not real food and they'll only enhance your sugar cravings, not to mention the fact that it's proven they don't help with weight loss at all. Coffee Mate creamer is literally liquid trans fat, sugar, and chemicals so be sure to toss that out for the new year.
4. Cook three different meals each week.
Preparing your own meals at home means you're in charge of all the fat, sodium, and sugar you put in there. That's a big deal! It also means you have healthy leftovers to eat throughout the week to keep your wallet and lunchbox happy. Stay away from restaurants for a couple weeks and find joy in cooking at home. Go for recipes that are plant-based to get the biggest phytonutrient bang for your buck. Snag a good healthy cookbook that you know you can trust for clean recipes and bookmark three new ones to try each week.
Every Sunday, I try to prep baked sweet potatoes and roasted broccoli, some kind of no-bake bite, and a meal or two for the week. Stellar meal ideas include this Quinoa & Kale Salad, Peanut Veggie Noodle Bowl, Farro, Pomegranate & Arugula Salad, Avocado Black Bean Burgers, Autumn-Spiced Vegetarian Chili, Lentil, Kale, & Salsa Verde Enchiladas, Corn & Wild Rice Chowder, Roasted Broccoli Chickpea Burgers.
5. Fill at least half of your plate with plants.
While most Americans tend to load their plate with a big hunk of protein, the healthiest thing you can do for your body is load up on plant foods like leafy greens, starchy vegetables, fruit, unprocessed whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, farro, millet), beans, and legumes. In addition to having no cholesterol, plant foods help prevent chronic disease with their impressive antioxidants profile, immune boosting vitamins, and filling fiber. Breakfast is the perfect time to squeeze in a couple servings of fruit and whole grains like sprouted whole wheat bread and oatmeal. Snack on whole pieces of fruit like apples, bananas, or clementines or veggies like sliced peppers, cucumbers, or carrots throughout the day. Roast a head of broccoli or cauliflower to have as a side dish for dinner. Try spaghetti squash instead of pasta. Go plants!