Monday, December 23, 2013

Making Healthy Changes for 2014

About this time of year, we’re faced with two seemingly opposing tasks: Making delicious feasts for our loved ones, and pondering New Year’s resolutions, in which we will improve our health and eat better. So while we’re elbow-deep in shortening-laden creations and butter-and-cream rich recipes, we shake our heads in defeat, convinced we can’t do anything about our health goals until the new year.

Tea with honey

It rarely occurs to us that we can start our efforts in the middle of these festive seasons – after all, isn’t this the time when endless cookies, pies, and cakes abound? How could you possibly attempt to improve your health as you race between holiday parties, school plays, and family obligations? In truth, because any lasting change to and for our health comes in small adjustments. If you are counting on the first of the year to be your catalyst for change, I encourage you to nix that thinking, and start now! Focus on the small changes and adapt your life gradually, and you’ll discover that permanent changes are possible and easy.

Make small substitutions. Rather than attempt an all-out kitchen cupboard makeover while baking snickerdoodles, start with the little things: pick up some local honey at the farmer’s market, and use that for your tea. Substitute real butter for cheap shortening. Ever tried coconut sugar? It makes an excellent replacement for brown sugar.

One thing at a time. Often, when we want change, we want it all at once. Downside: we push things hard and fast, and then we burn out our focus and excitement. If your kids love to eat fast food, this isn’t the time to make radical rules. Instead, suggest grabbing a meal at a local burrito restaurant, where they make them by hand (like Chipotle or Moe’s) instead of Taco Bell. Do you have kids that love chips and dip? How about making some homemade salsa and picking up some organic corn chips? And if you love a good cookie, crowd around the kitchen and make them from scratch, rather than buying premade logs in the refrigerated section.

Don’t step too far off the beaten path. So you tried kohlrabi tarts, and no one liked them? You might want to stick to tried and true favorites, like whole-food based traditional recipes. If you aren’t sure where to start, review recipes online that are focused on whole sources, less-processed ingredients, and add one or two to the regular menu. If you typically make a pumpkin pie for Christmas, try making your dough from scratch rather than buying a pre-made crust. Love turkey for a holiday dish? Visit a local turkey farm and pick out a locally raised bird.

Buy local produce

Involve your family…as they are able. This is your journey, and sometimes your partner or children won’t see it the same way. Let them go. Focus on what you can do, make dishes for everyone to enjoy with little tweaks when possible, and allow others to adjust at their own pace.

Moving towards a healthier lifestyle and feeling better takes time. It won’t all be changed overnight. Set yourself a goal of improving your health in 2014, with a yearlong outlook. It takes at least that long to create a lasting lifestyle change free of stress and guilt.

What small changes have you made already? What changes are you most looking forward to?

Contributing Writer

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