Many busy moms are looking for the best ways to live healthier, for ourselves and for our children. These 8 tips are cheap and easy ways to start living healthier right now!
1. Cut out packaged foods.
You will save your money and your health by reducing your consumption of processed, packaged foods. Packaged foods are generally processed to the point of being both shelf-stable and devoid of nutrition. If you want to feel healthier, the bulk of your diet needs to be made up of foods which are nutrient-dense. The standard American diet is comprised of empty foods: snacks, bread, pasta, cereal — foods which offer very little vitamins and minerals.
Real food is what keeps you healthy, keeps you at the right weight for your body, and helps prevent disease. Real food is whole food: vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains, healthy fats, beans and legumes, meat and fish. The closer these foods are to their original state, the better.
That means homemade potato fries instead of packaged potato chips; fruit smoothies instead of fruit snack gummies; slices of cheese instead of boxed cheesy crackers.
And, when you cut out high-sodium snacks that are full of the unhealthy types of fat (because there are healthy kinds of fat), you can add more delicious flavors to your diet like real butter and sea salt. Skip the funky diet dressings, and just eat real food!
2. Challenge yourself to eat more vegetables.
Veggies are a powerhouse of nutrition. Eating vegetables is a proven way to ward off disease and support the immune system. The best advice is to “eat the rainbow.” This means eating a wide variety of different colored vegetables and fruit. Think: red peppers, orange carrots, yellow butternut squash, green beans, purple cabbage. Take the money you save from cutting out packaged foods, and spend it on incorporating more vegetables in your diet.
Challenge yourself to eat a vegetable at every meal.
If you’re not a fan of veggies, figure out what you do like: love ranch dressing? Dip your veggie sticks in it to make them more palatable. Love bacon? Crumble some real bacon (not fake bacon bits) on top of your spinach salad. Love butter? Toss some steamed broccoli in some real butter, and add a pinch of sea salt. Craving sweets? Try a baked sweet potato topped with cinnamon and a drizzle of raw honey.
A great way to add more veggies to your diet without even noticing them is throwing some raw spinach or zucchini in a homemade fruit smoothie. The taste of these green vegetables is so mild that they blend right in!
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The best part is: you can reprogram your tastebuds. If you don’t like vegetables now, don’t give up. Incorporate a small amount into your diet every day, and soon you will be craving them more and more.
3. Curb your sugar addiction.
If you’ve been struggling with health issues, there’s a good chance that sugary foods are an issue. Sugar is highly addictive, and understanding that fact is crucial to overcoming it. Research has shown that sugar affects the brain’s craving and reward centers similar to the effect drugs have. We’ve all heard that high fructose corn syrup is bad for us, but you might not know why.
Fructose is absorbed differently by the body, and it may not leave a person with the same satiated feeling as eating natural sugars. This leads to an unhealthy cycle of craving sweets, consuming calories that lack nutrients, and disrupting overall wellness.
So what can you do? Read labels to check for added sugar; you might find it in surprising places, like salad dressing, bread, and pasta sauce. Understand that healthier options can satisfy even better than junk food. Try making homemade fruit smoothies whenever you have a sugar craving, or just eat a piece of fruit.
Sweeteners, which have nutritional benefits, like raw honey, real maple syrup, molasses, coconut sugar and coconut sap, can be used instead of white sugar. These sweeteners are healthier choices because they affect the body in less extreme ways. Paleo baked goods are a healthy option, because they are often made with protein-rich ingredients like eggs and almond flour, while using natural sweeteners.
4. Keep it simple.
Acai juice. Goji berries. Kale chips. Fish oil. Flax crackers. They’re yummy foods (depending on your tastes), and they are beneficial, but they are not essential for good health. It’s a positive thing that health and wellness has become more mainstream in the last few years, and it’s great that there are so many interesting options. But all of those options can be overwhelming.
Brown rice, steamed broccoli with butter, and perfectly juicy baked chicken breast is a simple, easy, affordable meal. A smoothie made with frozen fruit, a spoonful of raw honey, and a splash of milk (or non-dairy milk substitute) makes a delicious dessert.
A variety of vegetables cut into sticks, paired with your favorite dip is an easy way to add more veggies to your diet. Buy an air popper, find some non-GMO popcorn seeds, and make popcorn with real butter and sea salt for a snack that is surprisingly high in antioxidants. No kale chips or goji berries required, unless you want them.
5. Detox your household.
Household cleaners and pesticides are a top source of toxins for kids. There are documented harmful effects that come from conventional household cleaning products, air fresheners, fabric softeners, surface sprays, and detergents. Many household cleaners contain “VOCs” — volatile organic compounds. VOCs are emitted as gases and are linked to short- and long-term negative health effects. Some popular cleaners contain asthma agents, carcinogens, and poisons which leave a toxic residue throughout your house. To keep your family healthier, it’s a good idea to get rid of them altogether.
While there are ready-made non-toxic cleaners available, you don’t have to spend money on those unless you want and are able to. Plain white vinegar and baking soda are effective natural cleaners. Sea salt and lemon juice can be used as a scrub for cookware. A paste of baking soda and water can clean grout. Vinegar can be used as fabric softener as well. Add some essential oils like lavender and tea tree oil for added antibacterial power.
6. Detox your body/beauty products.
Like household cleaning products, conventional beauty and body products are loaded with ingredients that have proven negative effects. The FDA does very little to regulate the beauty product industry, which is in charge of policing itself. Even supposedly “gentle” options like Aveeno and Johnson & Johnson contain ingredients which are known toxins. Such ingredients include parabens, phthalates, synthetic colors, triclosan, fake fragrances, formaldehyde, and sodium lauryl sulfate.
There is also no regulation on the word “natural,” and hypoallergenic products aren’t necessarily better. Thankfully, the Environment Working Group has a website which can be used to search your favorite body products, and any new ones you might want to try. If you are unsure about certain ingredients or whether or not a product is safe, use their database to learn more.
7. Make yourself move more.
Most people need to exercise more, and one roadblock to creating a regular routine is finding the time to do it. The good news is that you don’t need a gym membership, nor expensive equipment to make it happen. Find 20 minutes a day to take a brisk walk. Find a simple yoga routine — some are only 15 – 20 minutes long — to do every morning.
Sit as little as possible. Use an exercise ball instead of a chair. Stand and stretch often. There are even workouts you can do at the playground with your kids! You don’t have to have fancy exercise gear, nor do you even have to be good at it — you just have to start. Find 20 minutes every day, at least, and don’t look back.
8. Fight for food justice.
Everyone deserves to have access to nutrient-dense, fresh foods. Unfortunately, food deserts exist, which means that low-income neighborhoods are often structured in such a way that fresh food (never mind organic or specialty food) is inaccessible without high prices and long bus rides into different neighborhoods. Farmers’ markets and food co-ops are great options — if cities take the time to invest in these communities. Some people have started mobile healthy food trucks, as well as community gardens to counteract the problem.
Educate yourself about food, and join the movement!
Image credit: Michael S-R