So many of you, especially after the long holiday season, feel like you either want to continue being healthy, or if you’ve slipped up enough, get healthy … again.
For many of us, we recognize we are not healthy so we may resolve to just work on getting healthy after the new year. How many people in their minds go immediately to the bathroom scale to check the post-holiday number when thinking of staying or getting healthy? If you’re normal, you’re doing this.
However, being healthy is so much more than just a number on that scale (which is only one of many health factors). Being healthy is about energy, stamina, how well all our bodily organ systems are functioning, and more. Has there been much damage done throughout the holiday season, or perhaps even the past years or more, and what are you going to do about it? Also, just as important, what will you do about getting your kids healthier?!
Increasing numbers of experts now agree that diet is the main foundation to health. The diet is considered to support at least 75% of your physical and mental health, and it helps your spiritual health too. If you’ve said to yourself, I’m not going to eat any more sugar and flour next year, I’ll go to the gym 5 times a week, etc., then you probably know these resolutions don’t stick very long. Maybe you follow up for a week or two, and then you begin to slip. Speaking from personal experience, these are unrealistic goals. So, let’s get more down-to-earth and come up with a plan that can actually be implemented … and kept.
Start adding more real, whole foods to your plates. This means actual vegetables, some fruit, nuts, seeds, healthy animal proteins if you’re a meat eater, and if not, then choose your whole grains wisely. (If you have any food sensitivities, by all means leave those foods out). Eat organic and local whenever possible. If you believe you don’t have the budget for this, buy conventional fresh but watch for sales on organics. Most local farmers use organic-type processes when growing their produce, so local foods are certainly considered healthier. Also, being local they may be fresher and hence have more nutrients since they don’t need long travel times to make it to your kitchen.
Veggies are all-important to overall health, especially the immune system. Adding freshly made salads with all different colored veggies in them, plus healthier dressings (read ingredients and stay away from chemical-laden ingredients plus especially sugar or just make your own), plus lightly steaming them are wonderful ways to start rebuilding your health. Adding a little protein to that – you can sauté, bake, and even fry if you use healthy oil – and you have a well-rounded, healthy meal. If you like a starch, try a sweet potato or yam or perhaps some quinoa. For non-meat eaters, make sure you have sufficient plant proteins in your veggie/legume/grain choices.
Perhaps you are thinking that your kids won’t eat this way. So maybe you should be a little sneaky! To start them on healthier foods, you can make broccoli with a delicious cheese sauce (make it yourself, do not buy processed ones) assuming nobody is allergic or intolerant to dairy. There are some delicious vegan cheeses also on the market which melt well. Remember you are your child’s most important role model, in spite of what they may say and do. So be a good role model to them, making healthy food that tastes good to you so they can see your enjoyment. You can also add veggies to stews, soups, and if you make smoothies, you can often include healthy vegetables in them but sweeten it enough with a little fruit that will make them actually like it! However, watch the amounts of fruits you use, since they can be high in sugar. Be wary of smoothie powders that claim to be healthy; learn to read labels and which ingredients are okay and which are not.
There are healthier sweeteners (definitely not the ones with pink and blue and yellow packages!) and you might think about adding a little at a time to help everyone get used to a different flavor and texture. You can also bake goodies with these healthy sugar substitutes and think about using different flours like nut flours (almond and coconut are frequent choices) which are available for sale in nearly all grocery stores. Use very dark chocolate because it makes things gooey without adding much sugar. Some people use 100% cacao powder with a healthy sugar substitute, and together with an avocado, can create some very creamy, tasty pudding! Remember you can cook when you have time and freeze nearly anything, so you have healthier options available anytime.
While there are no guarantees, many people who adopt healthy eating patterns find themselves losing weight as a side benefit! (Of course, some people who are underweight might find themselves gaining a little too.) And if you want to embark on a healthy weight loss program, do so but don’t cut on the health-giving nutrients. Don’t exclude healthy fats (we need them – our brains are made up largely of cholesterol).
Remember – you can do this! If you start and fall back to old habits, just keep trying. Sooner or later you’ll find your way to a healthier eating lifestyle.
As always – please have a happy, safe, and holistically healthy day!
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.