Resolutions can be pretty daunting if you feel forced to make them, or if you’re depriving yourself of your favorite indulgences. But what if you could make some resolutions that seem small, but could make a huge difference in your life?
These 10 healthy resolutions are based on my years of experience as a chef and educator, and address what seem to be the most common concerns of my students: how to lose weight, how to improve digestion, and how to add healthier foods into their diet without starting over entirely.
Each of these resolutions are easy to undertake, and most are free or are based on the idea that you’d be replacing one purchase for another. If the list feels too long, maybe start with just one each month. By the end of the year, you’ll have met your resolutions for a healthier, happier self.
1. Buy Everything Unsweetened
It seems like 2015 was the “year of sugar”– even mainstream publications acknowledged that sugar is one of the main factors in the collectively declining health of the country. The challenge is that sugar is hiding everywhere: in healthy foods, in “natural” foods, in savory foods, and everywhere else. If you’re not ready to ditch sugar entirely (it can be a hard addiction to break), you can make incremental changes by buying everything unsweetened.
Read the labels on your bread, boxed plant-based milks, pasta sauce, chips, crackers, bottled drinks and more. Skip anything that has added sugars, and soon your tastebuds will adjust to the natural flavors of these foods without the dose of sweetness.
2. Try New Grains
Over the past few months I’ve written about a variety of grains to try to get readers to experiment with new and nutritionally dense foods. Whole grains like spelt, kaniwa, kamut, quinoa and sorghum can bring new and exciting flavors into the kitchen. You can swap kaniwa for quinoa and swap spelt for oats, and onwards until you have a whole year of new grains to experiment with.
3. Drink your Vegetables
Adding smoothies or juices to your daily routine can make a big difference in your health by boosting the amount of vitamin- and mineral-rich fruits and veggies in your diet, and increasing your fiber intake. Keeping fresh juices based almost solely on green vegetables will help reduce overall sugar in your diet, and add a daily dose of green energy. Try basing your green juice recipes on cucumbers, romaine, or celery, rather than carrots, apple or beets, all of which have a super high sugar content. When making smoothies, always be sure to add some greenery and some additional protein from seeds or nuts to offset the sweetness of the fruits.
4. Try more Vegetarian or Vegan Foods
Vegetarian and vegan meals are becoming increasingly accepted, even for those who consider themselves omnivores. Choosing a diet with less meat or no meat is good for the health of our bodies and our planet. We have hundreds of recipes here on Care2 to help you increase the amount of delicious plant-foods in your diet. Check out our vegetarian comfort food recipes, Vegan Party Food Recipes, Hearty Vegetarian Recipes, and Vegan Sandwich Recipes to begin to explore the world of plant based foods.
5. Avoid Dairy
Along with sugar, increasing evidence is showing the dairy is also pretty dangerous for our health. Dairy is linked to inflammation, heart disease, and many other health concerns. Choosing a plant-based diet that is low or absent of dairy can be really beneficial, and with the variety of plant-based milks, cheeses, and creams available, who needs cows?
6. Reduce Chemical Exposure in the Home
It’s important to choose organic whenever possible for our food, but also for our home. Swapping out household cleaners, body care products and soaps for more natural alternatives can drastically reduce your chemical body burden of toxins like parabens, BPA, triclosan, and more. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s website for an expansive database that rates sunscreens, household cleaners and more for toxicity.
7. Spend Time Outside, Preferably Near Water.
Nature time is infinitely healing, and whether you have access to a city park or a wide expanse of land, you need to make as much use of it as possible this year. Taking a break for green time is healing for both mind and body, as nature time decreases stress hormones, slows the heartbeat, and can give your brain a much needed break from our over-stimulated lives. If you live near water– rivers, lakes, streams or ocean– you can benefit even more from the deeply healing and relaxing experience of finding your blue mind.
8. Eat more Fiber
Increasing your fiber intake is one of the best things you can do for your body. It helps move digestion along to improve gut health, which leads to more balanced hormones, reduced cravings, and even better moods. Boost your fiber naturally by eating more lentils, beans, whole grains and whole fruits and veggies. Fiber can also help with weight loss, in case that is another resolution of yours!
9. Boost your Probiotics
Along with fiber, adding probiotic-rich foods to your diet can bring about big changes in your gut health. Probiotics are the good bacterias that live in the intestines, and produce and assimilate nutrients, help keep the waste moving along, and help synthesize hormones. The gut-brain connection is becoming more clear each year, and studies show that a healthy gut is the key to a healthy body and mind.
This is on my own personal resolution list for this year! As a long time yogi I’ve always felt the pull of meditation, but never realized how beneficial meditation can really be for overall stress and anxiety reduction, better sleep, and reducing bad habits like overeating and impulse behavior. Adding even a few minutes of meditation (perhaps as part of your nature time!) can improve your life in many ways, and I’m looking forward to experiencing them all!
Images from ThinkStock, except salad photo, from author