My journey to becoming a Holistic Nutritionist did not happen overnight. It was a definite progression over several years before even enrolling at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition. That was five years ago.
Now, I work with a team of nutritionists, follow nutritionists on social media, and read books written by nutritionists. At times, that’s kept me in a bit of a bubble of superfoods and the latest healthy trends.
My point is, that sometimes I need to take a step back and realize that I did not just wake up one morning, purge my pantry, and then fill it with chia seeds, kale chips and cacao nibs! Nope….that didn’t happen.
So, I also keep this in mind when I see clients for Menu Planning sessions and present them a plan to cook and eat in a way that matches their health goals. The changes that I made were gradual… taking me from where I was, to where I am now. Plus, I had two children and a husband to get on board.
All this to say, “meeting yourself where you are” is a valuable practice, but so is knowing “the best way to get started is to get started”!
And so, in the spirit of “starting where you are”, I want to share with you 5 Small Steps Toward Better Nutrition.
These small, baby steps mean you won’t feel overwhelmed while you work toward changing your diet. These were some of the first changes that I made with my family, and we’ve never looked back.
- Learn to read labels.
This may sound time consuming, but because I want to make this less of a chore, just start by looking for a shorter list.In an ideal world, we are eating food that is as close to nature as possible and doesn’t even come with a nutritional label. However, we live in the real world, and packaged foods are also a part of our lives.So, look for a shorter list of ingredients, and avoid getting too caught up in the numbers and percentages of your daily intake. I pay more attention to the source of the sugar, protein and fat. Steer clear of high fructose corn syrup, soy protein, and hydrogenated trans fats for starters.
- Find Your Favourite Alternatives
If you cannot give up your chips, peanut butter, or pasta… you don’t really have to! There are more choices of healthier versions of our favourite comfort foods appearing in stores almost weekly.Chips are now made with beans and rice! Swap out the name-brand peanut butter loaded with sugar and hydrogenated fat, to a natural one. You can even try other butters like almond, cashew, sunflower, pumpkin and walnut!The choices we have when it comes to pasta are nearly endless these days! There’s rice, buckwheat, quinoa, and kamut to name a few. With these alternatives, the nutritional value is significantly enhanced. Plus, with newer options like lentil and chickpea pasta, these foods boat high protein and fibre content too!
- Ditch the Dairy
Ditching the dairy was another biggy for us! For years, I was the “good mom”, buying milk by the bag and even participating in the school milk program.Then I learned how acidifying cow’s milk is. Due to the acidity of milk, and our bodies’ effort to maintain an acid/base balance, our bodies instinctively pull calcium out of our bones to alkalinize our blood and maintain homeostasis (aka balance). In short, cow’s milk takes away more minerals than it offers us! (Dairy as a food group is even removed from the next version of the Canada Food Guide, currently in draft form!)
Learning this made it easier to re-think our love affair with milk, and we replaced our cow’s milk with unsweetened almond milk on cereal and in baking.
- Focus on Healthy Fats
The oils that we use are another easy swap.For a while now, we have been lead to believe that canola oil and vegetable oils were good for us. These are the cheaper oils that most packaged products are made with and thus, North Americans eat a lot of them.Vegetable oils are very sensitive to light, heat and oxygen and become pro-inflammatory through the process of baking them into our packaged cookies, muffins, crackers, or putting them into a shelf stable salad dressing.So, what can we use instead? Grapeseed and coconut oils are perfect for cooking at high temperatures, while an organic cold-pressed olive oil or flax oil is perfect for drizzling on cooked vegetables or in homemade salad dressings and dips.
- Drink more water!
Pop is a staple beverage for a lot of people. But, it has no nutritional value and there are better options.Of course, we all know water is the best source of hydration for our bodies. But, to jump from drinking a can or two of pop a day to only water is pretty unrealistic for most of us.To take a baby step in the right direction, try drinking kombucha or juice instead. Preferably a sugar free, “just juice” option, that is not a punch or cocktail. Once you have transitioned to juice for a while, start diluting it with water and gradually move on to pure water.If you do not like the taste of your tap water, check out some water filtration options or add some veggies, fruit or herbs to your water for a flavoured water infusion!
Implementing these 5 Small Steps Toward Better Nutrition will definitely make a positive impact on your health! I know first-hand it can be very difficult to remove some of the foods that you may have grown up with… they are a part of your childhood memories! But as more research is done, and we learn more about our bodies and our food sources, we need to have an open mind to change.
At Healthoholics, one of our favourite quotes is:
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou
If you have already adopted these changes, congratulations!
If you would like to tweak your diet even more, I offer a Diet Diary Review where I will look over your 5-Day food log and suggest five dietary changes and five holistic lifestyle tips to help you reach your goals.
So, fellow Healthoholics, have you made changes to your diet for the better? Tell us about your Small Steps To Better Nutrition in the comments below!