This time of year there is plenty of advice on how to keep healthy and which products will solve all your health issues. It is difficult to know where to start and more importantly how to keep these routines going. It is easy to get excited and plan elaborate routines that quickly get pushed aside due to the demands of our work and family schedules. So what things really are important and how to incorporate them into your routine so they stay in your routine? Let’s start with a little motivation. According to Chris Kresser and his research, 85% of chronic disease is based on lifestyle factors and not genetics. That puts our health into our own hands. Here are some guidelines based on a nutrient dense whole foods diet that are relatively inexpensive and easy to follow.
1. Eat More Vegetables. Keep a journal for a day or two and see how many fresh vegetables are on your list. If there aren’t many, work toward including more especially dark leafy greens. Including some raw vegetables every day is extra important as those foods have more enzymes in them and help keep your body healthy. Some of the healthiest vegetables to include are the greens, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, colorful peppers, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic and beets. If eating greens isn’t your favorite, try this delicious soup recipe to get some of those greens into your routine. It is simple and easy. You need one potato, chicken broth, all-natural sausage and greens. Simply brown your sausage, add in one diced potato and a quart of chicken broth. Bring to a boil and add fresh greens of your choice; spinach or kale are nice additions. Let it cook until the greens and potatoes are tender. Enjoy a quick and healthy meal.
2. Eat pre and probiotic foods. These will keep your gut healthy and are one of the best things you can do for your health. Your gut needs good bacteria to keep the bad away. We need to eat foods rich in probiotics to do this. We are talking things like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented pickles, kefir, kvaas and a host of other amazing ferments. These probiotic-rich foods can be found in most local grocery stores and others can be made very affordably at home. These healthy bacteria need to be fed to keep their colonies strong and healthy. That is where prebiotic fiber foods like onion, garlic, artichoke and plantains come in to help. Including plenty of these foods in your normal recipes will feed the goodness you put in through your ferments and yogurts. A delicious affordable and easy to cook food is plantains. They are the banana looking fruits in the produce department. When green, they taste more like a potato and the riper they get, they taste more like a banana. Either way they are delicious. Take a green plantain and slice it and fry it in coconut oil. About halfway through the cooking process, take it out of the skillet and smash and salt it with sea salt. Put it back in the skillet until crispy. You now have a tostone. It is delicious! Think healthy French fry.
3. Get rid of processed foods…period.
4. Eat more healthy fats. Healthy fats are so important for getting rid of inflammation, balancing blood sugar and the list goes on. An added bonus is they make our food taste great. Ditch the vegetable oil, shortening, canola oil and any other hydrogenated oil. Don’t worry there are plenty of healthy alternatives that are available in the grocery stores here. Buy instead virgin olive oil, real butter, unrefined coconut oil, palm shortening, real lard, duck fat and many other options all listed as non-hydrogenated. A nice way to drink some healthy fats in a delicious anti-inflammatory drink is golden milk. Use a full fat milk of choice, cows milk, almond milk, coconut milk, goat milk, etc. and add some spices to it for a relaxing healthy beverage. Here are the ingredients to add to about a cup and a half of warm or cold milk: 1 ½ tsp. turmeric, pinch of ground pepper, ½ tsp. cinnamon and 2 tsp. of honey. This also helps with sleep as turmeric reduces inflammation and anxiety.
5. Drink your water. Aim to drink ½ of your body weight in ounces of good quality clean water per day. That means if you weigh 150 pounds, aim for 75 ounces of water. You shouldn’t exceed 100 ounces of water daily. Be sure to add in more if you also drink diuretic beverages like coffee and tea. Give your water a boost with trace mineral drops for added nutrients. These little bottles are full of needed minerals and vitamins and really don’t change the taste of the water. It only takes a drop or two. Also, make herbal teas if you get bored with plain water. Some delicious options are hibiscus, peppermint, and chamomile.
6. Limit your eating hours. If you can keep the hours you eat to a 12 – 14 hour window, it will allow your body to detox and give your digestive system a little rest. There is a lot of information out there now about this topic – intermittent fasting. Do some research and find a flow that fits your schedule. Research shows this is very beneficial to your overall health.
7. Try some herbs to support your body. Herbs are woven into our ancestral history and have been used for centuries. Some of the most common and well used are the following: turmeric (anti-inflammatory, anxiety reducing), ashwagandha (stress relieving), chamomile (digestion, sleep) and basil (anti-microbial and gas relieving). You can make a tea with any of these or you can add them to your food. A simple delicious meal with turmeric is add it to your roasted chicken. Simply sprinkle turmeric with salt, pepper and garlic over your chicken and a head of cut up cauliflower, all in the same pan and roast as usual. It is amazing and simple.
8. Exercise. Schedule in exercise just like you would cooking dinner for your family. This is the hardest one for me as I tend to get my schedule so full. My goal is to start with a small goal that is reasonable for me to handle and achieve that goal daily. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. Find the one that can bring you some joy. It is more about habit than duration at the beginning. Put those tennis shoes or weights where you can’t ignore them and reward yourself for small progress. It’s all in the benefit we receive.
9. Reduce stress. Whatever that is for you, do it! Reducing stress is critical to overall health. Research shows that these activities can help to reduce stress. Find one that resonates with you: exercise (lower’s your body’s stress hormones), supplements (Omega-3 fatty acids, lemon balm, ashwagandha, valerian, kava kava), essential oils (lavender, rose, vetiver, bergamot, orange), journaling, meditation, spend time with friends and family, find community activities that connect you to a larger group, laugh, learn to say no, yoga, cuddling, be present in the moment (no worrying about the future or past), music, creating, deep breathing and spending time with a pet. Find regular time to do the things you enjoy. It is not selfish. It is as important as eating healthy and drinking all your water.
10. Sleep better. Here are some ways sleep deprivation affects your body. It can cause memory issues, trouble thinking or concentrating, mood changes, weakens your immune system, increases blood pressure, causes weight gain, puts you at risk for diabetes and heart disease to name a few. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep. If you struggle being able to sleep here are a few simple things, try keeping a sleep schedule, adding exercise to your routine, eliminate device time in the evenings and keep the room a little cooler than normal. For many people this is a serious issue and there are more in-depth strategies for those issues.
Maintaining routines is a struggle. Try to keep it simple and manageable. Keep track of your journey either on paper or through an app and see your successes! I am a checklist person and by setting an alarm on my phone daily to see if I can check off everything on my list is a motivator for me. Choose a few things on the list and start there. Small changes can add up to big results when they are consistent.